“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got til its gone? Paved paradise, put up a parking lot…”
At ASPI we’re doing just the opposite! We’ve gotten rid of part of the parking lot and put in a small piece of edible paradise right next to the office. The garden plot holds spaces for 6-8 gardeners, one of them being the local girl scout troop, another being the ASPI office itself, the rest are cared for by local individuals. Before I came on the scene, the walkways were marked out with mulch and the beds with aged manure compost. My first day of work Nancy asked me to design and plant the garden; she had many transplants and seeds to go in.
Have you worked with intercropping and intensive gardening? Well, up to that point, I had never intentionally done either of these, but one of ASPI’s goals as part of Grow Appalachia is to encourage folks to use these two methods. If you’d like a little more information, this page gives a good overview: https://sites.google.com/a/psu.edu/community-garden/intercropping-and-companion-planting and many books and other internet sites contain more detailed information about how to intercrop and intensively plant. Needless to say, I had a little trouble and was a little nervous about these methods! Having been trained in sustainable but moderately conventional ways of planting at Berea College, this method did not come naturally. However, once I got over the initial shock of putting plants closer than I thought and intermingling different types of vegetables: roots seeds with tomato transplants, onions bulbs with cole crops, beans with potatoes…it began to make sense and it was fun to experiment with different combinations. Within the garden we will also have a display of the Native American method “Three Sisters” planting of corn, beans and squash together, so that the squash shades the roots and the beans have the corn to climb, the corn benefits from the nitrogen fixing of the beans! Next to that is the native edibles bed, which contains nettles, lambs quarters, amaranth and more! This bed will help folks identify some “weeds” that are edible and high in nutrients…don’t throw them out, use those weeds! Edging our vegetable beds will be a strip of beneficials-attracting flowers, some native flowers, herbs and giant sunflowers!
At the end of the day, I had a garden intensively planted and intercropped. To help us all remember what was planted where, Nancy asked me to make a map of the garden. Using graphing paper and a pencil, I sketched out each bed and recorded what was planted in it. If you’ve never done this before (I had not) it’s a great idea. Mapping out your garden not only helps you remember what you’ve planted when everything finally starts coming up, but it will also allow you to keep records and encourage a little note taking for reminders in future plantings.
When I returned to ASPI for my second week of work, a few of the seedlings had popped out of the ground, but many of them were still taking their sweet time to emerge and grow. I am excited to see what else has come up when I return this week! Tired of all the parking lots? Come by and see our little plot of paradise at Appalachia-Science in the Public Interest on Lair Street in Mount Vernon.