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Archives for June 13, 2013

Cleveland’s new Convention Center and Global Center for Health Innovation …

Most observers would agree that the words “iconic” and “architectural masterpiece” don’t belong in the same breath with Cleveland’s new convention center and Global Center for Health Innovation.

But that’s not to say the two interconnected buildings are a failure. Far from it.

The $465 million project, amazingly finished slightly under budget and three months ahead of schedule, has given Cleveland a new convention center and medically-focused exhibit hall that are big, smoothly functional, crisply organized and very easy to navigate.

The two buildings, which open officially tomorrow with a ribbon-cutting, followed by free public tours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, project a solid image of Cleveland as a city able to complete large projects in a timely, efficient manner. That’s a welcome change for a community with a historical reputation for dysfunction that’s fighting poverty and decline.

If managed well by MMPI Inc. of Chicago, the new buildings have a decent shot at attracting scores of conventions that will boost the city’s economy and justify the quarter cent increase in the county’s sales tax that financed the project.

In terms of aesthetics, the success is more muted – at least at this point. County Executive Ed Fitzgerald and Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson announced last week that they plan to leverage $93 million collected from the sales tax — an amount higher than expected — to finance up to $350 million in additional projects that will enhance to convention and innovation centers.

Those additional elements would include a new, 650-room convention center hotel, and a walkway spanning railroad lines and the Shoreway to connect the convention center to lakefront attractions at North Coast Harbor.

A redesign of Public Square and landscape enhancements to the downtown Mall, which doubles as the green roof of the convention center, are also part of the package.

What happens next is critical to the overall design success of the project, and whether it wins public affection. Additional landscaping on the Mall, now essentially a series of Spartan grass rectangles, will be one of the major public benefits of the project.

For now, it’s highly unlikely for now that either of the new facilities will supplant landmarks such as Severance Hall, the Terminal Tower or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum as beloved symbols of a new Cleveland.

Yet there’s a good deal to admire about the two new buildings. That’s because they reflect compromises and tradeoffs navigated with an eye on a bigger prize: that of helping to complete without serious harm the city’s historic Group Plan District, laid out in 1903 by Chicago architect Daniel H. Burnham.

Burnham, the progenitor of America’s City Beautiful movement in city planning, persuaded a half dozen American cities at the turn of the 20th century to bulldoze large portions of their downtowns to make way for clusters of government and civic buildings designed like ancient Greek and Roman classical temples.

The Group Plan District is one of the largest intact examples of the style, and is a national treasure. Its major elements include the three-block Mall, which is framed by Cleveland’s Public Library, City Hall and Board of Education Building, plus the Cuyahoga County Courthouse and the federal Courthouse and Post Office Building, now the Metzenbaum U.S. Courthouse.

In the latest round of construction, a design team led by LMN Architects of Seattle, working for Cuyahoga County and its private sector partner, MMPI Inc., of Chicago, inserted two gigantic structures in the heart of the Group Plan District without substantially changing it.

That’s amazing when you consider that the convention center encompasses a 20-bay truck dock, 230,000 square feet of exhibit space, more than 90,000 square feet of meeting rooms and a 32,000-square foot ballroom.

A collection of ingeniously-designed, back-of-house spaces connect a huge underground kitchen to the ballroom and all the meeting rooms.

Materials throughout the interior, from aluminum handrails and wall panels, to glassy balustrades and backlighted directional signs, look crisp, handsome, durable and high-quality.

Also impressive is the muscular engineering of the gigantic steel “column trees,” spaced 90 feet apart, that support the convention center’s roof. 

Yet it’s all virtually invisible from surrounding streets because the new center, like the older, outmoded city-owned facility it replaced, is almost entirely underground and largely invisible to anyone who isn’t actually using it. It’s located beneath the 12.5-acre, grass-covered roof forms that northern two thirds of the Mall.

At Lakeside Avenue, the green roof swoops up 27 feet higher than the sidewalk to reveal a glassy, 300-foot-wide convention center lobby with escalators leading down to the main exhibit floor below.

The lobby appears to erupt from underground, and it interrupts any sense of the Mall as a continuous park extending three blocks from Rockwell Avenue to the northernmost section overlooking Lake Erie. That’s somewhat of a loss for those who remember the Mall in its earlier state.

But to be fair, the insertion of a large exhibition hall beneath the middle section of the Mall in 1964 also elevated the surface of the park above surrounding streets, forever altering Burnham’s concept of a smooth, level space.

