Mandala Garden Part III: Outline complete

We started work on a mandala garden back in October. Researching basic components of this permaculture design, we set about overlaying one of our own in Better Farm's main garden on the property.

Linear gardens have their origin in division and ownership of land (easier to mark and measure), and in use of mechanical soil cultivation (easier to drive a horse or a tractor down a straight row). Since neither one of these elements applies to a vast majority of home gardens, there is absolutely no need to make them straight! Any shape that respects the landform, works with the flow of water and with the way humans move make more sense.

A mandala garden is a raised garden bed using keyhole pattern. It is meant to be a domestic garden able to feed a family all year. It can also be scaled up in order to feed more people. It is usually a circle shape on a flat area. We talk about mandala as it presents a circle centered pattern drawing. Originaly this word refers to Hindu and Buddhist vocabulary. It is a figuration with mystical and ritual value representing, under the form of a varied aspects geometrical diagram, the cosmos and the different relationships that are established between the material and the spiritual.

Since updating you the first week in December on the progress former intern Jackson Pittman made, he—along with our new intern Zoya Kaufmann—completed the circular garden's basic layout. Using cardboard as a weed barrier, direct compost and hay as mulching materials for planting next spring, and gravel and stones for barriers and walkways, our design is complete.

Nature will do the work this winter, as snowfall and our chickens do their part to break down the hay, decompose the compost, and add natural fertilizers to the layout. While that's going on, we'll be mapping out the garden for springtime and allocating certain segments to specific plants.

After the snow melts, we'll be able to get into that thick, rich soil and help to raise up nourishing plants that will sustain the people and animals at Better Farm as well as in the community.

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.