October 27, 2014


For several years we have been discussing and planning a patio area outside of the main community dining hall, and this summer was marked by significant progress.

The area outside of Windward's dining hall is primary zone-1 area, the most frequented place on the property, it is the front yard of our hearth so to speak. The hope for the patio is for it to be an agriculturally productive outdoor living space for us to gather, work on projects, and grow some of the most commonly harvested crops such as salad and cooking greens, chives, culinary herbs and some more attention-demanding veggies like tomatoes and peppers.

Opalyn has been working with Wall-e to move earth from mounds created when the foundation of the dining hall was first excavated. This earth is creating a flat area in front of the kitchen which is also gently sloping away from the building to provide drainage for any surface runoff.

Opalyn and Wall-E picking up a load of soil

Opalyn and Wall-E dropping off soil on the patio

To help hold the earth of the patio in place, we started constructing a series of retaining walls made from the native basalt gathered around the property. These retaining walls are also terraced hugelkultur beds which we can utilize to grow crops.

To make these beds, we first had to excavate a level pad.

Level footing for the first course of rocks.

From there we laid a first-course of large boulder-sized rocks. Once the first course of rocks was in place, we excavated behind the rocks and created deep hugelkultur beds.

The first course in place on the east end of the patio, with the bed dug out and ready for quality soil.

As we moved up the slope created by the patio, we created a series of earthen steps made from compacted clay subsoil. These steps are the footing for the upper rock retaining walls. It is important that the subsoil be firmly compacted so the rocks do not sink down over time.

After the earthen steps were created, we laid the second and third rock retaining walls, creating two level beds in the process.

The upper beds are readily accessible by those exiting the kitchen, and will be planted with a variety of commonly harvested plants, both annual and perennial.

The lower beds are accessible from the patio, but from a foot path which leads down off the patio along the length of the bottom beds. We are going to plant some large, shade producing trees including black locusts, as well as some bearing trees/shrubs such as apple, apricot and currant along this bed to provide a nice, semi-shaded micro climate for both people and plants through the heat of the summer.

Finished upper and lower beds on the east side, here you can see the salad greens and cover crops beginning to fill in.

The same beds as above, looking in the opposite direction. Here you can see a newly planted appricot and a smaller apple tree in the distance.

Under the trees will be planted other perennial culinary herbs such as rosemary, thyme, oregano, winter savory and mint, as well as other perennial herbs to help support system.

We have already begun the process of seeding and planting, and hope to have it finished and ready before the winter weather subsides and the spring flush of growth begins.

Roof Water Drain Field

Another component of this system is a "reverse drainfield" designed to take water off the dining hall's roof and soak it into the retaining wall grow beds.

The system is very simple. Solid pipes take water from the roof water downspouts underground a length of 6" perforated drainfield pipethat is underground and just uphill of the upper most grow beds.

Left:The drainfield trench on the easter side, looking west. You can see the pipe from the roof down spout entering the trench in the foreground.
Right: The trench under construction in tandem with the western leg of the retaining walls.

The perforated pipe is laid in a level trench to help ensure that the roof water is evenly distributed along the grow beds.

A rock drainfield was constructed around the perforated pipe. The rock used was sifted from the subsoil in the process of excavating soil for the patio and retaining walls.

While it can be a pain to dig in such rocky soil, we are fortunate to have on hand a ready supply of small "cobble" sized stones for such purposes.

Once the rocks are laid in, they are covered and the soil brought up to the level of the rest of the patio, and Voila! A passively irrigating retaining and growing bed system to efficiently provide for the routine culinary needs of cooks in the dining hall,