Monday, 16 May 2022

Day 1 of our UBC Orchard Garden CFE!

            What a beautiful and sunny first day at the UBC Orchard Garden! With the recent weather they’re calling “Mayvember” (the coldest May in 100 years!) I certainly had my doubts, but I actually may have I got my base-tan. Or maybe just a neck burn – I’ll start bringing sunscreen tomorrow (oops). Such a lovely start, and a beautiful way to officially close the doors on our practicums. While it was great to see some familiar faces again, I know we all miss those sweet kiddos we made connections with over the last 10 weeks, and honestly I can’t imagine a better transition back than a sunny day in the garden. My name is Amy, and today I will be joined by Gio as my blog partner.

            The afternoon was spent working in the garden where we, the teacher candidates, were responsible for weeding, cutting back old growth, and other gardening tasks. Only a few of us had actual gardening experience, which makes for a great and diverse group of learners! We split into two groups: one group began weeding, and the other made little “fences” around garden areas using bamboo sticks and twine. While many of us had been raised thinking we have to weed every single weed out of gardens, one remarkable thing about the UBC Orchard Gardens is that they believe in the conservation of the “unplanned”. This means that we only removed weeds that were directly in the space of the plants purposefully planted, while allowing those outside that area to thrive all they want. Personally, I have next to zero expertise in gardening, and have only ever been instructed to remove like mad at the sight of any weed. This new concept, however, felt right. I’ll definitely be adopting this mentality some day, if I ever have my own garden. Oh! Another thing I’ll adopt is the idea of using creeping thyme as a lawn! Grass requires a lot more water, and people often use chemical fertiliser to keep it green. Creeping thyme, however, is soft, lush, and even edible. Plus, you don’t need to mow it! I wish every lawn looked like this. Check it out:
(Photo: close up of creeping thyme)

            Before we go on to reflect on our first-day experience, I have to share the best part of my day: we actually saw a coyote!! It came by so quietly to check us out that we didn’t notice it until one of our teammates saw it and clapped at it. Even though it was so adorable, it’s really important to keep the wildlife wild and not get them too accustomed to human interaction.

(Photo: our coyote friend running away. She got SO close to us! This was the fastest Gio could get his phone out)

Monday, 6 December 2021

The UBC Orchard Garden is a finalist in the Jane Goodall Institute global Roots and Shoots award


What a great honour, from such an iconic and important environmental educator and activist! The UBC Orchard Garden was nominated and judged a finalist for this global award from the Jane Goodall Institute. We have been very grateful to the JGI for a series of Roots and Shoots grants that have supported our new food forest project and educational engagements with teacher candidates around sustainable food and garden-based education. Here’s a link to the UBC Faculty of Education article on this.

Sunday, 14 November 2021

The Traditional Chinese Medicine Garden

The small-scale and organic cultivation of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) herbs is a new project started this year at the UBC Orchard Garden. Two garden beds of TCM herbs were planted in early July by a small group of volunteers from the UBC Orchard Garden Community. The plants are currently growing beneath the canopy of a plum tree in the Food Forest.

What is Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Why Grow Medicinal Plants?
Traditional Chinese Medicine is a holistic system of medical theory, wellness practices, and healing modalities originating from China, and is estimated to be over 3000 years old (Schafer, 2011). Like other ancient traditional medicines, such as Ayurveda, TCM has an extensive herbal focus. This can be seen in the highly influential Ming Dynasty text Bencao gangmu, or Compendium of Materia Medica, written by Li Shizhen contains descriptions of 1094 herbs, 444 animal parts, and 275 mineral substances (Britannica, 1998). Both the theory and practice of TCM draw heavily from the naturalistic Daoist philosophy, which emphasizes holism, interrelationship, harmony, and balance, and situates health and illness within the unbroken context of the individual’s physical, psychological, and emotional well-being (Kaptchuck, 1983). Treatment within TCM is therefore individualistic, holistic, and emphasizes relationality between doctor and patient, and between patient and their life-world. For example, TCM herbal formulas are commonly individually tailored to the specific condition of each patient. 
Over the last ten years, acupuncture and TCM herbalism have become increasingly popular in Vancouver, with people looking for alternative holistic treatment outside Western medicine. TCM clinics can now easily be found on every major street in Vancouver. However, most of the TCM herbs used by TCM practitioners in North America, and sold in local pharmacies, are still sourced from Asia. Longtime Chinese medicinal herb-grower Peg Schafer points out three concerns for continuing reliance on current sourcing practices for Asian medicinal herbs: unsustainable collecting practices because the majority of herbs in China are still harvested from the wild, concerns over quality, and the rising costs of herbs (Schafer, 2011). Over the last 20 years, these reasons have led her, and other growers around the United States such as Joe Hollis and Jean Giblette, to start cultivating Chinese medicinal plants locally in order to ensure greater accessibility and high quality. 
The TCM garden, much like the UBC Orchard Garden, is intended as a demonstration and learning garden. Emphasis is placed on promoting both the cultural and medicinal aspects of Traditional Chinese Medicine, as well as local cultivation of TCM herbs. If you are interested in visiting the TCM garden, or learning more about Traditional Chinese Medicinal herbalism, growing medicinal herbs and other related activities, please sign-up for our newsletter to keep informed about volunteer opportunities and upcoming workshops.



