Monday, October 19, 2015

Lasagna Layers - Sheet Mulch Work Day

Lasagna Layers

     Today we worked outside in the food forest. We took the existing footprint of the forest garden and expanded it by lasagna layering. This technique is called lasagna layering because we add several layers to the area and it is sometimes repeated a couple times.

The Process...

     We took cardboard and placed it on the grass. We did this to try to keep the grass from growing up into the layers that we were about to add. Then we added compost followed by wood mulch. This added about 5-7 inches to the existing ground. On the areas where there are paths, we added pine straw to contrast the non-walking areas.

Take a look at the video playlist and pictures below to see the transformation and some students describing what we were working on. Enjoy!

Friday, October 16, 2015

"Back to Eden" - Using Woodchips like Nature

All by Herself

     In permaculture, we realize that the best way to design is by observing how nature is designed and how she functions. In the woods, there is constantly rotting, decomposing "stuff" on the ground. Leaves. Straw. Branches. It's all decomposing with the help of decomposers. It may take a decade for a fallen tree to completely decompose but, eventually, you won't be able to see it anymore.

With Our Help

     We can mimic that same process and try to do it even better. If we shred or chip the wood into small pieces, that will make them decompose faster. Adding these wood chips to our forest garden does three important things:
  1. Lessens water evaporation
  2. Increases nutrients slowly
  3. Creates a better environment for helpful organisms

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Hogs? Are we growing hogs?

Repurposing Hog Panels and T-posts

Community Interaction

     One of our goals at PGM is to increase our community impact, interaction and engagement. When this happens, students gain even more opportunities to learn. There have been many partners that have helped us in our food forest creation like the admin of PGM, local entrepreneurs, parents of students, and our students themselves. Another type of interaction is with larger, locally operated businesses. Lowe's is one example of a large business that has helped us.

reDesigning for Food

     We wanted to grow some muscadines and kiwi fruit but we couldn't figure out how to build the structure for them. After researching different materials for trellis and vertical lattice-type structures, the cost was higher than we wanted (posts, wire, tools to tighten the wire, small harware, etc). We also wanted the structure to be visually appealing while offering more than just a place to support the vines. After some brainstorming with people who have already built things like this, we made our decision: hog panels with t-posts made for an efficient use of resources. Now we had to acquire them.

     Lowe's has done a great job of this. We purchased several things from Lowe's like our electric fence, hand tools and some plants. When PGM contacted them about donating material to our school, they were easy to talk to and offered their help. I picked up the t-posts and 16' hog panels with ease and transported them back to the school with some finagling.
T-post intended use

hog panels intended use
Hog panels intended use

Building the Trellis

     Hog panels and t-posts aren't meant to be used to grow food.  Well, at least not plants (Mrs. Smith probably wouldn't like a wallowing hog too close to the school least not yet:) However, they work pretty well growing plants if we use them just right. We drove the t-posts into the ground. Each pair of t-posts were placed 6' apart from the other pair and about 4' apart from each other. This formed a 4'x6' rectangle. We bent the hog panel into an arbor until the short ends of the panel were about 6' apart. We repeated this 4 more times so that they didn't make a tunnel but made sort of border for the food forest.

     Thanks to support from outside the school, we are able to do things like this and I believe it makes PGM a better place to go to school and an easier place to learn.
This is how we use hog panels and t-posts. They end up being ~6' tall and 6' wide.