Turning an Old Playground into a Veg Garden

Phil Moore
Wednesday, 6th August 2014

Laya Point Permaculture have transformed a forgotten tarmac playground into a raised bed veg garden, with the tarmac walkways serving as a thermal solar store.

What was once an empty school playground is now home to a series of veg beds, with thermal solar storing pathways.

Hopscotch and handball markings remain with the North/South/East/West compass still visible in the centre of the playground, now with veg beds moving outwards in a radial pattern, like the rays of the sun.

Laya Point Permaculture, based on the site of an old country school in Cumbria, continues with education but in a very different vein. Alongside their growing space they recently ran a weekend residential on myco-scaping for gardens and smallholdings - growing edible and medicinal mushrooms and integrating them into mutually beneficial systems.

The school yard plot began back in November 2012 with spray paint, string and tape measure in hand. A digger came in to break the surface and scoop out most of the hardcore from each bed over the course of two days. In March of 2013 Nicole and Tom of Laya Point, with a team Wwoofers, pick axed away the rest of the stone and tarmac and shaped out the beds before adding scaffolding planks. By 14th July of the 32 beds were ready to go.

As well as the scaffolding plank beds, there are six beautifully put together stone wall beds. With this and the remaining 12 beds the playground plot was finished in October 2013.

Good planning was essential in auditing and channelling their energies. Nicole expands on the design process:

"The design is exactly as we planned it on paper. We did a scale drawing and worked out the width of the paths and beds that we thought would be the easiest to work with and get the wheel barrow through. We also wanted plenty of direct paths across the site. So although it is a patterned design we were able to move around it easily. It took us a few days to measure it out but it was worth the time planning properly. Planning also enabled us to estimate the quantity and cost of our materials."

An unintended consequence is that the tarmac acts as a heat sink helping warm the raised beds. At 200 feet above sea level and with cool winds, the Lake District can get chilly. 

Nicole, who is also a member the Ulverston Permaculture Project group, recounts the early days of her new series of veg beds.

Brian, her neighbour, and regular dispenser of garden lore and wisdom, assuaged her early garden woes, telling her, "Don't be a gardener if you're bothered by failures!".

Learning the ways of the gardener Nicole beautifully articulates how time and experience are often the best teachers:

"Spring time sowing is an act of faith for those of us not raised in the ways of gardening. Sowing seeds requires so little effort at first, just a spare moment to sift the compost and sand together into a tray and then to gently press a single seed into each module. The slow start which originally fanned my fear of failure no longer seems to weigh on my mind. Watching the process it is obvious that the seeds want to grow - just in their own time. These basics aren't in any book. Time on the ground, literally, is the best way to learn when, and how, to do the jobs that make up gardening."

As well as the playground plot, Nicole and Tom have a nascent forest garden, the beginnings of a pond and plenty of composting.

Nicole and Tom are Laya Point Permaculture based at The Old School in the stunning Cumbrian Lake District hamlet of Ulpha. Keeping an active site with Wwoofers Laya Point also run courses. To find our more: www.layapoint.com

Further resources

Phil Moore is one half of Permaculture People. Having spent two years travelling the Americas, Phil and partner Lauren are currently touring the UK www.permaculturepeopleuk.tumblr.com and @permapeople

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Nature's Footprint |
Wed, 27/08/2014 - 19:02

This reminds of the Detroit gardening projects where they reclaimed abandoned lots and turned them into thriving community gardens. Pure ingenuity!

Rozellia |
Fri, 02/01/2015 - 06:07

How do I do this??