Students install permaculture planting at CVA

CVA visitors may notice a new planting on the slope across from the main entrance to Diss Field. It is the work of Krista Harwick’s Ecology classes and Ecology Club.

In the fall of 2016, the Ecology classes and club went on a field trip to a permaculture site in Utica. Permaculture is the development of sustainable and self-sufficient agricultural systems patterned after healthy natural ecosystems.

Throughout the winter, students researched permaculture methods and planting options. They developed a plan for a planting at CVA, then worked with Mr. Keeler, Mr. Boyd, and contractors to find an ideal location.

Preparation became reality when Anna Engel and Logan Marrello helped install the garden during Regents week. The class used a method called sheet mulching. They laid down cardboard, then topped it with mulch and compost. This mimics the leaf layer that covers the forest floor each fall. The leaves smother competing plants, then decompose to enrich the soil, feeding the existing trees. There are no herbicides, additional fertilizers, or irrigation.

The CVA planting includes red raspberries, asparagus, sage, thyme, mint, lavender, and chives. Future Ecology classes and clubs will add to this initial site.

The class studied permaculture as a viable alternative to commercial agriculture and traditional home gardening. It is a proven method of planting perennials for food, medicine, or wildlife. Working with the natural soil quality, topography, and climate of a landscape, it is a low maintenance replacement for yards and lawns that increases biodiversity and lasts for decades.

steep green slope of grass in the foreground with tall weeds and trees in the background

The site was mowed grass between parking lots across from the main entrance to Diss Field.

grassy area with three small berms of mulch running across the face of the slope

The first step was to add small berms of soil and compost across the face of the hill to slow runoff and minimize erosion.

cardboard placed between the berms. Boy digging with a shovel

The next step was to lay down cardboard to smother the existing plants. Perennial herbs, vegetables and fruits were planted in the ground.

completed garden with three sections divided by berms. A stone path runs vertically from top to bottom

The finished garden. Layers of mulch and compost hold the cardboard in place and provide nutrients.