Last Saturday, after attending the Fitchburg Fields Garden Fair, I stopped over at the People’s Food Forest Garden next to Forest Products Laboratory for their work day. This garden is an effort that is part of the USDA People’s Garden Initiative. According to the fact sheet, “this unique garden was designed to provide a sampling of the USDA’s efforts to teach others how to nurture, maintain, and protect a healthy landscape.”I enjoyed seeing permaculture practices up close. Being on a hillside, erosion and runoff were problems prior to the addition of swales and berms that slow and absorb rainwater. The garden is centered around a hawthorn and three crabapple trees, with additional plantings to create guilds that support these trees. There are fruiting plants such as currants, highbush cranberries, elderberries, bush cherries, and strawberries. Yarrow and bergamot attract beneficial insects. There are nitrogen-fixing plants like lupines, and nutrient accumulators like comfrey. Chives and daylilies along an edge help keep back the grass and weeds. During Saturday’s work day, I helped pull up Creeping Charlie along the edge of the garden. Other volunteers spread new mulch, investigated the swales, and pruned bushes and trees. The day was windy with some brief sprinkles and hail, but it was relaxing and enjoyable, sitting under a crabapple tree with wonderful plant smells in the air, focused on that Creeping Charlie with little purple flowers.
On Thursday evening, the Madison Area Permaculture Guild toured the gardens for our monthly meeting. Below are some photos I took of the plants.
If you would like to visit the garden, it is located by the westside of the University of Wisconsin campus off Observatory Drive. The address is 1 Gifford Pinchot Drive and the garden sits between the Forest Products Laboratory building and their Research Demonstration House.