A Guide to Permaculture

Coming into my internship, I knew very little about Permaculture. The extent of my knowledge consisted of no-till gardening/farming and better environmental relationships. Although I learned a lot more during my time this summer from first hand experience, there were times where we were all standing there scratching our heads, wondering what our next course of action should be. That’s when Toby Hemenway’s “Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture” played a very big role in the knowledge I drew from my internship.

“Gaia’s Garden” has three separate sections to its vast array of information. The first section introduces Permaculture and its play in helping make your garden a part of its environment’s ecosystem. The first chapter will walk you through the different designs your garden can take on and how it will be beneficial to the environment around itself. By keeping the design of your garden in mind, this allows for the scale of biodiversity to be large or small. There are no need for pesticides and fences if you can plant different bushes and small trees that will attract the right species and defer the wrong ones. There is also a wondering chapter on the benefits of certain designs over others. For example, if you design your plot in the shape of a starfish, this will create far more edge and possibility for more diversity in the plant world.

In section two of the book, Hemenway discusses the different parts of a permaculture garden. He dives deeply into the types of soil that make some plants flourish while other plants may diminish under such circumstances. On top of that, he covers what you could add to your soil if it is nitrogen or carbon depleted depending on the growing year. Another topic of interest in this section is the types of biodiversity in your garden including plants, animals, and water supplies. He teaches readers about how to plant certain vegetables or flowers to attract bees or birds, which will in turn lighten your workload. Not all bugs are bad according to Hemenway, since they keep away other bugs and pollenate your plants. He also mentions that sculpting your garden to catch rainwater will be beneficial to you in the long run, especially during dry periods of the season.

In the final section of Hemenway’s book, he covers topics such as involving the community in permaculture by showing them your new found knowledge, growing something more like a “food forest” rather than just a small scale garden, and even permaculture accessibility in the city! Through spreading the knowledge of permaculture throughout your community, it spreads environmental friendliness. Within the community, the idea of guilding your gardens can become more frequent, which involved expanding your garden to mimic more of a natural ecosystem rather than a man-made garden. By expanding the idea of Guilding, people can begin to connect their garden to make a larger scale of community. This larger scale can be known as a food forest. This idea does not just have to be confined to just suburban areas of the country. Although one would not be able to create a food forest in a city due to limited space, someone can find a way to create a garden on top of a rooftop with the help of Hemenway’s knowledge.

Toby Hemenway displays a thorough knowledge of Permaculture, ecosystems, and how to relate those two things to each other. Throughout my experience, I found this book very helpful in the face of driving off unwanted pests and animals in a very humane and environmentally friendly way. I also gained in-depth knowledge on how to design our plots better to increase edge, biodiversity to increase pollination, and to allow for less or better water flow. Yet, I do believe “Gaia’s Garden” is by no means a beginners guide to permaculture. One cannot simply pick up this book expecting to understand everything Hemenway is talking about. Although he tried his hardest to explain Permaculture to the best of his ability to someone who may not have a clue about it, he still displays a very extensive definition to Permaculture and its different parts. My suggestion is that if you have no prior knowledge to Permaculture or sustainable agriculture, try to read up on it before tackling this book. Once you have a decent understanding, this book will tell you all the in’s and out’s of sustainable agriculture and how to properly execute it.

After the duration my internship, I can proudly say I have enough knowledge of Permaculture and its techniques to teach others. Although I learned a lot from my mentors, Ellen Underwood and Dr. Brian Jennings, there is always more to learn. I suggest if you have any doubts of your approach to sustainable agriculture, “Gaia’s Garden” will have an answer to your questions. There is always new knowledge out there and you should never stop trying to learn new topics or improve your knowledge of already well-known topics. Happy gardening , my fellow community members, and I hope you have a wonderful off season.


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A Look Around the Garden

Hope all is well fellow garden community! As summer begins to wrap up, I look around the garden and I spot a few new vegetables that haven’t appeared in the past. Although our classic tomatoes are producing beautifully, I have to share with you some of the amazing produce that will “hit the market” soon (and by the market I mean our small college stand).

I know that we have some very loyal customers on our hands but what we realized is that a lot of people don’t really know what to do with crops like Swiss Chard, Kohlrabi, or even Leeks. As much as we enjoy growing them and would love to teach everyone about the perks of these supposed “foreign” vegetables, there is never enough time or proper advertisement. So, my fellow interns and I thought that it would be good idea to grow more vegetables that people will cook and eat in their everyday lives while still growing the wonderful vegetables we’ve had since the beginning. I’m here to tell you all about our new additions and its benefits to your health so (hopefully) you all get excited!

