Saturday, May 29, 2010

Permaculture Garden in Amherst, MA - May 28, 2010

I've been slacking on the blog posts as of late. It's been a big transitionary period in my life and my attention has been spread thin, but I want to update you all on the status of the garden. Planting began in early April. The weather has been extremely cooperative this spring, aside from two violent but quick-to-pass wind/rain storms.

Observing the garden has been quite a lesson. Many things have worked better than I imagined they would. Many things didn't fare quite as well. I've made mistakes and learned heaps by undertaking this project - it started 9 months ago in September, 2009. Now, I'd like to share with you some pictures. I'll show a few before/afters because it's remarkable how much the ecosystem has shifted here at 3 Willow Lane. Whether or not this a positive transformation is up for you to decide.

April 2, 2010 - sheet mulching the remainder of our lawn. The goal: to make a pathway from the sidewalk of Willow Lane (Amherst, MA) that is inviting and encourages people to enter. It was intentionally shaped as a tree, with the wide base at the sidewalk and the branches opening up to different beds of the garden.

Fresh wood chips (about 3") were laid on top of one layer of corrugated cardboard for the pathways. The darker you see is a mixture of decomposted wood chips (raked from other beds of the garden (these chips decomposed during late fall - early spring) and compost, both atop of cardboard to prevent grass from taking over.

White clover was seeded into this mix of wood chips and compost and watered each day. This was about after 1 week of seeding. The white clover fixes nitrogen (which can be tied up due to the wood chips breaking down) and acts as a beautiful ground cover and place-holder until other plants are transplanted.

About 4 weeks later, the green clover carpet has formed quite nicely.

Here's how the tree path looks now.

Personally, I believe that yard transformations - Grass to Gardens - is great on so many levels. For one, it simply feels great harvesting from your own garden. Most people get a sense of pride, I certainly do, when they see plants that they've cared for are healthy and growing. Why fight nature (mowing your grass - it's a vicious cycle!) when you can be more connected to the micro-ecosystem in which you live.

Here we were in September, 2009.


And here we are now:

Edibles and beautiful flowers growing where grass was dominant just last fall.

Edible forest gardens - mimicking a forest ecosystem (think layers) and being intentional about species selection.

Salad bowl lettuce growing alongside fava beans. Both are doing excellent.

Potatoes on the left and favas on the right.

Lots of garlic...

... and chives!

The daisies are blooming.

And sweet williams flower is beginning to show its head. Stay tuned for more updates... and maybe even begin asking yourself "what else can my lawn be used for?"

I'll be working in the yarden all this week. If anyone in the Amherst area wants to come and help, we have a lot of fun projects going on. They are (including, but not limited to) building a rainwater catchment system, some bed prepping and planting, and digging out some beautiful and gigantic flat granite stones that have been grown over by grass since we bought the property 4 years ago! Hope to see some of you soon.



  1. Lovely! You've done a tremendous amount of work, not only in your yard, but posting here as well. Thank you so much! I am wondering how the clover might work as a permanent low-care lawn replacement? An elderly friend wants to replace her grass with something living that requires less care.

  2. I think clover definitely has the potential to be a grass lawn replacement. It's definitely low-care, it looks beautiful and doesn't need to be mowed!

  3. Rock on Ryan! I am curious as to what have you installed for some guilds?