Sustainble Solutions Resources


Here you will find a collection of projects, products, and businesses that we explored during the sustainable solutions weekend from June 16-17, 2017.


Links to Projects

Solar Dehydrator



Tshirt Bag

Self-Watering Pot

Biodegradable Planters

Regrowing Food Scraps


More Information Regarding Projects

Drip Irrigation

Johnny Tewksbury from Tewksbury Grace Farm



Drip Irrigation Benefits:

  • Conserves water by allowing water to slowing trickle into soil, therefore minimizing evaporation.

  • Prevents soil erosion and nutrient run-off, through gradual application of water.

  • Helps control fungal diseases by preventing foliage from excessive water exposure which can help transmit disease.



Watering Tips

  • General rule of thumb is that a garden needs 1 inch of rain or watering each week.  1 inch of rain equates to 62 gallons for 100 square feet.  So if you received 0.5 inch of rain this week on your 100 sq ft garden, you would need to supplement with 31 gallons of irrigation to ensure your garden got a full inch of rain or water.

  • Hot, dry,  and windy weather conditions increase water evaporation and plant transpiration.  During this type of weather, additional water is needed for optimal plant health.

  • You can feel the soil for moisture and determine if more water is need.  If you can squeeze a handful of soil and water comes out, you have too much water.  If you squeeze the soil and it doesn’t hold together, the soil is too dry.  If you squeeze a handful of soil and it holds its shape, then you have adequate soil moisture.

  • Plants that are forming fruit, pods, or bulbs as well as new transplants should get priority for irrigation.

  • Mulch, mulch, mulch!  Cover your soil with a straw or hay mulch.  This will reduce soil water evaporation, reduce weed growth, provide habitat for worms and add critical organic matter back into the soil.  Love the mulch!  



Key Equipment

  • Drip Tape - 12” emitter spacing with .45 gpm for 100 feet

  • Filter - Used at the beginning of the line to prevent sediment from clogging drip tape

  • Pressure Regulator - Drip tape needs to operate at low pressures.  The pressure regulator reduces from house pressure to 15 PSI.

  • Poly Tubing or Orchard Tubing - Used as supply lines or header lines for drip tape.  .5 inch to 2 inch sized, small gardens can use .5 inch tubes while larger gardens will need 1 inch.  

  • Drip Tape Valves - Barbed end taps into tubing and drip tape attaches to other end.

  • Drip Tape Couplings - Connects two pieces of drip tape, useful for repairing drip tape damage.  Yes, you will accidently cut and damage your drip tape!

  • Drip Tape and FHT Swivel - One end connects to a water house and the other end connects to orchard tubing to drip tape.  

  • Watering Timer - Can control amount of water flow and time used to get specific amount of water on the garden.  



Local Suppliers:

TM Supply

556 Milheim Rd

Watsontown, PA 17777




Central PA Irrigation, Jim

055 New Berlin Mountain Rd, Lewisburg, PA 17837

Phone: (570) 966-3917


Row Cover Low Tunnels

Johnny Tewksbury from Tewksbury Grace Farm


Row Cover Low Tunnel Benefits

  • Exclude insects and pests.

  • Protect seeds and seedlings.

  • Warm the soil.

  • Protect against frost.

  • Provide overwinter protection for hardy crops.



Tips and Tricks

  • Row cover is great for getting plants started in cool weather.  Be careful, it can get too hot inside.  Roll up ends to let heat out.

  • Some plants like it hot and can stay under row cover for a full season.  We keep sweet potatoes covered; they like the heat and it keeps the deer out.  Deer love sweet potato vines!

  • We make a “high” tunnel with 10 ft pvc on 3/8 inch rebar and cover with row cover to make a hot house for eggplants and ginger.  Eggplants and other flowering crops must have row cover removed when the flowers are being pollinated.

  • Insect netting is great for crops that don’t like the additional heat provided by the row cover, but still appreciate the protection from insects, rabbits and deer.  

  • Row cover and some insect netting can tear easily and that can be frustrating.  Shade cloth on the other hand is very durable and lasts a long time.

