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A Country Cottage in the City

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lasagna gardening

Photo by Elyse Grau

Using the lasagna method to creat lush, mineral-rich beds, Hebert and Saul created a gardening wonderland.

Community Awareness

As if creating her own 2,700-square-foot miniature farm out of a suburban landscape wasn’t enough, Hebert is currently helping to create a neighborhood garden.

The garden is located in a community that was intentionally built around a small park, whose main feature is a public swimming pool. Looking for ways to attract more members to help finance the continued upkeep of the pool, the neighborhood hit upon the idea of a community garden, and Hebert seemed the logical person to spearhead it. “Somebody had to do it,” Hebert says.

She began by writing letters to every household surrounding the park, informing them of the project and inviting anyone to participate. Planning meetings were held, and work parties were organized.

Individuals and businesses donated planting mix, seeds, hoses and some tools, though volunteers mostly provided their own. Local builders have been contacting Hebert with offers of help and will eventually construct a fence and storage buildings for the garden.

Construction on the garden began with eight 4-by-8-foot raised beds. The first two were created using the lasagna method, but planting mix filled subsequent beds. Woodchips line the 3-foot-wide paths between each bed. Initially, cover crops were planted, but now, the beds contain greens, potatoes, peas, lettuce, strawberries, fava beans, flowers and herbs. Eventually, they hope to expand the garden with a “food forest” — different levels of plants that nourish each other.

rainwater barrel

Photo by Elyse Grau

Hebert and Saul use 1,200-gallon water barrels to collect enough rainwater to water the garden for a few months.

“It’s a real learning experience for people,” Hebert says of the project. “It’s really gratifying to hear people talk about what they’ve learned and what we’ve done in the garden. They take [what they’ve learned] home, and they build beds, using leaves rather than throwing out the leaves with the recycling.” (See "What is Permaculture" on page 3)

Home, Sweet Home

Hebert and Saul have created a country cottage in the middle of a modern city. Even their living room hints that this is not your ordinary city house — after all, how many homes boast a loom as a major piece of front-room furniture? It doesn’t look like a conventional farm, but it is every bit as productive as one. In 2009, their garden produced nearly 900 pounds of vegetables and close to 700 in 2010.

Soon, their house may not be as easy to pick out from the rest. Many of the neighbors are now following Hebert’s lead, landscaping their front yards with blueberry bushes and tomatoes instead of hedges and grass. One day, the entire neighborhood may turn into a food forest!

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