Sunday, April 28, 2019

Goucher College Community Garden Permaculture Design

I recently coached Goucher College's Ag Co-op in Permaculture Design. Through a series of 5 workshops, students generated a master plan for the campus community garden. Using a step-by-step process to guide decision-making, we started by clarifying the club's Vision:

  • Demonstrate regenerative agricultural systems 
  • Produce food for the greater college community 
  • Create educational opportunities for all academic disciplines 
  • Exhibit models of social justice and environmental stewardship
  • Be financially self-sustaining
  • Accommodate social space where people can connect with each other
  • Provide a healing environment where people can connect with nature and enjoy beauty
            Site Analysis of the Goucher community garden

Students identified program Needs;
practiced Observation; studied nature's Patterns; conducted Site Analysis to determine design parameters; brain-stormed Opportunities and researched their feasibility; explored Plant Guilds.

WIND:  The garden site is located at the bottom of a slope in a cold sink.  It is also buffeted by north winds, concentrated by a wind tunnel effect from campus buildings located upslope.

Solution: A windbreak of native evergreen shrubs, planted behind the 4' high solid wood fence will protect the garden from damaging winds. Facing south, this windbreak will also function as a suntrap, providing a beneficial microclimate for sun-loving edibles.

SUN:  The design takes advantage of a 3-story, southeast facing stone wall at one side of the garden by locating a half-hoop house to extend the growing season. This wall acts as thermal mass, storing the sun's heat during the day, providing passive solar energy for the unheated greenhouse at night. It also creates a microclimate in front of it, ideal for heat-loving edibles, like figs!

WATER:  Our site analysis during a rain shower revealed that the garden slopes slightly away from the building toward the long length of fence. Swales can be constructed along the slope contours, and above raised garden beds to harvest this run-off for passive irrigation and to prevent soil erosion.

     Permaculture Design for the Goucher community garden
Two large cisterns on site collect water from a rubber roof, which is toxic to edibles.  Students located a new rain barrel at the corner of the existing tool shed, which has a non-toxic green roof. Native shrubs and flowers can be watered from the cisterns; edibles from the rain barrel, as well as from the existing hose.

SOIL: Compost tumblers recycle kitchen waste from students and the campus dining hall.

PATHWAY:  Inspired by the sunburst pattern, the pathway accesses all areas and entrances to this irregular shape using the least amount of space.

LABOR:  Work will be shared by co-op members and volunteers.

PLANTING SCHEME:  The garden perimeter is zoned for
perennials, with taller fruit trees at the north end to allow sunlight to reach shorter plants. Annual crops, which require more attention, are assigned to the garden interior, where rectangular raised beds accommodate row tunnels in cold weather. Guilds of native flowers will support fruit trees and berries.

Since students will not be on campus during the summer season, spring and fall crops will be prioritized, along with long season crops, which mature in the fall (winter squash, apples...).

PRODUCE will be shared with the campus community and the homeless.

CASH CROPS: Bon Appetit, the campus dining hall will purchase fresh culinary herbs from the Ag Co-op.  Garlic will be another great cash crop, since it requires minimal work, has a high value, and can be dried for storage.

A few raised beds can be rented to students or faculty for a modest fee.

SOCIAL SPACE:  A shade arbor, located in the center of the garden, can also host a grape vine.

For more information visit: