How to Plant a P-Patch

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The magnificent Laura Sweaney conducted a workshop at Sustainable Renton Community Farm recently, titled How to Plant a P-Patch using Permaculture Design.  This was perfect for those of us that want to incorporate permaculture techniques but have a small space to do it in. Typically, permaculture is a large scale philosophy to be utilized by the designer in vast amounts of space, but the plots available at the farm are 10’x 20’ so what is a gardener to do? Well, Laura was able to show us a beautiful design that we can use on a small scale that not only increases yields, increases water retention, increases soil health, decreases pest and disease vulnerability but also increases the overall aesthetics of an ordinary P-Patch plot.

For a more detailed explanation of Permaculture principles you can go here.

We began with a blank slate. Granted, the soil at this location is absolutely luscious, so we did not have to do a lot of amending. The plot was empty save for a few pea starts that were struggling to come up after our heavy rains that all but laughed in the face of our enthusiastic gardeners trying to get something in the ground in March.

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The first thing Laura did was to create a pathway through the space. Permaculture is not an advocate of planting in rows. The overarching idea is to mimic nature as closely as possible. For anyone who has studied nature, perhaps one description would be a sort of “ordered chaos”. The path was a curved line that ran through the patch in an s-shape leaving no further than 3’ for one’s arm to reach for harvesting, while maximizing the amount of space to grow in. She made a couple of keyhole beds that were connected by the two ends of the path. A keyhole bed is a space where the gardener can walk into the circle for harvesting. This creates a microclimate where the sun comes in from the south at the beginning of our path and saturates the circle where we have some of our more heat loving plants.

We then began to plant the starts and seeds that we had available to us. We planted lettuce, kale, cabbage, chard, collards, leeks, chives, onion sets, strawberries, carrots, parsnips, rosemary, thyme, lavender and cilantro.

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We placed a bean teepee in the SE corner of the plot with a cabbage in the middle so that as the heat comes on us the cabbage will be protected inside the bean teepee. This structure will be ready for us to plant beans next month. Also we placed a structure for our indeterminate tomatoes to climb on when the time is right for planting. This should prove to be an amazing site when the summer is in full swing.

Permaculture comes from joining the ideas of permanence and agriculture or permanence and culture. As Laura stated, what we are doing at a P-Patch is really about permanent culture. We are building connections with our community to create resilience within our culture, within our city.

This plot is on display as our Permaculture garden plot. So, if you are in the area, stop by and take a look at what we have done to this plot. Up at the farm you will find that there are beautiful things growing, people laughing and making connections. Come and join us. We do have a waiting list for plots coming at the beginning of May, however, there is no need to have a garden plot to come by and hang out for a while. If no one is there, you will be amazed at the peacefulness available. If someone is there you can introduce yourself and make a friend. Bring your lunch, have a picnic with your family. There is a play structure and a sand box for the kids.

Laura Sweaney shares her wealth of knowledge in Permaculture

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Recently, Sustainable Renton hosted an excited group who were eager to learn more about the nuances of permaculture. Laura Sweaney was kind enough to share the knowledge she has obtained from two decades of experience in the field. The seminar drew a sizeable crowd at the offices of Sustainable Renton which focused on strategies for individuals to implement at home, including: sheet mulching, composting, zoning and layers, hugelkultur, herb spirals, and plant guilds.

The ethics of permaculture stress a holistic approach of limiting consumption, caring for the earth, and caring for people. It is a method of growing which incorporates traditional ecological knowledge with whole systems design. The general idea is to become productive towards natural systems as opposed to continuing the strain of our current consumption cycles.

When beginning a permaculture garden, Laura noted the important things to consider include planning for future yields, diversity, input & output, energy, wild-soil, a multi-dimensional design, and relative location. Minimizing the amount of non-replenishing resources used such as petroleum based products and precious metals allow scarce energy to be redistributed towards other projects.

Microclimates were also discussed as another aspect to consider when choosing the location of your plants. Laura emphasized, “If you have a corner of your yard that’s a bog or wetland, let it function as a bog or wetland.” It is almost instinctual to want to dig ditches or add soil from outside resources to change the landscape, but many plants love the excess moisture including rhubarb, celery, and fuki.

