Last week I travelled to UMass with members of my Greenfield Garden Club to visit one of the permaculture vegetable gardens. UMass has wanted to create an international model to inspire permaculture projects in campuses around the world, and it certainly looked like a great idea to me!
We had a knowledgeable guide in Dan Bensonoff. He is a wonderful speaker. He has been working at the permaculture garden for three years, but it has existed for 9 years. In 2012, the initiative was honored by President Obama with first place winners of the Campus Champions of Change Challenge. Here is the list,
As we began our walk around the garden I was expecting vegetables, and there were lots of them. Some were sheltered, some were not. Some of the herb plantings, of which there were many, were planted in all sections of the garden. One special item was the Shiitake mushrooms on inoculated logs. The gardens produce roughly 2000 pounds of food every year. This food goes to the dining halls, the local survival center, and to the student-led Farmers Market, where they sell teas, jam and their own honey.
Garlic chives are a little different from regular chives, and I thought maybe their flat grass-like leaf would not shed and spread seeds. Foolish thought. Like cilantro, dill and regular chives, garlic will spread their seeds everywhere! I will keep that in mind.
Comfrey is a beautiful plant with big leaves, and it can grow between 2-5 feet tall and has medicinal powers, but you have to be very careful!
I was delighted to learn that my garden has Mountain Mint – just like the UMass garden.
There is one Tobacco plant in the garden, as a single example, but it is forbidden.
The bees and hives are busy producing. There are bees that need hives like the ones here, but there are many kinds of bees, and many of them do not live in hives. Of course, those bees do not provide any honey for us!
A garden needs good soil and compost is what makes/keeps that soil to be good. This garden had three large ‘bins’ where leaves and such could be given air periodically in one bin, and when it is full the next bin begins breaking down more materials. Then they are now good compost they can be added to the soil. This is a very important part of gardening. At my house we have several bins to break down our leaves and our kitchen scraps. I keep in mid that we need Green and Brown materials, old vegetables and leaves as examples.
Rain water is also essential in a garden. We just bought a rain barrel and it has already been a big help to our garden. We do not have quite the set up as UMass, but the amount of rain that falls off our roof amazed us. That rain has been very important in watering the most essential plants in our flower garden.
I first learned about Permaculture some years ago when I met Jono Neiger who works in our environs. He has been helpful to us in the past and his book, The Permaculture Promise is available and very useful. I recommend it. Another book, The Resilient Farm and Homestead by Ben Falk. It is “An Innovative Permaculture and Whole Systems Design Approach.”
I love our Garden Club. Our Leader, Laura Schlaikjer, always knows great places to visit. Thank you, Laura!