Seeking Space

Lunaria Gardens is growing, and we’re seeking a centralized space, preferably in the Philadelphia area, for:

  • Farm/ garden: for growing flowers, herbs, edibles, natives
  • Floral design studio: for creating special orders and event designs
  • Plant nursery: for our specialty herbs, edibles, perennials, natives
  • Workshops: in topics like sustainable floristry, natural dyes, botanical brewing

We’re motivated to find our new home, so if you have a lead, please share, and email [email protected] to start a conversation.

Thank you!

Kristen Jas Vietty
Grower-Forager-Designer
Lunaria Gardens

HIRING: Farmstand Manager, Clark Park/ West Philly

bala market display slate signage Lunaria Gardens

Clark Park Farmstand Manager

Lunaria Gardens is seeking a 2016 Farmstand Manager to work Saturdays at the Clark Park Farmers Market in West Philadelphia.

Job type: Part-time seasonal. Saturday morning availability is required, approximately 7:30a-3p. Possible option to assist in nursery in Roxborough as well.

Season term: We are asking for a commitment of Saturday mornings, April 2 through June 18, 2016. Lunaria Gardens will likely continue market participation beyond this point, but we would discuss summer plans at a later date.

Compensation: $10-16/ hr ($7.25/ hr with sales commission)

Position posted: Saturday, March 19, 2016

Contact: Kristen Jas Vietty, [email protected] (no phone calls)

 

Position Description:

Lunaria Gardens will be participating in The Food Trust’s Clark Park Farmers Market in Spring 2016. At this market, we will be primarily offering potted plants: edibles, natives, ornamental perennials, and houseplants. We will also carry a limited selection of flower bouquets and gardening supplies. The director will train and assist, but the Farmstand Manager is in charge of ensuring everything runs smoothly each Saturday.

– Loading vehicle at nursery in Roxborough/ Manayunk on Saturday morning (or Friday evening if preferred).

– Unloading vehicle and creating display at Clark Park Farmers Market: setting up tent, tables, merchandise display, signage.

– Photographing display for Instagram/ Facebook promotion.

– Assisting customers with selecting merchandise, taking special order requests, selling subscription products. Cultivating relationships and repeat customers, but not allowing conversations to interfere with duties.

– Handling cash and credit card sales, recording sales data, and maintaining optimal visual display throughout market hours.

– Breaking down display and loading vehicle.

– Unloading vehicle back at nursery, reporting any issues or trends to director.

 

 

succulents Philadelphia Lunaria Gardens farmers market clay pots

 

Requirements:

– Must have familiarity with plants and their general growing requirements. Applicant must have some gardening/ farming/ ecological know-how, like cool-season vs tender vegetables, plant families, sun-shade requirements, etc. You will be helping people select plants, so you need to have some base knowledge, as well as an interest in improving it through ongoing training and self-study.

– Must be excellent with customer service and sales, and possess an outgoing, personable, and positive nature.

– Must be punctual, communicative, organized, and comfortable jumping in and figuring things out.

– Must be able to comfortably lift 50 pounds and withstand standing and sitting outside (under tent) in all weather conditions.

– Must commit to work Saturday mornings from mid-March through mid-June.

– Must possess valid drivers license and a vehicle.

Preferred:

– Ideal applicant will live in the vicinity of West Philadelphia, and have some connection to the community.

– Familiarity with botanical nomenclature, gardening, landscaping, agriculture, permaculture, or ecology.

– Interest in assisting with occasional nursery operations (seeding, transplanting, watering, weeding, harvesting) during peak season.

– Interest or experience in floriculture is a plus, and could elicit additional Friday hours.

– Experience in visual display and merchandising is a plus, as well as any experience doing other markets or pop-up events.

– Do you have experience with social media/ email marketing, web design, construction, proposal writing, or other cool skills? Let us know.

 

Lunaria Gardens Farmers market display fall bulbs floral arrangements philly

 

About Lunaria Gardens:

Lunaria Gardens specializes in edibles, natives, and perennials for the landscape, and houseplants, floral arrangements, and seasonal decor for the home. Our focus is on habitat creation, food production, and sustainable beauty. New for the 2016 are customized plant assortments and floral subscriptions. Owner-operator Kristen Jas Vietty has a background in visual arts, administration, music, and permaculture design at residential, farm, and municipal scales.

