There are the following events in a gardening year when we use a deep mulch gardening system:
1 - First Frost to Last Frost - Mulching (both building new sheet mulch and renewing existing beds)
2 – Mid March to Mid May – Start plants indoors and cool season planting
3 - Mid May to Mid June – Warm season planting and install and maintain drip lines
4 – Beginning of July – Cut hay and mid season mulching
5 – Late August – Plant fall crops
6 – Mid May to First Frost – Harvest crops and volunteer mulch
The nice thing about team gardening is the opportunity to share these events with your team.
The way we did it for the team gardening the Golden Permaculture Demonstration Plot was:
For each mulching and planting event, we scheduled at least two dates and invited the team members to both dates. The way it worked out, about 1/3 of the team members showed up for each date for a total of 2/3rds participating in each event and 1/3 not participating in that event. Overall, all but two team members participated in at least one event.
In Golden we do not have a hay field. Instead, I did an event in June that I called 'Plant Identification and Accepting the Gift of Mulch'. This is an important step for your team members who have limited gardening experience. In the beginning every plant looks like every other plant and so they are reluctant to pull any plant. Once they recognize a particular plant as volunteer mulch, they can begin full participation in the team as described below.
In addition to the big events, there are ongoing maintenance requirements in the garden. Those are:
1)Supplemental watering when there are new seeds in the ground. Until seeds sprout and have roots through the mulch, they require supplemental moisture, because the drip system does not keep the mulch uniformly wet. We are also observing that a periodic soaking of the mulch, in addition to the regular drip, will enhance decomposition in the mulch.
2)Accepting the gift of volunteer mulch.
The way we did it in Golden was to assign days to water the garden. We had ten gardeners and only 7 days a week so we had people who were supposed to share a day and keep each other advised. I asked the gardeners to continue checking the garden on their day, even after the supplemental watering was not required, because it is their chance to experience the changes in the garden, to do their part in accepting the volunteer mulch, and to be sure they have the opportunity to harvest their share of the vegetables as they ripened. I didn't check on the team members but I was generally pleased with how the garden developed and was harvested so I am certain that at least some of the team members visited and interacted with the garden on a regular basis. My day was Monday, and on most Tuesdays I e-mailed the team with my observations, my suggestions on what might be needed and/or harvested during the week, and what ever gardening tips my visit had brought to mind.
Our goal with this team gardening approach is that team learners become team leaders and begin to take this system into their neighborhoods. I see the gardening teams themselves as a first step to developing more inclusive (including more activities than gardening) Community Sufficiency Technologies.