Eight of us gathered on this unseasonably warm fall day in the Teaching Garden – the area between South Street and the ranch house at the Bagaduce Music Lending Library site. Our mission was to build raised beds that will be ready in the spring to accommodate small seedlings and shrub donations whose permanent homes on our site are not yet ready for planting. For the past year, we have been gathering various materials that will compost into a rich medium for planting. These ingredients were the building blocks of our soil building workshop.
Once the two wooden frames were assembled we began filling each with a layer of wood chips (the byproduct of our wood’s editing workshop last spring) that were already infiltrated by mycelium. Mycelium is the business end of the fungi whose job it is to break down woody materials with enzymes it releases into its immediate environment. The enzymes break down the wood into nutrients that are then taken up by the fungi or surrounding plants through their roots.
On top of these wood chips we added a thin layer of coffee grounds, many of which were also beginning to decompose, then a thin layer of soil followed by a thick layer of leaves - mostly maple - then straw, then seaweed. We repeated the leaves, straw, seaweed layers again and topped the whole thing off with soil to hold it all down. We over filled the beds knowing that as the materials decompose they will sink down.
In addition to creating these “nursery” beds, we spent time transplanting a dozen small spruce and fir seedlings into the roadside screening area. We realize that the conifers that are currently providing the bulk of the roadside screen are immediately under the power line and will have to be removed in the near future, so we are trying to add to the narrow wooded area that will soon be the front line. We are also planning to coppice some of the deciduous trees in this area such as the hawthorns (Crataegus sp.) to improve the density of the foliage at eye level.
As we tidied up for the winter on this last workday of the season, we opted to leave the fallen leaves where they fell instead of doing any substantial raking. The reason for this is that we ultimately need to discourage the existing lawn (those grasses are not native) and start transitioning to a more woodland soil that contains a layer of duff - basically decomposed and decomposing leaves and needles. This process would take many years if left to nature, but here in this landscape where we are collaborating with nature, we will assist the process by adding organic matter and mulches as we grow our garden.