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]

 

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

The Three Sisters: Corn, Beans, & Squash

Corn, beans, and squash effectively comprise the collective staff of life of the New World. These crops were so important and complemented each other so well, that they were known as “The Three Sisters,” with many legends celebrating their sustaining virtues.

A Hokkaido Stella Blue squash grown on a fence.

We try to do these New World native plants justice here at Lunaria, but none more than the winter squash, with whom we have a tasty love affair. I personally got so excited about them that I planted a few seeds on March 1, far before any sane gardener would think about squash. These tender crops are typically direct sown outdoors once the soil has thoroughly warmed up; they don’t like being transplanted. Well, ours were potted up and most were kept alive in sunny windows until last frost, and now they’re threatening to take down the fence of “Gary’s Garden” (named after the groundhog that kept infiltrating its perimeter). We have some ripening sugar pumpkins and stella blue hokkaidos that we expect to be ready in a few weeks. This should perfectly fulfill my intense craving for curried tomato-squash dishes.

Another one of our many experiments this year is corn. I’d always thought it somewhat inefficient, as it takes up a good amount of space relative to its cropping. Then, during my residence at Women’s Studio Workshop, I learned that the husks and stalks can be used to make a gorgeous, pale golden-green paper. Well that was enough to convince me to go ahead and try it. We planted 3 successions to stagger the ripening times, including a succession of transplanted corn. This is another crop that dislikes root disturbance, but we take the word of Elliot Coleman quite seriously, and decided to try it. We were elated with the results, as not a single transplant was lost, and they’re all still going strong.

Our Hooker's sweet corn planting in early July. The upper row was seeded a week earlier, transplanted, then mulched with grass clippings.

With most of our meals being vegetarian, we tend to eat a lot of beans – dry beans, that is. We can’t imagine a world without black bean quesadillas, chickpea hummus, or pinto bean chili. But when it comes to green beans… meh. Most gardeners think we’re crazy – “You don’t like green beans??!” – but we think we’re being quite rational. Besides not appealing to our particular palates, beans will always be produced at a loss for the small farmer. They are tedious to harvest, and they must be picked every day, yet they must be sold at rock-bottom prices to compete with industrial farms. Even our so-loved dry beans are uneconomical to dry, harvest, and shell, when organic dry beans are so readily available now. The main advantage of growing beans is their special characteristic of being nitrogen fixers. The legume family, including beans as well as peas, clover, peanuts, indigo, and lentils, capture the nitrogen from the air and “fix” it in the soil, making this essential nutrient available to other plants.

The Three Sisters planting in early July.

So this year’s garden includes a small amount of beans, a good stand of corn, and hopefully a year’s supply of squash. We’re really excited about a certain portion planted in the traditional, Native American, Three Sisters formation. We chose to plant heirloom varieties that would all be ready to harvest in autumn: blue dent maize for cornmeal, drought-tolerant tepary beans, and several varieties of cucurbits, including pumpkins, winter squash, and moon & stars watermelons.

Lee arranging cardboard around The Three Sisters to thwart weeds until the squash vines fill out. (Photo by Theresa Boles)

Corn is wind-pollinated, its tassels releasing their magic dust to the air to settle on the ear silks below. This fact of life prompts a break from the modern American row system – to ensure that each kernel develops (they are seeds, remember), the corn must be planted in blocks, or in this case, mounds. The first mounds, which are 18 inches across, staggered about 5 feet apart, and amended with aged horse manure, are each planted with 4 corn seeds. Then, when the corn germinates and reaches a height of 4-6 inches, a pole bean seed is planted in the same mound, 3 inches away from each corn seedling. In between the corn and beans, we create squash mounds of the same size, with 3 seeds planted in each.