The virtue of the upward fold in the new convention center roof is that it creates as an artificial hill that could function as an outdoor amphitheater that offers spectacular new views of Lake Erie and the other sections of the Mall.

From its summit, you get a better sense than ever before of the Mall as a great public space framed by the original Group Plan buildings and the BP America and KeyCorp. skyscrapers, which also overlook the space. The effect is deeply stirring, not the least because it shows how generations of architects who came after Burnham have honored his core idea.

That’s certainly true of the four-story, 235,000 Global Center for Health Innovation, which rises west of the Mall between St. Clair and Lakeside Avenues. It’s a boxy, clunky-looking structure wrapped in an eccentrically patterned skin of precast concrete and glass, with a gigantic, four-story atrium winding facing east onto the Mall.

The building’s unusual window pattern is intended to evoke high-tech images of DNA sequences, but the reference is too subtle to communicate anything other than the idea that the center is a special place unlike downtown’s modern office towers, with their shiny, graph-paper window grids.

The building’s main virtue is that it frames the west side of the Mall in a manner similar to the large, neoclassical Public Auditorium Building on the east side of the space, which is also connected underground to the new convention center.

Like Public Auditorium, the innovation center appropriately plays a supporting role in a larger drama without trying to grab too much attention for itself.

This is not the kind of approach that wins global accolades for wildly original buildings that at best can serve as the logo for an entire city and at worst lead to broken budgets and financially shattered institutions.

But it’s the approach that made sense here. It has left a portion of downtown Cleveland substantially improved — and ready to get even better.

In 2010, Jackson appointed a new Group Plan Commission, comprised of civic and business leaders, to develop plans to enhance the basic landscaping of the Mall, and to find ways to fund the project.

They’re working with consultants from the non-profit Cleveland firm of LAND Studio and landscape architects from the Seattle firm of Gustasfson, Guthrie, Nichols to refine and complete those plans.

LAND Studio and the city’s Downtown Cleveland Alliance, another non-profit group, are working with the leading American landscape architect, James Corner, to develop plans for Public Square predicated on closing Ontario Street as it runs through the square to make it greener and more beautiful. Those plans are being coordinated with the designs for the Mall.

Taken as a whole, the developing ideas for the Mall and Public Square represent the biggest burst of attention to public space in the city in a generation. It has been motivated by the momentum created by the convention and innovation centers, and it’s terrific.

But it can’t stop there. Public space needs love, attention, money and ongoing maintenance. If you’re inviting the world to your doorstep, you had better pave it nicely, power-wash the winter salt, put out some flowers, add lighting, safety patrols and make it all come alive numerous outdoor events.

The successful completion of the convention and innovation centers seems to have triggered a new understanding that it’s never enough to sprinkle a city with great attractions. You have to weave them together with great streets and strong neighborhoods. If the new projects downtown truly ignite that spirit, they will have given the city far more than place to hold conventions.

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Glenburn man plans motorcycle ride to raise funds for permanent Nichole Cable …

GLENBURN, Maine — A local man is planning a motorcycle ride to raise money in hopes of building a permanent memorial to Nichole Cable in Glenburn.

Tim Munson, a longtime friend of Cable’s mother and stepfather, Kristine and Jason Wiley, is hoping several hundred motorcyclists will come out Saturday to honor the memory of the 15-year-old girl who was killed in May. Police have charged Kyle Dube, 20, with murder and kidnapping in connection with her death.

A temporary memorial has stood at the end of Spruce Lane, near where Cable had been living with the Wileys, since she disappeared on May 12. A week later, police found her body in Old Town.

“It’s spread through our community, it’s hurting all of us,” Munson said Thursday, explaining why he felt the community needs a way to keep Cable’s memory alive through a memorial.

The motorcycle convoy will depart from Glenburn School, 991 Hudson Road, at 10:30 a.m. The group will ride to Milo before turning onto the Argyle Road and heading toward Old Town. The procession will end at Old Town High School. Registration will be held from 8 a.m. to 10 or 10:30 a.m., according to Munson. There will be a $10 registration fee per motorcycle.

Munson said Kristine Wiley will ride with him on the lead bike.

Munson said he’d like the memorial to be located near the public beach at Lakeside Landing, and he is working with town officials to see whether that could be a potential site. He said he’ll look for a local landscaping company to design a memorial with a flower bed of some sort.