 

To Apply:

To be considered, send email to Kristen Jas Vietty: [email protected] (no phone calls)

Email subject format: “Clark Park Farmstand Manager: (Your full name)”

Please either attach a resume in PDF or Word format, or include link to an online resume.

No formal letter of interest required. Instead, either in the email body or in an attached document, answer the following questions in list or paragraph form:

1. Can you commit to working most Saturdays through June 18? Sometimes last-minute situations arise, but please specify if you already have trips or weddings booked on certain dates.

2. Do you have a valid drivers license? Do you have a vehicle with ability to assist with transport of tent, tables, and merchandise?

3. What are your strengths and weaknesses in your plant knowledge? We primarily sell edibles, herbs, natives, and houseplants, and limited amount of non-native ornamentals or cut flower crops.

4. Do you have interest or experience with floral design, as well as Friday availability?

5. What are you hoping to learn or gain from this position?

6. What can you bring to this position? If not listed in resume, please list any skills.

7. If not included in your resume, please list links to social media profiles, websites, links to cool projects with which you’re involved.

 

Lunaria Gardens Philadelphia flower arrangement floral design native bouquet

 

 

Please do not call to follow up on applications.  Thanks much for your interest and time.

Lunaria Gardens is an equal opportunity employer. Women, people of color, and LGBTQ applicants are especially encouraged to apply.

 

Kristen Jas Vietty

[email protected]

lunariagardens.com

facebook.com/lunariagardens

instagram.com/lunariagardens

twitter.com/lunariagardens

Mid-Atlantic Native Food Forest Polyculture for Rain Gardens & Wet Sites

On June 6, 2015 at Edge of the Woods Native Plant Nursery, I taught a workshop on Creating Native Food Forests. We discussed our woodland biome & the cycle of ecological succession, contrasted the outputs of wilderness with conventional agriculture, and detailed some possible direct and indirect uses of edible forest gardens. We then looked at some agroforestry case studies, like Mark Shepard’s 100+ acre New Forest Farm, Fields without Fences in Frenchtown, NJ, Eric Toensmeir & Jonathan Bates’ 1/10 acre Paradise Lot, and Steven Gabriel’s ‘De-slugging the Woods‘ maple-mushroom-duck polyculture.

It seems that everyone has a downspout or some greywater that could be redirected into a rain garden, so I pulled a selection of Edge of the Woods plants favoring moist to wet soil conditions. I wanted to highlight how these native species could produce nuts, fruit, berries, vegetables, tea, and medicine, as well as ecosystem services like nitrogen fixation, pollinator habitat, stormwater management, and watershed quality improvement.

mid atlantic native food forest polyculture rain garden

Species List (roughly from largest to smallest mature size)

1. Pecan / Carya illinoinensis / 70-100′, delicious nuts, high value timber

2. Pawpaw / Asimina triloba / 10-40′, most commonly 20-35′, delicious fruit (improved seedlings and grafted forms available), deer & pest resistant, host to zebra swallowtail butterfly.

3. Downy serviceberry / Amelanchier arborea / 15-25′, species within the Amelanchier genus go by many names and have varying sizes and habits, but all have highly ornamental white spring blossoms, followed by small, flavorful berries, and burgundy fall foliage. Not very picky about soils, serviceberries offer a nice alternative to acid-loving blueberries.

4. Hazel alder / Alnus serrulata / 12-20′, nitrogen-fixing, high wildlife value, glossy, ribbed leaves tinged with red, winter interest.

5. Spicebush / Lindera benzoin / 6-12′, a graceful shrub providing lemon blooms in early spring, glossy red berries, and yellow-gold fall foliage. Aromatic twigs and leaves can be used as tea. Host plant for spicebush swallowtail.

6. American black elderberry / Sambucus nigra subsp. canadensis / 6-12′, insectary umbel blooms and dark purple fruits, usually stewed and consumed as cordials or cough medicine. Several ornamental cultivars are now available, featuring varied foliage and flower color, or improved fruit quality. Self-fruitful, although a pollinator will improve fruit set.

