- Guest Speaker MeghanGiroux on Forest Gardening
- Replicating the architecture of a forest
- ‘How to Plant a Tree’
- Espaliering fruit trees
- Harvesting garlic (TT)
- Planting the forest garden at Tommy Thompson
- Weeding & general garden upkeep
What a week to spend at the Community Teaching Gardens! Our 12th week of the program saw the arrival of a new garden shed at the Ethan Allen Homestead site, a wonderfully informative discussion on ‘Forest Gardening’ by Meghan Giroux, some bountiful harvests (garlic, finally!!), and some amazing sunsets. As the beds continue to burst with life our gardeners are leaving each class with arms laden with delicious-looking veggies and proud smiles. We are sure to see some of these garden-grown delights infused into the dishes at our next CTG potluck this Saturday!
Forest Gardening with Meghan Giroux:
On Monday, both of our CTG classes gathered at the Tommy Thompson Community Garden to delve into the realm of Forest Gardening, a topic presented to all by Meghan Giroux of Vermont Edible Landscapes. Meghan, a native Vermonter, arrived to the scene with a truck laden with plants ranging from a Mesabi Cherry Tree to some echinacea and plenty of compost. The talk began with a brief introduction of the topic of ‘Forest Gardening’, an ecological way of growing polycultures (many plants) that mimic the structure and function of a natural forest. The goal of forest gardening lies in decreasing inputs and maximizing outputs as the system functions like a natural ecosystem. As Meghan guided us through her lesson, she noted that paying attention to design and architecture is key in creating a forest garden that will maximize the growing space above and below ground. The various types of plants she kindly donated exemplified this as they formed a guild, or a grouping of plants that all offered a unique function thus benefitting one another and maximizing their success as a whole living unit. Some examples of the guild that Meghan helped to create included the Siberian Pea Shrub, a leguminous species that provides atmospheric nitrogen fixation, and comfrey, a dynamic accumulator that selectively accumulates mineral nutrients and adds them to the topsoil each year. Prior to her planting demo, Meghan gave a brief crash course on soils and how to test it, build soil fertility and topsoil, and continue to maintain soil health long-term. With too short of a time period to share her extensive, impressive knowledge, Meghan suggested the following resources for learning more about forest gardening:
- Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier’s 2 Volume set, Edible Forest Gardens, found at: http://www.edibleforestgardens.com
- Eric Toensmeier’s Perennial Vegetables and Paradise Lot, both found at: http://www.perennialsolutions.org
- Toby Hemenway’s Gaia’s Garden, found at: http://www.patternliteracy.com/books/gaias-garden
- Chelsea Green Publishing, a source for all of these resources and more: http://www.chelseagreen.com
How to Plant a Tree With Meghan Giroux:
In addition to her extremely interesting discussion, Meghan led the students in a hands-on planting activity. With shovels and compost in hand, the students worked alongside one another planting the wide array of species Meghan brought along. Thus, a quick lesson in how to plant trees was in order when the Mesabi Cherry went into the ground. Although she calls her style unconventional, Meghan described the tree planting process to be at least a year long as it is important to prepare the site prior to actually planting by adding straw, compost, woodchips, and gypsum. After overwintering, this process naturally gets rid of grass while also creating a foundation that mimics what is happening in a forest floor. Other important tips included breaking up the walls of the planting hole if they become compacted during the digging process and topdressing the planted tree with compost rather than filling the hole, this allows the roots to seek native soils. Meghan’s final instruction addressed questions about pruning, which should take place in winter and late summer. The pruning technique of espaliering offers a great solution for our newest garden addition, as well as several other species of fruit trees, as it helps contain tree growth to a singular plane. We’re sure our young forest garden will certainly prove to have a highly productive future in the Tommy Thompson garden, thanks Meghan!
This week was rounded out with the much-anticipated garlic harvest on both Monday and Wednesday evening, and the final steps of planting the forest garden. Next week brings the upcoming CTG potluck and another exciting special event, stay tuned for the updates!