Any money raised in excess of what’s needed to complete a memorial will be donated to the Nichole Cable Memorial Fund, Munson said.

Wiley has said she will use her daughter’s memorial fund to spark education and outreach efforts. She is considering several ideas, such as self-defense lessons, seminars to teach parents and kids about online safety, or to support organizations such as the Shaw House or Spruce Run but details haven’t been finalized, she said Thursday.

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Garden Faire promotes sustainability from the ground up

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SCOTTS VALLEY — Just in time for the summer solstice comes the eighth annual Garden Faire, a free-admission, educational event celebrating the benefits of organic gardening and sustainable healthy living, held 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 22, at Scotts Valley’s Skypark.

Offering something for the gardener in everyone, the Garden Faire is a community event featuring garden goods and materials, plants and services, as well as knowledgeable speakers, interactive presentations, food and beverages, a beer garden, live music and activities for all ages.

“The Garden Faire is about earth-friendly gardening,” said Golden Love, owner of Love’s Gardens and event coordinator. “The event shows gardeners how to do things that are easier on the planet, such as reducing pesticide use and conserving water. In addition to teaching sustainable practices in the garden and our community, the Garden Faire promotes health and vitality and its connection to the garden.”

The 2013 theme, “Growing Together — Nourishing Our Community,” is an exploration of how individual actions are important when building the health of the individual, community and planet. The event also promises to explore new ideas in sustainability encouraging organic/holistic food for both the body and spirit.

“If we don’t eat the food we grow, how do we know that the food is safe and nutritious?” asked Garden Faire founder Sheryl McEwan. “The Garden Faire starts from the ground up. We

bring in experts in these fields to help teach us the latest practices, in the garden, landscape, food and our health.”

McEwan was inspired to start the Garden Faire in 2006 after attending a similar event at Middlebrooks Garden in San Jose. The Garden Faire was created with the help of local Master Gardeners and has since evolved from just gardening and landscaping to a community event also focusing on environmental issues, food and health.

This year’s Garden Faire is going to be incredibly fun and social,” said event emcee Emmet Brady, founder of the “In response to the wishes of the community, the fair is going to feature a few special speakers and the emphasis will really be on social activities and should appeal to gardeners of all ages.”

Event attendees can sign up for the 100 Greywater Challenge, a community challenge supported by the Central Coast Greywater Alliance and Ecology Action. It “challenges” 100 community members to install a DIY greywater system such as the one on display at the Garden Faire.

The interactive greywater display promises to be a draw, as it includes a solar-powered washing machine, which will actually be washing clothes and providing greywater for a garden at the Garden Faire.

Exhibitors promoting various garden goods and materials include numerous specialty nurseries, farm suppliers, landscapers consultants, soil amendments, a solar company, water-conservation organizations and more.

New at this year’s Garden Faire is a beer-making workshop and “krauting party,” where participants can learn techniques and tricks associated with either craft.

Seven Bridges Cooperative, a local beer-making collective, will present both the beer garden and organic brewing demonstration. The beer garden features a full schedule of presenters on topics ranging from herbal sodas to “Fermentation as Art and Medicine.”

“At the beer-making workshop, you can learn how and why beer making got started, and what plants are used to make beer,” said McEwan.

Meanwhile, “Krauting parties are so much fun; bring your cabbages, kale, knives, cutting boards, large bowls and jars for some to take home with you.”

The event also includes intriguing-sounding presentations such as Beth Young’s “Naturescaping for Health, Wealth, Beauty Peace,” and keynote speaker Richard Merrill’s “Kitchen Gardens for Personal Health the Health of the Environment.”

Merrill is founding director of the Horticulture Department at Cabrillo College and a pioneer in integrating kitchen gardens into the backyard and family life.

In addition, Patrick Adams of Blue Moon Bees and Emmet Brady, creator of the, will present, “Nourishing Our Community: Bees, Insects, Community Groups and Meet-ups.”

In the presentation, Adams will offer his perspective garnered from his beekeeping, while Brady, a cultural entomologist, will explore the bonds between human and insect communities.

There will also be a healing center, including chair massage, sound healing, Reiki, Heart Rate Variability and a tea house, all located in the recreation building.