One of the last things covered in the class was the invisible structures of permaculture. Cottage industries, intentional communities, political and monetary systems, and farmers markets are all elements that play a role in a successful permaculture operation. However, personal relationships, the most tangible and critical structure, was immediately present in the room of enthusiasts. At the end of her talk, the space was adherently fervent and ready to begin networking with each other and working together towards a common goal.

by Joshua Reasoner and Steven Nguyen

Winter Gardening Workshop-This Monday!

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I know its last minute, but if growing food in the winter has always sounded interesting but fear and doubt reigned heavier than a sense of adventure, now is the time to spread those proverbial gardening wings and attempt to fly!

Sustainable Renton Community Farm is holding a Winter Gardening Workshop on Monday, September 23rd at 5:30 pm. This workshop will be led by Cascadia Edible Landscapes. These folks are a small, local company located in the Skyway area and are offering winter veggie starts for those that show up. It would be great to have a good turn out for these folks; however, they offer these starts to anyone who contacts them. Their website is www.eatyouryard.com .

Some of the great things that can be grown in this area are most of the brassicas such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. Mustards as well as many different greens such as kale, collards, chard and bok choy are also good choices. Many varieties of lettuce, spinach, onions and peas can also be grown. This comes as a relief because these crops are essentially the crops that have a tendency to bolt, with the exception of onions and peas, in the heat of summer. So come and check out Cascadia Edible Landscape’s collection and face those winter gardening fears this year.

Also, if you happened to miss our seed saving workshop with the Urban Food Warrior, Caitlin Moore, you will have another chance to meet her in January with our Plan Your Garden Workshop-details to come within the next month.

Also, there are four plots being used for pumpkin and squash beds, those plots will be coming available for new gardeners in the next months following the harvests. The price for a garden plot is $50 for a 12 month period.

There are already two people on the waiting list, so if you are interested, please contact Lara Randolph at larar35@comcast.net or Elizabeth Zwicker at linguisticnurse@gmail.com or Sustainable Renton at sustainablerenton@gmail.com

Happy gardening!

Harvest Mayhem! & More Sept/Oct Happenings

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Now that Summer is passing, and Fall is approaching, Sustainable Renton is really kicking into high gear with the harvest season in full swing. We have a number of workshops, meetings, and events over the next couple of months that we’d love to share with you. We’ll be having our largest event ever this Sunday, September 15th-Harvest Mayhem. Read all about it and our many other events below. We look forward to welcoming you!

All events listed are held either at our office or the community farm.

Sustainable Renton office: 970 Harrington Ave NE, Renton WA, 98056

Sustainable Renton Community Farm: 11840 148th Ave NE, Renton WA, 98059

Events

Sun, Sept 15 – Harvest Mayhem. Location: Community Farm. 4-7pm. This is a fundraiser and community potluck event, complete with gardeners and their beautiful friends and families. Entertainment includes live music with local musicians Ron Stilwell and Callista Salazar, and a raffle for items like baskets of preserves, pickles, and coupons to local businesses! This is a community potluck-please bring something yummy to share. A bonfire with s’mores will round out the evening. Come tour the farm, meet the board members and participating gardeners, play in the sand box, eat, and be merry! All funds raised will support Sustainable Renton and the Community Farm.

Fri, Sept 27 – Meaningful Movies: Occupy Love. Location: Office. 7pm. We will be watching the film ‘Occupy Love’. This film follows the Occupy movement over a year’s period of time and shows the lasting effect this movement has had and continues to have on political and social life. This event is FREE but donations are greatly needed and appreciated.

Workshops

1009839_509327289173623_962192451_nFri, Sept 13 (TONIGHT!) – Seed Saving Workshop w/ the Urban Food Warrior, Caitlin Moore. Location: Community Farm. 6pm. Have you ever wondered what this seed saving business is all about? Caitlin Moore, founder of the Olympia Seed Exchange, will teach some basic seed saving skills to get you started saving seed in your garden or farm. She will cover basic terminology, techniques, and some in-field how-to’s in this two hour workshop. There will be a $5 fee for this workshop. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.

