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The Green Report: 'Hugelkulture' in your own backyard - Dunwoody Crier: Our Columnists

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The Green Report: 'Hugelkulture' in your own backyard

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Posted: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 10:17 am

Inspired by that theme more than 20 friends gathered in Lisa Macy’s backyard this spring to build a sharing garden.

Rachel Boim, an organic gardener, helped friends from Dunwoody, Roswell and Sandy Springs transform the meadow along the Georgia Power easement in Macy’s backyard into the “Knight in Shining Armor Farm.” The name playfully refers to the towers along the easement.

The first task was to “turn dirt into soil” by amending the heavy Georgia clay with 10 cubic yards of worm-rich black, compost, delivered by DeKalb County. Then the willing workers built five beds for seeding.

Two “hugelkulture” beds are the grand experiment of the garden. Hugelkulture is the practice of building beds over a large stack of branches and sticks. The wood and air pockets under the bed retain water, and the soil is enriched as the branches decay. “Our goal is to minimize watering,” according to Lisa Macy, “and rely largely on rain and two rain barrels.” The team planted watermelons, carrots, celeriac and onions in the hugelkulture beds. “Another advantage of hugelkulture is that the beds are so tall you can plant in the side walls for more growing space.”

The “piece de resistance” is an herb spiral. Herbs that need the most water are planted at the top of the 2-foot spiraling mound of dirt, and more drought tolerant herbs are lower. Every inch of space - the sides, paths and peaks - are seeded with coriander, caraway, yarrow, and dill.

The “Three Sisters” raised bed is sprouting corn, beans and squash. These crops are symbiotic - each supplies nutrients the other plants need and deter pests. The corn stalks provide support for climbing bean vines and the squash leaves provide ground cover to maximize water and shade.

Five tires, stacked pyramid-style, host potato plants whose cascading leaves will look like a green waterfall by summer.

While those who like to get their hands dirty built the beds, Jon Weiner built a compost bin from palates, and a rose trellis from scrap lumber. Bobbi Sedam and Trudi Dido explained how to add a Walter Reeves’ “rat excluder” to the compost bin, to keep out unwelcome critters. Another team repurposed plastic bottles into mini-greenhouses for pepper, basil and flower seeds.

“Everything was donated by someone, including food for the workers and a wheelbarrow,” said Rachel Boim, who donated her time to design the garden and lead the work/party.

“It was truly a labor of love.”

Connie Morelle, chairman of the Dunwoody Sustainability Commission added, “It was a great community effort and a ton of fun!”

The Dunwoody Community Garden’s plant sale days are April 14, 15, 21 and 22 from 1 to 5 p.m. Vegetables, herbs, flowers and more are on the ‘take me home’ list. The Community Garden is within Brook Run Park at 4770 N. Peachtree Rd., Dunwoody 30338. Admission is free.

The public is invited to attend Dunwoody Sustainability Commission meetings and input is invited at the end of each meeting. The Commission meets the second Thursday of every month at 7:45 a.m. in the City Council Chambers, 41 Perimeter Center East, Dunwoody, Ga., 30346. The Commission members are appointed by the Dunwoody City Council. For more information about the Sustainability Commission, visit the city website at dunwoodyga.gov.

© 2016 Dunwoody Crier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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