ReThink Red Deer planting edible forest for Canada’s 150th birthday

An edible forest will soon take root on a tract of stressed land between the Red Deer landfill and a Red Deer County industrial park.

An edible forest will soon take root on a tract of stressed land between the Red Deer landfill and a Red Deer County industrial park.

In honour of this country’s 150th birthday next year, a $23,000 Heritage Canada grant was obtained for further improvements to the on-going Piper Creek Restoration Agriculture Project.

This will allow work to begin next week on removing a creek crossing and making a landscape plan for adding trees and shrubs that bear apples, berries and other fruits, said Rene Michalak, who’s leading the project.

The 15,000 square-foot property, located south of the landfill on the east side of 40th Avenue, once contained a livery stable and farm. After being annexed by the City of Red Deer as setback around the landfill, it was most recently used for public garden plots.

But Michalak, who has ongoing funding for the five-year project from the federal Environmental Damages Fund, wants to further integrate the property into the eco-sytem. He plans on increasing the diversity of vegetation, and improving creek health through the reintroduction of beavers to the area.

Although it seems counter-intuitive to bring beavers to a place of newly planted trees, Michalak explained beaver dams will help the property flood in the spring, reducing weed growth and increasing soil fertility. He hopes the aspen, willow and dogwood trees that will be added around the creek bank with the help of volunteer planters next April will keep the beavers satisfied so they will not try to gnaw on the wired trunks of fruit trees planted further up the bank.

The new trees will help transform a community garden into a perennial garden, edible forest and pollinator garden, he added.

A drilled log “pollinator hotel” was already added for bees, wasps and other pollenating insects. Mulch is being prepared for additional plantings, and landscaping is being done to help trap more heat from the sun, and increase the garden’s “self-watering” capacity after rainfalls.

Michalak said public workshops will be held next spring to teach those interested in bringing some of these eco-gardening tips back to their own properties.

While he hopes to eventually create a shelter belt to obscure unattractive sight lines towards the landfill, Michalak believes the Piper Creek restoration project will improve the health of the land and creek, which is being monitored for water quality.

Partners include Trout Unlimited Canada, Cows and Fish, Red Deer River Naturalists and other groups. For more information, please call ReThink Red Deer at 403-986-7981.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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