Thurs, Oct 3 – Soap Making Workshop w/Sustainable Renton Community Farm Manager, Lara Randolph. Location: Office. 7pm. We will make a vegetable base soap. Everyone will leave with a bar of soap to take home and enjoy. There is a $5 supplies fee paid at the time of event. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.

Date TBD – Winter Gardening Workshop w/ Cascadia Edible Landscapes. Location: Community Farm.

Meetings

Wed, Oct 2 – Renton Food Co-op Steering Committee. 6:30: potluck; 7pm: meeting. Come and get involved in helping to plan and pursue bringing a locally owned and operated food co-op to Renton. Your energy and ideas are needed!

Thurs, Oct 10 – Sustainable Renton Board. 7pm. Our monthly board meeting to oversee the operations, management, and happenings of Sustainable Renton. We are always open to new input, and have space available for additional board members if you are interested.

Of course, you can follow us and our different projects over on Facebook. Click any of the following links to ‘like’ our various pages.

Sustainable Renton

Renton Food Co-op

Sustainable Renton Community Farm

Meaningful Movies of Renton

Pallet Board Shed Success!

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WOW! I was absolutely amazed at how wonderful the Pallet Shed Building Workshop turned out. Not only do we have an amazing shed built out of Pallet Boards standing at the Farm site now, but everyone that attended the workshop chipped in to drive a screw, level a pallet, sturdy a ladder, or handle a skill saw.

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Steve and Kelvin Randolph (The Randolph Brothers aka Double Trouble) made it look fun and simple all at the same time. They did a great job fielding questions and giving answers that were simple and logical-it was a very user-friendly workshop filled with all the information anyone could need to build their own shed-complete with hands-on experience too!

This shed was made with 100% recycled and donated materials. We were able to secure donations thanks to Eric DeShaw, Clayton Stiles, Mana Kashay, Jim and Debbie Doty, Steve Randolph and Commercial Building Maintenance.

I am absolutely overwhelmed with the feeling of how necessary community is to a healthy and fulfilled life. With that comes a renewed passion for the efforts going into starting our community farm. There is such a beautiful reality emerging up here in the Renton Highlands and I am so grateful to be a part of it.

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Y’all ought to come up and take a look at how beautiful everything is here, also-we still have plots available! We are gearing up for some winter crop planting now so it’s never too late to get a plot and start the adventure of growing your own food. We have gardeners of all experience levels, there is plenty of help and information to be had so don’t be shy and come on by!

For more information please contact Lara Randolph at larar35@comcast.net or Sustainable Renton at sustainablerenton@gmail.com

Pallet Board Shed Workshop!

HEY FARMERS AND OTHER INTERESTED FOLK!

Sustainable Renton Community Farm is hosting a Pallet Board Shed building Workshop on Saturday, June 15th at 11 a.m. This engaging workshop will be held at the Farm property located just behind Celebration Church in the Renton Highland neighborhood at 11840 148th Ave. S.E.

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Come join us as seasoned carpenters, Clayton Stiles and Steve Randolph, walk us through the steps on how to build a functioning and CHEAP shed using mostly pallet boards. Bring your tool belts and come prepared for a hands-on experience.

You may want to pack a lunch as the workshop will go through the lunch hour-and remember to bring enough fluid to keep hydrated in case the weather is hot.

You can RSVP at the Facebook event page.

SEE YOU AT THE FARM!

Seed Starting Workshop Thank You & Fliers

I know this is a bit late but I wanted to put a word in about the success of our Seed Starting Workshop that was held in March. First of all I would like to thank everyone for showing up and to all who got the word out about the event. It was, by far, our largest turn out so far and we hope this trend will continue for our workshops in the future. Next I would like to thank Barb Mandic our resident Master Gardener whos presence is one of grace and wisdom. Also, a big thank you goes out to the ‘Urban Food Warrior’, Caitlin Moore, for her outstanding examples of seed starting techniques and her endless knowledge base of seed starting and how we can become closer to the sustainable lives we all want to cultivate. The fliers that were passed out from the workshop are being attached so those of you who could not make it can also have the information. Thanks again to everyone who made this evening a great success.

-Lara Randolph.

Transplanting Your Seedlings.

Seed Starting Tip Sheet.