The effect, once everything grows in, is a mutually-beneficial companion planting. The corn provides something on which the beans can climb. The beans fix nitrogen to provide nutrients to the other crops. The squash sprawls along the ground, suppressing weeds and providing a living mulch to retain soil moisture, while its prickly vines help deter hungry critters. And, come harvest, the delicious crops complement each other nutritionally. It’s hardly surprising that these crops were considered to be special gifts from the Creator. All of this botanical, gastronomic, and divine harmony kind of makes you want to enjoy some succotash while you plan your own Three Sisters garden for next year, doesn’t it?

Organic Garden Workshop/ Work Party: 6/12/10

It’s our first workshop in Pennsylvania! And what better way to kick off the curriculum than with an organic garden work party! Come learn how to turn your lawn into an thriving, abundant, edible paradise!

Lee has designed a simple raised bed vegetable garden for a woman who was interested in growing her own food. We will be erecting an 8 foot deer fence, as well as a skirt extension to keep groundhogs out, assembling a raised bed, filling it with soil, and planting lots of veggies!

Come learn about organic gardening, lend a hand, eat some food (lunch will be provided at 1:00), bring an instrument, and have fun!

Please RSVP on the Facebook event or email if you’ll be joining us.

Saturday, June 12, 2010, 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM

@ Dorothy’s House, 1751 East Saw Mill Road, Quakertown, PA map

UPDATE 6/23: Photos!

Before the workday, Lee dropped off the soil on site
The wood was cut to size to create a 3' x 15' box, secured with L-brackets.
We lined the bottom with uncoated cardboard to suppress any grass or weeds.
The box was filled with soil.
Our helpers arrived and began working on the fence while we raked the soil level.
To deter groundhogs, we made a skirt around the perimeter out of a 4' roll of 1"x4" welded wire.
Deer netting was installed overhead and around the perimeter.
We planted seeds and transplants and watered them in.
The final garden, ready to thwart critters and feed a family!

Transplanting Time: The Move Outdoors

Great news! Our little corner of Upper Bucks County seems to be beyond the reach of frosty nights until fall. That’s right, our last expected frost date is May 15 around these parts. I might have just jinxed it, but we gotta talk transplanting.

So hopefully all of you have followed the directions in our first post, and now your windowsills and newly-built coldframes are full of little tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, basil, and all those other yummies that would quickly perish in cold weather. If they have at least one set of true leaves, the seedlings are ready for the next stage of life. Here’s what to do with them:

Hardening off seedlings on the porch

Step 1: Hardening Off

If they’ve been started indoors, those seedlings have led a very sheltered life thus far. They’ve never felt a northwestern wind, a driving rain, or the full force of a sunny day. Experiencing all of these new sensations can sometimes be quite a shock. Take care of your young ones and ease them into the elements. You can start indoors by opening the windows or putting a gentle fan on them or even jiggling the table they’re on. This kind of movement will encourage the seedlings to grow the sturdy stems necessary for life in the great outdoors.

A warm, cloudy day is the best time to expose them to the outside world. Place them in the shade, where they’ll be sheltered from strong winds. This first day they should only be out for a few hours. Gradually, over the course of a week, the length of time they’re left outside, as well as their exposure to full sunlight, is increased, until they are macho enough to be out day and night. After acclimating to nighttime temps, they should be ready to go in the ground.

Step 2: Transplanting

So hopefully while the little guys have been hardening off, you’ve been thinking up the best spot for them to live and prepared a bed for them. Depending on the plants’ needs, that might mean loosening the soil or mixing in organic matter, so the roots can start growing deep and strong as soon as they’re put in the ground. To avoid baking your tender transplants, choose a cloudy day or evening. We like to go on transplanting binges before rain, so the roots can get watered in nice and deep.

Hold like so, & tap the pot until the root ball releases

When you’ve figured out the best spot and spacing for the plant, cut a hole with a trowel into the soil, carefully release the seedling from the container, and place it into the earth, disturbing the roots as little as possible. It is well known that tomatoes can be transplanted deeper than the original soil line – they will send out roots at any point on their stem. Some research has shown that peppers and brassicas (cabbage family) can be planted a little deeper, but if in doubt, transplant to the original soil line. Fill in any gaps in the hole and pat the dirt around the roots, making sure the plant isn’t sunken below, or mounded above the soil level. Then, water your transplants deeply, promoting good contact between the roots and soil.