7. Ostrich fern / Matteuccia struthiopteris / 3-6′, ornamental fern producing edible fiddlehead vegetable of early spring. Will spread via stolons, and foliage will die down by mid-summer.

8. Swamp verbena / Verbana hastata / 2-5′, ornamental candelabra-like blooms, insectary, ‘cure-all’ medicinal, usually consumed as tea.

9. Goldenrod ‘Fireworks’ / Solidago rugosa / 3-4′, top herbaceous insectary species according to Douglas Tallamy. Ornamental golden sprays in late summer/ early fall. Medicinal/ tea.

10. Hoary mountain mint / Pycanthemum incanum / 2-4′, native, insectary mint. Medicinal, tea, potherb.

11. Nodding onion / Alium cernuum / 1-2′, ornamental flowers, insectary, deer/ pest resistant, all parts edible and used like scallions

12. Labrador violet / Viola labradorica / 4-6″, groundcover, ornamental and edible purple foliage and lavender flowers. Host plant for fritillary butterflies and seeds are favored by cardinals & other songbirds.

 

Related posts:

Lunaria Gardens Nursery

#SavetheBees: ‘Queen of the Sun’ screening and pollinator panel discussion, Doylestown, PA

Photos from Forest Gardening workshop at Fields without Fences

Notes from Edible Forest Gardening Workshop with Eric Toensmeier

 

Contact Kristen Jas Vietty

#SavetheBees: ‘Queen of the Sun’ screening & pollinator panel discussion, Doylestown, PA

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Along with local beekeepers, permaculture designer Kristen Jas Vietty will participate in a post-film panel discussion, delivering some tips for creating and maintaining habitat for our hardworking pollinators.

Thursday, June 11, 2015
Doors 6:30p, screening 7p

The County Theater, 20 East State Street, Doylestown, PA

Farm Fresh Film Series, sponsored by Doylestown Food Coop & Bucks County Foodshed Alliance

Queen of the Sun: What are the Bees Telling Us? (1h 23m)

Post-film panel discussion with Joe Ridgeway (President, Bucks County Beekeepers Association), Chuck Pressler (owner, Bucks County Apiaries), Courtney Scott (Delaware Valley College Apiary Society), & Kristen Jas Vietty (Permaculture designer, Lunaria Gardens)

Get tickets

 

Photos from Forest Gardening Workshop at Fields without Fences

I was recently lucky enough to attend a forest gardening design & installation workshop led by Sean Walsh, on June 28, 2014. I first met Sean over Memorial Day weekend, 2013, where we both attended a permaculture water systems workshop with Andrew Faust, and then teamed up to create a design proposal for the workshop site, Green Light Plants. I was impressed with his knowledge and experience gained since his time at the Conway School of Landscape Design, and now he’s leading Appleseed Permaculture’s New Jersey franchise.

The workshop was held just outside of Frenchtown, NJ, at Fields Without Fences, operated by Johann Rinkens & Lindsay Napolitano. This 10-acre commercial food forest project is just in their second growing year, and it’s amazing how far the site has come in that time. They have an excellent website that describes the history of the degraded land, and how they are restoring the ecology – do check it out. Fields Without Fences’ products can be purchase through a New Jersey based farm distribution service, Zone 7.

I’ll just tell the story of the workshop in photos below:

Appleseed Permaculture's Sean Walsh, introducing forest gardening concepts and showing us some site assessment examples.
Appleseed Permaculture’s Sean Walsh, introducing forest gardening concepts and showing us some site assessment examples.

 

