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Here is the narrative created by my students at our annual Ft Worth, TX PDC,  just finished on Tuesday. This is a project that will be facilitated by last year’s PDC graduate Katie Rudd. It is wonderful to work on a class design project that will be implemented and experienced by so many!
“A Place of Mission, Mercy and
Transformation”

A Master Design Plan
Designed by Students of the Fort Worth Permaculture Project Class of July, 2011

Plan updated: July 11, 2011
The Mission of the Southside Community Garden:

To create a living, spiritual space of beauty that nurtures, nourishes, and heals.

• The community garden will give families and individuals plots of healthy earth on which to raise food.
• The garden will give the church the space to raise fresh produce for the food pantry, providing pantry food recipients with a more balanced, nutritious mix of food products.
• The garden will also nurture the spiritual side of people with a place to pray and meditate.
• The garden will give children of all ages the opportunity to revel in the beauty of earth and living plants.
• The garden will enhance the sense of community among church members and church neighbors and those with a passion for providing sustenance to those in need.

The property provided by the church has features that will create an outstanding garden experience.
History of the Southside Community Garden Project

The Southside Church of Christ is located at the intersection of Hemphill and Hawthorne Streets in Fort Worth. The church was established in 1892, and in 1994 the state awarded the church a State Historical Marker, honoring the church’s 100 years of service to the community.

The Southside Church has a strong history of outreach. The church dedicated its Mercy Wing on October 3, 2010. The 10,000 sq. foot addition helps those in the community who are in need of food and clothing and is an important ministry of the congregation.

The Mercy Wing food pantry serves about 110-120 families every Tuesday. The food provided by the pantry comes from the Tarrant Area Food Bank. Non-perishable food is fairly abundant but church pantry volunteers recognized the need to develop a source of high quality fresh produce. Mac and Barbara McAlister initiated the idea of transforming the vacant, unused lot east of the church campus into a community garden with space to grow fresh produce.

Mac learned of an outreach program run by the Tarrant Area Food Bank that helps groups develop community gardens. Mac contacted Katey Rudd, Community Garden Coordinator for the food bank, who met with the McAlisters and agreed to provide organizational and funding support. Katey also contacted Wayne Weiseman, a nationally recognized consultant on permaculture systems that promote local and sustainable production of food. Wayne assigned a team of permaculture students to create an initial master design for the project.

History and Description of the Proposed Site for the Community Garden

The proposed site for the Southside Community Garden is a vacant lot adjacent to the church on the east side of the campus. The lot is surrounded by the church campus parking lot on the west, Hawthorne Street on the north, Jennings on the east, and a private home on the south.

The property once contained four houses, all of which have been demolished. The property has not been in use since the purchase.

The neighborhoods surrounding the lot contain homes of various sizes. A railroad track runs about one block south of the lot.

The church has experienced some vandalism in the past and has used several methods of deterrence, one of which was signs telling potential vandals about the importance of the church facilities.

Church members saw the potential of transforming the lot into a productive space, but a financial consideration was also an important incentive for development of the project. Church members recognized that the City of Fort Worth could remove the church’s tax exemption on the lot if it were not being used for a meaningful purpose. Loss of the tax exemption could cost the church thousands in property taxes, for both the current and previous years.

View of the property from the northwest corner showing mature shade trees that will be used in the design of the food forest and prayer garden

Resources Available to Southside Church for Development and Maintenance of the Community Garden

The church has an extraordinary congregation of people willing to give time and funding for outreach programs. The church also has a wide-ranging network of support.

Human Resources

The human factor is critical for this project, and the church can draw from a number of such resources. These resources can provide physical work, research, and expert advice.

• Church members and friends
• Tarrant Area Food Bank personnel and volunteers
• Permaculture specialists
• Area gardening and organic clubs
• Master gardeners in the congregation and the area
• Hemphill Restoration Organization
• Church neighbors, including a couple who are homeowners on the immediate south of the lot who already provide security for the church campus
• Various supporters who can provide use of machinery, such as a backhoe, tractor, and chain saw
• Boy Scout, Girl Scout and similar youth organizations

Financial Resources-Sources of Funding

• Tarrant Area Food Bank grant
• Contributions from church members
• Fundraising program

Target Users of the Community Garden

Church members expect for users of garden plots in the community garden to come from the congregation and from the surrounding neighborhoods. An informal survey of residents of nearby homes indicated a strong interest from people in the neighborhood to participate in the garden.

