Category Archives: Management

To hugelkulture or not to hugelkulture? Mulch is the question @ Rahma

Rahma Forest Garden is likely one of the most carbon rich soil sites in the city of Syracuse. Trees and perennial plants have been established there for over 5 years, and many truck loads of mulch have been spread on the site with Syracuse Grows’ annual garden Resource Drive. We chop and drop some plants like black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) and comfrey (Symphytum) to help build soil Carbon & Nitrogen. In addition to chop & dropping some plants, we accumulate a lot of plant matter from weeding, thinning, and pruning on site, which gets piled up in a low pallet fence roughly separating woody debris from green materials.

This piled up plant debris is useful in theory. In reality, the piles are too loosely stacked to effectively break down, they are unwieldy to move or turn over, and they ultimately end up an eye sore (or once upon a time, a nest for abandoned kittens!), needing to be brought to the curb for city pickup.

Mulch from Syracuse Grows waiting to be spread with pitch forks & shovels, buckets & wheelbarrows at Rahma Forest Garden September 22, 2018

City pickup is a nice option as the city has substantial mulching infrastructure & logistics, and the mulch made from city yard waste like that at Rahma Forest Garden is available for pickup at various locations for free. We end up cycling nutrients from Rahma Forest Garden, to the city composting facilities, then back to Rahma Forest Garden in some cases (or in some ‘Carbons’)! Taking a closer look at this nutrient cycle, city pickup means the use of fossil fuels (trucks, heavy machinery) and the removal of nutrients from on the garden. That yard waste grew from sun, water and soil. If the goal is to build soil with a low-footprint as part of the regenerative garden, isn’t there a more regenerative solution? Some options being considered are listed below. The question at hand is: what’s the best way(s) to handle plant waste from the forest garden, maintaining healthy nutrient cycles for the site and beyond?

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Revisiting Rahma – restocking of Rahma Edible Food Forest after 5 years of tree growth

A fundraiser for $500 dollars

In 2012 we started the journey together through design, fundraising and organizing, to build a forest garden on the grounds of the Rahma Free Clinic.  In 2018, after 5 years of growing a forest, we will revisit and renew, taking an intentional look at what succeeded and what failed, redesigning plots and polycultures, and replanting and newly mulching spaces that haven’t yet fulfilled their potential at the Rahma Edible Forest Snack Garden in Syracuse NY, located at 3100 South Salina St.

For example, one of our first plots – the paw-paw/currant/gooseberry/mint polyculture – has been very stable, though we lost one pawpaw tree following a dry period during the summer of 2016.   Most of the groundcover and herbaceous layer is productive, but some spots have seen takeover by plant species that we would rather convert to other productive residents.  Thistle and wild lettuce will be replaced with  friendlier clover, gaps between under-story specimens will be re-mulched and filled in with cuttings from the adjacent gooseberry and currants, and the pawpaw loss will be replanted with two new 4-foot tall saplings (approximate cost with shipping $100.00).

Second, the center of out garden has often suffered from dry periods, and the trees planted there have either been mortality specimens or have grown very very slowly.  We will replant with a monarch waystation patch of 32 plants including 6 different species* ($136.85), as well as a triumvirate of Adirondack Gold Apricot trees ($104.24)!

The remaining funds from the $500 raised will go towards supplies and materials such as plant stakes, ID tags, snacks for volunteers, and clover seed.  If we raise more than the $500, we’ll be able to extend our revisit to other patches in the forest too!  Come take a look and share what areas you’d like to see receive some extra special TLC this year.

* (5) Butterflyweed for Clay (3″ Pots), (5) Rough Blazingstar (3″ Pots), (5) Common Milkweed (3″ Pots), (5) Sky Blue Aster (3″ Pots), (6) Hoary Vervain (3″ Pots), (6) Purple Coneflower (3″ Pots)

Picture above is from our annual Juneberry harvest!  The perks we are providing to donors of this campaign are not metered out in buttons, or keychains, or postcards, or any other trinkets, but in real food, and planting stock, and seeds, that we give away and share with anyone that visits the edible food forest, from the plants that we grow on site!

