This is the story of what happened when 30 strangers gathered to learn, ponder, feast, and build a garden on a beautiful Saturday in late February.
Randy Marks and Ron Ferrell led the hopeful gardeners attending the Sustainable OKC workshop, which happened to be in our yard. They started us off with an exercise: we were to wander around the yard looking for on-site resources that could be used in growing projects, such as: pecan hulls, compost, “urbanite” (concrete scraps), shade and sun, water sources, wind blocks, soil, people. We learned about thermal mass, permaculture, food systems, and much more. Randy and Ron told us about their background and shared some of their favorite books.
The Plowman’s Folly by Edward Faulkner
No-Work Garden by Ruth Stout
Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman
Lasagna Gardening by Patricia Lanza
Humanure by Joseph Jenkins
Noah’s Garden by Sara Stein
A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander
Introduction to Permaculture by Bill Mollison
We identified the placement of the garden and spread cardboard on the ground with lots of overlap in order to effectively smother out weeds and grass. You can actually install this garden right on top of existing lawn. That’s why this method is sometimes referred to as a “no-dig garden.” Of course we all know how tenacious bermuda grass can be, so there will be some creepers that invade—just not nearly as many as you would have otherwise. Then we placed the bluestem straw bales (bluestem holds up better than wheat straw) around the border. The bales should last about three years, after which they will need to be replaced or framed with something else. The bales help insulate the soil and retain moisture.
Next we filled the bed with loose straw and stomped it down. The straw acts as a sponge to retain moisture. Eventually the straw and cardboard will decompose and feed the soil.
Then it was time to add our growing medium: well-rotted horse poo. Expecting some slight settling, we made a heaping mound of it. The straw bales, straw fill, and compost all are moisture retainers, so watering requirements should be greatly reduced.
With nearly 30 people helping out, the construction of the bed took all of 26 minutes!
We took a break for a delicious potluck lunch: quiche, meatballs, granola, roasted veggie orzo, sweet potato soup, chicken, tabouli, cookies, cake, breads, and more. By the end of the day, we had decided on a name for our mission: Oklahoma GardenShare. Sharon Astrin created a facebook group for us. Please join and spread the word: Oklahoma GardenShare. The idea is to nurture a garden community, where we can reach out to this group and say—”Hey! I want to build a raised bed this weekend. Who can help me out?”—much like people come together to raise a barn or build straw-bale homes.
Much thanks to Chelsey Simpson for photographing the event.
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