The community garden will also be used by food pantry volunteers to produce fruits, vegetables and nuts for the food pantry recipients.

Administration Needed to Organize and Maintain the Garden

The preparation and physical development of the vacant lot will require an intense effort during the fall of this year. A suggested administrative structure would include the following roles and responsibilities:

A project manager would oversee the overall planning, installation, and subsequent maintenance of the garden. The project manager serves as the liaison with food bank personnel and other organizations, such as the Hemphill Restoration Organization. Different project managers could be named for each stage of the project.

A fundraising committee would include a chairperson and committee members who would organize fundraising programs, plan and execute requests to church members for contributions, and contact area and regional companies and organizations for contributions.

A communication committee would include a chairperson and committee members who would create a short- and long-term communication plan for the project; write content for the church web site, church bulletin, and other church documents; write news releases for local media; distribute information to members of the Hemphill Restoration Organization; plan a system of regular communications with garden users; and plan and write content for educational programs for garden users. The committee would also produce a map of the developed garden with identification of plants to be posted on the church’s web site.

A development and installation committee would plan and execute the physical development of the garden, including the preparation of the lot; the construction of water systems; the selection, purchase, and installation of plants; and the installation of signage.

A gardening committee would create a policy and protocol document for users of the garden; plan and execute a schedule for the maintenance of plants, harvest of produce, weeding, and pruning; and manage the production and use of the compost system.

Fundraising Program

• The fundraising committee could conduct a campaign to raise money by selling bricks. A supply of 3,700 bricks is available for this use. The bricks would contain the names of contributors and would be used in the construction of paths and features in the garden. Targets for contributions will include church members, neighborhood stores and companies, regional companies and organizations with an interest in community garden concepts. The committee would need to research ideas for selling the bricks and methods and cost of putting names on the existing bricks.
• The committee will also canvass stores and vendors for the contribution of supplies, materials, tools and other needed items.
• The committee will also investigate opportunities for grants.

Site Analysis

Climate
The plant hardiness zone of Fort Worth is zone 8. The growing season extends from about March 15 to November 1. Fort Worth has a humid subtropical climate according to the Köppen climate classification system.
The hottest month of the year is July, when the average high temperature is 97 °F (36 °C), and overnight low temperatures average 72 °F (23 °C), giving an average temperature of 84 °F (29 °C).[ The coldest month of the year is January, when the average high temperature is 32 °F (0 °C), and low temperatures average 21 °F (-1 °C). The average temperature in January is 43 °F (6 °C). The highest temperature ever recorded in Fort Worth is 113 °F (45 °C), on June 26, 1980, and June 27, 1980. The coldest temperature ever recorded in Fort Worth is -6 °F (-21 °C), on December 24, 1989.
Because of its position in North Texas, Fort Worth is very susceptible to supercell thunderstorms, which produce large hail and can produce tornadoes.
The average annual precipitation for Fort Worth is 34.01 inches (863.8 mm). The wettest month of the year is May, when 4.58 inches (116.3 mm) of precipitation falls. The driest month of the year is January, when only 1.70 inches (43.2 mm) of precipitation falls. The average annual snowfall in Fort Worth is very light, only 2.6 inches (66.0 mm).

Landform

Fort Worth lies between the Black Land Prairie and Cross Timbers Prairie ecoregions. This biodiverse region is characterized by grassland and several prominent tree species such as oak, pecan, and ash. The area’s black clayey soil tends to be more alkaline and if subjected to regular stress, will become compacted, affecting soil health and most notably, water infiltration.
The half-acre lot adjacent to the Southside Church of Christ is composed of this same clayey soil with large barren areas on the north side and Bermuda grass on the south section. Generally, the slope of the property runs from west to east, with the western edge having a slightly higher elevation than the east (1 foot to a couple of inches). The remaining stem walls of former housing create an easy way to demark the major sections of the property. Within these areas there are some depressions, especially in the north lot, that pool water. In other sections, the landscape undulates with tiny hills and depressions. The ground on the east side of the lot, abutting the sidewalk on South Jennings Avenue, the elevation can drop over a foot in the matter of a couple of feet, west to east.

Water

Two city water-metered outlets appear to be available to supply water. Committee members need to research steps for activating these meters. However, this water is treated with chlorine which can be harmful to the living environment. A much better source of quality water is rain water. Rain water can be collected in collection systems that are constructed to deliver water to the plant areas.

Access/Circulation

Access to the lot is currently available around the entire perimeter, except where the fence surrounds the dumpster.

