After we got the ground checked for metal objects, we knew which areas were definitely cleared for planting and digging. Fortunately, this includes a strip on the western edge of the site, where we had planned to create an edible hedge.
In our design, (and applying the permaculture idea of “stacking functions”), our edible hedge serves multiple functions:
- Establish and define our presence on the site: This sounds obvious, but since we are only starting to establish a sensitive garden in the middle of a previously open space used by visitors, dogs, cars and construction machinery, defining a “soft” edge is important.
- Windbreak and protection from the road: With most of the wind coming from the West, placing a hedge there is the best way to protect our garden and its inhabitants. This will change the microclimate in the garden, and reduce water evaporation. In addition, it will hopefully reduce noise and pollution from the nearby road.
- Edibility: We are trying to use only edible plants in our forest garden, and the hedge is no exception. Fortunately, there are many wild and semi-wild shrubs that produce edible fruits and nuts and are well-suited for a hedge.
- Wildlife habitat and food: Many birds, insects and mammals need dense vegetation for protection. Many hedge plants also provide birds with berries in winter, and reliable food for pollinators… and we are happy to share our hedge-snacks with them!
- Fertility: Any prunings from the hedge can be dropped where they are, or become mulch or compost for our closed garden system. Many hedge-compatible plants such as sea buckthorns (Hippophae) and other members of the Elaeagnus family can even fix nitrogen in the soil through their association with Frankia bacteria.
Ideally, we would have planted any shrubs in fall or early spring to give them time to establish themselves before the dry summer months, but due to our delayed permissions, we had to do it in June. Since the partnering garden project Peace of Land happened to get rid of some larger sea buckthorns, we were happy to jump in and give them a new home. As the name indicates, sea buckthorns are adapted to sandy soil and wind, which makes them a perfect match for our exposed little piece of airport!
The spontaneous rescue and planting operation was also a good dry-run (no pun intended) for our young organisation. Would we be able to plan and mobilize the necessary resources? We needed transport, tools, water and as many helping hands as possible, in the right place at the right time.
Eventually, everything worked out better than expected. More than 20 helpers showed up throughout the day, hauling spikey shrubs, hacking away at compacted soil in the sun, and generally having a great time. We met many old and new faces, and felt very much supported from many directions. Thank you so much to everyone who joined – you are the reason why we are here! What a great way to start our Westfeld Garten project!