The mayor of our city has expressed an interest to "brand" our community garden by placing additional community gardens in empty lots within the city when condemned houses are cleared.
I am a member of the non-profit that started this community garden. Obviously, we are excited about the interest and exposure. However, we are also concerned about the man power required to keep a community garden planted entirely in annuals in good condition.
This has opened the option of creating small permaculture forests in these lots.
Is there any particular recommendation you have in creating a perennial forest in these small areas (presume a lot is 100' x 50')?
I'm working on putting together sustainable solutions for my urban food desert neighborhood. Our area is low income with all of the associated issues. One of the solutions we've discussed is a food forest, so I'm researching that concept. I've also been watching Geoff Lawton's weekly videos and have seen some amazing ideas. I think some hugelkulture berms are in the making, considering how may large branches mother nature is bringing down this winter. Any other help, suggestions or ideas would be welcome!
Multiple food forest lots would be great and if set up and planted right would not be much maintenance. That said you'll need a lot of material and man power up front. If you have the time lapse (one full year) I would blanket the lots completely with a multi-layer sheet mulch right on top of whatever is there. See the attached sheet mulch recipe that will set in motion 3+ years of soil building and cleaning (the fungi drawn in for the chips will consume toxins etc.). This recipe will hold moisture and reduce if not eliminate ever watering your perennials - skip the top cardboard layer and double up on the straw or mulch to avoid any cardboard becoming exposed. I would recommend carefree fruittrees such as jujube, mulberry (select grafted), juneberry, and Asian persimmon and figs if you are zone 7 or higher. Rosa rugosa for beauty and big rose hips would look good at the entrance/along the fence and deal well with any salt spray from the roads.
It would be a fun project that all ages could help launch.
If you tell me what zone you are in I can further suggest easy care species.
Location: NW Pennsylvania Zone 5B bordering on Zone 6
posted 6 years ago
I love your idea and sort of approached it with my local library. When it came to edibles, they were a little hesitant because their concern was about the what if someone ate the wrong thing idea. I was proposing it to them as more of a fun way you could teach. They did admit that they hadn't thought along those lines before when planting and then added that their staff wouldn't really have time to participate in things like that, over and above their volunteering to plant the flowers they do. (a mix of annuals and perennials) Their concern stemmed from the legal side of things. I understand that, but really do feel that if someone wants to sue you, they will find a way. I certainly do not write this to sway you, but to get you to thinking so that you have your bullet proof proposal ready when the time comes. Figure out a way to spin what you want so that it seems like what they want and you have a win-win for both sides.
"Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you." ~Maori Proverb
Location: Frederick, Maryland
posted 6 years ago
Some years ago I spoke with the forestry directors of each NYC borough at a round table about combining Bloomberg's million trees project with edibles and got the same lame liability response. What I would propose is 'wildlife plantings' which can ornamental and good human food too - such as juneberry, mt. ash hybrids, sea berry, aronia. Play them up as for the birds and pollinators, no need to mention you will be hitting them too.
On the side of a site being potentially toxin I spoke with a Cornell Extension agent who told me tests showed the woody mass of perennials holding any soil toxins and none making it to the fruit. Be worth while digging up those results.
posted 6 years ago
I live in Indianapolis, in zone 5. I love the idea of sheet composting and I've been doing it in my own backyard for years. I would have to teach people in the area what it is, how it works and that it doesn't attract vermin, which some will have concerns about. Are there any really good reference books about wild edibles that has photos that I might be able to share with my neighbors. I only know a few edible weeds and the neighbors are amazed when I point out that they already have food growing in their yards.
What a great opportunity! Regrowing vacant lots can mean regrowing a community as well. Thinking about it, taking on these lots would be more sustainable if you could generate some interest in the neighbourhood as werll. Reduces the risk of vandalism, teaches people on how to look after their food source... Here in Europe groups have simply put invitations in people's mailboxes and invited their neighbours to a party, then showed them some videos (such as incredible edible Todmorden) and simply asked, Would you like to do something? Sure coaching a group of people is a lot of work, but think of the multiplying effect. Also, look for other groups that have an interest in the neighbourhood (schools, parents, sports clubs, churches...) for manpower and expertise and not to forget local knowledge. Talk to people.
Hey, you might even find a like-minded lawyer for some advice!
Please keep us posted on what comes out of it!
Diego Footer on Permaculture Based Homesteads - from the Eat Your Dirt Summit