Inventory of Current Vegetation and Wildlife

• Mature trees, including pecan, hackberry, and mulberry trees
• Brush and bushes, including honeysuckle and ivy
• Little wildlife is visible because of lack of habitat. However, when the garden is installed, it should attract numerous species of wildlife, including birds (robins, bluejays, hummingbirds, mockingbirds, cardinals, doves, and sparrows), reptiles (geckos, anole lizards), insects (butterflies, bees, and moths), and squirrels.

Inventory of Permanent Structures and Features

• Street sign
• Metal cover for access to utility infrastructure box
• Metal box with water utility equipment
• Sidewalk
• Storage shed used by church
• Dumpster located adjacent to lot on west surrounded by a wooden fence on three sides
• An electrical transformer surrounded by a fence on four sides located south of the dumpster

Zones of Use

The lot has an easement 8 feet wide on the north and east sides of the lot. Space needs to be made available for access to the utility box located next to the dumpster on the north side of the lot and the water utility box in the northwest corner.

Soil Fertility and Management

The lot has compacted clay soil of very poor quality. The plan includes suggestions for increasing the fertility of the soil.
Earthworks

Preparation of the property will require the use of heavy equipment to move some mounds of dirt and to remove concrete blocks. Included with the report is a plot of the property which lists existing dirt mounds with directions on how to spread them on the lot. Each existing concrete block that needs to be removed is not listed individually. However, several stem walls are present on the lot that can be used in the design and do not need to be removed. Several trees on the lot need to be removed, and these are also listed on this map.
Aesthetics/ Experience of Place
The proposed plan for the garden is designed to provide users with a significantly positive experience. Users of the community garden plots and the forest garden areas should experience satisfaction from growing and harvesting fruits and vegetables. The prayer garden area is designed to provide a quiet, beautiful place for spiritual rejuvenation and healing.

Design Considerations

The Southside Community Garden has been designed with a number of considerations:

• The goal of the garden is to provide nutritious fresh produce for food pantry recipients and users of garden plots, so the garden area is designed to be as productive as possible both with the area devoted to edible-producing plants, the management of soil and water, and the selection of plants.

• All the suggested plants are either native or well-acclimated to the Fort Worth area. The plants all serve multiple functions and benefit from the symbiotic relationships existing among them.
• The contour of the land dictates where swales are located.

• The location of the sun throughout the day dictates the placement of plants.

• Vertical spaces are used as well as the horizontal surface of the ground, with the selection of trees and bushes and other plants of varying heights. The fence surrounding the dumpster is planned for climbing plants.

• The garden plots are designed in a keyhole design, instead of in traditional rectangle plots, to mirror the rounded and spiraled patterns of nature.

• The garden is designed to be an educational experience for both children and adults. Labels will be placed beside most plants to explain their type and species. A mailbox structure could be installed in the garden, maybe the children’s area, that would contain field guides to plants, animals, birds and insects. The books would need to be secured, maybe by lengths of chain. Also, classes should be held for garden users to teach them the basics of organic gardening.

Community Garden Area

The community garden area is located in the portion of the lot that receives the best sunlight. The garden is made up of two sections: The first is a raised bed using a keyhole design. The second is adjacent and is a long rectangular plot bordered by two stem walls. Between the two stem walls will be a series of swales that run perpendicular to the downward slope. The committee will decide the size of plots in both areas that will be assigned to families and individuals. A suggestion is to place a mailbox at each plot. The mailbox can be used for distribution of information or users can store gardening tools in them. The garden project committee should consider what signage to use to identify the user of each plot. The west side of the community garden will be bordered by a trellis of blackberry bushes to provide additional food.

View of lot from southwest side showing the location of community garden area

Food Forest Area

The food forest area will consist of a variety of fruit and nut trees to provide fresh produce for the food pantry. This area runs throughout the property, mainly in the northern and western portions of the lot. The food forest will contain an area for hugel culture, which grows mushrooms and similar plants in the cavities of rotting logs. The ground beneath the forest canopy will consist of perennial gardens, strawberry patches, and winding pathways.

Prayer Garden Area

The prayer garden is an area where people can gather together for worship. The focus of the prayer garden area is a spiral constructed of rocks with herbs and flowers planted in all the spaces. A cross will be displayed in the center of the spiral. A space will allow for benches in an amphitheater format. The space is planned to provide space for 15-20 people. Garden committee members could consider installing one or two wind chimes, if they can be installed securely.

