Gardens can serve many purposes. They can be a place where people seek solitude and peace among nature. They provide beautiful colors, sights and smells in the spring, summer and fall. They also help nourish our bodies through fresh produce. Thanks to a group of area residents, you will soon be able to enjoy a garden that offers all of this and more at Boundary Community Hospital.
Casimir Holeski was the creator of the project and serves as the garden manager. He is excited about seeing his vision become a reality.
“The idea for the garden was born two years ago,” said Casimir, owner of Infinity Matrix Tree Corps. “The primary purpose for starting the garden was to demonstrate a mixed perennial/annual garden that produced produce for the hospital kitchen as well as being a place of beauty for residents, staff, family and friends to retire for respite.”
The project, known as the Boundary Community Hospital Forest Garden Project, involves many in the community who have come together to support it. The project includes much more than simply planting; there is a great deal of prep work that had to be done first. Last summer the group worked to mitigate the water erosion and contaminants. Fixing the erosion problem around the culvert and armoring the channel for erosion, they also created a constructed wetland to filter the water, which will be used to passively irrigate the Forest Garden.
A purely volunteer project, the garden will be planted this spring with a diverse mix of annuals and perennials and will include fruit trees and shrubs, flowers, herbs and vegetables.
“The first season we cleared brush and such. The second season we worked on the design and installed the fence,” said Casimir, adding that this year, in addition to planting the garden with the donated trees, bulbs and more, they will continue to raise funds for things such as gates, benches and stairs.
Casimir shares that the inspiration to develop the garden was to utilize the vacant lot where the garden will sit to provide a place of beauty for relaxation and renewal, and to that end there have been several sitting places incorporated into the design.
The piece of land being transformed is an area of approximately 435 feet that is currently fenced in, but according to Casimir, they will incorporate the outer perimeter over time, planting it with flowering or fruit trees and shrubs as well as pollinator plants and food for wildlife.
One of the sitting areas in the outer area will include a bench under an old apple tree, and as soon as enough funds are available, they hope to provide some covered space such as a gazebo.
Joining Casimir on the design team is Sean Mitzel of The Prepared Homestead as well as Josh Thomas of Homesteading Family and Jason Smith of Boundary Conditions. “All are local permaculture educators and consultants who volunteered to be part of the design team,” said Casimir.
The group has held several work parties, mostly for cleanup of brush. “We’ve had around 10 participants so far,” he said. “Many others want to donate plants once we begin planting this spring. I think once we actually start planting, we'll have more help. The prep work has been a little boring to date for most folks!”
The need for volunteers will be plenty when it comes to planting trees, shrubs, bulbs and annuals, and there will also be a need for help throughout the season with tasks such as weeding and watering.
While the group does not plan on making it a certified organic garden, they do consider their practices to be far beyond organic.
“There are definitely and absolutely no chemicals allowed! We employ strategies from permaculture, agroecology, agroforestry and deep organic gardening practices to enhance diversity with the goal of working with nature rather than against. We're really working to create a healthy ecosystem of which the garden is a part,” said Casimir.
Those at Boundary Community Hospital look forward to the garden’s completion and are grateful for those who have brought it to life.
“Boundary Community Hospital supports the rejuvenation of these trees and the plans that Casimir has to make the area productive,” said chief executive officer for the hospital, Craig Johnson. “We are grateful that Casimir is so committed to saving these heritage trees and to beautifying the area for all to enjoy.”
Nutrition Services Manager Valerie Strugar looks forward to tasting the fruit that will be harvested. In addition to apples, apricots and pears, she also said she would like Casimir to plant some rhubarb and asparagus. Her plans are to use the fruits, nuts and produce for the residents, patients and staff, and then share any excess with the Food Bank.
To donate funds, one can do so through the Fry Foundation (BoundaryCommunityHospital.org/foundation), a 501(c)(3) organization and reference the Forest Garden in your donation to ensure that all funds are donated directly to this project.
“I'm really grateful to the folks at the hospital who have made this (the Foundation) available to us. This has been a real learning experience for me as I didn't really feel comfortable asking for money when we started the project,” said Casimir. “It's something I've had to work on, and it's definitely our weakest link right now. Realistically, that is the only way we will be able to install the necessary infrastructure that we have designed into the garden such as stairs with landings coming down from the hospital, a gazebo, several benches for sitting, gates for the fence, a small greenhouse, a water storage tank and irrigation system, etc.”
Thank you to Casimir and all who have helped to bring this gift to the community! To volunteer or to find out more, go to the Forest Garden's Facebook Page at Facebook.com/BCHForestGarden.