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Last year’s giant pumpkin was so beloved that we’ve planted another Big Max variety. The pumpkin seedling arrived at the PCG this spring in a baby stroller, of course. Double-wide, of course.

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She has her own bed of organic soil at the PCG. No chemicals are ever used to make Maxine big — just a large growing variety in healthy soil.

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Will she outweigh the kids and the woman who planted her? Time will tell. Visit Maxine this summer and fall at the Parkallen Community Garden.

 

 

 

 

 

Since I’ve been directing the Parkallen Sprouts and the Parkallen Community Garden, I’ve been getting a new look from some of my neighbours that I didn’t used to – it’s one that signifies intense garden-related-guilt.

“No, Marlene,” they tell me when I drop by their homes, “please don’t look at my garden. It’s so full of weeds…”

Or, “The community garden looks wonderful this year and I feel so badly that I didn’t make it out even once. Maybe next year…” they sadly say with nothing at all resembling hope in their voices.

The theme is guilt, shame, and missed opportunity. Parkallen – the thing with gardens is that what you cultivate in them tends to grow. Are you cultivating guilt, shame and regret in your garden? Are you cultivating these things in our community garden? Stop it!

The Parkallen Community Garden is a permaculture project and one important element of permaculture is “obtain a yield.” That means the focus is on “getting from” a garden, not simply “putting in” for the sake of effort itself. In an ideal permaculture space, nothing is required from the gardener other than strolling through a beautiful green space, replenishing one’s self while filling a basket with healthy produce. The aim isn’t toiling but taking. The permaculturist always strives to let the soil, the sun and the rain do as much of the work as possible because their space has been planned from the onset to perform in that way. That’s why, for example, the Parkallen Community Garden has swales dug into the slope towards the hockey rink: so the garden can catch and store rain and melt water all on its own. Maximum yield for minimum effort is the end-goal. Parkallen Community Gardeners have been putting in effort to cultivate what’s been growing in the garden but, ultimately, probably less than you think. We’re striving to create a self-regulating space that gives more than it demands.

I heeded quite a few warnings when the Parkallen Community Garden was in the planning stages as a communally tended space that everybody would show up at harvest time to take but nobody would be willing to put in the effort. The reverse has tended to be true. We’re civilized people: We’ve read the “The Little Red Hen.” People are reluctant to take from the garden because they don’t feel they’ve put in the requisite effort.

My neighbor who regretted not visiting the garden that season could have walked straight there, picked enough for a dinner salad, marveled at the sunflowers, listened to the birds, tossed a dandelion into the weed bucket, tasted the mint, smooched a loved one in the sunshine, called it a season, and left. But she didn’t feel entitled. She hadn’t put enough in to take that much out. It is my sincerest wish that the Parkallen Community Garden be a place you take more from than you give. It would help me in achieving my yield from the garden – the reward and satisfaction of knowing that I’ve helped create a space in my community that replenishes, teaches, feeds and gives; not one that requires more from time-crunched urbanites than they can reasonably afford.

One of the reasons I love working with kids in the garden so much is that they have absolutely zero compunction with proudly digging up an armful of potatoes for dinner even though they were swinging on the monkey bars while someone’s mom took twenty minutes in the spring to hill the seed potatoes into the soil. Really, they can teach me as much, or possibly more, about healthy relationships to food as I can teach them.

What’s your relationship with your garden? Do you think of it as a place that demands more from you than you can give each season?  Do you think of it as a place that should demand more than it yields? Why? Would it benefit you to re-evaluate your relationship with your green spaces?

People aren’t for gardens; gardens are for people. Gardens are for feeding people, for relaxing people, for inspiring people and for replenishing people. A space that inspires guilt instead of satisfaction is not a well-designed green space.

So pretty please, Parkallen, if you’ve been scattering the seeds of guilt and shame in our community garden, or in your own gardens, just stop. Stop watering the guilt. Stop fertilizing the shame. Stop. Re-evaluate. Let’s cultivate something beautiful.

Diggers:

Our garden is so lush and productive. It is gorgeous to look at, tasty to harvest from, and so very easy to hand pull weeds out of the loamy soil in which the edible vegetables we planted are thriving.

The lasagne gardening technique we deployed to build the soil is clearly a raging success. Building our own soil from freely obtained mulch proved economical (we saved thousands of dollars), easy (oh, we sweated, but not as much as we would have scraping away the sod and piling truckloads of bought topsoil on top of it then fighting off the grass that would have come back this spring), and so effective (fertile, organic, exquisitely healthy soil!)