Contemplation Corner

In the southwest corner of the property is a small alcove with a few benches surrounded by perennials and a view of the keyhole garden. This is a perfect area for people to sit quietly away from the main areas of activity.

Children’s Area

The children’s area provides a place where kids can run around and explore nature. The paths that meander through native plants will consist of logs and rocky areas that will be much more entertaining that a typical path. The area will also feature a vermiculture bin that promotes the growth of worms. A mailbox structure can be installed in the garden that will contain field guides to plants, animals, birds and insects. The books would need to be secured, maybe by lengths of chain. Another idea is to have sheets of lists of plants that children could mark off as they identify the plants. The children’s area will be protected from the parking lot and north street by hedges that are about 5 to 7 feet tall.

Central Open Space and Paths

In the center of the plot is a small circular patio surrounded by a trellis covered with grapes. This area will have several benches where people can sit and visit. Several paths will emanate out of this circle and meander through the property. These paths will be well marked to encourage people to walk in certain places and not walk on planted areas.

Butterfly Garden

The east side and a portion of the north side of the lot will be planted with a variety of bushes and perennials to attract butterflies and beneficial insects that add fertility to the garden. These areas also provide a border between the garden and the sidewalk.

Compost Area

A compost area is provided in close proximity to the garden plots to make composting convenient for garden users. Composting will provide a continuing source of organic matter to enhance the soil fertility. The compost area will have two sections: one will be a bin where people can drop off organic matter. The other section will contain six to eight compost bins that can be used in rotation. The contributed organic matter will be used in the compost bins and also directly on gardens as sheet mulch to increase soil fertility. The compost bins will require water (see information in the following section on water).

Water Management

The entire design uses permaculture principles to trap and retain as much water in the soil as possible. However, in our dry North Texas landscape, the garden needs additional water resources during the driest periods. The most desirable type of water is rain water, and a rain collection system will be constructed using gutters to collect running off the shed. The garden will also require water spigots that run from the two water mains located in the parkways on the east side of the property. These spigots will be located on the design map and will serve both the gardens, the compost area, and the food forest area.

A suggested future action is to Install water collection systems next to church buildings to collect a much larger amount of rain water.

Access to Garden

There will be four access points into the garden, two on the east side along Jennings Street and two on the west side from the church parking lot. On the west side, the northern most entry is the main entrance that utilizes a low hanging branch from a pecan tree to form the upper portion of an arbor. This arbor can contain a sign welcoming those into the garden. The southern entrance on the west side provides access into the meditation corner and the garden plots. Entrances on the east side provide access from Jennings Street into the garden plots and the prayer garden. The property is contained by a variety of hedges, butterfly gardens and fences covered in various vines.

List of Suggested Plant Material

In addition to the following list, we have provided a plot map which outlines the major landscape features and the suggested trees. Perennial and butterfly gardens have been laid out but the individual plants for each garden are beyond the scope of this report. Below is a suggested list of perennials that can be used. However, there is a large variety of perennials available, and final design of each perennial garden, including particular plants, will be developed by the committee at a later date with the assistance of Katey Rudd.

Existing Shade Trees
Elm
Pecan
Hackberry
Mulberry
Tree of Heaven

Suggested Shade Trees
Bur Oak – Quercus macrocarpa
Deciduous – Sun – Height 80 ft
Live Oak – Quercus fusiformis
Evergreen – Sun – Height 70 ft

Under-story Trees
Texas Persimmon – Diospyros texana
Deciduous – Part Shade to Sun – Height 15 ft
Mexican Plum – Prunus mexicana
Deciduous – Part Shade to Sun – Height 15 ft
Apricot – Prunus Armeniaca
Deciduous – Sun – Height 20 ft
Texas Pistachio – Pistacia texana
Deciduous – Part Shade to Sun – Height 20 ft
Common Fig – Ficus carica
Deciduous – Sun – Height 25 ft
Paw Paw – Asimina triloba
Deciduous – Shade to Part Shade – Height 25 ft
Asian Pear (Orient or Kieffer) Pyrus
Deciduous – Sun – Height 25 ft
Jujube – Ziziphus
Deciduous – Sun – Height 30 ft
Elderberry – Sambucus canadensis
Deciduous – Part Shade to Sun – Height 12 ft
Rough-leaf Dogwood – Cornus drumnondii
Deciduous – Part Shade to Sun – Height 15 ft
Redbud – Cercis canadensis
Deciduous – Part Shade to Sun – Height 20 ft
Possumhaw – Ilex decidua
Deciduous – Dapple shade to Sun – Height 15 ft
Yaupon Holly – Ilex vomitoria
Evergreen – Shade to Full Sun – Height 15 ft
Ashe Juniper – Juniperus ashei
Evergreen – Part Shade to Sun – Height 18 ft

