Saturday, May 30, 2009

Gardening the Land Between The Sidewalk and The Curb

I was biking around Boulder the other day, and ran into a lady who had taken ownership the space between the curb and the sidewalk. This space is called a planting strip. Rather than just leave the weeds and scraggly grass that had been there before, she had it rototilled put down some weed barrier and was placing some nice looking garden plots down. She planned to raise some vegetables and some flowers in the planting strip. Her main motivation was fun with her kids; secondary was making the space look better; it would have been hard to make it look worse.

I saw another property owner who rototilled their entire lawn, including the planting strip. I chatted with them briefly regarding their plans for the space. They were replacing most of the lawn with new grass, but did plan to plant some vegetable gardens in concretee garden circles that were set back from the street a good bit; see photo.

Both of these landowners were helping make their neighborhoods more beautiful. They were learning or refining gardening skills. And they were producing food in an area that was not productive before. I don't know if this fits the textbook definition of permaculture, but they were definitely taking steps to make their lives and lawns more sustainable.

However, these landowners had some concerns about these actions as well. The reason that the photos I've placed don't have more in view is to hide the locations. There was concern about being hassled by the city of Boulder. Apparently, some people have done this kind of planting strip gardening in the past and been forced to remove their gardens. One of the landowners claimed that as long as what you had in the strip was less than 36 inches high, you would be OK. I did some searching and found this link that doesn't really speak to this issue. However, the page it links to states the planting strip "shall be maintained and may be improved as such by the abutting property owner." You should ask your city's maintenance department for their rules and regulations. In any case, this property owner wanted to stay on the down low.

Other concerns included exhaust from cars and buses and pedestrian interference. I talked to a Ag Extension specialist about this a few years ago when I was looking at gardening a strip of land close to the road, and I don't remember that person being especially concerned. Pedestrian interference, aka people stepping on the garden, was dealt with by providing plenty of space for people walking on the sidewalk and/or getting out of their cars. Additionally, you can see the small fence in the first picture above; it's not meant to keep people out, but rather to warn people who might not be paying attention.

If you are looking for some additional garden space, the planting strip may be a good option. The pluses for using the planting strip (as opposed to other locations):
  • it tends to get good sunlight due to the nearby road
  • it might be in zone 1 or 2, depending on where it is in relation to your driveway
  • it is land that is probably not very well used right now
The minuses:
  • there might be issues with your governing locality
  • the public nature of the garden requires more upkeep and visual concern than might be true otherwise
  • you might not be able to erect more permanent structures (trellises, compost piles)
  • foot traffic might cause damage to the garden.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

More urban permaculture in Denver

Another article about urban permaculture in Denver. They have a nice list of resources at the end, too.

For nine people living together in Denver, their adventure in urban homesteading is all about cooperation.

"Two years ago, it was lonely, and now I'm swept up in it. It's overwhelming, exciting," said Adam Brock, 23. "It's not just gardening but what you do the other eight months of the year."

The homesteaders moved into the big house facing City Park about two months ago. Already, they have transformed a large chunk of the big yard into gardens using tenets of permaculture, an approach to gardening that tries to mimic natural ecosystems. In addition to the usual slate of vegetables and herbs, they are growing things like Siberian pea shrub.

Update 5/27: Here's the blog of the homesteaders in the big house across from city park

Monday, May 18, 2009

Denver neighborhood of Park Hill gets permaculture demonstration site

Via the Denver Post, news that Feed Denver and the Urban Land Conservancy are partnering to "create an urban agriculture demonstration farm in northeast Park Hill".
The conservancy, which recently purchased [a property in the area], will make long-term, permanent development plans for the site in partnership with the surrounding neighborhood. Permanent development will take a few years.

In the meantime, Feed Denver will work with Kenzie Davison and Adam Brock to create an urban ag demonstration as a viable farm for the neighborhood, as well as an education opportunity. The project will build a variety of plots to demonstrate the use of compost techniques for growing soil as well as permaculture techniques for growing food plants.

More in the article; I'm sure Kenzie and Adam can use help.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Colorado College has a garden

Colorado College, located in Colorado Springs, has a garden. Apparently, they are envisioning a permaculture garden, as well, and are making progress towards it.
We envision a one-acre permaculture garden on the Colorado College Campus that will be used as an interactive resource for students, faculty, and classes, as well as a venue for market gardening, local events, and community outreach. Students of all academic interests will benefit greatly from the establishment of the CC Farm through access to fresh produce and farm work, as well as through active involvement in research, youth education, and experiential learning.

