March has arrived, and spring is in the air. Time to think about planting—seeds, ideas and plans for improving our city.
Planning for Urban Tree Conservation By-law Review
Despite some protections, Ottawa’s trees are at risk—including from development and infill. The City of Ottawa is slated to review its Urban Tree Conservation By-law this year. Join other community members to plan for public input into how the by-law can truly protect Ottawa’s trees, including mature trees. The meeting will be held on Saturday, Mar. 3, 2018from 1-3 p.m. at the Champlain Park fieldhouse, 140 Cowley Ave.
Seedy Saturday Ottawa
Stock up on seeds for your garden at Seedy Saturday, Ottawa’s annual seed sale and exchange. It’s a great place to find heritage seeds and other garden-related stuff, and learn from local farmers, gardening and environmental groups. Talks cover growing tips, worm composting, and seed diversity around the world. Seedy Saturday takes place on Saturday, Mar. 3, 2018 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Ron Kolbus Lakeside Centre.
Potluck and Workshops at the Just Food Red Barn
Starting Wednesday, Mar. 21, 2018, Just Food will host monthly potlucks in their new Red Barn community space, followed by workshops on food topics. The March 21st workshop is on seed saving with Kate Green. Participants will learn effective seed garden planting, and how to access seeds through the Ottawa Seed Library. Potluck 6-7:30 p.m., workshop 7:30-9 p.m.; see the website event page for details. (For more upcoming events and news related to Ottawa’s food system, be sure to sign up for Just Food’s newsletter.)
(StittsvilleCentral.ca Editor’s note: I recently went for a walk with Paul Wilson around the site of the future Blackstone Community Park near his home. Like many new parks in our community, city staff are planning to build a play structure, a swing set, a splash pad, some sports fields, and so on. But when Paul looks out over the field of dirt and snow, he sees potential for a permaculture food forest. In this letter, he explains what the concept is all about. -GG.)
I would like to see all new community and district parks include food forests. The initial Blackstone food forest can become a community engagement destination and support charity and educational engagement. The food forest, and nearby park features, can provide outdoor community spaces for numerous activities, including quiet reflection or picnics, in a setting conducive to education on the benefits of planting edible trees. It is intended to develop close ties to the other synergistic groups in the region.
My goal is to establish organic food forests within Stittsville and City of Ottawa with an emphasis on permanent, restorative agriculture. By design, a permaculture approach in these forests builds soil structure, uses less water and can yields a dramatic amount of highly nutritious food per square meter.
Caveat: I am using many words, definitions and images created by others.
While I’m not an expert, there are a few things I’ve discovered about creating more sustainable forests, in particular why permaculture is important. While the name is tossed around or omitted sometimes (as it is assumed), it’s important because it is the design system for food production that can be sustainable and minimizes the maintenance issues associated with forest management. For it to be used in city parks, low maintenance costs can make a difference. For any volunteers, less work is better.
Permaculture is a system of agricultural and social design principles centred around simulating or directly utilizing the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems. Let nature do what nature does best: grow and evolve.
A food forest is a gardening technique or land management system which mimics a woodland ecosystem by incorporating edible trees, shrubs, perennials, mushrooms and annuals. This is more than a garden with trees. It is a seven-layer system where a key aspect is diversity: a polyculture of native plants with careful selection of non-native and non-invasion varieties; promoting a symbiosis, less disease, longer grazing period for pollinators.
Permaculture food forest principles emphasize plant selections that are edible by people and support natural ecosystems such as bees, birds, and native inhabitants.
I think of the 3 P’s: Plants, Participants and Produce. Key is a good design of plants and in establishing the forest, the multi-year approaches to creating synergies between the layers (it is easier than it sounds). The participants are the people/volunteers, insects, birds, animals – the community enables the forest to thrive. The produce is more than all the wonderful edibles and includes the environmental benefits, soil enrichment and all what may be viewed as intangibles – the ways the participants thrive in the forest… some claim, a “breathable, life enhancing, realm”.
I’ve always liked the following image to show the seven layers:
As described in the image, these are the edible polyculture layers:
Canopy layer consisting of tall nut and fruit trees.
Low-tree layer of smaller nut and fruit trees on dwarfing root stocks.
Shrub layer of fruit and nut bushes such as currants and berries.
Herbaceous layer of perennial vegetables and herbs.
Rhizosphere or underground dimension of plants grown for their roots and tubers.
Ground cover layer of edible plants that spread horizontally.
Virtual layer of vines and climbers
The plants selected would be appropriate for our local community and climate zone, and suitable for a public park.
