Spring Garden Update 2020

One of the most frequently asked questions about the newest forest garden, is why call it the Solar Fields? With the forest canopy providing us with such lovely shade, the Solar Fields leaves a space where the full energy of the sun can be harvested. There are two energy sources in play, the electric variety and the nutritional element. We are now expanding the Solar Fields to where it is actually FIELDS of food, rather than just a backyard garden. In light of the current times, it is more important than ever for us to practice abundance. Each day, we are working towards our goal of sustainability. We are spending this time building up the systems and infrastructure of the Solar Fields so that the forest will no longer have to rely on stores to provide its seeds, lumber, and other materials.

In order for gardening on this scale to be possible, truck access is crucial. It takes an awful lot of time and energy to move things by the wheelbarrow full. So, we are utilizing the thick band of sand that a mini-excavator removed from the Mister Road trenchline. By the truckload, it is being moved to the Solar Field road! The Solar Fields is naturally one of the lowest points in the whole forest, and so it gets an awful lot of water! This makes it an obvious place to focus on the hydrology of the forest. With sand being added to the low spots in the road and in the pathways, we can better direct the water where we do want it, and prevent the truck from being stuck at the same time. In addition, trenches have been added at the side of the Solar Fields road and strategically throughout the garden to allow the abundance of water to flow where we do want it. For example, a culvert has been installed to provide water under the Solar Fields road and flowing to the last Cypress Stand. Back in the day, the forest was the home to a multitude of cypress trees. With gradually less water appearing in the forest over time, there seems to be only one prominent stand of these trees remaining.

Among the precious trees in the Solar Fields are the ones that a past volunteer, Laeo, donated on December 21st, 2013. Over 100 trees were donated and they are now being identified so that we can ensure their survival. The soil from the trenches in the Solar Fields itself were piled into the shape of ten new hugol mounds while the mini-excavator was here. The soil is so black and rich, it feels as if we dug up buried treasure! These mounds will be planted with the lovely seedlings currently residing in the pop-up tee-pee greenhouse. The tee-pee has been placed at the edge of the Solar Fields for the moment. It is wrapped with a shade cloth to protect the seedlings from the full blast of the sun.

A lot of the winter crops have bursted with flowers and grown seed pods. Right now, it looks like a field of seeds! We have already harvested heaps of Arugula, Mustard, Mizuna, Daikon and French Breakfast Radishes! Close behind these are the pods of the Buttercrunch Lettuce, Broccoli, and Purple Top Turnips. We are building up the Forest’s seed bank to where we can achieve our mission of sustainability, and never have to buy seeds again. Therefore, AT LEAST one plant of each variety is allowed a chance to reach maturity so that it can produce its seeds. It can be really tempting to eat every carrot or tomato that is produced, but by thinking of all the future plants contained in that one tomato we are providing for the future of the forest gardens. It’s so exciting to watch all the seed pods developing in succession and imagining how many future plants they hold!

Along with warmer weather crops beginning to take shape, flowers are blooming, and critters are out and about everywhere! A single deer can easily take a whole season’s crop, and so we are under construction in building a fence line. The fence is being built by incorporating both forest materials and solar energy. With all the vines and trees to work with, we can weave what is called a ‘wattle’ fence to outline the fields. Along the top, a solar charged fence line will encourage deer to forage in a different area. The wattle fence has proved so sturdy that it can double as a bench, and not a single nail or purchased material has been used! With garden expansion came the need to also expand the work station. The existing Solar Field lean-to was sorely in need of expansion, with barely enough room to house a few shovels. Its expansion includes the bamboo, which we have such an abundant supply of here in the forest. The bamboo lean-to allows for gardeners to take shelter from the rain and sun alike. Alongside of the work table, it provides the perfect space for gardeners to spread out and be organized.

When the Fig tree in the Main Garden was pruned, we saved all the cuttings that were lopped off in order to curate a Fig Grove for the forest. They were dipped in a rooting hormone containing honey, which is beneficial to new growth, before being planted. As the Tangelos from this year’s season were eaten, their seeds were lovingly planted in pots and set aside for the winter. Now these seeds are tiny trees of their own! Springtime in the forest means lots of growth everywhere you look, so we are looking everywhere. Elderberries and blackberries are sprouting up all around, just asking to be put in a more ideal location. The beloved Blueberry patch has been given regular TLC through the past year, ensuring that they would have a great start this spring. With the propagation of all the forest fruit trees, we couldn’t leave out the blueberries! It is beneficial to prune some of the blueberries new growth anyways, as we are helping them to grow more outwards than upwards by taking cuttings of the topmost branches. At the same time, these cuttings are being added to the forest nursery so that they will become even more abundant.

We look forward to the time when guest members are able to once more be in the forest lending a hand and growing our future. Until then, we are using this time to ensure the infrastructure and systems are in place for when we are able to welcome guest members back