  • We overwinter kale, spinach and swiss chard.  We put several layers of row cover and then top with shade cloth.  Deer will tear through row cover and the shade cloth prevents that.  In the spring slowly start to pull away layers of protection and you will have early greens!  



Key Equipment

  • Row Cover - Comes in varied weights that provide more or less cold protection.

  • Thermal Blanket - Very heavy row cover that can be used for overwintering cool season crops.

  • Clear Perforated Plastic Row Cover - Use with wire hoops to create a mini greenhouse.  6 feet wide.  3/8 inch holes.

  • Shade Cloth - Provides 50% shade, reduces transplant stress.  Very durable.

  • Insect Netting - Protects crops from insects such as aphids, thrips, flea beetles and squash bugs.  Allows for airflow so temperatures don’t get too hot like row cover can.  

  • Wire Hoops - 64” or 76” long pre-arched, heavy duty, high tensile 3/16” wire hoops.  Supports row covers so they do not crush the plants.



Local Suppliers:

TM Supply

556 Milheim Rd

Watsontown, PA 17777




Central PA Irrigation, Jim

055 New Berlin Mountain Rd, Lewisburg, PA 17837

Phone: (570) 966-3917


Guilds, Food Forests and Swales

Kathy Kristjanson-Gural from Wild Goose Farm



Why plant a guild?


Lawns produce perfect systems for weeds to grow with adequate rainfall (20-25 inches of rain). The natural state of the landscape is forest.  Trees will eventually move in where ever there is 20-25 inches of rain.  In order to hold the forest back you have to use lawn mowers and fertilizers.  grasses are really the early stage a constant bombardment of

succession grasses, weedy herbaceous plants (build soil fertility), shrubs and trees.  We have to work hard to keep them back. Nature is trying hard to move it hard towards forest.



Why not plant the shrubs and trees right away.  Nature will take you there anyway. Why don’t you give up the fight to someone who is older and wiser than you. You can pick and choose which trees and shrubs you want.  You bring in your consciousness and tweak what you want.  You create the conditions for that to happen.  You have so much less work to do then.  





“A guild or food forest is a low maintenance gardening technique that mimics the forest (a small woodland ecosystem) but substitutes deciduous or evergreen trees with edible trees, bushes, perennial vegetable, herbs, vines and annuals.” Michael Judd


Food forests are grown like a forest, not in the forest. Many guilds combined together create a food forest.





-Less work (permaculture principle)/less human intervention

-By mimicking the natural ecosystem of the forest, it provides habitat, pollination, fertilizer, and pest management, ie a balanced ecology, synergy between plant communities

-creates a lot of food

-less fertilizer and other inputs



Drawbacks:  can consume a lot of space, slower to establish, tracing the source of difficulty is harder, more challenging to harvest (no neat rows to walk down to harvest), site specific



What is a guild?


Guilds are really very simple.  The central element to a guild is a fruit or nut tree.  


To start we ask,  what does the tree need? How can I choose other plants that would support those needs.  Peach tree? Needs pollinators, needs flowers that,  fertility something that fixes nitrogen, something that creates mulch (comfrey, seakale, borage), plants with really good tap roots to break up the soil (daikon radish, comfrey, carrots).  You are employing the plants to do the work you would have done.  Nature is happy to do that.  You are happy too less input, more output.  


A tree in a guild has multiple functions, it produces shade but it also will provide habitat, produce fruit, adding leaf litter to the soil, and harvest rainwater behaving the way a natural forest does.  



Creating a guild


What job do you want to get done? What are you going to enjoy? What is needed? Has to mean something to you so you’ll want to take care of them.


We are going to create the beginning of a small guild to plant in the future with a goumi, sea buckthorn or paw paw as it’s main fruit bearing tree.  Instead of plopping a tree in the ground in the middle of lawn and then surround that tree with a ring of mulch and letting it fend for itself, we are going to be planting for the needs of the fruit tree up front.  Spring for fall planting or fall for spring planting. A well designed system supports itself without much human energy and material input.



Key elements:




Location- What do you notice about this location we have chosen?

Zone 1 between the coop and connected to the house. Puts the pieces together.  Weeding with a cup of coffee in your hand. Placing it close to your house.  On the path from car door to you front door.


Wildlife-  Can cover this area if need be.  Near chicken coop for predator cover.


