In the Fall of 2019, the Vernon Permaculture group applied for and received a Sustainability Grant from the City of Vernon to install two examples of miniature “food forests”, one at City Hall (now removed, see below) and the other next to the Okanagan Science Centre by Polson Park.
A food forest aims to mimic the 7 layers of a natural forest with a mix of edible plants and support plants. The focus was mainly on soil building in the first year, knowing it takes some time for this type of system to mature and be productive. We planted lupin, orach, strawberries, peas, kale, apricot tree, almond tree, elderberry, sunflowers, lettuce, raspberries and more! We leave the plants to die back in the winter, which means anyone can go and harvest seed for their own gardens from these sites. (picture from June 2022)
With the help of volunteers, we brought in compost, soil, straw, mycorrhizae and plants and installed just before the pandemic hit. These sites offer free food to anyone wandering by.
Summer 2021 brought an intense heatwave followed by historic wildfires that both of our project leads had to flee from and although these sites had no irrigation, many of the plants miraculously survived! This is a testament to utilizing solid strategies guided by nature and using biodiverse plantings and a nice thick layer of straw mulch and initial deep watering. Some plants, however, did not survive, although many reseeded and bounced back later.
This style of landscaping is different than conventional and manicured City gardens and requires more public education as to the value of things like straw as mulch and leaving “dead” plants to feed birds and reseed themselves. Soil needs to be protected, and mulch is how we do that. Organic straw mulch is relatively affordable, available and goes a long way in terms of help soil with water-holding, which is why we chose it for this micro-grant project.
The V.E.G. site at City Hall had to be removed, sadly. We always knew it was a very small piece of land to do this, but for a short time, it may have fed a few people and offered some seeds to be planted in other gardens. Thankfully, some of the plants from this site were able to be re-homed at the Lighthouse Community Food Forest in Salmon Arm. (see below)
When we are looking for solutions to the climate crisis, they are not going to look like “business as usual”.
The V.E.G. site at the Science Centre/Polson Park is still there and as it grows you’ll be able to more clearly make out the Paw Paws (a fruit which is like half-banana, half mango), the mulberry and all that lovely red colour you see is orach, a spinach-like plant that is not only edible, but looks gorgeous growing. We did offer a few tours of these sites to explain them to the public, and would love to do more of this in 2022.
The 3rd V.E.G. space, was planted with Academy of Inquiry & Adventure Okanagan near BX elementary, where there is a heartnut walnut, 2 hazelnuts, a peach, a Japanese raisin, and a Hican (pecan/hickory cross). Erik worked with students to empower them to connect with the land and grow local, organic food.
Thanks for your interest in the Vernon Edible Gardens (V.E.G.)! More to come from Project Lead Erik Hrabovsky & and co-manager Keli Westgate (pictured here on installation day with Dan) Find out more about Vernon Permaculture when we meet at the Vernon Library (in person when allowed) on the last Wednesday of each month at 7pm.
We’d love to hear from you if you had any experience with or harvested any food from these areas.These types of environmental/soil building/food security projects fit right into the Climate Action Plan that was adopted by Council in April of 2021.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved and/or follow the Vernon Permaculture group on Facebook or reach out to Project Lead Erik Hrabovsky at email@example.com