The Garden Faire

WHAT: An annual educational event celebrating the benefits of organic gardening and sustainable healthy living.
WHEN: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. music until 7 p.m., Saturday, June 22
WHERE: Skypark, 361 Kings Village Road, Scotts Valley
COST: Free admission

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Take steps to conserve water while maintaining a healthy landscape

Editor’s note: The following water conservation tips are offered by Frank Jager, president of Oakland-based Jager Landscaping.

Frank Jager, president of Jager Landscaping in Oakland, offers tips on how to effectively conserve water during the hot summer months.

With many states likely facing drought conditions this summer, homeowners across the country will be looking for ways to save their landscaping while conserving water. Even though you may not be in a drought-affected region, it pays to keep conservation in mind when it comes to watering your plants and lawn, according to Frank Jager, president of Jager Landscaping, located at 231 West Oakland Ave. in Oakland. Using less water is beneficial for the environment and your wallet.

You can reduce your water bill this summer by better organizing your watering efforts and conserving water outdoors, according to Jager. Here are some easy ways to conserve water, save money and preserve your garden and lawn this season:

* Traditional watering methods for lawns, gardens and flower beds waste a lot of water through runoff, over-saturation and evaporation. Rather than spraying water over plants, use a method that delivers the right amount of water where it will do the most good – the roots of plants.

* Drip irrigation systems can help you water more effectively as these systems deliver water as close as possible to plant roots achieving better watering results. You’ll also lose less water to runoff and evaporation. Place the system on a timer, and you can also ensure you’re watering at optimum times of the day to reduce evaporation and waste. A starter kit with 50 linear feet of tubing – ample enough to handle most gardens and planting beds – costs less than $1 per foot.

* Water your lawns, gardens and flower beds either early in the morning or as evening approaches to ensure you don’t lose moisture to the hot sun.

* Even during drought conditions, some rain and condensation will occur. Take steps to capture natural moisture. A rain barrel situated beneath a downspout ensures you can catch run-off from your home’s roof. While using barrel water may not be practical with most irrigation systems, it’s a great option for watering container gardens or even indoor plants.

* There are also complete rainwater harvesting systems that hold up to 30,000 gallons that can be used for watering lawns and gardens.

* You can help plants retain more moisture by placing organic mulch around the roots. The mulch will also help keep down weeds that would compete with plants for much-needed moisture.

* Finally, adjusting the type and location of plants is a great way to grow a drought-resistant garden or landscaping bed. By planting hardier varieties, you can help keep your environment green and growing through a long, dry summer – and avoid the money drain of high water bills.

For more information, contact Frank Jager at 201-463-7102.

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Learn a water conservation technique at garden workshop

Nature knows what to do, but lately — especially when it comes to farming, gardening and landscaping — we’ve gotten away from following her lead.

On Saturday at 2 p.m., during the Eagle-Vail Community Garden’s workday, learn about a water conservation technique — called hugelkultur — that mimic’s nature’s way. Hugelkultur is a permaculture technique, and the practice of permaculture is all about following nature’s lead. Permaculture shows us how to observe the dynamics of natural ecosystems so we can apply that knowledge to constructing our own ecosystems — ones that serve the needs of humans — like a vegetable garden, ranch or farm, without degrading the natural environment.

“Hugelkultur is essentially a low maintenance, self fertilizing raised bed that also serves as a water conservation technique,” said Shawn Bruckman of The Ground Up. “It is constructed out of logs, woody debris and organic matter in the shape of a steep mound. And then you plant on top and on the sides of the mound.”

The Ground Up is a company that applies commercial compost tea to lawn, garden and landscape projects. The tea feeds the soil for healthier plants and ecosystems. By aerating certified compost and feeding the microorganisms within, The Ground Up creates an elixir that helps plants grow stronger, healthier and more efficient. By feeding and attracting a healthy soil food web, Bruckman said she can mimic the tools provided by nature to maintain balanced natural spaces and improve disturbed areas.

Bruckman and her partner, Sam Gervais, will lead the workshop on hugelkultur Saturday. They will teach about the many benefits a hugelkultur mound can provide while participants actually build and plant on it.

“Another cool benefit of hugelkultur is that it helps us utilize pine beetle kill and unwanted woody debris in a productive self-sustaining fashion that increases drought resistance and soil biodiversity,” Bruckman said, who is still looking to collect logs and untreated wood material of any shape and size for the workshop.