Water- harvest from the roof, swales, proper mulching, shade, top soil that is rich in organic

1ft of good top soil will hold 3-4” of water in it.  The water is already in the soil it won’t evaporate quickly.  Permaculture saying “The cheapest place to hold water is in the soil”.  Contours help to hold water.  


Mulch- building soil fertility and health, mimicking the leaf litter in the forest, builds up, decomposing organisms turns mulches, creates fertility in the soil.  All the organism know exactly what to do.  These process go on without you.  You plant two fruit trees about 2 ft apart… the designer becomes the recliner. The quickest way to build topsoil is with decomposing wood chips (tree trimming services), spread it 1 ft deep. Cover crops (peas, fava beans)



Types of Plants in a Guild:


Plants are organized around this central tree providing different functions either fixing nitrogen, providing mulch, seeking and accumulating nutrients, and attracting beneficial insects or a combination of the above.  Start with native plants as they will be the easiest to adapt or look at plants that grow in a similar habitat.  



Nitrogen Fixers

Plants that fix atmospheric nitrogen, a symbiotic relationship between soil bacteria and the roots of certain plants.  The air we breath is more than 75% nitrogen, yet neither animal nor plants can absorb nitrogen from the atmosphere without the help of nitrogen fixing plants.

Legume family provides carbon, water and sugar for the bacteria that colonizes their root systems. The bacteria take nitrogen from the atmosphere and make it available available for roots to assimilate.  Plants use nitrogen to produce proteins, enzymes, and amino acids. (peas, fava beans, goumi, sea buckthorn)



Living Mulches

Suppresses weeds, retains moisture, and slowly builds soil fertility as the om decomposes.

Generate on site is easiest and cost effective. Straw, woodchips, grasses, leaves, cut and come again plants, living mulch like strawberries, bush zucchini.



Nutrient Catchers

Plants need N,P, and K but they also need micronutrients like calcium, magnesium, iron, copper. Nutrient catcher are those plants with long taproots that mine the soil for minerals and then make them available to shorter rooted plants.  Different plants have specialize in accumulating different minerals so you can use specific plants to remedy specific soil problems.  

Flowers:  Borage, lupines, marigold, and yarrow.  Plantain, chicory.


Pollinators/Insect Attractors

Entomologist 90% of common garden bugs are pollinators or pest predators only 10% are likely to damage crops. Pollinators 3 main families- aster, carrot, and mustard- insectary staples (draw the tiniest of parasitic wasps and flies.  Also onion and mint helpful. Bee balm.


Two guild favorites


Comfrey- Multifunctional creates a great mulch, attracts beneficial insects,mines calcium and magnesium from deep in the soil concentrates them in its leaves, great composting plant, heals wounds, mulch


Goumi- Allegaenous but not invasive like the autumn olive, nitrogen fixer, silvery white flowers, edible berry high in vit c.  We have not grown this on our property yet but intend to this fall.





What do you notice about this site?  How might we get water?

It’s all about water.  You want to catch every drop of it. Moisture in the soil creates organic matter and fertility which = healthy plants.


You want your beds to water themselves.


A bed on contour is perfectly perpendicular to the slope. Conventional swales off contour push water away. Swales on contour do the opposite by slowing and infiltrating water.


How to make a swale


Make contour line.

Dig a basin 6” deep 20” across. This becomes your passive water harvester and pathway.

Put cardboard down as a bottom layer of the berm 3’ wide. I like to put down a bit of composted manure under the cardboard to speed up the decomposition process

Layer your berm with the soil from the dugout basin, then compost, shredded leaves, grass clippings, more compost, and mulch.  The goal is about a 9” high berm. 3-1 ratio soil to compost. The width of the berm is 4x it’s height.





Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist by Michael Judd

Gaia’s Garden By Toby Hemenway

The Vegetable Gardener’s Guide to Permaculture: Creating an Edible Ecosystem by Chris Stein

Sustainable World Radio with Jill Cloutier (much of the above information is part of an interview on Sustainable World Radio with Toby Hemenway)

Permaculture Podcast with Scott Mann




Threading Love

Snack Taxi


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Phone: 570.523.8919

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