As you’ve probably heard, we’ve caught the eye of some granting and awards panels who will be touring our garden this week on Wednesday and Friday. We had a hearty work bee tonight during which we fought back some vegetation off the pathways, trimmed the grass around the garden, leveled our mulch and compost piles, and planted a beautiful apple tree with 5 zone hardy branches grafted on it, a plum, and a beaked hazelnut shrub. What a productive evening.

We also slapped several thousand mosquitoes, so if you visit the garden, please wear bug protection. All that rain has the mosquitoes thriving too.

For the rest of the summer until harvest time and Shedtemberfest (stay tuned for more details) we’re sitting pretty. When you visit the garden, please focus on any of the following tasks:

  • Make something prettier — tidy, yank and tend. We’ve got to keep our pathways visible and our garden weed free. Weeds get tossed in the garbage, everything else (yellowed leaves, etc.) can go in the composters
  • Eat something: just now there is kale, basil, oregano, chard, lettuce, sugar snap peas, spinach, baby carrots and lots and lots of beets. Eat fresh veggies on the spot or take them home to process. Fill your belly, fill your freezer!
  • If something looks thirsty, water it! Fill a watering can at our watering station (on the South side of the Parkallen Hall)
  • Tend the composters: add organic materials (your kitchen scraps are welcome), fluff and turn the compost, or water if it looks dry

As always, e-mail sustainability@parkallen.ca to join us or with your good ideas.

Inch by inch,

Marlene
Director, Parkallen Sprouts

Last spring, 2011, we started with this:

A big swath of lawn, a bail of hay, a stack of cardboard, some muscle, and a vision. This spring we have this:

An all-ages community garden with lots of room to grow.

Our lasagne gardening was a success. Without tilling the earth, we built a large tract of healthy soil using compost layering techniques.

We ordered some materials (local field-stones, road-crush and mulch) to give shape to the garden. Thanks to a Fido/Evergreen grant, we had funding to create four children’s gardening beds at the center of the Parkallen Community Garden. A crew assembled  this spring to ready the beds for the children to plant.

We dug trenches around the beds to collect water and provide shape.

Then we filled them with road crush. The crush-filled trenches around the beds provided a stable place for rock borders. The rocks provide thermal mass to warm the soil.

We muscled rocks into place around the four beds.

This is Tom. Tom is what you’d call an “active senior.”

And voila.

Ready to plant.

Well done, crew.

Don’t forget the “interpretive programming.”

And a proud sign:

We’ve had incredible momentum this Spring.

It’s NOT too late to get involved in this exciting permaculture project. The Parkallen Diggers are actively recruiting new members to be part of our casual and/or core gardening group.

We need master gardeners and newbies. We need compost turners and watering can luggers. We need a fruit tree tender and shrub lover. We need people to turn on a sprinkler when it’s stinking hot and people to tip-toe down the edible perennial border looking for ripe strawberries. We want hammer swingers, pea-munchers and turnip pullers. Whatever your age, expertise, and commitment levels, you are invited to participate in making this unique green space grow.

It’s harvest time and we’re celebrating with a Parkallen Community Harvest Potluck at the Parkallen Hall.

Parkallenians of all ages are welcome. Bring a dish that features something you grew, wild harvested, or purchased from a local, sustainable source like a vendor at the farmer’s market or Eat Local First.

The potluck meal is at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, September 23rd.

Oliver - a Parkallen Gardener - washing his fresh carrots and beets

The Parkallen Community Garden is not productive yet — the soil is still under construction under layers of mulch. We are looking forward to planting fruit trees, strawberries, and maybe some shrubs this fall before the snow falls. So don’t put away your shovels yet!

Community input is welcome in designing the decorative, southfacing border of the Parkallen Community Garden over coffee and desert at the Fall Harvest Potluck.

Dessert/coffee/design from 7:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. on Friday, September 23rd at the Parkallen Hall.

Meet other Parkallen gardeners, learn more about the Parkallen Community Garden, have fun and celebrate fall.

You may have noticed the massive amounts of construction going on in Parkallen this summer. Park Paving Crews and the City of Edmonton are re-constructing roads all over the neighbourhood and Phase 1 of re-development in Ellingson Park (spray deck construction) is well underway.

Construction Crews along 65th Ave in Parkallen

We’ve been busy too.

If you could see behind the road work in this photo, you’d see a very gentle, much lower-tech kind of construction going on: the soil for the Parkallen Community Garden building itself under layers of mulch.

