A group of South Lake Tahoe residents is looking to grow a small neighborhood project at Bijou Community Park.
During Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Lake Tahoe Sustainable Coalition members Brian Hirdman and Gerri Grego submitted a proposal about establishing low-maintenance gardens at the park that would provide education regarding sustainable, cost-effective growth.
Hirdman teaches a four-workshop course called “Growing Organic Food in Tahoe” at Lake Tahoe Community College, and coalition members said they hope to facilitate hands-on experience building and maintaining gardens.
Through the process of hugelkultur [HOO-gle-KUL-ture], a process of building up compost and sheet mulch to plant on higher ground, the gardens will be able to utilize less ground square footage in a 30-by-50-foot area with more plants on an incline.
In order to use some of the land, the group will have to wait for a city policy on public parks use that was referred to the Parks and Recreation Committee during the Tuesday council meeting.
The proposed location is Bijou Park because they see it as a central location all people will easily notice. The gardens would be placed near the skate park in the wood chip area near picnic benches.
“The purpose is to kind of expose modern ways of growing food through permaculture and biodynamics,” Hirdman said during a Friday interview. “Permaculture is … science-based around mimicking natural ecosystems, using plants themselves to create fertilizer and repel pests.”
Microorganisms within the compost break down nutrients, such as nitrogen, in the compost to benefit the plants, he said.
Hirdman said the idea behind implementing permaculture is so people will be able to maintain their gardens with minimal costs, maintenance using no pesticides or additional chemicals.
“They just kind of do their own thing,” he said, “but yields are really high and healthy.”
Produce from the gardens will be to be available to anyone who wants to eat the produce.
“If you see something that’s ripe, please pick it,” Hirdman said. “Any excess we have we want to donate” to food banks and other organizations that serve public need. The idea is to inspire people to get involved in their own community gardens.”
To help ensure vegetation survival, the coalition wants to establish a microclimate, a small area that provides needs of the flora. One way is to use natural objects, such as a boulder sustaining the sun’s radiant heat and then releasing it onto tomato plants. That way they wouldn’t die or be affected by cold night air.
Some of the perennial and annual vegetation the coalition intends to plant include fruit trees, an herb spiral, basic vegetables and other simple produce as well as various flowers.
Coalition members hope to use drip irrigation systems and the soggy compost to cut costs on water, which — if the lease agreement is approved — will cost $30 annually, according to the coalition’s documents.
“After the first year, the soil settles down and becomes this rich soil that holds water, and that will cut down on use,” Hirdman said.
Insurance costs required by the city are going to be more and could cost a few hundred dollars, Grego said, and fundraising ideas are in the works.
Also, all the soil and additional costs for the garden are trying to be reduced by reclaimed wood, dead leaves and plants.
Members said they hope to take donated items once the conditions of the policy are solidified.
“We would like contractors to come in and use any excess they have, but if a handyman or craftsman could come in and build like 4-by-4 (foot) garden bed, that’s one more thing we don’t have to worry about,” Hirdman said.
Coalition members also work with programs such as growing domes projects for local schools and the “We Can” nutritional curriculum. The group intends to gain unincorporated association status through the state to be able to sign contracts and would assist in purchasing insurance, Grego said.