Johann, Sean, & Lindsay orient us with the Fields Without Fences site.
Johann, Sean, & Lindsay orient us with the Fields Without Fences site.
Lindsay fields without fences forest gardening
Lindsay describes their approach to raspberry management. She describes observing brambles growing in wildflower fields, so they pair raspberries with Echinacea/ coneflowers. The flower’s sturdy stems hold the berry canes upright, negating the need to build trellises.
A shot showing a glimpse of the many polycultures utilized at Fields Without Fences. I spy a young pawpaw, comfrey, bolting lettuce & sorrel, and allium flowerheads.
A shot showing a glimpse of the many polycultures utilized at Fields Without Fences. I spy a young pawpaw, comfrey, bolting lettuce & sorrel, and allium flowerheads.
Lindsay called the elder the iconic plant of Fields Without Fences, and it was, appropriately, in full bloom during the workshop. They sell the aromatic elderflowers as well as the berries.
Lindsay called the elder the iconic plant of Fields Without Fences, and it was, appropriately, in full bloom during the workshop. They sell the aromatic elderflowers as well as the berries.
A closeup of an elderflower, as well as some developing berries.
A closeup of an elderflower, as well as some developing berries.
Fields Without Fences has a small annual vegetable production area, where the polyculture approach is still utilized.
Fields Without Fences has a small annual vegetable production area, where the polyculture approach is still utilized.
The main pond collects runoff from this previously waterlogged site. Since this photo was taken, the pond now is home to a couple of ducks.
The main pond collects runoff from this previously waterlogged site. Since this photo was taken, the pond now is home to a couple of ducks.
Most of the site is cover cropped with a seed mix heavy in red clover. The farmers leave it in place, fixing nitrogen in the soil, until ready to plant. Also shown are some of the many currant bushes featured throughout the polycultures.
Most of the site is cover cropped with a seed mix heavy in red clover. The farmers leave it in place, fixing nitrogen in the soil, until ready to plant. Also shown are some of the many currant bushes featured throughout the polycultures.
Pollinators are a vital part of the farm ecosystem, and there are 2 meadow areas for winged friends. Pictured is a hive housing the European honeybee.
Pollinators are a vital part of the farm ecosystem, and there are 2 meadow areas for winged friends. Pictured is a hive housing the European honeybee.
Closeup of honeybees a the hive entrance.
Closeup of honeybees a the hive entrance.
Here are some yarrow and alfalfa flowers attracting the attentions of the honeybee.
Here are some yarrow and alfalfa flowers attracting the attentions of the honeybee.
A beautiful permaculture design plan for Fields Without Fences was displayed. Click to zoom in and read about all the different zones and systems.
A beautiful permaculture design plan for Fields Without Fences was displayed. Click to zoom in and read about all the different zones and systems.
Over lunch, attendee Roman Osadca shared some delicious garlic scape pesto from his homestead, Valley Fall Farm. As of 2014, Roman grows over 290 varieties of garlic!
Over lunch, attendee Roman Osadca shared some delicious garlic scape pesto from his homestead, Valley Fall Farm. As of 2014, Roman grows over 290 varieties of garlic!
A glimpse of Fields Without Fences' plant nursery & propagation area.
A glimpse of Fields Without Fences’ plant nursery & propagation area.
A small cattail pond with the northwest field beyond, which has been shaped into additional raised bed production area since this photo was taken.
A small cattail pond with the northwest field beyond, which has been shaped into additional raised bed production area since this photo was taken.
Johann and Lindsay describe their goals for an Africa-shaped bed we'll be designing.
Johann and Lindsay describe their goals for an Africa-shaped bed we’ll be designing.
We broke into 3 groups to come up with design possibilities for the Africa-shaped bed. Here I am with my team, presenting our design proposal. [Photo: Sean Walsh]
We broke into 3 groups to come up with design possibilities for the Africa-shaped bed. Here I am with my team, presenting our design proposal. [Photo: Sean Walsh]
Sean and Lindsay amalgamate the groups' designs into a final plan. The polyculture includes (from canopy to groundcover): butternut, river birch, pawpaw, blueberry, spicebush, sunflower, catnip, and green & gold.
Sean and Lindsay amalgamate the groups’ designs into a final plan. The polyculture includes (from canopy to groundcover): butternut, river birch, pawpaw, blueberry, spicebush, sunflower, catnip, and green & gold.
In preparation for planting, we began  sheet mulching by rolling out round bales of straw over the grass.
In preparation for planting, we began sheet mulching by rolling out round bales of straw over the grass.
We continued to spread straw over the bed.
We continued to spread straw over the bed.
A view of the bed completely sheet mulched with the straw layer.
A view of the bed completely sheet mulched with the straw layer.
Then Johann used the tractor to dump loads of leaf mulch to spread over the straw.
Then Johann used the tractor to dump loads of leaf mulch to spread over the straw.
After all the topsoil was spread, we started planting. Here, left to right, are Jose, Johann, & Sean planting a young butternut tree.
After all the topsoil was spread, we started planting. Here, left to right, are Jose, Johann, & Sean planting a young butternut tree.
Finishing up planting.
Finishing up planting.
A group photo after planting, however, some folks had to leave before we got this shot.
A group photo after planting, however, some folks had to leave before we got this shot.
A panorama of the farm, including the newly-planted bed, and a wildflower meadow. [Photo by Sean Walsh]
A panorama of the farm, including the newly-planted bed, and a wildflower meadow. [Photo by Sean Walsh]

