Permaculture at Work: The Gardens of Prairie Spruce Commons
The philosophy of permaculture is to work with nature to produce food, shelter, and energy for humans and other organisms. This form of practice values and makes use of ecosystem services such as water filtration, natural decomposition of organic matter, nutrient cycling, and pollination. Permaculture therefore shares many of the values of cohousing and other forms of intentional communities where resources are shared, energy and water are conserved, materials are reused or recycled, and everyone’s contribution is important and valued.
Let me take you on a virtual tour of the garden that we are planning for Prairie Spruce Commons. We start at the greenhouse where seedlings are started in early spring. There are kale, tomatoes, red peppers, broccoli, squash, cucumbers, and lots of herbs. We have a homemade irrigation system made out of an old garden hose which supplies water to all of the seedlings on the raised beds in the greenhouse. The water tap in the greenhouse is connected to our grey water recycling and biological filtration system.
Next we visit the vegetable gardens. We use raised beds of various heights to allow everyone access to the gardens. Our children and the elders are often found working in the garden together. Those who wish to participate will have responsibility for a particular part of the garden, but most of the produce is shared. We also have an orchard where we grow apples and saskatoons. Our grey water recycling and rainwater collection systems allow us to irrigate frequently throughout the growing season which rewards us with a large harvest. We also have several pollination gardens with native plants such as gaillardias, blazing stars, prairie clovers, and other species that attract butterflies, bees, and other pollinators.
The last stop on our tour is our composting station. We use a combination of rotating and static composters to allow us to efficiently compost food and garden scraps from 27 households. We have several residents who have taken master composter courses and who now teach all households how to compost efficiently. Many of our younger residents are particularly interested in the composting and are learning how to collect compost and rotate and harvest soil.
Our garden, teeming with life, will be a place where people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds can work and play together, learn from each other, and value each other's company and contributions. It will be a place that gathers us into the community of life which includes, earth, sun, stars, plants, insects, humans and more.