The hugelkultur workshop is part of a larger workday at the Eagle-Vail Garden starting at 9 a.m. The garden is building a new perennial area with money awarded from a Colorado Garden Show grant. The area will feature five themed gardens: “A Sensory Garden (Garden for Emotions)”, a “Grand Entrance of Annuals” surrounding the gate, “Habitat Gardens” to attract pollinators, a “Colorado Native Plants Garden” and a “Beer and Wine garden,” growing hops and grapes. The garden welcomes everyone from the community to come and help build this exciting new perennial project.

For more information on the hugelkultur workshop or the larger garden workday, contact Eagle-Vail Community Garden president Cassie Pence at 970-401-3656. To donate wood, contact Shawn Bruckman at 970-331-2810.

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Do-It-Yourself Gardening & Landscape Ideas

In a recent journal article, “Transforming Inner City Landscapes,” researcher Frances E. Kuo, challenged Chicago law enforcement officials who argued that, in inner city spaces, trees and other forms of vegetation increase fear. Kuo concluded that tree density and grass maintenance increased both preference and sense of safety – in other words: trees and grass, gardening and landscape, whether in the front yard or backyard, increased personal calm and instilled a sense of safety.

But in the midst of an economic downturn and with neighbors in close proximity (row houses), how best can today’s urban chic, create a gardening oasis?

Landscaping artists recommend homeowners spend between 5 and 15 percent of their home’s value on landscaping. But for urbanites, who may have capital rich homes in tight spaces, maintaining the aesthetic beauty of their homes through landscaping can be a bit of a challenge.

Use What You Have: Preserve the existing plants and trees already on your property and educate yourself about plant care and pruning. Learn more about trees and rooting to avoid common pitfalls such as planting a tree too close to your house.

The Cheap Can Turn Out Expensive: Some jobs are do-it-yourself, while others are clearly set aside for professionals. Plenty of home improvement stores provide both in-store and low cost expert advice, as well as direct contact to contractors who can ensure the job is done properly the first time. Also, check to see if your local home improvement store offers nursery and landscaping services that discount materials.

Take a Phased Approach: Divide your plan into phases and pay as you go with readily available funds. You’ll save on loan or credit costs and be able to evaluate your progress and adjust plans before moving to the next phase.

Buy Off-Season: Purchase trees, shrubs, soils late in the season when they are being marked down for clearance.

Use Free Water: Purchase a large beer bucket to catch rain water to conserve energy and reign in the cost of watering gardens.

Call on Neighbors: Gardening encourages old-settlers and new supplants to get together and “grow together” by gardening alongside each other. In addition to sharing the costs on some landscaping items or tools, the safety and security of knowing your neighbors is achieved as well.

Ask for What You Want: Masons, homebuilders, and concrete workers often have odd ends and pieces that they cast off as garbage. These materials are often great for enhancing gardens as loose art or stained and molded together to create terra cotta-style walkways.

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Gardening Expert to Give Children Veggie-Growing Tips at Carnival Sponsored …

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Zephyrhills, FL (PRWEB) June 12, 2013

Long-time area gardener Stan DeFreitas is encouraging Tampa Bay area families to eat healthier by growing their own vegetables. DeFreitas will be sharing growing tips and helping children to plant their own vegetables at a special event that will be held June 15 at the Walmart Supercenter located at 7631 Gall Blvd in Zephyrhills.

The event, sponsored by The Clorox Company’s Hidden Valley® Ranch brand, will feature a number of games, crafts and giveaways, as well as free veggie snacks, Hidden Valley Ranch dip and Florida Department of Citrus-provided Florida orange juice. The message behind the activities is the importance and ease of healthy eating, particularly fresh produce.

“Eating fresh vegetables is part of a healthy lifestyle,” said DeFreitas. “Families can purchase fresh vegetables at a farmers market or at Walmart which also sources from local growers. Or they can plant them on their own. Growing your own is the most fun and is very easy.”

DeFreitas, who is known as “Mr. Green Thumb” and is a well-known local gardening expert, says okra, squash and peppers grow very well in Florida.

“Not only do these vegetables grow well here, but they also taste great. And for kids who need a little encouragement, Hidden Valley Ranch dressings add a lot of flavor to each bite,” DeFreitas said.

The event will be held June 15 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. DeFreitas will offer his gardening advice and children will have the opportunity to plant vegetable seeds in their own decorated pots, which they can take home. Families also can play ring toss and bean-bag toss, catch veggies floating in a pond, and eat veggie snacks. Kids also will be able to participate in roping activities and get their faces painted.