 

Spring Potluck with the Eastern Pennsylvania Permaculture Guild

Inoculated shitake logs fruiting in the Hunter Hill mushroom circle.
Inoculated shitake logs fruiting in the Hunter Hill mushroom circle.

 

On Sunday, May 4, we’ll be hosting a gathering of members of the Eastern Pennsylvania Permaculture Guild! This free Meetup group is a great way to find out about cool events & connect with other permies. To attend, you must join the Meetup group and RSVP – space is limited!

 

EPPG Spring Potluck!


Sunday, May 4
, 1-4p

Hunter Hill Farm
901 Frost Hollow Road, Easton, PA 18040

One of our members, Kristen Jas Vietty, of Lunaria Gardens permaculture design, has graciously offered to host a potluck at Hunter Hill Farm, alongside the crew of young farmers who help things run smoothly there.

This suburban property is being reverted back to its former farmland glory, with a CSA operation, apple orchard, mushroom cultivation area, meadow & forest habitat, & the beginnings of an edible forest garden. Kristen is converting a school bus into a tiny home, and they’re adding some livestock into the mix.

Join us for some merriment & permie community!

Please bring a dish to share, your own utensils, plates, cups, etc., and park alongside either of the driveways.

RSVP required!

LUNA BUS tiny home in progress
LUNA BUS tiny home in progress

Most Essential 2 (or 3) Permaculture & Forest Gardening Books

Last night I gave a presentation, An Introduction to Edible Forest Gardening, at the monthly meeting of the Ladies Homestead Gathering of Central Bucks County. I mentioned a couple of my top picks for essential permaculture and edible forest gardening books.

 


Gaia’s Garden, Second Edition

It can sometimes be difficult to give a succinct overview of the such an all-encompassing subject as permaculture, but Toby Hemmenway does a magnificent job is his seminal book, Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture. In the second edition of this award-winning title, Hemmenway addresses not just the fundamental theories, but many applications, like wetland gardens, deer barriers, polyculture design, & more. There are lots of tables of useful plants for specific uses, anecdotes, and overall a friendly, non-technical introduction for anyone looking to learn more about permaculture. Order your copy to get started!

 


Edible Forest Gardens (2 volume set)

Next on my list is not one book, but a 2 volume set: Edible Forest Gardens by Dave Jacke & Eric Toensmeier. I received these as a gift several years ago, and I still reference them all the time. Coupled with one of Eric’s weekend intensives, these books inspired a major shift in my perspectives on land use. The sheer amount of information here is astounding – Vol. I: Vision & Theory contains home forest garden case studies and a must have list of the Top 100 species, while Vol. II: Design & Practice shows us how to make our edible Eden a reality. This set may seem a little daunting for the beginner, but if you’re going to make one purchase that will stand the test of time, this is it.

 

Have you already read these books? What do you think? Any other titles you’d recommend to folks interested in permaculture or edible forest gardening? Leave your thoughts below in the comments!

Workshop: Edible Forest Gardening / Doylestown, PA

EFG_dtown_workshop2

 In a couple of hours, learn how you can be harvesting fruits, nuts, vegetables, mushrooms, & medicine from your land, WITHOUT tilling, seeding, planting, & weeding year after year.

Join the March meeting of the Ladies Homestead Gathering of Central Bucks County, where Kristen Jas Vietty of Lunaria Gardens will be leading a workshop on edible forest gardening!

Learn how to mimic the eastern woodland ecosystem in your garden, to provide not only diverse harvests, but also benefit soil life, watersheds, native pollinators, & wildlife. These natural, regenerative food forests can improve the value of your home while requiring relatively little maintenance over time.

