Albright Sustainable Garden this, Albright Sustainable Garden that. You’ve heard it, we’ve said it, but looking back I realize we have yet to tell all you faithful readers what features in fact make the Albright Garden sustainable. As much as I encourage you all to wander your way to the garden for a personal tour and a taste of the incredible, deep purple blackberries ever so gracing our garden right now, I understand this is not feasible for everyone. And so, here is your very own virtual blog tour of our sustainability efforts in the garden. Each day I will add a new post delineating one or two of the sustainable practices we have here in the garden, so enjoy!
Since its conception and during the three years the garden has been up and running, sustainability has been at the forefront of our mission. It began with a keyhole design and lasagna layering:
One of the main goals of permaculture design is to maximize space — makes sense right? By maximizing space you are able to produce as much as possible from a single area, making even the smallest spaces viable sources of food production. This is why a keyhole design was chosen for the garden. It makes the most of the available space while ensuring all beds are accessible for picking, planting, and tending. This is done by using U and T shaped beds so all spots can be reached, then filling in the space between them with circular plots.
But that’s not all. Our keyhole garden was not dug, but instead was built on top of the existing soil through a method called “Lasagna Layering.” This method has a lot of benefits. Instead of digging up and leaving bare the precious topsoil to be whisked away by wind and water erosion, we create our own soil. This is very important because topsoil takes thousands of years to build but can be washed and blown away in near moments. Another benefit is that it uses materials that may otherwise go to waste: cardboard, leaf waste, grass clippings, coffee grounds, and manure. Below is a good diagram of how lasagna layering works, but their ingredients differ a little from our garden’s. For us, the soil was built with an initial layer of manure for nutrients, then cardboard was laid down and sprayed with water to keep it flat and prevent weeds from coming up. From here, coffee grounds which are a great source of nitrogen were laid down, then leaf waste which is considered a “brown,” or carbon source, then more manure, then mushroom soil, then compost, then finally straw to keep the weeds away. These sources provide the necessary nutrients for the plants to grow effectively through alternating ratios of browns and greens as described in the diagram below. “Browns” are a carbon source and “greens” are nitrogen sources. Once layers are built, they break down and mix together to create nutrient rich soil that protects topsoil and recycles (usually free) resources.