Sustainable Landscape Company
Grass to Greens is a sustainable landscaping company run by the urban agriculture non-profit, Bountiful Cities. By seeking to increase food security and sovereignty in Asheville, we provide edible landscape design, installation, and maintenance services with particular experience in food forests and permaculture design. Our proceeds support Bountiful Cities’ mission in growing food and building community by providing edible spaces, education, and justice for Asheville/Buncombe county.
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- Edible Landscape Design
In designing ecologically sustainable landscapes, context is everything. Understanding the characteristics of the place where we live and work helps guide us in making decisions for our landscapes that best compliment our surrounding environment, and ensure the long term health and viability of both.
Asheville is located in the Katuah bioregion, an area that encompasses most of the Southern Appalachian mountains. It is characterized by a temperate climate, with mild temperatures in both winter and summer, and high annual rainfall. Native soils tend to be clay based, low in pH and available nutrients. However, this region is also extremely biologically diverse in both flora and fauna and earns itself the status of a temperate rain forest.
Our design methods are influenced by Permaculture, which encourages us to think about landscapes in terms of zones and sectors. Zone planning is an approach where the location of an element in a design is determined by how often we need to use the element, and how often we need to service the element, placing those items needing more care and visited most often closest to our center of activity(in this case, your home or business!). Sector planning is concerned with energies external to our site, the elements and forces of Nature, that come from outside our system, and pass through it. These energies include: hot summer winds, cold winter winds, winter and summer sun angles, damaging winds, water flow and flood prone areas, unwanted views and potential fire danger areas.
When visiting and working on your property, we observe and consider all of these factors. They influence our methods in designing a landscape that will thrive in your location, with your site.
Our work also draws on many other philosophies and methods of growing and working with the land, such as bio-intensive and square-foot gardening, biodynamics, conservation and organic land use practices which treat our living spaces like the interconnected ecosystems that they truly are.
Our skilled staff carry a depth of knowledge around these methods and systems of design and management. We are passionate about making our planet (and your yard!) a healthy and beautiful place for us all to enjoy.
- Edible Landscape Installation
We use various methods to create garden beds:
Traditional tilled bed: This entails turning the soil over either with a tiller or by hand to create a garden bed. This is a method we often use for starting new gardens, as it will remove much of the existing vegetation and quickly begin to create a garden soil ecosystem. After initial amending and tilling, it is optimal to let the soil sit at least 10 days before tilling again or planting into, as much of what has been incorporated needs time to break down and the soil needs time to settle and re-adjust its living constituents. After this period of rest it is ready for planting garden crops or ideally a cover crop to continue building soil and transitioning from lawn to garden.
Benefits of a tilled bed can include: creating a bed that is quickly plant-able, and the aggressive nature of the tiller can help to ensure that weeds and grasses are hard pressed to survive. Draw backs can include bringing dormant weed seeds from under the soil surface up into the germination zone, creating a hardpan in excessively clay soils, potentially damaging soil structure if the soil is too wet when tilled, and associated maladies of a gas powered 2 stroke engine.
Sheet mulch bed: Sheet mulching is a method of creating a garden bed by layering organic materials out into the area that you wish to convert into a garden and allowing nature to incorporate that material into the soil over time. It will yield a plant-able garden in 3-6 months, and is ideal for fall preparation
We begin with weed-eating the area down to the ground and spreading soil amendments that will assist with long term fertility. Next a thick layer of organic material is added to the area, such as non-invasive weeds, lawn clippings, garden refuse or whatever else is available on site that will breakdown into soil. If abundant materials are lacking on site, we will often apply a quality bulk purchased finished compost product to provide this layer. Then a thick, smothering layer of cardboard is applied to help kill whatever native vegetation may persist. The cardboard also adds organic mater and food for the bacteria, microbes and fungi that will be the workhorses of building soil in your new bed. Another, thicker layer of compost is applied on top of the cardboard to help hold it in place, as well as contribute soil and all of its living constituents to the bed. Last, a layer of straw is applied to provide a mulch layer and further contribute organic material to the garden bed.
Ideally, this bed should wait at least 3 months before being planted with crops, as this method takes time for its components to break down and create the correct soil conditions for gardening. However, an immediate planting of cover crop species can help move the process along and contributes to the soil ecosystem as well.
Benefits of the sheet mulch garden bed method include: weed suppression and limited weed opportunity through smothering and use of mulch, major organic matter addition to soil which benefits moisture holding and drainage capabilities of the soil as well as creating conditions that favor microbial life and excellent nutrient exchange, and the fact that you can create a garden without digging!
Drawbacks of the sheet mulch method include having to plan/wait the appropriate amount of time to plant, and the associated labor and materials costs for the installation.
Raised bed gardens: This garden bed style simply means that the soil level of the garden bed itself is higher then the surrounding land. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, through the addition of organic material to raise the soil level. We recommend using some sort of edging material if you want your raised bed to be much taller then 6”, as this will provide some structure to hold the edge of the bed in place, as well as provide an aesthetic delineation between the bed and surrounding area. Materials we recommend for this purpose include bricks and pavers, rot resistance woods such as locust and cedar, stone, and even tin roofing for deeper bin style beds. Pressure treated lumber and railroad ties, while readily available and rot resistant, are not recommended for gardens that will be producing food.
Whatever style of garden you would like to create, there are a few things to consider when placing your garden bed in the landscape:
– direct sunlight hours the site receives per day
– current vegetation in the area
– utilities or other underground considerations
– nearest water access
– proximity to kitchen (for vegetable garden) or to home for ease of maintenance
– animal pressure: deer, bear, rabbit, moles, groundhogs, dogs, cats, chickens, etc.
– will you be using season extension or crop protection strategies: netting, floating row cover, greenhouse, etc.