Posted on Wed, February 24, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
0 Comments | Categories: Biodiversity, Farms and Farming, Uncategorized,
by Emily Vaughn three-sisters garden
Gardeners are problem-solvers. Depending on their circumstances, they become experts on coping with rocky soil, too much shade, rural varmints or limited space. But very few people besides Carissa Carman and her team of collaborators have firsthand knowledge of how successfully install a garden on the bed of a seafaring barge.
Carman, a social practice artist and seasoned gardener, was the Living Systems Director & Designer for The Waterpoda stunning biodynamic sculpture and autonomous living structure organized by artist Mary Mattingly. As it toured the waterways of New York City last summer, the Waterpod fed, powered, and watered itself by virtue of innovative technologies like a bike-powered electricity generator, and a series of gardens that others have only imagined.
The original plans for the living systems included a contained garden bed, and were outfitted with detailed co-designs from an engineering class at Humboldt State University. But as the project took shape, constraints emerged—like high winds, salty air, Waterpod residents food allergies, and lack of spacethat changed the planting methods used, and the plants themselves.
Carman viewed the groups ability to evolve its designs to meet such obstacles as one of the projects greatest successes. There were so many systems that were exciting and new, says Carman. Some of the basic construction was one of our biggest challenges. With the help of volunteers and visitors, the Waterpod food system expanded to include a wide range of growing methods, like self-irrigating planters (SIPs), companion planting (like a
three-sisters gardenand a stacking and packing bed), and hydroponic installations. Even the flowers (aesthetic pollinators) contributed to the central mission of the gardens: make sure theres plenty to eat!
Deliberate planting methods helped ensure a bountiful harvest with minimal waste. Growing multiple varieties of each crop made the garden less susceptible to blight and pest infestations. A permaculture expert helped create a closed-loop ecosystem, so that grey water from the kitchen fed plants, food scraps fed the four chickens on board, and manure from the chicken coop nourished the plants. And the seeds themselvesheirloom varieties from Seed Savers Exchange, Hudson Valley Seed Library, Seeds of Change, or donated from the collections of Carman and several of her seed-saving friendswere deliberately chosen for hardiness and taste. Three crops grown and eaten on board are on Slow Food USAs Ark of Taste: Speckled lettuce, Tennis Ball lettuce, and the Cherokee Purple tomato.
By welcoming the input of visitors and volunteers, the garden became a productive catalyst for communication. The Waterpod is now closed to the public, but theres plenty of media online about their activities that will make you thankful thatwhatever challenges your garden may poseat least its on dry land.