Meeting with Geoff Johnston at the People’s Apothecary


The Green tongues collective met with Geoff Johnston (an amazing permaculturalist!) a few weeks ago at the people’s apothecary garden behind the Vancouver Island School of Art to help the group establish a garden design. Geoff has created multiple perennial garden sites, including The “Spring Ridge Commons” in Fernwood.

Geoff pointed out that the area we have already mulched is unfortunately the shadiest area of the lot. But encouraged us to create a solar map of the mulched area in order to understand where the sunniest spots of the garden will be. Once we decide as a group what perennials we want to plant, he told us the next step will be to source and plant the trees and shrubs inthe sunniest areas based on our solar map.

Then we should cut out paths around the medicinal plants using up as little path space as possible, while making sure we will be able to reach all areas of the garden from the paths. He mentioned keyhole beds, which is a way to make a path which minimizes how much space the path takes up, which increasing how much garden bed can be accessed from the path.

Once the perennials are planted and the paths are carved out, Geoff told us to sheet mulch around the perennials, then finally plant the annuals into the areas we have sheet mulched.

He encouraged us to put the large medicinal perennials in the sunniest area of the garden. And said that it would be good to grow annual herbs in the center of the garden. He also mentioned to us that we could grow climbing varieties of medicinal plants up the chain link fence beside the garden. Also, if we do want a hangout area or a gazebo it could be in the shade to increase how much sunny area is available for plants. At the base of the chain link fence he said we could have perennials such as alfalfa, comfrey and yarrow that don’t spread, yet are very medicinal and dynamic accumulators (increase how many nutrients are available) for the garden.

Another thing that Geoff mentioned was how expensive water is. People have casually used the water at the “Spring Ridge Commons” Food Forest in Fernwood so many times that it has increased the cost of water on site. Therefor there has finally been put in a locked box that decreases the likely hood of water being wasted, and therefor the water expense increasing. We could also have a pond within the garden area or close by where we could collect rainwater from the roof of the artschool in the summer time as well as grow water loving varieties of plants around it, such as nettles, valerian and mint.

The meeting with Geoff Johnston was very informative and gave the group clarity on what our next steps are. It is now up to us to finalize the garden plan, access some medicinal plants and get them in the ground by mid april before the ground starts to dry up.


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