So You Want to be a Permaculture Designer? Updates From The Verge Interns

 In Design, Food, Gardening, Permaculture Projects

Spring has sprung and there is much to be done at the Verge Headquarters – planting and transplanting, installing a drip irrigation system, amending the soil for a new growing year and plenty more! We are getting farther and farther along the path of resilient urban living, but we certainly wouldn’t be where we are without the help of 5 enthusiastic interns. For the past few weeks our interns have worked, rain and shine, to help us prepare our yard and greenhouse for a busy and hopefully abundant growing season.

Here’s a few words from interns Nick Beuglet and Martin Stares about the permaculture elements we’re working on, and what they’re learning from it all!

Week 2 by Nick Beuglet

Soil Blocks…
During the second week of the internship, we worked on preparing small soil blocks for starting seedlings and for transplanting sprouted seedlings. This  involved mixing up a special blend of soil and soil amendments in order to ensure the soil will hold together and work properly with the soil block maker. See the video and information posted on the Verge Permaculture facebook page for more details on making soil blocks. This technique works well if you plan on growing a lot of seedlings, as it conserves space and reduced the amounts of pots required to grow a lot of plants. I envision using this technique to grow seedlings for my garden next season.  

Pricking…
We also pricked out some salad greens from grow beds in the green house and potted them up individually. These salad greens will be planted into the outside garden beds at a later date. A brief summary of how to prick seedlings is provided at the following website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/gardening/basics/techniques/propagation_pricking1.shtml

Prepping the beds…
Garden bed preparation was completed in order to get things ready for transplanting and seeding once the weather warm up a bit more and the threat of frost is reduced. We also planted inoculated field pea as a cover crop in the garden beds in order to help fix nitrogen in the soil. This is annual cover crop fixes nitrogen with the help of beneficial bacteria that we added to a bucket of water and soaked the seeds in before planting.

Week 4 by Martin Stares

Last week was awesome, great variety and it wasn’t pouring with rain.  Some designing and building of water management components, some mass plantings, and some maintenance of existing plants.

 

Water Management/First Flush Irrigation System..
On the water management side, we installed first flush diverters front and back.  The first water to run off the roof after a rain event is dirty with roof chemicals, dust, bird poop.  A first flush diverter disposes of a certain amount of dirty water before the remainder is captured in the rain barrel.  

First, we calcuated how much dirty water to divert (surprisingly little in Rob & Michelle’s case) and learnt how to design the system to divert this amount of water; then we looked inside a FFD to see how it worked; then we build and installed it, sized to divert the recommended amount of water.  Nice activity, good combination of theory and practice, and side conversations about different rain barrel configurations for different purposes.

We then installed a gravity-fed drip-irrigation system – fed from the rain barrels – in two front beds. We had looked at a few designs the previous week, including sprinklers with a pump, but went with the gravity fed version after we were assured there was enough head of water in the tank.  We installed three rows of drip emitters per bed (fiddly material to work with), and hooked it to the tap for a quick test.  Loud cheers when water came out of every emitter and nowhere else.

Planting…
We did a mass planting of three types of carrots in a raised bed with nice warm friable soil, the one whose sides were planted with field peas last week for soil building and support.  We planted in a hexagonal patten with 3’’ spacing, inventing a couple of different types of planting templates in the process.  We didn’t do any interplanting,  so might consider planting some bug repellent plants such as marigolds round the edges to keep the carrot flies at bay.

 

Greenhouse…
In the greenhouse, we prepped some thriving tomato plants for repotting into larger pots.  We pinched off the lower leaves and left them to scab over; when we repot, we’ll bury the plants so the soil covers the scabs, which hopefully will form additional roots.  This enhanced root system will be reflected above ground in larger stems and more fruit per plant.

And of course, dinner…
After all that, good food (including some salad greens freshly cut from the greenhouse) and good conversation as a perfect finale.

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