On Thursday, February 8, 2018 from 6:30-8:45 pm there will be a public information session on the proposed design plan for the Blackstone Community Park at the Goulbourn Recreation Complex. The current proposed plans for this park have recently been posted (you can see them here) but this current proposal does not fully establish a food forest; rather a provision for a future community garden and the initial planting of fruit and nut trees.
If you are interested in seeing a food forest in our community, please provide your input and if possible, attend the meeting. I’m hopeful many members of our community will take the time to express their views. The city is encouraging residents to provide their feedback on the proposed plans to:
Festivals can be great ways to get outside, celebrate the diversity that is Ottawa, and connect with community. Starting this week:
Welcoming Ottawa Week, June 20-30, 2017
WelcomingOttawa Week is an annual festival celebrating Ottawa as a city that welcomes newcomers, and hosting events where residents can get to know more about each other. Activities include a series of heritage walks in Chinatown, Little Italy and Lowertown with local residents sharing the stories of how immigrants have shaped those neighbourhoods, and Indigenous Walks, to understand Ottawa’s public spaces from an Indigenous perspective. There’s also a recreational soccer tournament, photo and art exhibits, film screenings, community picnics and much more.
Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival, June 20-25, 2017
This colourful and fascinating annual festival at Vincent Massey Park (and a few other places) celebrates the artistic and culture diversity of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. It includes live musical performances, theatre, art and food vendors, Aboriginal Day Live! and a three-day Pow Wow. Not to miss.
Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival, June 22-25, 2017
With origins connected to nature and the bounty of the land and water, the annual Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival brings more than 150 teams to compete in dragon boat races at Mooney’s Bay Park. There’s also live music, a family zone, food vendors and more.
June is underway with some amazing (and free) activities and events.
Kitchi Blanket Exercise
Join KAIROS in a journey to help understand the effects of colonization on Indigenous peoples. Using blankets that represent the land, participants trace a shared history from life before colonization, through treaties, residential schools, the “60s’ scoop” and more. Friday, Jun. 2, 2017 from 5-7:30 p.m. on Parliament Hill. A Pot Luck Community Feast and Open Mic on Saturday, Jun. 3, 6-9 p.m. at the Bronson Centre will honour Blanket Exercise facilitators and Elders.
Visit an organic farm, re-imagine uses of the Ottawa Rail Bridge, help spread native plant seeds, join a hike and yoga in Gatineau Park, or take part in any of the other dozens of micro-actions in support of the environment and civic engagement on #100In1Day in Ottawa. It’s on Saturday, Jun. 3, 2017; see the website for details.
Doors Open Ottawa
This is your chance to see inside buildings not normally open to the public, and/or of historical, architectural or civic interest. Included are the Lemieux Island water purification plant, Parks Canada’s conservation labs, Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind’s national training centre, SunTech Greenhouses, the Wild Bird Care Centre, and many embassies, museums, places of worship, government buildings, fire stations, sports and sailing clubs, art studios and more. Cycle or take a shuttle bus between some of the sites (see website for details). Buildings are open Saturday, Jun. 3 and/or Sunday, Jun. 4; check the schedule for times.
A great reason to spend some time outdoors: Westfest, Ottawa’s free festival of music, art and family activities, with an incredible lineup of performers. It’s happening Friday, Jun. 3-Sunday, Jun. 4 in Laroche Park, Mechanicsville. See the website for schedule and details.
World Environment Day
Reconnect with nature: that’s the theme of this year’s World Environment Day, #WithNature, on Monday, Jun. 5, 2017. Take part by spending time in a park, going for a hike, planting a tree, birdwatching or digging in the garden; add some indoor plants to your life. Take photos and share what you’ve discovered. Contribute a landscape photo to the “World’s Biggest Nature Album,” or help build “the world’s largest nature database” by downloading the iNaturalist app and using it to record the biodiversity around you. You can also search for WED-related events in Ottawa.
The 10th annual Great Glebe GREEN Garage Sale is happening Saturday, May 27, 2017 as part of the massive Great Glebe Garage Sale. This year you’ll find…free trees! There’s also a veggie BBQ, water bottle filling station and entertainment. Find it all at 680 & 690 Bank St. (Rogers Plus and Kunstadt Sports parking lots).
Ottawa Race Weekend
There’s still time to support runners and walkers in the annual Ottawa Race Weekend, May 27-28, 2017. Many are running for good causes–check out the list of charities involved. (I’m participating for MitoCanada.)
March Against Monsanto
On Saturday, May 27, March Against Monsanto – Gatineau/Ottawa takes place to raise awareness about the risks of genetically modified foods, neonicotinoids and harmful agricultural practices. It’s from 1:30-2:30 starting at the entrance to Major’s Hill Park.