Corn. Ah! One of the additions I’m most excited for. Don’t you just love some sweet corn on a hot summer’s day? Goes perfectly with your barbecue choices! Now, corn is high in fiber (about 3 grams per ear) and everyone needs around 25-35 grams per day to live a healthy lifestyle. Corn also contains high levels of antioxidants, which are very important vitamins that you need every day!


Potatoes. I don’t know about you but when I think of potatoes, I think of nice creamy mashed potatoes. Potatoes are the perfect side dish to complete most meals while also adding quality substance to the table. Potatoes are also high in fiber, containing 4.7 grams of fiber, they also contain about 4.5 grams of protein. On top of all of that, potatoes contain vital vitamins that contribute to the prevention of disease. You can’t beat this super vegetable!


Watermelon. A slice of juicy watermelon anyone? Maybe even some delicious watermelon salad for desert after a long hard day. Even though watermelon is about 92% water, it is packed with vitamins like Vitamin A. Watermelon even has significant amounts of amino acids and potassium in each slice you eat. Amino acids help you build a nice, healthy body and if mixed with exercise, you could get a lean body out of the mix as well!


Now, these are only some of our vegetables that are doing exceptionally well and we wanted to share with you guys before they actually make their debut to our stand. There are other new vegetables that will be a surprise for all of our loyal customers and I hope you all are as excited as we are. We’ve been taking very good care of all the vegetables, regulars or new comers, so they could be grown to the best of their ability. Thank you so much for reading and I can’t wait to continue the stand into the upcoming school year. Happy gardening!

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Behind the Scenes Part 2: Baking Recipes

Hi garden community! As promised, here are the rest of our super yummy recipes. I hope you can’t get enough of them.

Gluten-Free Zucchini Bread

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon gluten-free vanilla

1 ¼ cups All-Purpose Gluten Free Rice Flour Blend

1 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

2 cups shredded zucchini

Servings: 12

Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease bottom only of 9×5-inch loaf pan. In large bowl, beat sugar and eggs with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add oil and vanilla; beat until smooth. In medium bowl, mix flour blend, baking powder, cinnamon, xanthan gum, baking soda and salt. Gradually beat into egg mixture on low speed until blended. Stir in zucchini and nuts. Pour batter into pan. Bake 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Remove from pan to cooling rack; cool completely, about 2 hours.


Kale Chips

1 Bunch of Kale, rinsed and patted dry

2 teaspoons olive oil

½ teaspoon sea salt (preferably coarse)

Servings: 4

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut the kale leaves away from the stems and rip the leaves into bite-size pieces. Place the kale in a large bowl. Add the olive oil and toss to coat the leaves. Arrange kale on a large baking sheet in a single layer and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the kale leaves are crisp and golden brown around the edges. Lastly, depending on your oven, the kale may cook faster so check on it every 2-3 minutes after the 5 minute mark.


Zucchini Boats

2 medium zucchini

½ lb ground beef

1 small onion

½ cup diced tomatoes

½ cup chopped bell peppers

4 leaves and stalks of swiss chard chopped

1 small eggplant diced

1 cup of provolone cheese


Servings: 6-8 (depending on how big your slices are)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut off the ends of the zucchini, cut each in half lengthwise, and scoop out the pulp. In a skillet cook beef, onion, and peppers over medium head until the meat is no longer pink, then drain. In another skillet cook eggplant until soft, then add swiss chard and cook until the leaves have wilted. Add the eggplant and swiss chard, ½ cup of cheese, tomatoes, salt, and pepper to the meat mixture and combine. Place the zucchini shells on a greased baking dish and place a few pads of butter in each half. Then spoon the meat/vegetable mixture into the shells and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the halves. Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes or until zucchini is tender.


Baked Acorn Squash

2 medium acorn squashes


Brown sugar



Servings: 4

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the squashes in half and place them face down on a baking pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until squashes are slightly tender. Take them out of the onion and flip over. Add a few pads of butter and a few pinches of brown and regular sugar to taste. Sprinkle cinnamon over the squashes and place them back in the oven (face up) for another 30 minutes


Lastly! Our featured recipe of the day!

Parmesan Zucchini 

2 medium zucchinis

Olive Oil

Sea Salt

About 1/2-1 cup of Parmesan Cheese

Servings: Roughly 8

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Clean zucchinis well, slicing off both ends before cutting each of them until you have wedges (4 per zucchini) and if those are too big, cut those wedges in half. Coat the bottom of your medium size baking tray with 2 teaspoons of olive oil before brushing olive oil onto each slice of zucchini. Next, sprinkle sea salt and parmesan cheese on to taste then put into the oven for about 20 minutes uncovered. If the zucchini is a little stiff when you take it out, put it in for another 2-4 minutes. Let cool then enjoy!


