- ARCHWAY AT GARDEN’S ENTRANCE
The entryway is the first thing a person sees and interacts with in the garden. –Its appearance plays a large role in first impressions and the overall “feel” and energy of the space. For this reason, it is important that the entryway be attractive and inviting.
This could be achieved by framing the gate with Mexican Sunflowers, or by erecting an artistic, sculptural archway. –There are red metal archways found throughout the city which seem to be a sort of Gulfport trademark….Having one of these arches at the garden would help identify it as a community space.
- TOOL SHED
Having an onsite tool shed will be essential for the the long term success of the garden. Without a place to store tools and other necessities, people will have to haul them back and forth from their home to the garden. Some may be willing to do this for a while, but very quickly it will become a hassle.
Not only will this cause people to stop participating, but it will limit who is able to participate in the first place. –Many community members may not have or be able to afford the purchase of tools, and if they do, they may not have the means to transport them back and forth.
Not only will the tool shed provide shelter and storage, but it will also provide an opportunity for water catchment (via the surface area of its roof). By catching and storing as much water as possible (to be used for irrigation), we can greatly reduce the amount of water that needs to be purchased from the city. By providing this function, the tool shed will eventually pay for itself.
The walls of the shed could be adorned with murals which serve enrich local culture and beautify the space. And the design and creation of the murals (by community members) could provide yet another opportunity for creating a sense of pride, ownership, and “place”.
- COMMUNITY GATHERING SPACE
–Including Cob Oven, Herb Spiral, and Seating–
Located beneath the shade of the large oak on the property, this will provide a cool, comfortable gathering space to be used for social events and educational workshops.
The cob oven can be used for potlucks and pizza parties, and the herb spiral is located nearby for easy access. Seating can be a combination of benches, picnic tables, chairs, and hammocks. –Working together to build the cob oven and some of the seating could provide opportunities for work parties, education, and socializing, as well as create a sense of ownership and pride in the space.
*About Cob: Cob is a natural building material made from sand, clay, water, and some sort of fibrous binding material–such as spanish moss. It is inexpensive, fireproof, and can easily be sculpted into creative, artistic sculptures. Because cob is made of earth, it is susceptible to erosion over time. For this reason, it should be sealed with a Lime Plaster
*About Herb Spirals: Herb spirals require a minimal amount of space, and create microclimates which support a variety of herbs that need different growing conditions. They’re aesthetically pleasing, and easy to build, maintain, and harvest.
- 4. Seven Story Garden / Food Forest
A seven story garden, also known as a food forest, duplicates the diversity and distinct spatial layers found within a natural forest. In doing so, beneficial relationships emerge, and the result is a healthy, functional ecosystem; one less vulnerable to disease, and maximally productive. Another benefit to the food forest, is that once it is established–other than harvesting, and the occasional casting of cover crop seeds–it requires very little work or maintenance.
The small, demonstration food forest we have designed for the gulfport community garden will have food available for harvest during all four seasons. This element of the garden will not only serve to educate, but will also provide an interactive element for those community members who do not wish to have an individual grow bed.
Plants to be included (listed according to times of harvest):
*Fall Harvest: Borage and Black Jack Fig.
*Winter Harvest: Loquat
*Spring Harvest: Dwarf Mulberry
*Also included: Sweet potato, nasturtium, mexican sunflowers, and comfrey.
- INDIVIDUAL GROW BEDS
There are many people within the community who would like to garden and grow food, but are unable to do so. –They may live in an apartment and not have a yard, or maybe they live in a neighborhood where growing food is prohibited by their H.O.A. Some people may actually have the space and ability to garden at home, but would rather go to a community garden, for the sake of socializing.
Individual grow beds will provide the space needed for these people to garden and grow their own food, and the income generated from the renting of these beds will help the garden support itself.
*Individual plots could also be rented out to groups (such as the Senior Center or Elementary school) or local restaraunts. One benefit of renting plots to groups is that multiple people would be caring for one space–increasing the likelihood that it would be maintained and well kept. This would also increase the overall number of participants in the garden, and encourage multigenerational and multicultural interactions.
- BANANA CIRCLE
Banana circles are multi-functional and can be used for food production, composting/soil building, water catchment, and education. The circle is created by digging a pit, approximately 3 ft deep and 6 ft in diameter, and then using the soil which was removed from the pit to create a mound around the entire circumference.
The mound is used to grow a variety of edible plants, and the pit in the center can either be used as a small pond or as a composting site.
*Suggested Plants include: banana, papaya, sweet potato, comfrey and marigolds.
- COMPOSTING AREA
Due to the sandy nature and poor nutrient content of Florida soil, amendments (to the soil) will be absolutely necessary. Also, because the site was once residential, it is quite possible that the soil is contaminated and could contain traces of lead (to be on the safe side we should assume this is the case and not grow food directly in the ground. –Raised beds should be created (or lined hugelculture beds) to ensure safety. This will mean soil will need to be brought in or built on site. For this reason (and for education purposes) we have included a composting area in our design.
About compost: Compost is made up of four elements: nitrogen, carbon, water, and air. For nitrogen, add layers of green plants and manure; for carbon add layers of brown/woody materials–such as leaves, straw and mulch; hosing down and flipping the pile adds water and air. *A static composting method requires very little flipping or maintenance and will produce high quality, nutrient rich compost in as little as 6 months.
(We can be building compost / soil while implementing the other stages of the design. –Growing in individual plots should not begin until the community has worked together to create the space and implement the entire design… This could take up to a year, and is crucial for the long term success of the garden).
- PERENNIAL EDIBLES THROUGHOUT THE GARDEN
Having edible perennial plants sprinkled throughout the property will serve multiple functions (and they only have to be planted ONCE):
*Perennial vining plants allowed to grow along the fence will serve as a year round camouflage for the the chain-link fence, both beautifying the space and creating a cooling effect along the borders of the garden. Plants like Passion vine, Barbados cherry and Suriname Cherry will also provide colorful flowers and fruit at different times of the year, while requiring little to no maintenance.
*Okinawan spinach–with its beautiful deep purple and green leaves–is a superfood which grows year round. It’s a low lying shrubby plant, perfect for edible landscaping in florida. –It is drought resistant and requires no maintenance whatsoever. We have included this in our design (running east to west along the southernmost fence).
*Nasturtiums sprinkled around the border of the property will help deter pests and provide an edible, flowering ground cover which will deter weeds and create cooling microclimates while attracting pollinators (such as butterflies and bees).
*New Zealand Spinach also makes an excellent and beautiful ground cover; providing a year round food source in addition to creating microclimates and deterring weeds.