Voices for Earth Justice’s Garden Coordinator, L’Oreal Hawkes-Williams, has been designing and installing a new permaculture feature in the VEJ gardens. With the help of volunteers, her vision and design are now finished with plants growing in the new garden bed.
Hawkes-Williams explains, "The term "permaculture" is a combination of the two words: permanent and agriculture. The the merging of the two words describes exactly what the main concept is!--utilizing more permanent forms of agriculture like planting regionally and designing closed-loop systems that can sustain our needs and future generations without depleting the Earth's resources."
Permaculture tactics provide a solution to unwanted biomass and yard waste. Utilizing these methods has the power to transform undesired materials into purposeful, nutrient-rich garden beds. Not only do these tactics provide an alternative to disposing of yard waste, but these practices also can be used to develop richer soil, extend the growing season, and reduce watering care.
The type of feature that has recently been implemented at VEJ is called a hugel bed. The construction of this feature began with the creation of a divet, a canal-like area, as a foundation for the vertical layering of biomass. After creating the foundation, Hawkes-Williams and volunteers layered logs, sticks, leaves, and compost. To finish the project, the the group added gardening fabric to keep the compost from eroding.
Last week Hawkes-Williams, neighborhood kids, and family members planted out the bed with vegetables, including lettuce, watermelons, onions, and garlic. Together, the many hands that participated in the creation of the hugel bed demonstrated the ability of humans to collectively care for Earth.
While permaculture embodies this practical wisdom of sustainable living, the practice also possesses a sacredness. It is the intentional, holistic observance of the world and Earth that draws forth a spiritual care for creation.
"When I think about permaculture, I think about sustainability and conscious ecosystems. By "conscious," I'm referring to intention and mindfulness," Hawkes-Williams states.
Hawkes-Williams' thoughts on intentionality align with the writings of a Dominican Sister: Carol Coston. In her book, Permaculture: Finding Our Own Vines and Fig Trees, Coston writes, "Permaculture's Earth-care ethic has special resonance with me because it embodies much of what I hold as spiritual truth--particularly its inherent call for us to live in consideration of the common good of all creation."
The permaculture component of the demonstration garden at Hope House provides an incredible example of how earth care practices--both physical and spiritual--can be implemented. Further, the hugel bed shows how gardening and creating good, rich soil is an accessible self-sufficiency practice.
Hawkes-Williams provides some suggestions for permaculture practices, "So what does that look like? Well, you could plant native fruit bushes and trees--things that will produce year after year. There is agro-forestry as well as earthworks. You also could recycle all organic materials by composting or building hugel beds. If you look up the term permaculture, you'll get many different answers, but they all revolve around the same concept."
Developing soil, composing garden beds, and growing fresh vegetables takes time, but is a relatively inexpensive way to enjoy healthy food, connect to the earth, and reflect on our presence in the world. Give permaculture a try!
Keep an eye out for a post about the implementation of compost-bin construction. The designs are drawn. The space is cleared. Soon we'll be making our own soil supplements.