Over the past year, the student group WILD Wes and the student forum Sustainable Landscape Design lobbied the University to grant them a piece of land that they could re-design. We were eventually given the WestCo Courtyard, and so this summer several students are preparing the site to be planted next year. Right now, the site faces several major problems – compaction, erosion, and lack of top soil. We hope to address these issues through the following process –
1. Swale Construction – Also known as a berm n’ basin, a swale is a line of depressed earth bordered by raised earth that runs along the contour of a slope. This water-harvesting ditch helps to slow the rapid runoff of water, allowing it time to soak into the soil. Swales are currently being dug across the entire courtyard using a pick ax and a shovel.
2. Sheet Mulching – This is a technique that naturally builds soil health by strategically layering organic material on top of the existing earth. Mimicking the natural leaf litter found in forests, the process begins by adding a layer of compost on top of the grass. The second layer is of cardboard and newspaper recycled from Weshop, which will act as biodegradable weed barriers. The final layer is a mulch finish, which will be primarily chips taken from the trees that have been cut down.
3. Cover Cropping – A cover crop will be seeded on top of the sheet mulch to help keep the earth in place prior to planting, as well as contribute to soil fertility. This crop, which will most likely be a nitrogen-fixing clover, will eventually be folded back into the earth. It is not a part of the final landscape design, but rather a temporary soil builder.