Under Construction

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.

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