April 2014 – Easterly Expansion
The Haultain Annex used to hug one side of a tall hedge, just beyond eye-and-ear shot of a nearby bus stop. In April 2014, I talked to Todd, the adjacent homeowner, about an expansion stretching east. Was he ok with the idea of sheet-mulching more boulevard, so that the garden could embrace the bus pad? People waiting could enjoy bus stop berries, and I could chat with them on days when I worked to water and weed. Todd gave his informed consent, so on Easter weekend I mulched easterly! As a happy coincidence, the day I did the work, City Councillor Ben Isitt cycled past, and stopped to ask me what the City could do to better support boulevard gardening. Soon, Ben and I were working together toward the introduction of Boulevard Gardening Guidelines, in Victoria.
For a more detailed description of sheet mulching, step-by-step, check out the slideshow for Fair Field Founded.
2012 to 2016 – Creation and Evolution
The Haultain Annex shows us how a boulevard garden can pass from creator to caregiver, with little fuss. Located on the north-east corner of Haultain and Asquith, the Annex might be easily mistaken for its neighbour and inspiration, the Haultain Common. But the Common and the Annex each have their own unique stories of creation and evolution. Each was established by adjacent homeowners and is supported by caregivers near and far, but to different degrees.
The Annex is the offspring of kale-crossed lovers. The immediately adjacent homeowners wanted a boulevard garden but not mulching or maintenance work, and Pedal to Petal (a local composting business) was happy to do the work but needed some space. P-to-P advertised its wish to give birth on the boulevard, and the homeowners were seduced. Soon, P-to-P arrived with cardboard, compost and kale, and a new garden was sheet-mulched into life. That was 2012.
P-to-P looked after basic maintenance for a year, but personnel changes made it difficult to carry on. In the meantime, the adjacent home changed hands. The new homeowners, Todd and Lisa, were keen to keep the garden, but like the previous homeowners, they needed someone to look after it. Another match took shape: one of the people helping maintain the Haultain Common (that’s me) offered to help out on the Annex, and Todd and Lisa said ‘ok’. Just like that, a new caregiver.
The Annex is a wide, L-shaped space between the sidewalk and a hedge. In spring 2013, soon after stepping in, I worked to open up access to the centre of the space by carving a curvy little path. Under permaculture principles, one problem can solve another. To put that principle into practice, I transplanted some strawberries from the Common, where they were too densely packed, to the Annex, where plants were needed. I also planted potatoes, and sowed some kale and arugula seed. I planted elderberry bushes, a goji berry bush (it died; rest in peace), and more. Thus, a rebirth.
Some people believe that grassy boulevards are the nature of things. Gardeners will grow tired of boulevard maintenance, say the skeptics, and then grass will need to be ‘restored’. This is grass-backwards. Non-native grass does not belong here. It takes a lot of water and work to be presentable. Establishing a boulevard garden, especially with native perennials, is restoration work. Once a garden is established, that’s a step toward sustainability. Even if maintenance slacks off, what do you get? Strawberry sprawl?! Un-pruned Saskatoons?! Bring it on!
The better-case scenario: someone establishes the garden, maintains it, then moves on, and someone else takes over. Plenty of people in Victoria live in apartments and condos, with no access to garden space. Some of these folks line up on long lists, waiting endlessly for allotment gardens. Some of these same folks may be more than happy to take over already-established boulevard gardens. I was lucky to find an opportunity on the Annex. Now, the Compost Education Centre provides match-making services, helping eager gardeners and lonesome gardens find one another. If you identify with either group, feel free to write to email@example.com.