The workshop will be held at Doylestown Fresh (home of Veg-E systems) on Thursday, March 27, 2014, from 6:30 to 9:00pm. The evening is open to all women, and the suggested donation is $10 general, $5 LHG members. Membership signup will be available at the meeting, and no one will be turned away for lack of funds. RSVP on Facebook!

If you want to hear about these kinds of events, subscribe to receive a monthly(ish) email!

Related post: Notes from Forest Gardening Workshop with Eric Toensmeier

Q&A: How do I replenish farmland treated with Roundup?

cornfield

Roundup is heavily marketed as a safe, easy-to-use solution for those pesky weeds. Never mind why we’re trying to eradicate these plants for which we’ve created habitat, the marketing & success rate of this product have been an outstanding success. Roundup product sales comprise about half of Monsanto’s profits. Alongside the use of this glyphosate herbicide is the widespread cultivation of genetically-modified “Roundup Ready” crops. Most of our staples – corn, soy, cotton, alfalfa, sugar beets, etc. – are grown as massive monocultures, repeatedly sprayed to decimate any plant not resistant to the herbicide. However, as is the case with these sorts of things, selection pressure has quickly bred “superweeds”, leading to the need for even stronger concentrations, leading to plants with higher resistance… and so on.

The cultivation of Roundup Ready crops has an extreme effect on ecosystems. At the smallest level, they erode topsoil, and kill most healthy soil microorganisms. The monocultures create expansive fodder for herbaceous insects to feast on host plants, prompting the need for pesticides. These chemicals also kill the predator insects that would naturally keep pest levels under control, and the pests, with their shorter life cycles, build resistance more quickly. The honeybee, which is responsible for pollinating most of the food we eat, is experiencing colony collapse disorder due to highly toxic pesticide cocktails. Industrial agriculture creates water runoff pollution, & affects frogs, birds, and has been linked to reproductive defects in humans. However, the amount of money at stake means there are few studies we can trust. On two occasions, the United States EPA has caught scientists deliberately falsifying test results at research laboratories hired by Monsanto to study glyphosate.

Lunaria Gardens helps people disengage from this dangerous, industrialized food system, & begin working with life to meet human needs while benefiting nature. I was recently emailed the following question from a grower in Bucks County, PA.

 

Question:

Hey Kristen,
I have a dilemma that I thought you might be able to help me with… or point me in the right direction. I just moved to a farm that grows GMO corn and soy and applies roundup… I’m going to take a small portion of the field for my own garden but I’m not sure how to 1) replenish and clean the soil and 2) coexist with the farmer, buffering my crops and such. I’m not looking for an organic certification right now, but I may in the future. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

 

Answer:

Without knowing whether you are living/ building on this property too, here’s my overall priority overview:

1. Preserve
2. Buffer
3. Optimize siting/ design
4. Work with water: slow it, sink it, spread it
5. Avoid soil compaction
6. Build organic matter
7. Plant woodies: trees & shrubs
8. Be neighborly

 

1. Preserve:

Preserve any snippets of healthy ecosystem you can. Don’t cut down native species to plant food. Instead, use that unmanaged ecosystem for habitat (toads & birds for integrated pest management), hunting/ foraging, inspiration, & buffer/ screening.

 

2. Buffer: 

Allocate as much land as possible for buffering from the spraying. This is where you’ll try to recreate forested habitat.

 

3. Optimize siting/ design:

Check out the permaculture concept of zones of use. The areas you plan on tending most frequently should be those you walk by on a daily basis.

Rows don't have to be straight. Circles often form sacred gathering spaces. The farmers at Sweetwater Farm, in Hugo, OR, had their wedding ceremony in the middle of this lettuce ring.
Rows don’t have to be straight. Circles often form sacred gathering spaces. The farmers at Sweetwater Farm, in Hugo, OR, had their wedding ceremony in the middle of this lettuce ring.

 

4. Work with water: Slow it, sink it, spread it.

Usually, optimal building siting is midway along a slope elevation, so you can capture fresh rainwater high to gravity feed for potable uses, then divert greywater further downhill for gardens. In this instance, I’m more worried about chemical runoff, so I would try to site high if possible. In any case, look into swales, rain gardens, rainwater collection to best utilize our most precious resource. Ideally, instead of lots of non-point-source pollution, the runoff is biofiltered through plants & soil flora (your preserve/ buffer). Water will help you grow your crops, but will also be providing the necessary catalyst for the bioremediation work of microorganisms.

