Wrapping up projects

As we wind up the fall semester, here’s a look at some of the projects we’ve been working on  – the food map, and the composter bike.


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Happy Genetically Modified Thanksgiving!

In celebration of the holiday, Popular Science put out a great article about GMOs, specifically relating to Thanksgiving foods.  There are also great links to shopping lists, and information on companies that don’t use any GMOs in their products.

Here’s the article: How Science Is Changing Your Thanksgiving Feast

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Foraging Trip

After reading about Michael Pollan’s experiences with foraging in his book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” our class decided to try some foraging of our own.  Here are some pictures from the day:


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Building a Sheet Mulch Bed

Here is some information from Danielle Wyman on “Building a Sheet Mulch Bed.”  Thanks Valdy for passing this on!

Weed suppressant layer: newspapers, cardboard boxes broken down to lay flat, with any plastic (including tape) removed – enough to cover your garden area at least one layer deep. Gooey materials (usually high in nitrogen): kitchen scraps, compost, manures, worm castings, grass clippings, green leaves. Enough to cover bed 2-6 inches deep.
Dry bulky mulch (usually high in carbohydrates): dry leaves, yard waste, straw, shredded paper, dry grass clippings, spoiled hay, wood shavings – any combination of these. Need: 2 cubic yeards (a pick-up truck full) to cover a 50 square foot bed. Soil: potting soil, topsoil, or finished compost. Need: as much as you can get – ideally enough for a 2″ deep layer, plus 1-2 handfuls per seedling to be planted.
Plant seedlings or potato eyes for planting A wheelbarrow Water and a hose A kitchen knife, or other sharp, narrow tool (for poking holes thru cardboard).

Building a Sheet Mulch Bed

Step 1: Find a garden site with at least six hours of sun per day and access to a hose.

Step 2: Gather materials.

Building the Bed:

Step 3: Mow or cut back (but don’t pull) vegetation on the garden site. Leave it on the ground. Water the soil and let it soak in.

Step 3A: If the soil is severely compacted, “crack” it – aerate it by pushing a garden fork as deep as possible and “wiggling” it back and forth, without turning up the soil.

Step 3B: If there are mineral amendments to be added (lime, greensand, etc.), sprinkle them on the cracked soil surface before watering.

Step 4: Spread a light layer (1-3 inches) of “gooey” stuff (manures, etc.) on the ground.

Step 5: Lay the weed suppressants (cardboard, etc.) on the ground in the shape of the garden bed, overlapping layers. Thoroughly soak.

Step 6: Spread a layer of “gooey” or soil over the weed suppressants. Spray lightly with water.

Step 7: Throw on a thick layer (12 to 18 inches) of dry mulch. Water until damp, but not dripping wet.

Step 8: Add a rich layer (an inch to two inches) of dry mulch.

Step 9: Top the bed with a 2-6″ layer of seed-free dry mulch – straw, wood shavings, finely ground wood chips, or dry leaves. Spray the entire bed with water.


Step 10: Make a deep, narrow pocket. With a knife, pierce the cardboard.

Step 11: If you are planting seedlings, fill the pocket with soil, and plant the seedling into it. Gently pack the soil around the plant. Water, and pull mulch around the plant.

Note: If you are planting potatoes, cut potatoes into pieces so that each piece has at least one eye. Put a handful of soil in the hole, then place a potato piece on top, and cover with a little more soil. Put the mulch back so that the hole is just barely noticeable. Water to top layer. As the potato plant grows, add more bulk mulch layers around the stems to keep the plant climbing and producing more potatoes.

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Summary of Permaculture Workshop

Saturdayʼs “Permaculture Workshop,” sponsored by the GMU Office of Sustainability and organized by Danielle Wyman, Sustainability Projects Specialist in Mason’s Office of Sustainability, featured guest lecturer Cassa Von Kundra who conducted the workshop.  Here is a summary from Valdy: Permaculture Workshop.

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Polyface Field Trip

On Saturday, October 9th, our class went on a field trip to Polyface Farm.  We got a look at the operations of the farm, and had a great tour led by Matt Rales.  Here are some pictures from Suzanne:

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agriArt project in Japan!

In the October issue of Scientific American, Suzanne found an article about a Japanese village with artistic rice fields. 

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