To create a loamy and productive Community Garden in Parkallen we are deploying a technique called lasagne gardening. You layer some water, some mulch, some straw, some cardboard, some more mulch, some more water, and a pinch of mycorrhizal fungi. Then wait for the snow to come and go and next voila! Presto! Next Spring we’ll have rich, cultivable earth where before there was just a dandelion-strewn stretch of grass.

Bev digging a pile of compost

Here’s how we did it:

First hundreds of volunteer-hours went into securing funding and finalizing the plans for this pea-pod shaped garden:


Thanks City of Edmonton, Dustin Bajer, The Parkallen Community League, The Parkallen Diggers, The Parkallen Re-development Committee and Robert Kirchner for your vision and your hard work.

Construction began with flagging the contours of the proposed garden on the site. Then we started digging drainage/irrigation swales. The swales utilize the natural slope of the land to gather precious rainwater towards the garden.

Robert, our leader, breaking new ground

The Parkallen Diggers beginning construction of the Parkallen Community Garden

Digging through sod is tremendously hard work.

Bev and Catherine

But dig we did.

Dustin leading the swale-digging crew

Next we assembled the ingredients for our lasagne garden — a no-till method of converting sod into soil.

Cardboard — thank-you City of Edmonton Waste Management for permission to gather it from depots
Straw — thank-you Barry and Steve and the rest of the staff at the UofA Research Centre (South Campus farm) for donating and delivering the bale
Compost — thanks Kevin
Mulch — thank-you Robert

Marlene - blogger and cardboard gatherer

Large, plain pieces of cardboard like these appliance boxes here are best for lasagne gardening.

It is important that the ground covered with a layer of cardboard (to kill the grass underneath) is wet (to increase the bio-activity) so you can either hose it down or, even better, cardboard mulch on a rainy day and hose it down, like we did. We were lucky to have access to the fire hose used to flood the adjacent hockey rink. Thank-you, Parkallen Community.

Dustin and Catherine cardboard mulching in the rain

The pieces should overlap at least a few inches.

We covered the entire area over a number of sessions. The next step was to sprinkle a very thin layer of compost on top of that (again, to increase bio-activity) and then to pile about a foot of straw on top of the cardboard.

The straw was hosed down and then a thicker layer of compost was spread over top of that.

A lot of local muscle and many wheelbarrow trips went into this endeavor.

Our volunteers were undaunted.

Then we filled in the irrigation swales and the centre pathway with bark mulch.

Robert sprinkled some barley seeds on top of everything to make sure there would be enough roots in place to hold everything down. The grass (from seeds in the straw) and the barley sprouts won’t have time to go to seed and can replace bark mulch (which would be hard to get out of the soil next spring).

Now, against a backdrop of high-tech machinery we’re doing a radically low-tech thing: we’re putting down our shovels and waiting for the soil to build itself.

You know that old joke — in Alberta there are two seasons: winter and construction.

Happy Construction from the Parkallen Diggers.

The Parkallen Community Garden received official approval by the City of Edmonton on June 3, 2011. So we’re digging it this spring!

Future Site of the Parkallen Community Garden at 65th Ave in Ellingson Park

Well, we’re not actually digging it per se, as we’ll be using a no-till strategy to build the soil in our beautiful and innovative pea-pod garden. More on this to come….

Here are our final plans:

Thanks to Gilbert Catabay, landscape architect with the City of Edmonton; Dustin Bajer, master gardener and permaculture specialist; as well as all the people who attended the Parkallen Community Garden Design Charette on March 5, 2011 at the Parkallen Community League. What an exciting design!

Parkallen Pea Pod Garden Plan

The slight diagonal orientation of the garden follows the contour of the land, allowing for more even flow of rainwater into the garden as it runs downhill from the northeast. Community fruit trees and compost bins will be along the rink side of the garden. The garden will use run-off from the rink surface as well as rain water gathered in barrels.

The gravel pad (grey area on the right) will be accessible off the sidewalk on 65th Ave. The garden will run along the length of the hockey rink at Ellingson park. It will be built in phases, (right to left) and not all at once. The plan indicates 36 beds which occupy an area of roughly 400 square meters. Raised beds for gardeners with reduced mobility are also included in the plan.

The light brown lines through the garden are mulched pathways. It is designed using a keyhole gardening concept which means that the amount of cultivable land is maximized by making every square foot of garden accessible by the mulched keyhole pathways, but the amount of total area dedicated to pathways is minimized.

The Parkallen Community Garden is one phase of the Parkallen Park Re-Development Plan:

F.Y.I. this is not us:

This is a City of Edmonton construction laydown area for the road re-construction crews who will be replacing roads throughout Parkallen this summer.

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