 

5. Avoid soil compaction: 

Soil bacteria & fungi are who to thank for neutralizing toxicity. When we talk about certain plants being good for filtration, it’s really their symbiotic relationships with microorganisms. Healthy soil has organic matter, water, inorganic matter (subsoil/ minerals), air, and living things: plants, bacteria, fungus, bugs, burrowing animals.

Air is the huge component most people overlook. After years of erosion and being driven over with heavy equipment, your soil will have very little resemblance to healthy soil, but compaction is something that isn’t easily undone. Plan your growing area to minimize soil compaction as much as possible. Plan for vehicle access, wheelbarrow access, and human access in the appropriate areas. Check out keyhole beds.

I don’t recommend tilling, as I think encouraging plants and animals to do that work will be better, and it’s far easier to dump good things on top.

 

6. Build organic matter:

Build up as much as possible, as soon as possible. Truck in any organic matter you can get. Luckily it’s fall leaf season. To grow immediately, lay down cardboard and dump soil on top of it to get around the compaction issue. If there’s woody debris, look up hugelkulture – basically piling wood/ branches and dumping soil on top and letting the wood soak up and store moisture, improve fungal activity.

On a larger scale, just try to encourage lots of growth, biomass, topsoil regeneration, and dynamic accumulation. You’re trying to accelerate natural succession, which is natures attempt to heal disturbed areas. So encourage what we would consider weeds, the plants with taproots that draw nutrients up from subsoil, reduce compaction, and decompose and mulch their foliage to let other plants access those nutrients. These are called dynamic accumulators. Dandelion, chicory, dock, horseradish, apiaciae (carrot family), comfrey are all good stuff for soil healing. You can plant native seed mixes, plant perennials, or just let stuff grow. You’re just trying to encourage as much natural biodiversity as possible. Start that ASAP, like this fall. Simply avoid mowing, or seed to get things off to a good start.

Integrate animals. They’ll graze all this fodder while fertilizing the fields for optimal soil activity. Pigs are nature’s rototillers, sheep the lawn mowers, goats the poison ivy eaters. Take advantage of their voracious appetites.

Sheep are great for integrating with orchards, as they mow the grass that competes with tree roots, and eat fallen fruit which harbors pest larvae. The breed shown here is Tunis, a colonial American breed with North African origins, as well as one Jacob sheep, a primitive, spotted & horned breed.
Sheep are great for integrating with orchards, as they mow the grass that competes with tree roots, and eat fallen fruit which harbors pest larvae. The breed shown here is Tunis, a colonial American breed with North African origins, as well as one Jacob sheep, a primitive, spotted & horned breed.

 

7. Plant woodies: trees & shrubs

Most agriculture is based on annual crops because there’s a quick return on investment. There are some issues with this mode of operation, however. It requires continuous labor inputs season after season. Annual ecosystems only occur briefly after major environmental disturbance; our native ecosystems naturally rely on a balance including far more perennials & woodies.

I don’t think your plot of land can ever really heal so long as native trees & shrubs are absent.

I’m not against growing tomatoes or basil, but I believe in planning for the joy of producing blueberries & paw paws and persimmons – some of our native foods that have a role in ecosystem health. I recommend planting some initial edible forest garden trees, and then shrubs, then herbs, groundcovers. Inoculate logs or wood chips with mushroom spawn. Try to encourage fungal growth, it’s a really crucial component of mature natural systems that scientists are just staring to figure out. These plantings can provide human uses: food, fiber, fodder, farmaceutecals; and lots of indirect uses.

 

8. Be neighborly:

You’re going to interact with your farmer neighbor a lot. You might as well start it off right by being non-judgemental & helpful. You probably think differently in a lot of ways, but offer to lend a hand, or share a meal, and I think you’ll learn a lot from each other and form an appreciation for each other’s expertise & resources. Interdependence is stronger than independence.

I realized after I wrote this response, that the steps outlined are the same ones I would recommend to anyone who wants to make informed decisions about interacting with the land, because the steps are based in the principles of permaculture. Readers, how have you coped with Roundup-damaged soil & GMO-growing neighbors?

