Last week we officially began working on the garden. Our first step was unfortunately destructive: our future garden site was littered with several small trees, and some dead milkweed and burdock that had to be removed so that the soil could be prepared. We learned quickly that digging out trees was much more difficult than planting trees. Although we had originally intended to preserve and transplant them to a corner of the site, we quickly realized that for many it would be near impossible to extract them without destroying the roots with a reasonable amount of time and effort.
Although using what is already on the land is generally a good idea, these trees were not well placed and interfered with design elements that would maximize use of the land. However, we realized that if we just removed them we would be removing nutrients from the site. So, in the spirit of the permaculture principle of “Produce No Waste”, they will instead be given new purpose as either mulch or compost, decomposing and returning to the soil where their nutrients will be used to grow new plants.
We did end up keeping 4 trees that we think are Serviceberries, since they had conveniently been planted in an area that will likely become a food forest already. A couple of them had been very affected by the wind and were leaning at an almost 45° angle, but they are still young and small enough to be helped back upright and then protected by windbreaks. In the meantime, they served as excellent indicators of a strong wind in that direction that we couldn’t feel but were able to recognize when we went to do the preliminary design observation.
Our next step was the complete opposite: after spending the afternoon digging up trees, it was now time to plant some! We had ordered a wide variety of seeds including herbs, flowers, fruits, vegetables, and trees that it was now time to start germinating. In permaculture and in ecology, diversity is the key to creating an abundant, resilient system. We chose plants that perform different functions and require slightly different conditions to establish a self-maintaining polyculture. For now, however, they are organized in trays in the greenhouse, until they are ready to be transplanted. Hopefully these 864 new plant lives make up for the few we had to take away.
The next steps are to begin sheet mulching and of course finalizing the design. There remains a lot of work to do, and this is only the beginning!