Step 3: Tending the Transplants

Keep your transplants well-watered for the first week or so. This will buffer them against shock and guard against withering in the hot sun. Some plants, like sweet potatoes, benefit greatly from some protection from direct sun at first. One trick is to cut the bottoms off of plastic pots and put them over  the plants for a few days. Let the transplants focus on root development for a couple of weeks before adding any manure or other nitrogenous fertilizer. Then just keep an eye on the weeds and water occasionally, and wait for the harvest!

Red Express cabbages in the great outdoors

The Stoked List

As you might have discerned from the lack of blogging, Lee and I have been particularly busy lately. Part of the reason is that we’ve been tending our new farm away from home. Truth be told, Lunaria is little more than a swampy yard of heavy clay with some spots of fleeting sunlight. So we felt like some lucky ducks when we found out that we were given the use of a sunny plot of land up the street! This corner garden was worked and loved for decades by a special woman named Helen Nast, providing the neighborhood with plenty of fresh food and flowers. We’re grateful to be able to continue that tradition and honor her legacy.

Unfortunately, in Helen’s later years, the garden was left untended, and grass has taken over, obscuring any clues to the original garden plan. Racing against rainy weather, we’ve spent days battling that stubborn turf, using a combination of hand digging, sheet mulching, tarp killing, and rototilling. We even have plans for some squash strangling for the real tall stuff. We were able to carve out enough beds to get some potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and jalepeños in the ground.

Lee finishing the poultry tractor

Constant farm tasks have met us on the home front, too. In another attempt to rid our hens of lice, we sprayed each of them generously with orange oil, and then watched as they wobbled away high and briefly disabled. We built Poultry Tractor 2.0, into which we tried to assimilate the lately-separated chicks and ducklings, but the larger ducks turned out to be bullies. We also received about 300 blueberry, strawberry, asparagus, rhubarb, brassica, and tomato plants that we’re still catching up with.

On Monday, after a sonorous thunderstorm that kept us up half the night, Lunaria farm had a particularly trying morning. The duck tractor proved to not be entirely watertight, and their heat lamp had shorted out at some point. The upper level nest box area of the chicken tractor had collapsed, and the hens laid their eggs in their food. Despite our fencing, a groundhog had gotten into the greens garden and eaten half the lettuce and some of the cauliflower. When I went up the road to the corner garden, I found that our rototilling methods hadn’t accounted for the necessities of drainage, and the paths between our rows were flooded with 6 inches of water. I planted 100 tomato plants in the mud while Lee dug a trench to sink a groundhog-proof fence into. Then it started raining again.

We were ready for some coffee. Just about every day, Lee and I have a “business meeting,” when, for few minutes, we discuss priorities. But it’s really just an excuse to sit down and drink coffee. This time, feeling as dampened as we were, Lee suggested that we start out by making a list of things we were stoked about. Here’s a summary:

blueberries are in the ground!

we have kombucha brewing!

happy ducks!

healthy chicks!

5 eggs every day!

we’re farming the neighbor’s unused sunny garden!

we harvested pretty radishes!

all the healthy, free plants!

our fresh eggs for fresh bread exchange!

200 Roma tomatoes!

rain!

safety-first Lee & get-her-done Kristen are a perfect match!

we have a new french press!

we got some gigs playing music!

Needless to say, we both felt a lot better after recounting only a few of our blessings. The universe will continue to provide, and we’ll go on being grateful. We highly recommend opening with a stoked list before your own business meeting, or just as a way to perk up a dreary day.

Enjoy some recent photos!

Duckling cuddle-puddle, before their move outdoors
Art by Joyce Murphy (pictured, right) and Sheena Mae Allen (on wall) at RAT Gallery Opening, 5/1/10
Frogs in the pond
Bird found dead in the radish bed, any idea what kind?
Magic hour sky at Lunaria