Here's the proposed garden plan. They also have a blog (that isn't updated all that much). I contacted the outreach chair for the garden and she had this to say about their progress:
We were a functioning market garden as of last year selling to three venues: Colorado Farm and Art Market, our school's food service Bon Appetit, and a small stand outside of our campus center for students. We got our garden moved on campus last spring, so this summer is our second fully functioning summer in President Celeste's back yard (our new on campus plot. Before that we were gardening a plot at Vennetucci farms). We receive free land and water from the school, but besides that it is a completely student run and self sufficient project. We raise all the money to maintain and work the farm ourselvles (meaning students writing grants all year long). Our greatest expense is paying the three full time interns each summer to work the farm.


[W]e have nine chickens too! ([T]hey started as my independent project last summer when I was a garden intern and I hear they are actually starting to pay themselves off! They are all layers and apparently are producing enough so that we are selling them on a weekly basis).

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Permaculture videos galore

Via Jim, from Colorado Local Sustainability, Youtube has a large number of videos about sustainability and permaculture, but someone has taken the time to pull many of these videos onto one page. Beware! Visiting this page can leave you lost in thought for the rest of your afternoon.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Colorado Springs Permaculture Potlucks

The Coloradd Springs Pikes Peak Permaculture group has monthly potlucks. This May, it will be on May 31 at, probably, 5:00pm. Call Scott for directions at 719 200 8838. More info at the bottom of this page.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Agriburbia: Suburbia with agriculture

Via Sprouts in the Sidewalk, a blog about urban agriculture, I found this site: While it mentions permaculture by name:

An example of the Agriburbia land planning design is this 640-acre parcel in Southern Weld County, Colorado. It includes for 980 homes, including multi-family town homes to two (2) acre permaculture home sites.
Each Agriburbia mixed-use campus is centered on an agrarian concept where traditional suburban landscaping and open space is replaced with orchards, vineyards, and other perennial crops for the benefit of the neighborhood and surrounding communities. A limited amount of active recreation area is provided. The balance of the open space is designed as productive organic agricultural landscape.

The folks behind Agriburbia are based in Golden, Colorado. Here's an article about the concept from the Northern Colorado Business Review, for more information.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Another Boulder Permaculture Design Course

Via elephant journal, there's another permaculture design course happening in the Boulder area this year. From the course description for Permaculture courses in Solutionary Sustainability:
Permaculture is a design science, rooted in observation of nature, to learn how to live with the resilience and stability of natural eco-systems. Taught in over 100 countries, Permaculture is a global grass-roots movement in sustainability education. Permaculture principles guide the design method. The principles guide you to discover optimum strategies for sustainability for any given place-- urban/rural or any eco-zone.

In addition to the typical core curriculum, there are some elective tracks.
I. Growing Food for Four Seasons
II. Solar Principles, Applications and Natural Building
III. Bioremediation, Constructed Wetlands and Aquaculture
IV. Direct Communication with Nature

Visit the course page for more information, including pricing and scheduling.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

MycoRestoration/MycoPermaculture workshop in Rollinsville

There is a workshop focusing on mycorestoration (using fungi to repair broken ecosystems) and mycopermaculture (using fungi in permaculture) happening in Rollinsville on June 13-14.  From an email I was forwarded:
Also, June 13-14, we will be offering an outdoor mushroom workshop based on the MycoRestoration work of Paul Stamets, only specifically geared towards high altitude regions, including plug spawn, rope spawn, bunker spawn, mycoremediation , soil building, etc. We're concurrently developing content for using fungi in Permaculture.
This workshop will be held at the Syzygy Community House. For more information, including cost and availability, call Todd at: 720-891-0767.  

Update, 5/30: The cost of the course is $200. Todd has created a flyer outlining all you need to know about the mycorestoration/mycopermaculture course.

Update: 6/7: The schedule of the workshop has been published.

Mushrooms as an element in permaculture

Mushrooms are one design element of permaculture that I'm learning more about. I recently purchased an indoor mushoom kit from Fungi Perfecti, and am excited to see how easily I can raise mushrooms indoors.

Here's a chicken chart for (some kinds of) mushrooms:

  • medium (sawdust, tree trunk, etc)
  • moisture
  • oxygen
  • starter (spores?)
  • dark
  • attention
  • mushrooms (year round food, protein)
  • compost
  • carbon dioxide
  • more starter
  • money (if sold)
As I said, I'm new to mushrooms as a permaculture element.  What did I miss?

Mushrooms seem to fill a place in a permaculture system much like worms.  Instead of breaking down food waste, they break down carbon heavy materials like tree stumps and tree trunks that would be too much for worms or a compost pile.