Saturday, 2 October 2021

The UBC Orchard Garden – Summer Work Party: Implementing Phase 2 of our Food Forest
During a work-party in early June, the UBC Orchard Garden community implemented the second phase of our food forest by adding dozens of fruiting shrubs (blueberries, honeyberries, gooseberries, and currants) that will grow beneath our fruit and nut trees.

What is a food forest?

In technical terms, a food forest is 'a perennial polyculture of multi-purpose plants’ (Jacke and Toesnmeier, 2005). Generally, the plants that are used are perennial, meaning that they come back every year (e.g. trees). A monoculture is a plot of land that is planted with a single species typically grown in rows that are evenly spaced throughout a field, whereas a polyculture is planted with several difference species generally using more naturalistic planting patterns. Finally, although one of the goals of creating a food forest is often the production of food (e.g. apples, pears, hazelnuts, etc.), they are multi-purpose and can also be used to produce fuel, fiber, fodder, fertilizer (f)pharmaceuticals, and fun (Jacke and Toesnmeier, 2005).

In addition to the physical materials that food forests can provide, they also have ecological value! Supporting biodiversity can be a primary goal, or indirect benefit of gardening ‘like the forest’ (Jacke and Toesnmeier, 2005). This is because a food forest, similar to a natural forest, is composed of a variety of vertical ‘layers’ (e.g. the tree canopy, the shrub layer, a herbaceous ground cover, etc.) each of which provides a variety of ‘niches’ (i.e. a particular set of environmental conditions) that can be occupied by organisms (e.g. bees, birds, butterflies). Most organisms are best adapted to a particular range of environmental conditions, and because forest gardens can offer a broad range of micro-climates and a diversity of plants, insects and wildlife can find refuge in them. Furthermore, because we grow edible plants in multiple vertical layers, the potential for ‘additive yielding’ occurs (Jacke and Toesnmeier, 2005). Additive yielding is the cumulation of food produced by say, a thyme groundcover that grows beneath a blueberry bush which grows beneath a cherry tree.

If you are interested in visiting our food forest, or learning more about food forests, ecological gardening and other related activities, sign-up for our newsletter to keep informed about volunteer opportunities and upcoming workshops.

Hope to see you soon!


Jacke, Dave., Toensmeier, Eric. 2005. Edible Forest Gardens: Ecological Vision and Theory for Temperate Climate Permaculture

Friday, 20 August 2021

Hello again!!

It's been an eventful season in the Orchard Garden and we'll be posting a series of updates to show you how things have developed over the last few months!

Since our first work-party in May we've steadily prepared permanent garden beds for our annual and perennial food gardens. Although difficult to establish initially, we've managed to keep the 'weeds' at bay and our crops healthy despite the late start and major heat. What's our garden secret you might ask?

Cardboard & wood chips!!

By sheet mulching with cardboard, and then mulching with wood chips, we are able to prevent weeds from emerging through the cardboard ('sheet') barrier for an entire growing season. We use cardboard instead of geo-textiles because it's biodegradable, easily accessible and costs nothings. The wood chip covering will decompose over time and add nutrients and organic matter to the soil food web, while also slowing the emergence of weeds in the long term. It's also nicer to look at than cardboard and holds it in place. Try straw (not hay!) instead of wood chips for a mulch with another colour, texture and nutrient composition.

Thanks again to the Orchard Garden community for helping us make this happen,

Catch you soon!


Saturday, 29 May 2021

First work party of the season!

 It was a beautiful spring day today, and we had two shifts of wonderful volunteers starting to get the garden back in shape after our COVID winter. Many thanks to the math and physics teachers candidates, Orchard Garden team members and friends and family who did a heroic job of weeding and organizing to get the annuals beds ready for planting. It was wonderful to see each other, outdoors and at a safe distance, and to catch up!