Last year, the permaculture park team successfully raised over $4000 toward phase two development projects including an herb spiral, black locust arbors, raised beds and permanent interpretive signage. Below you will find the proposed text for each of seven signs. We would like your feedback! Please send remarks to


Proposed Text for Permaculture Park Signs

Herb Spiral

An herb spiral is a mounded, spiral-shaped rock garden that is ideal for growing herbs. Different microclimates are created by the spiral shape. Large rocks help hold the heat and improve drainage. These two herb spirals are planted with both culinary and medicinal herbs.


Plants for Pollinators

Plants that provide food for pollinators such as bees, butterflies and other insects are an important part of permaculture landscapes. These perennials and shrubs have nectar-producing flowers that feed insects in spring and summer, and some of them also produce seeds that feed birds in fall and winter.

The Three Ethics of Permaculture

Earthcare – Care of the Earth means many things to many people. From the gardener composting in their backyard, adding that compost to their garden beds and improving the soil to the environmental justice activist organizing with others to blockade a pipeline in order to protect the climate; actions big and small are equally important when it comes to caring for our precious planet


Peoplecare – Care of People is essential to maintaining healthy communities. We can nourish bodies and our families with healthy fresh produce. We can spend time in the fresh air working in our gardens and getting plenty of exercise while also reducing stress. We can spend time with our loved ones and nourish our minds and spirits with love and affection, deep conversations and fun times.


Fairshare – Sharing our surplus helps others in our community who have less resources. Our surplus can come in the form of extra produce from our gardens donated to a local food pantry, can be the spare time we spend helping elders do their shopping or volunteering at the local soup kitchen, or it could be talents and time dedicated to social justice causes.


Use Edges and Value the Marginal

An edge is where two different environments meet, such as a forest becoming a field, or the banks of a river, or a strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street. There tends to be a greater diversity of resources available on the edges and plant and animal diversity is greater as well. These margins are highly dynamic, containing species from each habitat as well as unique species that aren’t found in either. Replicating this effect in a garden leads to an enhanced biological community that has greater diversity and productivity.


Gardening like Nature

A very important concept of permaculture is to design plantings of species that have mutually supportive roles. For instance a large fruit tree at the center of grouping is surrounded by plants that fix nitrogen, accumulate nutrients from deep in the soil, attract beneficial and predatory insects, ones that repel insect and rodent pests, and other plants that provide large amounts of biomass for mulch.


What is permaculture anyway?

Permaculture, or permanent agriculture, is a system of design that was conceptualized based on observations of the natural world and the sustainable practices of indigenous cultures. Who emphasizes perennial, edible and utilitarian plants. It also promotes the use of consensus decision making processes, cooperative social and business models and the use of appropriate technologies.


The Global Garden

This vegetable garden has varieties from around the globe and represents the diversity of our community. Here you will find peppers from Thailand, kale from Russia, okra from Africa, potatoes from Peru and amaranth from Mexico.

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Permaculture Park seeks your help with improvements

This August, the Permaculture Park Project has been chosen as one of five nationwide projects as a Get2Gether Neighborhood Challenge winner! Every dollar we raise this month up to $2000 will be matched by the Center for a New American Dream. You can learn more about the exciting improvements we are planning, watch our video and donate here:


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Permaculture Park in Winter

   While much of Ithaca and Upstate NY has entered hibernation mode, the Permaculture Park continues to grow and flourish even in the dead of Winter. One of our intrepid volunteers is hard at work on a landscape schematic of our current plantings and a cross section featuring many of our dreamy ideas. These illustrations will be used later this winter into the early spring as we initiate round 2 of our design process.

We are also tending to our tropical INDOOR food forest at Cornell Cooperative Extensions education center at 615 Willow Ave. Several species of beautiful luscious tropical fruits are currently occupying a corner of our lobby and adding some color to our otherwise stark winter existence. As much as we enjoy having them to brighten up our days, we can’t wait for them to go back outside once the cold weather lifts.

Finally, we must give props to Annie Sherman, executive assistant to Ithaca’s Mayor Svante Myrick who has been taking care of a very high profile banana plant that was delivered this fall to the mayors office. Here’s a selfie that the banana took recently.

banana selfie #bananaselfie

Here’s some inspiration for you from our favorite public food forest in Seattle, Beacon Hill.


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Permaculture Park Project plants find winter home in Mayor’s office

This Saturday will mark the final work party of 2014 at Ithaca’s Permaculture Park Project located at Baker Park. Over 20 Cornell students lead by community volunteers will descend on the park and nearby INHS housing complex Cascadilla Green to tidy up and put gardens to bed for the winter. In the meantime, Cornell Cooperative Extension staffers Chrys Gardener and Josh Dolan who have spearheaded the project,are scrambling to find winter homes for several tropical fruiting plants that were generously donated by local resident and permaculture aficionado Steve Austin. One of these plants will find a new home tomorrow. On Thursday, October 23 at 11pm Chrys and Josh will delivery a seven foot tall banana to the mayors office, go over winter care instructions with he and his staff and give him a final update on the tremendous progress that has been made at the park during it’s first full growing season.