*Gluten-Free Zucchini Bread found on bettycrocker.com, Kale Chips recipe by Emily Phillips, Zucchini Boats recipe by Ellen Underwood, Baked Acorn Squash recipe by Ellen Underwood, and Parmesan Zucchini recipe by Emily Phillips.

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Behind the Scenes Part 1: Non-Bake Recipes

Hello garden community! I’ve realized this year we have been making a lot of homemade food for our stand and you guys have been loving it. Since it has been such a hit this year, I’ve decided to post some of our awesome recipes.

Lemon Mint Sun Tea

1 Large Mason Jar (4 Pints/8 cups)

1 Bunch of Mint, leaves stripped from the branch

½ Lemon

4 Tea Bags (your choice of tea but we found green works best)

Servings: 8 (cups)

First, cut the ½ of lemon into small slices, preferably 4 slices. Put these slices into the mason jar. Next, take the mints by hand-fulls and lightly squeeze them in your hands to bruise them so the taste gets into the tea. Fill the mason jar until it’s ¾ of the way full. Take your 4 tea bags and place them into the mason jar, leaving the string to hang on the outside. Then, add water up to the brim of the jar, seal it, and invert the jar a couple of times to ensure all the flavors mix together. Set outside in full sunlight for at least two hours. It can be served warm but better chilled!


Cucumber Salad

3 Cucumbers (sliced thin, only taking some of the skin off to keep from getting soggy – should look stripped)

1 16 oz. container of sour cream

4/5 tablespoons of white sugar (to taste)

1 tablespoon of white vinegar

1 small onion sliced or chopped (your preference)

Sea salt & course ground pepper to taste

Servings: 6-8 side servings

First (after chopping the onion and slicing cucumber) mix sour cream, vinegar, sugar and onion together until well blended. Then add the cucumbers, mix, then add the salt and pepper to taste. The salt will make it taste sweeter while the pepper will mild out the sweet taste. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving but tastes better if let sit overnight.


Kohlrabi Slaw

4 Kohlrabi

6 carrots

½ head of red cabbage

2 cups mayonnaise

5 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar

2 lemons

2 tablespoons sugar



Servings: 6-7

Peel the carrots and kohlrabi then shred with a grater. Cut the red cabbage into thin slices of similar size to the carrots and kohlrabi. Then add the mayonnaise, vinegar, juice of 2 lemons, and two tablespoons of sugar. The mixture should be thin and creamy – add mayonnaise if the mixture is too liquidy or more vinegar if it is too thick. Salt and pepper to taste then place it in the fridge for 2+ hours so the flavors combine and the slaw is chilled. Enjoy!


And lastly, the featured recipe of the day!

Pico de Gallo

1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch dice (about 3 cups)

Kosher salt

1/2 large white onion, finely diced (about 3/4 cup)

1 to 2 jalapeño chilies, finely diced (seeds and membranes removed for a milder salsa)

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1 tablespoon lime juice from 1 lime

Servings: 6-7

Season tomatoes with 1 teaspoon salt and toss to combine. Transfer to a mesh strainer or colander and allow to drain for 20-30 minutes. Discard liquid. Combine drained tomato with onion, chilies, cilantro, and lime juice. Toss to combine and season to taste with salt. Pico de gallo can be stored for up to 3 days in a sealed container in the refrigerator.


I hope you all enjoyed our list of recipes, happy gardening!

*Lemon Mint Sun Tea Recipe by Emily Phillips, Cucumber Salad Recipe by Emily Phillips, Kohlrabi Slaw Recipe by Ellen Underwood, and Pico de Gallo recipe can be found on allrecipes.com

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Rain Barrels: Where Does All Your Water Go?

Hello garden community! Did you know, the average rainfall in the United States is about 15-25 inches per state a year. That’s a lot of rain! Now, let’s think. Some of that rain gets absorbed into the ground while some of it goes into our bodies of water. Yet, what happens to the rest of it? Well, it gets marked in the run off or wasted category of statistics, according to the EPA. After years of all that wasted rain water, it could add up. Now, there’s something that can save your rain water and help the environment and your garden. Wanna know the secret? It’s called a Rain Barrel!

A rain barrel is a container, which normally holds about 55 gallons of water, that is used to help catch and store rain that runs off your house or shed that would normally be lost in your storm drain. Here is what ours looks like!


The barrels normally come with a twist off lid that locks in place along with a spout that can drain the water like a hose would. At certain locations, barrels can be customized to be smaller or bigger.

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People even go as far as to paint their rain barrels into cool designs to fit their outdoor setting or personality!

barrel_1 RainBarrelPhotos-007

Now that you’ve seen the fun side to rain barrels, let’s talk about the benefits that the barrels offer to you. Around 60% of our municipal water supply goes into keeping our lawns and plants growing healthy. By installing a rain barrel, you can lessen the amount of water that gets wasted during those rainy days. Rain barrels are also great for when there is a dry spell or drought in your area, therefore you plants will not have to suffer! For those of you who use insecticides or other repellents on your garden, using the water from you rain barrels leads to less water pollution from the water run off in your garden or lawn. Also if you use rain water, there are more natural nutrients in that water than the water used through a hose so it’s an all around win-win!