 

Related posts:
Notes from Forest Gardening Workshop with Eric Toensmeier
Q&A: Should I Buy a Tumbler for Winter Composting?

HIRING: Garden Manager, Part Time

lunaria_gardens_ottsville

Lunaria Gardens is seeking a part time garden manager for a client property in Upper Bucks County, PA.

Job type: Part time, 1-2 days (8-16 hrs) per week. Additional hours may be available depending on season or special projects.
Compensation: $10-$17 per hour depending on experience
Commitment: After a trial period, we’d like a commitment of 1-2 days/ week through the 2013 season (usually ending Nov or early December). We’d like to offer additional compensation depending on level of commitment for the 2014 season.
Position available: Immediately
Application deadline: Thursday, August 1, 9pm
Contact: Kristen Jasionowski, owner, Lunaria Gardens, [email protected]

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Description:

The garden manager will primarily be responsible for ongoing care of a client property in Ottsville, PA, as well as occasional assistance with other sites. Lunaria Gardens is not a typical landscaping company – there is no lawn mowing or formal hedge trimming involved. We instead design & install ecological gardens for food production & habitat. Watering, weeding, & harvesting vegetables are ongoing weekly tasks, while planting, mulching, & light construction will also make appearances on task lists.

Aside from the annual vegetable garden, the Ottsville property contains mostly woodland perennial plantings, so it’s a generally comfortable workplace. You’ll undoubtedly improve your understanding of botany, native ecology, food production, & sustainable property management by working with us.

Requirements:

– proximity to Upper Bucks County (much of position requires maintenance of client property in Ottsville, PA.) Occasional assistance in Easton, PA as needed.

– Reliable transportation. The only tools regularly required are some good hand pruners and a trowel.

– Basic familiarity with common plant identification, i.e. you should probably know the difference between a hosta & a hydrangea, or a dandelion & a thistle. We specialize in edibles, in addition to natives & ornamental perennials.

– Desire to enhance your ecological management & botanical knowledge.

Preferred:

– Plant identification skills, especially common ornamental shade perennials, “weeds”, and edibles.

– Familiarity with weeding, harvesting, planting techniques.

– Ability to lift 50 lbs (less physically able applicants will also be considered).

– Basic carpentry/ construction experience is a plus.

– Plant nursery, irrigation, earthworking, farming, or flower arranging experience is a plus.

Extras:

– Have an interest in social media, e-communications, photography, writing, or teaching? We’re into Instagram & twitter (@kristenjas), and Facebook. We’re interested in expanding our blog content, and would like to host events and workshops in the coming year. This could be additional income for someone who wants to get more involved in these areas.

– The above skills would also apply to Kristen’s other music publicity work with Musette Project, Dallas Vietty, or Hot Bijouxx. If you’re interested in working with these projects, drop us a line. Or get yourself on the mailing list by using the little signup in the sidebar.

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About Lunaria Gardens:

Lunaria Gardens is a custom permaculture consultation, design, maintenance, & education service, soon to be expanding nursery operations. We primarily help people grow food, as well as compost, keep livestock, provide native habitat, and generally close energy loops to reduce unnecessary energy expenditures. We currently have clients in Ottsville & Easton, PA. Owner Kristen Jasionowski has a background in visual arts, administration, & education. She transitioned from a self-taught hobbyist to a career in sustainable agriculture in 2009, and has apprenticed via the WWOOF program, co-managed a couple microfarms, and has studied with Eastern Pennsylvania Permaculture Guild & various permaculture & forest gardening professionals. Her company’s focus is on empowerment & connection via habitat creation and food production.

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To be considered, please email the following:

– A resume & cover letter would be awesome, but a couple paragraphs about why you would be great for this job, and what you’re hoping to get out of it will do.

– Contact info including name, phone, address, & any web presence you’d like to share.

– How you found out about the position.

Women, people of color, and LGBT applicants are encouraged to apply. If you’d just like to get on the mailing list, you can do so in the sidebar at right.

Contact: Kristen Jasionowski, owner, Lunaria Gardens, [email protected]

Posted July 30, 2013
Application deadline: Thursday, August 1, 9pm