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Paw Paw Tasting Tour

This Wednesday, October 8, I’ll be making my annual pilgrimage to Cornell’s paw paw orchard in Lansing for a tasting tour along with several area paw paw enthusiasts (van shuttle will leave CCE Tompkins, 615 Willow Ave in Ithaca promptly at 3:40. Email to reserve a seat.) This free tour will explore the two acre planting of North America’s largest native fruit and folks will be welcome to try the collection of 28 varieties and take some home too. Planted in cooperation with the University of Kentucky in 1999, the paw paw orchard has largely flown under the radar. Now that paw paws are gaining in popularity, it’s a great time to taste these magical fruits.


For me, this golden fleshed jem has held an almost mystical grasp on my psyche. I had several dreams about paw paws last year before our last tour. I have planted several over the years and last year got my first big crop from some trees I planted in downtown Ithaca back in 2005. Now almost 20’ high, the largest of these is an iconic reminder to me of my passion for unusual and lesser-known edibles. Several have been planted in Ithaca’s Permaculture Park Project including one planted during our ribbon cutting by Mayor Svante Myrick. The hope is that over the coming decade, these plantings will help the paw paw become more mainstream, at least in our small corner of the world, and gain the notoriety it deserves.

Here is a paper with great information about paw paw research and commercial production with some references and details on nurseries who carry trees:

Have you ever thought of growing pawpaws? Cornell Cooperative Extension of Seneca County is offering a Pawpaw Production Workshop on Thursday evening, November 6, 2014 from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm. The workshop will be held at Vince’s Park at the intersection of Rt 314 and Rts 5+20 in Seneca Falls, NY.

Steven Gabriel, from The Cornell Small Farms Program and owner of Wellspring Forest Farm in Mecklenburg NY will be the presenter. Steve has recently co-authored a book called “Farming the Woods” with Cornell professor Ken Mudge. The workshop will cover various topics related to growing pawpaws including pawpaw management, site selection and sourcing pawpaw trees. You can read up at Steve’s blog here:

The fee is $15.00 per family. Registration is required. Space is limited so register early! To register or for additional information, contact Cornell Cooperative Extension at 315-539-9251 or email: or register online at:

CCE Tompkins will provide a free shuttle from Ithaca but space is limited, so reserve your seat as soon as you are registered for the class by emailing

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Cornell Cooperative Extension PERMACULTURE EVENTS

Thursday September 11: Volunteer Session (4-6 pm) followed by a potluck (6-8 pm)

Join us for the last event in the Permaculture Park this year. We will do some planting and finish sheet mulching, swap edible and utilitarian perennials, then gather for a potluck in the park to celebrate our first year and talk about future plans. If it’s raining the potluck will be held at CCE Tompkins, 615 Willow Avenue.

Thursday September 18, 6 -7:30 pm: Yardworks— Free hands-on class on planting to attract birds and pollinators

Learn about native shrubs, trees and perennials that provide food and habitat for native birds and pollinators. This is a hands-on class where we will design and plant a native garden in one area of the park. Tools and gloves provided.

Permaculture, Plants and People Tours

These tours are free and open to the public! There will be a van leaving from CCE, 615 Willow Avenue about 15 minutes before the start of each tour. To reserve a seat on the van, call 272-2292 or email  (limited seats available). You can also drive to each site and meet the group there.

Saturday September 13, 10 am—11:30 pm: Hemlock Grove Farm, 180 Walding Lane, Spencer NY (off Rt 34/96)

Tour a mature nut grove planted with hazelnuts and chestnuts, sample ripe nuts and learn about nut tree cultivation.

Wednesday October 1, 5-7 pm: BWW Farm, 8144 Searsburg Road, Trumansburg   Visit an experimental nut planting and sample nuts from mature wild and planted varieties with John Wertis.

Wednesday October 8, 4-7 pm: Cornell Paw Paw Orchard, Swayze Road, Lansing   Visit the largest paw paw orchard for a tasting tour with manager Erick Shatt and a presentation on growing paw paws by Josh Dolan.

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Potluck in the Park Postponed



Hey everyone, we’re sad to announce that this evening’s potluck in the park event is postponed on account of rain. We’re still working on the details but the make-up will take place during the week of Monday, July 20th. We apologize for the late notice. Stay with us for more updates.

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Potluck in the Park- Wednesday, July 9- featuring special Apios americana presentation and planting

The park is looking great, and this Wednesday evening we’ll be celebrating all our hard work with a potluck. Bring a dish to pass and get ready- this event will feature a short work session putting in strawberry plants (which will also be available for participants to take home for free) followed by a special presentation on the Apios americana by Dr. Gautam Bhattacharya, who will also be donating several of these plants for an experimental garden plot in the park. We’re really excited about this- the Apios, sometimes known as “potato bean,” is a native perennial vine that seems like a perfect permaculture crop. After that we’ll break out the picnic blankets and eat! This is a great chance to take in the park and learn about new plantings if you haven’t been over in a while, and we’re also hoping to gather your input and ideas for the next phase of the project’s development. 

