Guest blog by Adam Weaver and Pascia Birch, Mactaquac, N.B
Adam and Pascia have travelled all over the world and decided to make New Brunswick their new home. Pascia is a nurse and Adam runs the Agricultural program at the Ville Cooperative in Marysville (Fredericton). You can join Adam for fun events such as botanical bike rides, where he will take groups out for a spin and teach about local foraging. Adam will also be offering some permaculture intro. trainings at the Ville this fall. To find out more you can email Agriculture@theville.ca. If you are interested in setting up your own Permablitz or Perma Chats meetings, there is more information here. You can join us in Fredericton in early September for our Perma Chat meet up. For more information email PermacultureAtlantic@gmail.com.
The weather forecast leading up to the work party and potluck (perma-blitz) was looking grim. Heavy rain and cold temps would certainly prevent anyone from making the journey out. We decided to just go for it and we’re glad we did.
Not only did our truehearted friends come out, but we were joined too by newfangled, curious permies to boot! The event was on and after a briefing we set out into the storm to work. Without too much planning I sketched a quick map of a large keyhole garden, an idea gleaned from Toby Hemenway’s prodigious book Gaia’s Garden. Before I knew it our group had improvised and dug a new walking path in what used to be a square potato patch. The path began as a circle around the pre-existing square, with short lines going both outward and inward, at the end of these lines were small circles or ‘cul-de-sacs’ for one to have a full 360-degree reach.
In permaculture we look for ways to ‘stack functions’ and so when looking for a way to fill in the newly dug path, we began to collect spent chicken shavings, which would help to keep the weeds down, define the pathway, add nitrogen and carbon to the soil (and make a cushy path for bare feet).
Fast forward 3 months, it’s August and the garden has burst with fruit and veggies. Peas, beans, carrots, tomatoes, sunflowers, ground cherries and sweet grass (thanks Amy), Jerusalem artichoke (thanks Didier), and much more. Our polyculture of food has made up a large portion of our diet and looks beautiful. The best part of our garden is the fact that we did it together with friends and as a community of permies. If there is one way to save the world, it’s to have more perma-blitzes.
There are a few things we’ve observed over the spring and summer…
Straw is a great row cover to keep weeds down be careful where you get your straw!
We bought some square bales of what seemed to be straw, which in fact turned out to be hay (the stuff with all the seeds). The beds which we laid ‘straw’ in between rows quickly became grass beds. Make sure the farmer is aware of the bales they are selling. Mine were bought at the Big Potato in Maugerville, and they didn’t know about the origins of the bales. Rookie mistake.
We practice no-till gardening, so cardboard is one of our best friends. We make frequent trips to Worrall’s, a conveniently accessible furniture store. The cardboard must have its tape peeled off, else you’ll keep digging up plastic in the years to come, gross! We lay it thick (2 layers at least) or else it will decompose before it smothers the grass below. We also scored a big heavy rug that was in a trash can, this works very effectively.
For our irrigation needs, we have a sprinkler on a timer which goes off for 15 minutes twice per day (7am and 7pm). Some people think that watering in this way is cheating or less personal with the plants, but I think it’s the true lazy gardeners (permaculture) way.
The summer break has been busy indeed, but we are looking forward to future perma-blitzes and to catch up on other people’s summer experiences and insights at our next perma-chat meetup.
Adam and Pascia