Rain barrels are pretty neat, aren’t they? Yet, there are also a lot of frequently asked questions that should be answered about rain barrels. A lot of people ask if rain barrels promote mosquito breeding but that is not true. Rain barrels are a closed water system that have no standing water, therefore no mosquitos would want to breed in that water. People also ask about connecting more than one rain barrel together, especially if they only have one gutter opening on their house that lets the water come out. If you drill a hole on the bottom of both barrels and link them with a hose and Teflon tape to create a seal, that should work just fine. Lastly, people always wonder if the rain is only safe for plants. A human or animal should not consume the water from the rain barrels because most of the time the water runs off the roof and into the rain barrels. Bacteria and other harmful things could be growing on your roof that gets into the water that would not be safe for humans and pets while it is okay for plants.

On that note, I will leave you with one of our interns, Ellen Underwood’s personally painted rain barrel. I hope you will consider this adjustment! Happy watering!



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A Few Square Feet of Fathomless Beauty

If you’ve read any of my posts before, you’re sure to be aware thall gardenat I always take the road of enjoying the little things. Of recognizing the joy and beauty in every little moment, and as sustainably growing food is my life’s greatest passion, I’m all about doing it right here in the garden.

The other morning, I awoke (much earlier than usual) to glittering sunlight dancing through my window. I smiled and yawned knowing it would be a blessed day, with the call to make my way out the garden the first and strongest feeling I had. And so, I hopped out of bed and went straight to my camera, attached a lens, and felt a shiver of excitement for how perfect the light was and how happy I knew the plants were to have such beautiful rays to soak up all day.

Boy was I right. The flowers and blossoms were fully unfurled, happy accepting lots of pollinator visitors. The leaves were buoyant and strong, and all the plants were basking in their potential: carrying hundreds of green fruits on the brink of ripening into heavenly goodness.

So here, for you, are some of my favorite shots from this day. And with that I want to remind you all to take a moment to be overjoyed by what you’ve helped create in your garden, of the incredible feat of each individual seed growing into incredibly delicious sustenance, and of your incredible feat of nurturing them into such success.

-With much green love,


Zucchini Flower  Bean Trellises Bee birdnetting and berries broccoli butterfly baby community plots Cucumber flower dyes Echinacea + Butterflies! Rain Garden Garden Sunflowers hangin out Sunflower! Community Plots Peas Natives Spirals! Echinacea Sunflower sky three sisters Tomatoes Trelllis Watermelon Zucchini

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Permaculture and Sustainability: #2, Breakin’ Down

Using resources that are free and abundant makes sense not only for the health of the earth but also for your wallet. That why this opportunistic use is in an important aspect permaculture and sustainability in agriculture. We try to do this in every place and way that we can, from lasagna layering to:


is one of the most important things you can do in your garden. First of all, it keeps valuable resources out of the landfills they would otherwise waste away in. All of the plant waste that comes from your garden and kitchen can be turned into nutrient rich compost that can then be added on top of your garden and provide valuable nutrients to your plants that will help them grow bigger, better, and yield more. But not only plant and vegetable scraps can go in your compost. Eggshells and coffee/tea grounds which are considered “greens” (as well as vegetable/fruit wastes) , and paper, cardboard, newspaper, and even dryer lint, which are considered “browns,” can be composted as well. This brings us back to what I mentioned in last week’s post: “browns” (carbon sources) and “greens” (nitrogen sources) are both important in creating the best possible compost because it creates an important balance between these two necessary nutrients. And that brings us to how we compost here in the Albright Sustainable Garden:

Batch Composting


There are three sites for composting here in the garden: two bins for weeds and diseased, a place for our community plot holders to compost their browns and greens (both pictured above), and our own three bin composting system (pictured below). Our three bin system has one bin to collect greens, one bin to collect browns, and a third bin to do the batch composting. Batch composting is a way of quickly creating compost by alternating layers of browns and greens. A layer of browns is put down first, then greens, and then it is lightly watered. These three steps are repeated until the bin is full, and the batch is ready for breakdown! At this point, the pile is turned every 7-10 days so that air and moisture is let into the center/bottom of the pile to promote faster decomposition. In addition, the moisture level is checked weekly and watered accordingly to maintain the consistency of a wrung out sponge. In 1-3 months, rich compost is created and ready to be put into the garden!


Want a more in depth explanation and start to finish directions for batch composting at home? visit this link and start your very own system:


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