Environmental - Our Permaculture Garden
Members of First Unitarian have constructed a 5,400 square foot permaculture garden as a way to express one of our core Unitarian Universalist principles: Respect for the Interdependent Web of Life. The principle provides a natural fit for the discipline of permaculture, which follows ecological principles to create durable, positive relationships between soil, plants, animals, and human beings.
Work on the garden began in 2010, when some 50 volunteers covered a plain grass median with a lasagna mulch---multiple layers of compost, cardboard (to kill the grass before decomposing into soil enriching carbon), more compost, dead leaves, top soil and mulch.
By spring, the lasagna mulch was well on its way to becoming black, microbe-rich soil. Still more volunteers cut and laid gravel paths, piling the new soil to planting areas. They followed by planting a "nibbling garden"—blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, persimmons, onions, sorrel, as well as tea plants like anise hyssop. Following permaculture principles, these plants were accompanied by plants that fix nitrogen, accumulate other nutrients like phosphorous, and attract beneficial insects.
But the garden designers stressed another element, as well: aesthetics. Pinks, mixed with oranges and white—and even some purple asparagus—draw people in. Stone seating walls, teak benches, vine-covered arches, a children's water maze, chess tables and stools make people want to stay, sit, and talk.
In the end, 120 volunteer workers and contributions of over $55,000 have created a unique space: one of the largest permaculture gardens in Northeast Ohio and only the second Unitarian Universalist permaculture garden in the United States. It's become a key component in First Unitarian's designation by the Unitarian Universalist Association as a Green Sanctuary (link to that web page). What's next? Expanded permaculture gardens elsewhere on church property? Group permaculture installations at member homes? Active support for permaculture projects around Northeast Ohio? One thing is clear at First Unitarian. We not only respect the Interdependent Web of Life, we engage it.