Workshops: designing biodiverse garden ecosystems

by Nathan Nesdoly

On Sunday, August 13, 2023 2023 the 1000 Islands Master Gardeners, as part of a weekend long celebration of biodiverse gardens, is offering three workshops on the theme of Designing Garden Ecosystems Inspired by the Natural World.  Our workshops give you the opportunity to get your hands dirty learning about and planting a biodiverse urban garden patch.

Register on Eventbrite

Meadow matrix workshop

photo of the planting of a meadow matrix

Our workshop series kicks off at 11 am , at the corner of Hatter Street and Herbert Street just north of Portsmouth Village, Nancy and Nathan will lead participants through planting of a final portion a Habitat Seed Garden designed around the principles of meadow matrix planting. The matrix planting technique was developed in Germany after the second world war when horticulturalists needed to efficiently replant native meadows in landscapes that had been completely destroyed by war. More recently, this technique was popularized by the wildly creative Dutch designer Piet Oudolf, whose gardens such as the High Line in New York and Lurie Gardens in Chicago have become major tourist attractions. In matrix planting, a diverse collection of native plants with similar needs in light, soil and water are grouped together in ways that will create a self-sustaining and self-regulating plant community. In New Naturalism, Iowan horticulturalist Kelly D. Norris divides matrix plants into three layers. The Matrix Layer is the most numerous and consists of plants that fill in space, cover the ground and generally knit together the community. It is composed mostly of grasses and sedges. The Structural Layer provides a permanent framework for the matrix and consists of woody or coarse shrubs and plants. The Vignette Layer provides visual interest, often temporary, and consists of flowering plants or plants with unique visual features such as unusual seed heads. Nancy and Nathan will share the specific genesis of the project (a Neighbourhood Habitat Seed Garden financed by the City of Kingston as a climate initiative), the development of the species list, and the overall design. Participants will plant 200 square feet of the garden—400 square feet were planted in mid-June—so attendees will have a chance to assess the overall health and success of the design. Participants will learn about:

  • project history and purpose
  • choosing a matrix species list
  • planting strategy
  • soil preparation
  • maintaining matrix meadows

Time and location: 11:00 am at corner of Hatter Street and Herbert Street – Register on Eventbrite.

Pocket forest workshop

illustration of a miyawaki inspired four layer pocket forest of 9 species of trees and shrubs
Illustration: David Wysotski/Canadian Geographic

At 1 pm in the north end of the city at a young Community Orchard in the Kingston and Frontenac Housing Corporation development Astrid and Joanne will guide you through designing and planting a Pocket Forest. Based on the Miyawaki Method of planting first developed in Japan over 40 years ago, pocket forests consist of a variety of native, mid- or late-succession species (plants that will not grow too fast and rapidly out-compete other trees) planted densely in a 3 to 6 square meter space. Little Forests Kingston have designed pocket forests for small spaces (under hydro lines of existing trees), for wet areas, for edible harvest and as keystone forests (forests that contain species of the highest value to native insects and birds). Visit Pocket Forests on the Little Forests Kingston website to get your own pocket forest suitable for just about any size urban yard. Participants will learn about:

  • soil preparation
  • sourcing trees
  • design considerations
  • proper planting and maintenance of trees

Time and location: 1:00 pm Sunday August 13 at 1130 Montreal Street – Register on Eventbrite.

Food forest guild workshop

photo of a fruit tree guild

The final workshop of the day is at 1130 Montreal Street again at 3 pm. Joyce, Marie and work-shoppers will be planting a food forest guild. A guild is a grouping of plants that work together in a variety of layers (tree, shrub, vine, living mulch, ground cover, roots) and with a variety of functions (nitrogen fixing, bringing nutrients to the surface, building soil, attracting insects) that together form a flourishing and productive ecosystem. Participants will learn about:

  • principles of permaculture
  • plant choice and sourcing
  • design considerations
  • soil preparation
  • planting and long-term care
  • lessons learned from years of gardening in the Kingston area

Time and location: 3:00 pm Sunday August 13 at 1130 Montreal Street – Register on Eventbrite.

We hope to see you on August 13 to learn, share information and meet other people committed to making their gardens and our city more biodiverse, climate resilient and beautiful!