Friday, August 1, 2014

Star Island Pel Garden: Sustainably Reusing What You Have

Star Island, off the coast of New Hampshire, has always had a huge interest in consuming less, recycling more and a holistic approach to every resource used. It is after all, a rock 8 miles out to sea, with no fresh water, not much growing space, and 300 people a week during the summer months. Oh...and the 100 people who run the island, most of which are between the ages of 18-25 called Pelicans ( Don't ask me why. All I know is Pelicans are Pelicans!)

Sustainability starts with reuse of the things we have used. Star Island, in the Isles of Shoals, has chosen to become a leader in sustainable living through a total overhaul of all the consumption and utility usage delivery systems on the island. In the Pel garden though, reuse starts with what they have a lot of...empty bottles! A clever way to make raised beds for vegetables, it is not a bad look
with the early morning sun glinting off green glass!

The other thing they have plenty of is seaweed! Seaweed makes excellent nutrient rich mulch as we see here in the potato mounds. The garden layout is a mix of European rows of lettuce and greens with the Native American tradition of mounding certain vegetables in hills. Cardboard and hay are also used as mulch. This garden produces 1000 lbs of vegetables a season and thanks to a new WOOF program, expertise and volunteers are plentiful.

Much of the garden has a ordered chaos feel that is its charm. Spinach, beans, chard, potatoes, lettuce,
and squash populate this garden by the sea. Watering is by cistern water, collected from the rain off buildings and stored in holding tanks.  

Volunteer Pels and visitors keep the weeds at bay, but even time and energy are at a premium out here. Weeds that don't affect production are allowed to grow, and compost from the island goes on the beds. Star Island's incredible efforts to make almost everything on Island be compostable ( I mean composted in 1-2 years, not 20 years) and reusable is phenomenal. Every trash station has three bins for recycling, compostable waste, and trash with clear signs describing what can go in which bin.

The Garden log is a nice touch for those who visit the garden. This tradition can be seen on many remote islands, where a log for visitors to sign in and comment is held in a rain proof box. I love reading all the comments from people from far away who come to visit this garden and who are impressed by its charm.

But it is the flair of past Pelicans and volunteers who have created this garden that I love. Of course it is not without its sculptural focal point, a toilet surrounded by a platform of brick cascading with annuals! What could be more appropriate for this island where used things can become new again. Click here to read more about the incredible advances Star has made toward sustainability and here to read the sustainable pelican blog.

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