Bushes
Waxmyrtle – Myrica cerifera
Evergreen – Part Shade to Sun – Height 10 ft
Texas Sage – Leucophyllum frutescens
Evergreen – Sun – Height 6 ft
*Butterfly Bush – Buddleja marrubiifolia
Deciduous – Part Shade to Sun – Height 4 ft
American Beautyberry – Callicarpa americana
Deciduous – Dapple Shade to Part Shade – Height 5 ft
Flowering Quincy – Chaenomeles japonica
Deciduous – Part Shade to Sun – Height 5 ft
Argirta – Berberis trifoliolata
Evergreen – Part Shade to Sun – Height 5 ft
Autumn Sage – Salvia greggii
Evergreen – Part Shade to Sun – Height 3 ft
Aromatic Sumac – Rhus aromatica
Deciduous – Part Shade to Sun – Height 4 ft
Blackberry – Rubu
Deciduous – Sun – Height 5 ft
Turks Cap – Malvaviscus arboreus
Deciduous – Part Shade – Height 3 ft
*White Mist Flower – Eupatorium wrightii
Deciduous – Part Shade to Sun – Height 3 ft
Tam Juniper – Juniperus cabina
Evergreen – Sun – Height 5 ft

Perennials
*Lantana – Lantana horrida
Part Shade to Sun – Height 3 ft
Scull Cap – Scutellaria suffrutescens
Part Shade to Sun – Height 18 in
Comfrey – Symphytum officinale
Part Shade to Sun – Height 3 ft
*Fennel – Foeniculum vulgare
Sun – Height 3 ft
*Mexican Milkweed – Asclepias curassavica
Part Shade to Sun – Height 3 ft
Butterfly Weed – Asclepias tuberosa
Part Shade to Sun – Height 2 ft
*Purple Cone Flower – Echinacea pupurea
Part Shade to Sun – Height 2 ft
*Gregg’s Mist Flower – Eupatorium greggii
Part Shade to Sun – Height 8 in.
*Turks Cap – Malvaviscus arboreus
Deciduous – Part Shade – Height 3 ft
*Frost Weed – Verbesina virginica
Part Shade to Sun – Height 4 ft
Wild Red Collumbine – Aquilegia canadensis
Dapple Shade to Part Shade – 2 ft
Asters – Aster
Shade to Sun – Height 3 ft

Vines
*Coral Honeysuckle – Lonicera sempervirens
Almost Evergreen – Part Shade to Sun – High Climbing
Carolina Jasmine – Gelsemium sempervirens
Evergreen – Part Shade to Sun – High Climbing
Grapes – Vitis
Deciduous – Sun – High Climbing

Ground Cover
Strawberry – Fragaria virginiana, sequoia
Perennial – Part Shade to Sun – Height 6 in
Horse Herb – Calyptocarpus vialis
Evergreen to dormant – Shade to Part Shade – Height 1 ft
White Clover – Trifolium repens
Perennial – Part Shade to Sun – Height 6 in

*These plants attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

Tentative Schedule for Communication, Planning, and Installation

Major goals for fall timeframe:

• Build structures on the site
• Plant a portion of the trees

Major goals for spring timeframe:

• Do major installation of plants
• Engage community

August
• Church garden planners present master design plan for garden to church board
• Committee chairpeople and committee members are named and organized.
• Committee members begin initial research to create detailed plans.

September
• Garden work day is organized to clear trash from site.
• Volunteers and professionals are scheduled to bring major equipment onto site to remove trees, old plumbing equipment, and concrete footings. Downed trees are cut into logs or chipped.
• Contours are cut for swales.
• Compost bins are built, and compost is started with available organic matter.
• Church members and neighborhood residents are asked to contribute compost matter.
• Volunteers lay down sheet mulch throughout garden.

October/ November
• Fruit trees are planted
• Raised garden bed structures are built.
• Fundraising program is started.

December/ January
• Plan is developed for constructing water system.
• Fundraising program continues.

February
• Remaining trees are planted.

March/ April
• Plant potatoes, onions, sugar snap peas and other spring vegetables.
• Plant flowers and plants.