Centro Arca

Vero and I went to Centro Arca in the south of Chile to teach for three days at the centre. Centro Arca is located in Pucon in the South of Chile, at a latitude of 39 degrees south. It is right next to a giant volcano called Villa Rica which looms large over the town and is next to a giant lake of the same name.

Villa Rica cerca pucon

We stayed in Pucon for 3 days with José at Centro Arco. Centro Arco is a fledgling community which is due to open officially this October. As it grows it will have community plots that can be bought to construct houses, communal land, an education centre and a Stiner school. We set up for afternoon classes under (mostly) sun for 3hr session each afternoon.

First Day of Classes

In the outdoor classroom in front of Villa Rica

Vero in the Outdoor Classroom

The first day we discussed ways to design the architecture of a Forest Garden. Focusing on the Layers, Mainframe design. Using information from the group we discussed the basic elements that one uses to construct a Forest Garden and how to construct them in your garden. These include the four key functions of a Forest Garden.

1, Plants that are perennials or self-sowing annuals. You don’t need to cultivate the soil and sow the seeds for a forest every year.

Students work discussing plant grouping

Vero teaches the patterns of plant families.

2. Cultivate a good soil food web. Most a tree is underground so it makes sense to manage the soil to develop organic matter.

3. Cultivate plants that nourish the soil. These plants insure that nutrient cycling is functioning in the garden and that the plants are well nourished. The two key groups of plants are nitrogen fixers because nitrogen is so important for an ecosystem and dynamic accumulators which cycle the nutrients in the system and can mine nutrients that other plants can not access.

Annual Mandala garden in preperation for spring. It had great paths

Under-planting a plum tree with herbs to support pollinators and cycle nutrients. First cardboard was layed to block the grass and then compost 5cm thick followed by straw 10cm thick. I prefer wood-chips, as they support fungi better but there weren’t any.

4. Utilise plants and elements to produce yields for the workers of the garden. A forest is more than just plants. You need to have nectar and pollen all year to support insects as well as habitat and berries for small birds that will control insects.

The second day focused on the aspects of social design in a Forest Garden. What do we need to provide for the workers in a forest garden? The Bees, Birds, Insects, Spiders, etc. With out these workers the trees in a Forest Garden are not connected. It is only a collection rather than an ecosystem. We gave more thought to providing for these workers as well as introduced the pattern language of Forest Gardening. A design tool developed by Dave Jacke and Eric Tonsimier in Edible Forest Gardens.

Villa Rica

On the third day we investigated Guilds and how to group plants together so that they work together rather than competing. This is a key aspect of Forest Gardening as you aim to group plants so they mutually support one another. We also discussed strategies for the Pucon area which has a Cold Climate, Winds, Dry weather, Sandy Soil. The whole kit and caboodle. Luckily there are lots of plants in the area, Like Acacia melenoxylon which can be used for constructing wind breaks and blocking the morning sun to minimise frost damage. It was a great three days of fun in the sun. The next day we went on the radio in town which was posted earlier. I really loved team teaching with Vero on this course, we are developing a really good teaching team. Aloha

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