ANP President Joins PAN Educators Pledge

The Alchemical Nursery Project’s President and Co-Founder Frank Cetera has joined the initial cohort of early adopters in taking the Permaculture Association of the Northeast’s Educators Pledge.  

“PAN’s Permaculture Educators’ Pledge is a voluntary commitment to uphold integrity in permaculture education. It describes a set of best practices permaculture educators use to design and teach their classes and events. This Pledge was created so that permaculture practitioners in our region, from beginners to emerging leaders, receive high-quality educational experiences and mentorship. It clarifies expectations in permaculture educational experiences and allows students to know teachers that sign the pledge honor and are committed to these practices.

This Pledge is a “living” document. PAN will continue to work to create opportunities for continued learning, sharing, feedback and suggestions regarding this pledge to ensure it continues to reflect the network’s values and desired best practices. These community-developed education practices were co-created BY members of the network FOR members of the network over a multi-year period, including input from the 2014 NAPC POC and Allies caucus. Those who sign the Pledge may advertise this designation on their websites and outreach materials. Permaculture educators who adhere to the Pledge must sign it annually. PAN does not make any guarantee that the individual educator is complying with the Pledge, though the network is open to exploring methods of increasing accountability.

WE PLEDGE THAT IN OUR TEACHING and MENTORING we:”

Honor and acknowledge the indigenous origins and techniques in permaculture. 
Teach to a diversity of learning styles, abilities and experiences. 
Teach to reach- auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learners. 
Accommodate access; i.e hold classes in spaces that are ADA compliant, scent free, allow for interpreters
or translators. 
Conduct the classroom as a safe space for learning. We do not discriminate based on race, gender, sexual
orientation, ability, immigration status. 
Recognize and engage students as bearers of knowledge. 
Cultivate ample diversity in the classroom. 
Are transparent with curriculum, teachers’ qualifications, and teachers’ bios by posting them on your
website and/or promotional materials. 
Share syllabus, daily schedule, etc. with all prospective and registered students. 
Cite or acknowledge material used or built upon from other teachers and sources. 
Design in breaks and easy access for food, water, and bathroom. 
Articulate and model a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment and sexual misconduct. 
Create mechanisms for feedback from students. 
Read and incorporate feedback into future teaching. 
Teach with diverse teaching teams, and highlight the work of women, people of color and other marginalized groups in case studies, field trips, works cited, etc. 
Highlight and connect with local teachers, projects and community members. 
Decrease financial and other barriers for attendance, i.e sliding scale, early bird pricing, payment plans, work trade, scholarships, child-care, weekend formats. 
Pay a living wage or offer equitable barter to all guest teachers, assistant teachers and organizers. 
Create opportunities for continued mentorship and pathways to leadership. 

For full details on the pledge visit http://northeastpermaculture.org/get-involved/the-pan-permaculture-educators-pledge/

Member Patrons Benefits and Supports

Become a member patron today by giving only $1 per month ($12 annually or more if you can), and support our ongoing projects:

  • caring for and growing 3 plant communities (gardens),
  • plant sale and swap,
  • film events (this year we will feature “Project Wild Thing” as part of the Gifford/Artrage What If? series),
  • curating information for followers on social media,
  • leading community clean-ups in 2 neighborhoods for Earth Day/Clean Up Cuse,
  • continuation of the garden art signs project,
  • SALT-CNY list-serv

and some new projects:

  • partnership and fiscal sponsorship with Spark Art Space,
  • lionhearted zine gallery in the wild,
  • seed saving and seed library introduction to Syracuse,
  • Board diversity campaign,
  • 2nd location/date for the spring plant swap/sale added to calendar –
  • and more to come, with more details about each of these projects in abundance.

Please donate today as we celebrate 10 years of serving the Permaculture/CNY Community. https://www.patreon.com/alchemicalnursery

NOTE: $12 minimum annual patrons receive one free garden art sign yearly (extra signs available to purchase for $10 each); and $10 in credit to our annual plant sale.