Sprouts Bed Construction

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.


Diggers! It’s Spring and an exciting time for the Parkallen Community Garden. Our funding from Sustainable Food Edmonton is in place and we’re ready to GROW!

You’re invited to join us at the Parkallen Community Hall on May 11th (2012) at 7 p.m. for dessert (potluck) and coffee at our Spring Kick-Off Event.

The Parkallen Sprouts are planning 4 learning and showcase beds at the heart of the garden: A Native Plants Spiral, A Pizza Garden, A Bug and Butterfly Garden, and a 5 Senses Spiral Garden.

The rest of the beds need our loving cultivation too. Some planting ideas so far include a Three Sisters Garden (traditional Native American combination of corn, beans and squash), a “Stinky Stuff” bed (garlic, onions, scallions), and a pumpkin patch that the preschoolers will plant and harvest. Do you have ideas for projects? Want to “captain” a bed of lettuce? Want to espalier some zone-hardy grapes? Now is the time to let us know your interests and good ideas.

E-mail sustainability@parkallen.ca for more info.

On Saturday, May 12th, we’ll starting construction of the children’s gardening beds and we’d love your help.

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.

We’re Digging it in June 2011

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.