Designing an Ecological Food Garden

One of the projects I am working on is an ecological food garden for the new Hannah Williams Playground in my town.

The playground and park were revamped last year and early this year, and the Department Of Public Works set aside a sunny patch of roughly 45′ x 20′  bordered by a more shaded strip of 60′ x 10′  for an educational food garden. I volunteered last year to design it and also to round up the troops to plant the thing.  When word came (last week) that Wayland Beautification generously donated funds for plants, our window opened and it was a short one: planting should happen no later than the end beginning of June.

So though I had researched and planned in my head, I had to rush to the drawing board, and I’m having a lot of fun with it. So far I’ve designed the strip, which will be shade-tolerant bushes like currants (Ribes, golden and red) and elders (Sambucus), with an herbaceous under story of nutrient mining (dynamic accumulator) strawberries and nitrogen-fixing clover.  There will be two fruit trees, one semi-dwarf apricot and one semi-dwarf peach, in guilds with comfrey, licrorice, bulbs, chicory, etc. (more details to follow). I still need to fill in most of the guilds and the sunny spots in between.


Everything in this garden will be edible and perennial. Every niche will be filled, making it a stable system. Every element will fulfill two or more functions and every function will be fulfilled by at least two elements, making it a resilient and low-maintenance system. Besides being a delight for the senses (taste and smell), this garden will open people’s eyes and, hopefully, minds, to what food is, what it means to grow it, and how it can fit in an ecological context.

The possibilities for education are enormous, and I hope there will be some funding for informational plaques, name tags, and garden tours. I have to stop myself from writing treatises on permaculture, ecology, botany, entomology, etc. You see where this is going! First let’s get the garden in, then let’s explain it and praise it in song!

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1 Comment

  1. It’s a wonderful design! That is the biggest challenge to me, the designing part. You seem to have a talent for it. Here’s hoping it grows well!

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