Hidden Valley Ranch, through its Love Your Veggies campaign, has committed more than $1 million to schools and organizations to help seed, and grow, a love of veggies in kids from an early age.

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Five Permaculture Tips for a More Sustainable Organic Farm

Nestled deep in the sticks of Schoharie County in upstate New York, lays Raven Crest Botanicals, a 250-acre sanctuary of an organic farm. Over 80 herbs are grown at Raven Crest for a variety of teas, tinctures, elixirs and skin care products. Susanna Raeven, owner of Raven Crest Botanicals, strives to bring “non-toxic, safe and effective, hand-made herbal products, made in small batches with love and intent” to her clients to “help them find balance in their lives with the generous support of the plant kingdom.”

Raven Crest teas, elixirs and tinctures are derived from Mother Earth without harming her, made well for Susanna’s supporters to be well. Ms.Raeven uses a variety of permaculture methods to ensure that each and every one of her products is natural, organic, and pesticide and fertilizer free.

Austrian farmer Sepp Holzer, the “Father of Permaculture,” describes the farming method as an environment where all elements within a system interact with each other; plants and animals working together in harmony. Holzer outlined major themes of permaculture:

• Multi-functionality: every element fulfills multiple functions and every function is performed by multiple elements

• Use energy practically and efficiently, work with renewables

• Use natural resources

• Intensive systems in a small area

• Utilize and shape natural processes and cycles

• Support and use edge effects (creating highly productive small-scale structures)

• Diversity instead of monoculture

Keeping the themes of Sepp Holzer in mind, below are five permaculture tips for a more sustainable farm, as used by Susanna Raeven at Raven Crest Botanicals:

1. Try Sheet Mulching

“If you don’t have good soil, you got nothing,” Susanna Raeven said. Sheet mulching establishes a great foundation for planting by using different layers of inorganic and organic materials to help the soil build itself. Start with slashed vegetation, and then add a layer of cardboard, a thin layer of manure, a foot of straw, compost, and end with mulch. Organic fertilizer can be added too.

At Raven Crest Botanicals, Ms.Raeven uses Espoma plant-tone, blood meal/dried blood, bone meal, azomite, rock phosphate, and lime for soil amendments. For added trace minerals, kelp or seaweed works well too.

The inorganic cardboard brings the carbon and the manure brings the nitrogen into the system, which are both needed for high quality soil. The key to excellent soil is a healthy ecosystem of microorganisms working the land, and sheet mulching is a way to provide good habitat for them.

2. Build Permaculture Guilds

Permaculture is based on utilizing and shaping natural processes, like those seen in forests. One way to mimic nature is to build a “food forest.”  Similar to a natural forest system, food crops and other plants that provide for human needs can be planted together to create multiple layers of vegetation and a diverse environment.  

A good start for a long-term food forest is a permaculture guild. A guild is a grouping of plants, animals, insects and other natural elements that work together to survive, grow symbiotically and help one another reach their fullest potential.

At Raven Crest Botanicals, sheet mulching was laid around fruit trees to provide the ground work for other herbs and flowers to be grouped together around the tree, and eventually establish a permaculture guild, when the soil is ready to be planted in.

Typically, monoculture grass and fruit tree root structures lie at a similar depth in the soil, thus creating competition for resources like nutrients and water. By planting herbs and flowers in a guild instead of planting grass, the competition for resources is eliminated and the plants can grow together symbiotically.

To build a strong permaculture guild, companion planting can be used to facilitate the smaller symbiotic relationships that contribute to the functionality of the system as a whole community. Planting different crops that compliment each other can also help with pest control, pollination and increase productivity. Tarragon and eggplant can be planted as companions. A common example of companion planting is the Three Sisters: corn, beans and squash. The stalk from the corn serves as a trellis for the beans to climb, as the beans fix nitrogen to benefit the corn. Squash vines act as “living mulch,” shading emerging weeds and preventing moisture in the soil from evaporating. 

View the companion planting guide put together by MOTHER EARTH NEWS here.

