Two pounds of Italian flat beans and yellow Marie Vining Beans from the Garland Community Garden—June 3, 2017—You cannot even purchase these heirloom beans in a grocery store. How can the value be measured? It really cannot.
The Most Promising Real Estate Is On the Edge
For a better world: Take chances, live on the edge and use your heart instead of numbers to take measurements of your achievements.
I was thinking last night as I recorded the amount and value of vegetables that I harvested from the Garland Community Garden on Saturday—6 ¼ pounds of produce with a $10.53 current market value. The real core of things that are truly of value lies much closer to the heart and the human spirit where things tend to fall into that category of priceless and are in fact as immeasurable as love.
Still, out there in the “real world” as we call that place where the good, the bad and the ugly bump into each other on a regular basis, we persist in our attempts to measure the immeasurable.
Always Remember the Value of Courage
There will always be resistance to new ideas but that should not deter people from stepping out of their comfort zones to move forward—it’s called progress. And so was the case with the Garland Community Garden in the beginning. For some reason, most of us fear change—primarily because with change often comes the relinquishing of control and power coupled with the specter of the unknown. Yes, we actually had folks who were opposed to having a Community Garden.
Living on the Edge
Most of us prefer to live our lives in the comfort zone of the familiar and are reluctant to venture to the edge, but it is on the edge where all the wonderful and almost magical new things transpire. This is especially true from an environmental perspective. “Edge” is a key concept in ecology. In fact, we have what is known as “the edge effect.” And this is really why I so much had my heart set on the current location of the Garland Community Garden at 4022 Naaman School Road here in Garland Texas. In nature we have edges everywhere. At the Garland Community Garden we have the creek, the riparian area and then the edge where the garden exists between the riparian area and the meadow that is maintained by the city. I knew if we put it there that our garden would someday be not just good, but great.
Many members comment how well things grow down at the garden compared to the gardens at their homes. I attribute that to the location of our garden on the edge as well as to the emerging design of our garden based on our dedication to permaculture principles and organic gardening. Furthermore, each year as we continue to rebuild the poor soil that was there in a manner that is in keeping with natural processes, and as we learn from the experience of stewarding this space, the garden will get better and better.
About the Design of the Garland Community Garden
Our garden is the boundary or edge between two ecosystems: a riparian area and a meadow. In permaculture, one of the principles is to maximize the edge and that’s what we are doing at the garden. We are maximizing the edge between the riparian area and the meadow. More and more our beds in the back and even some in front are following the natural principles of what happens in the riparian area as we modify them with hugelkulturs to mimic what happens on the forest floor.
The edge is rich with biodiversity. For example, where the river meets the land, the species that live in both environments are present in additions to new species that live in the transition zone known as “the edge.” The edge is richer than what lives on either side. The edge is where things happen. As the edge effect increases, the boundary habitat allows for greater biodiversity.
Maximizing the edge in our garden has been part of its design from the very beginning. Straight lines and smooth shapes reduce the amount of edge. Notches, irregular shapes, mounds, pits, etc. increase the edge. That is why you only see three beds in our entire garden fashioned as rectangular, linear, wooden beds. All the other beds are irregular shapes and tend to be mounds. These beds increase the edge in the garden.
Although we will always have a certain amount of vegetables in the garden, each year we will continue to add edible perennials that grow well in our area. The blackberry is one of these plants. Currently we have about 25 blackberry plants in the garden. The garden is still expanding in terms of its beds. This year we added four new beds and also combined two beds to make the experimental garden for the North Garland High School environmental Club.
All in all we are evolving more or less toward what is called “a forest garden”—a low-maintenance sustainable plant-based food production system based on woodland ecosystems. In the 1980’s Robert Hart applied forest gardening in temperate zones for the first time. Prior to him this was an ancient method limited to the tropics. He followed the maxim of Hippocrates to “make food your medicine and medicine your food.” I estimate that it will take us about ten more years to realize our garden as a forest garden. And it’s possible we may never reach this goal. Still that’s no reason for not aiming for the stars.
What if Garland Community Garden and Its Stewards Never Existed?
List of a few things in our community that would never have happened:
- Eleven people in Garland would not have a garden built in their yards.
- 60 students at Beaver MST would not have had an eight-week botany elective class on Community Gardens.
- Watson MST students would not have a hugelkultur in their schoolyard garden.
- North Garland High School would not have a butterfly garden.
- A group of home-schooled children would never have had the opportunity to learn about the value of native bees in a garden.
- 60 Watson MST students would not have had a four-week course on composting.
- Many Garland ISD students would not have been able to see a monarch caterpillar transform into a butterfly.
- 110 Watson MST students would never have experienced a two hour tour of the garden that includes lessons in loofah shucking, worms, soil building. Some of the students on this tour picked blackberries for the first time.
- High School students such as those from the North Garland High School Environmental Club would not have been able to have a three-month gardening and leadership experience.
- Most likely several hundred people in our community would still be thinking that leaves put curbside in bags go to be recycled when in fact they go to the landfill. Loving Garland Green’s November 2016 Leaf Campaign changed that.
- 69 Beaver MST first-graders would not have had a garden experience that included planting five containers of sweet potatoes.
AND there is more.