More about Apios americana-


Apios americana, also known by a variety other names including potato bean; hopniss; and groundnut, produces a tuber that is like a more nutritious version of a potato- similar taste and look, but almost 4x the protein content (15% vs. 4%.) Apios is very versatile and can be grown in regular soil but it’s also notable for performing well in flooded, nutrient-poor environments such as swamps. This gives it an advantage if planted in areas that are vulnerable to heavy spring melts (such as our flooding creek!) It is also nitrogen fixer and helps regenerate the soil.
Apios_photoshoot2_2013 (3)
Apios is native to the area between Southern Canada and Florida and to the west as far as Colorado. However it has never been cultivated domestically, perhaps because the wild plants take a couple years to produce tubers. That makes these self-sowing perennials a perfect candidate for use in permaculture projects, which place less emphasis on immediate crop yields and allow for more patience. Dr. Bhattacharya’s crops were acquired from stocks created during a breeding experiment at Louisiana State University. He is currently attempting to set up a study on them at Cornell. They’ve been planted in several local areas, such as the meadow at Beebe Lake, and we’re excited to add them to the park as both an educational resource and a food producer!
apios_field_2012(1)apios_plant_2012 (6)Apios_1849_2011 (5)
For more information on the Apios americana and other edibles with domestication potential, see this article:


The permaculture park project is located in Conley park, which is on Alice Miller Way between the Sciencenter and the old Neighborhood Pride building. If you live nearby, please consider cooking your dish-to-pass (and other meals!) with ingredients from the park. We’ve got a lot of things ripe right now, including lettuce, sorrel, chives, onions, garlic, yokatta-na (a leafy green similar to bok choy,) and serviceberries.

Event schedule:

4:30- work session, planting strawberries and mulching. Extra plants available for free!

5:30- Apios americana presentation & planting with Dr. Gautam Bhattacharya

6:30- Potluck dinner

info and updates available here:




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Why build a permaculture park project?

As we enter a new era of wild weather, rising food prices and crisis, crumbling infrastructure and the associated cost of maintaining the built environment, Ithaca’s first permaculture park project addresses many of these issues and more. Permaculture design offers a way to create resilient landscapes and food production systems that can weather the extremes that Mother Nature sends us more and more these days. By planting a diverse array of hardy perennial food plants in groupings, or guilds, which form mutually supportive plant communities, we can begin to transform the way we grow food. Permaculture systems are more resistant to drought and other climate extremes, pest and disease outbreaks and lower maintenance than conventional agriculture systems (thus reducing maintenance costs). At a time our city is struggling to make ends meet, we can provide a great service by adopting and maintaining one of our city parks using a good deal of volunteer labor. Green spaces are a great way to absorb excess rainfall and by gradually replacing lawns with food producing landscapes, we can increase the ability of our green spaces to suck up extra water. Other environmental benefits include habitat enhancement and increased availability of food for our at-risk pollinators.

Resilient communities need smart environmental design, but they also need socially conscious design. Growing food in public spaces that can be picked and eaten by any and all is in itself a revolutionary act. We live in an era when essential needs like food, water and shelter increasingly are commodified and treated as a tool for profit. By decommodifying food, we provide a new model not just for growing food, but for organizing a compassionate society in which the needs of people come first. When we no longer are worried about where our next meal is coming from, we can turn our minds to other important societal questions. Most Americans have trouble getting enough fruit in their diet, so readily available fruit plantings near our homes also will increase our health, making us stronger, more clear headed and more effective in our communities. By working together as a community to build and maintain this project, we also are building camaraderie and engaging in important conversations while we work.

There is also one final goal being achieved by this project that often goes unnoticed and undervalued in our culture; beauty. In my mind, there is nothing more beautiful than a healthy, productive ecosystem with an abundant and diverse array of fruits, flowers and forms. There is nothing more beautiful than dedicated individuals working together to achieve a common goal and working toward the greater good. And there is nothing more beautiful than a community such as ours which embraces a project like this wholeheartedly, knowing that we can and need to be an example in this time of uncertainty.

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Work Party June 11th

Mayor Svante Myrick contemplates what to plant next

Mayor Svante Myrick contemplates what to plant next

We’ll be getting together at the park on Wednesday from 4-6 pm. In addition to weeding and mulching we may also be planting a couple new things. For anyone who missed out on our opening ceremony last Monday, we can also tour the park to see the newest plantings including our first “permaculture guild.”

The Permaculture Park is located at the corner of Adams and Lake in Conley Park, right next to the science center. For more information contact josh at or 607-280-8498. Please help us by spreading the word to your gardening friends and any potential new gardeners you know. Hope to see you there!

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