3. Rethink Your Gardening Space

To save money on soil and to reduce water use, consider building a Hugelkultur raised garden bed. A permaculture concept, a Hugelkultur is simply a raised garden bed filled with wood. At Raven Crest Botanicals, trees, branches and stumps were used to build a raised bed. Then, perennial herbs were planted to keep the soil in place. (See lead photo)

The rotting wood contains high levels of organic material, nutrients and air pockets for the roots of the plants in the bed. With time, the soil becomes rich and loaded with helpful microorganisms. As the wood shrinks, it makes more air pockets; allowing for a little bit of self tilling. The wood also helps keep excess nutrients in the soil, not leak into the groundwater, acting as a self-fertilizer. The water held in the tree stumps and branches allows for very little irrigation. Only a foot or so of soil is needed on top of the rotting wood, so Hugelkultur cuts down on soil costs too. 

Another interesting way to completely eliminate soil expenses is to try straw bale gardening. No need for a big plot of land or soil, straw bales allow for gardening on roof tops, in parking lots, and high density urban areas. The bales are moveable too!  To start planting in straw bales, simply add a lot of heavy nitrogen and organic fertilizer for one week, to help aid the decomposition process. Then, spend another week watering the bale. The straw bale will get very hot inside, but once the temperature comes down to 100 degrees, it is time to start planting seedlings. Straw bale gardening makes for an easier harvest too, since roots don’t have to be dug out.

For more information about straw bale gardening, read this article in the New York Times.

4. Go Solar!

Part of the vision of permaculture is to use energy efficiently and work with renewables. At Raven Crest Botanicals, a solar powered irrigation system waters the herbs and flowers with the water from the pond on the farm. Also at Raven Crest is a passive solar, earth-sheltered greenhouse. The greenhouse was built using the plans from The Earth-Sheltered Greenhouse by Mike Oehler, a book featured on Mother Earth News.

The Raven Crest greenhouse is insulated by the Earth and has a cold sink to give cold air a space to settle away from the tender seedlings. The oil-filled pistons of the temperature-sensitive automatic vents allow the greenhouse to regulate its own temperature. The oil in the pistons contracts in the cold (closing the vents) and expands in the heat (opening the vents). There are also ten 55 gallon water drums to help regulate the temperature in the greenhouse.

The hanging beds naturally keep mice away and serve as drying shelves when all of the herbs and flowers have been moved out of the greenhouse, hardened and planted. Although Ms.Raeven has a solar drier to dry her herbs for teas, elixirs and tinctures, the added space from her greenhouse gives her a better chance to dry all her herbs at their peak when they are the most medicinal.

5. Grow the Organic Farming Community – Host a WWOOFer

Susanna Raeven describes her farm as a “single woman operation.”  In order to grow her small business and reach more clients, she needs help planting and harvesting her herbs and tending her farm. Because of this, Susanna has become a part of the WWOOF program as a “host farm.”

Worldwide Opportunities in Organic Farming (WWOOF) is an “effort to link visitors with organic farmers, promote an educational exchange, and build a global community conscious of ecological farming practices.”  The program connects people who would like to learn more about the organic movement, permaculture and sustainable agriculture, with farmers who want to share their knowledge. No money is exchanged between host farms and “WWOOFers,” just room and board for the volunteers (and amazing food if you are lucky!).

WWOOF is a great way to cultivate the movement for organic, healthy foods and to engage the younger generation in permaculture, farming and the environment. WWOOF creates an atmosphere of trust and respect, with emphasis placed on the value of hard work and integrity. The program shows that living off the land is a way to eat well, be well and wash your spirit clean.


Top photo – Hugelkultur raised garden bed.

Middle photo – Sheet mulching in progress on Raven Crest farm.

Bottom photo – Hanging beds inside the greenhouse.

For more information Raven Crest Botanicals, visit Susanna also offers flexible CSA packages at an affordable price that can be shipped throughout the United States.

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Local Garden Events

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Gardening tips for wet weather


Recent rain is testing gardeners’ patience, but experts say that’s exactly what you need right now.

Messing with the soil while your garden is draining could hurt your flowers. Garden experts like Leonard Perry with the UVM Extension say soil with rich organic matter will drain faster and that mulch can help keep the soil intact.

The cool, damp air has lawns growing out of control, but an early deep cut will stress the grass.

“Mow very high, as high as you can, then come back maybe a couple days later and you don’t want to cut off ideally more than a third or a half of the grass at any one time, but sometimes you have to,” Perry says. “But keep it at maybe three inches high — maybe two and a half to three inches high is a good height for mowing.”

The good news is, it looks like you’ll be able to get out there just in time for Father’s Day.

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