Full-length version of the feature published this week in the Sooke News Mirror
Curious about the work-in-progress garden on the north side of Sooke Road west of Drennan Street? The one that was adorned with a tarp, rubber tires and squash vines last summer and now features a berm covered in straw and bursting with green shoots?
A year ago, Transition Sooke teamed with certified horticultural designer Jonathan Francoeur and homeowners Adam Noseworthy and Cheryl Lane to begin creating a showcase permaculture garden that would inspire local residents to grow more food and less lawn.
“We’re slowly but surely building a food forest that produces food, fiber and other useful byproducts from every plant within it,” says Francoeur. “A project like this is a long, patient process, but by starting now we’re on our way.”
The garden is growing fast at the moment. Western Island Tree Service’s Troy Lovbakke has donated a load of cedar chips. And a team of volunteers will arrive this Sunday, June 21 for a fun one-day “permablitz” to dig, build a fence, lay down pathways and spread the mulch.
Permaculture is a holistic set of ethics and design principles that mimics patterns and relationships found in nature. It is the foundation of a Transition Town philosophy first developed by Rob Hopkins in Kinsale, Ireland at the turn of the millennium.
It’s also the subject for lively discussion and hands-in-soil practice at a new Permaculture Sooke meet-up group that has been gathering at Cast Iron Farm across from the Sunriver Community Garden on the fourth Saturday afternoon of the month. Hosts Tony and Christiana St-Pierre extend a welcome to everyone to drop by the farm on June 27 at 2 p.m. to make friends, share food and learn more.
“Usually associated with gardening and farming, permaculture embodies principles that can be applied to community relationships, education and even business,” explains Transition Sooke board member Stephen Hindrichs. He and Inishoge Farm’s Mary Coll recently taught a class on the subject to EMCS students in the Environmental Studies program led by teachers Dave Clark and Meghan Bondurant.
Adds Hindrichs: “Permaculture involves working with what you have, observing the patterns and process around you, creating beneficial relationships and turning problems into solutions. All these principles are guided by the core ethics of care of people, care of the earth and fair share of resources and surplus.”
Over at the Noseworthy home at 6460 Sooke Road, the landscape will feature layers of trees, shrubs, ground covers, climbers, root crops, mushrooms and even a water feature. The design captures and stores water from the winter rains for use during the summer. It produces shade from the sun and privacy from the highway while also creating a habitat for birds and bees.
Ultimately, 100 plant species will be added to the property. Francoeur’s blueprint for the food forest can be viewed at http://eelandscaping.blogspot.ca.
Francoeur launched Everything Edible Landscaping a decade ago and worked at bountiful Vancouver Island spots like O.U.R. Ecovillage and Madrona Farm before settling in Sooke a few years ago. “It all starts with the will to make a change for the better,” he says. “With each new season and lesson, we grow closer to our destination. You are what you eat. Be your landscape. Be beautiful!” (pictured: Jonathan building the garden’s berm earlier this year; the front yard last summer).