I've volunteered to help design/build/manage a garden for a Outdoor Preschool, not specifically a market garden but as I'll be running it as one I figured this would be the most appropriate forum. As I'm still in the initial planning stage, I figured I'd run it past the collective wisdom as I'm sure there's a lot I'm not considering.
The plot is currently 3600sq ft (60x60), on a very gentle south slope, sandy-loam soil that's been organically certified for a number of years. The southern edge gets a bit wet being at the bottom of the incline, otherwise it's fairly ideal with no real shading. Hopefully they'll be able to rent the two adjacent plots as well, which would add another 6000sq ft, allowing a lot more room for a food forest.
Working with what the space I know I have, I plan to arrange beds running east to west to catch water as in runs downhill. Each bed being 30" across and 50' long, with a 18" path between them, using a intense planting density to minimize weed pressure (which is a concern as there's a community garden near by, which means lots of abandoned plots that go to seed). Inter-planted crops and companion planting will be used to minimize insects, floating row covers and insect netting as well. I plan to build a caterpiller tunnel to both extend the season as well as isolate sensitive crops from pests, the school is also considering building a permanent walipini-style greenhouse for year round production as well as having a place for the kids to go in the middle of winter.
Looking at the longer term needs, I was thinking of multiple solutions to maintaining fertility. Next year I'd mirror this years garden, allowing a year of compost crops/ramial wood chips to rejuvenate the soil, both in terms of nutrients, fungi and bacteria. Combined with vermicomposting the schools kitchen waste, raising goats/rabbits/chickens (feeding the chickens worms to provide protein), it'll hopefully provide enough supplementary manure/compost to keep the soil balanced through direct application and compost teas. I was also going to try and incorporate teaching the kids about invasive, non native species when they go on their walks by doing some weeding, which would add valuable compost to the pile and as a bonus reduce the pressure in the surrounding area (even if it's a drop in the bucket). I have access to an almost limitless supply of wood chips, so I was planning on using them as a mulch between beds that'll also create a high quality humus as it decomposes and promotes fungal growth. Looking at the longer term, if we secured the surrounding land we could coppice trees to provide the RWC/mulch as well as local fruit/nut trees.
That's all I can think of off the top of my head, so much has been talked about though it's all kinda a blur. If anyone has any suggestions, considerations or critiques I'd really appreciate it. I did have a couple specific questions to ask;
Are there any specific plants/shrubs/features we can include in the lane leading to the garden to attract birds/other insectivores?
Are there are suggestions to make the garden more interactive/education for the wee ones? I've tried to include as many integrated, closed loop systems to show how nature sustains itself and how we can be responsible stewards to enhance those systems (obviously not going to try and explain that to toddlers, just trying to demonstrate it so their brains soak it up young)
Any ways to include a water feature without creating a drowning risk? If they decide to build a walipini I'll suggest incorporating aquaponics to both act as a heat bank and also nutrient/filtration system, it'd be nice to create habitat for amphibians without killing any of the wards. Parents seem to be attached to their kids more then nature for some reason...
I'm thinking about a new battle cry. Maybe "Not in the face! Not in the face!" Any thoughts tiny ad?
Will trade huckleberry pie for Kickstarter promotion ideas!