Clara Packard, Aaron Dohm, Alan Sheppard

Knot Garden Background Knot gardens were first made fashionable in England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. They typically consist of a decorative design in the center with gravel or stone pathways weaving around the beds. Knot gardens typically have a variety of herbs and used for culinary reasons or simply to provide a peaceful place to unwind. Our Hiram Knot garden was first installed in 1974 as a traditional English garden. However in recent years it has been taken over by the Hiram Alumni and connected to the surrounding woods. Before our class community service project the Knot garden was a bit rough around the edges. There were weeds scattered between every crack crevice and garden bed. The original herbs and flowers planted were dying out and the garden as a whole wasn’t very sustainable. Our goal was to increase the Knot Garden’s sustainability by weeding and mulching the beds and planting species of plants that would decrease the garden’s need for human interference and hopefully create a garden that had a low and healthy impact on Hiram’s watersheds.     Community Service During our Field Biology course we all participated in community service to better the environment around Hiram Campus.  We focused mainly on the knot garden behind Bonnie Castle.  Our trio, Clara Packard, Alan Sheppard, and Aaron Dohm, began work early in the morning to improve the gardens around the house.  We started by removing all the existing foliage growing in the garden beds, which consisted mainly of invasive plant species.  These types of plants encourage a monoculture within the garden beds which limits the biodiversity of the area.  Biodiversity is an important factor in the sustainability and health of any garden, as it attracts multiple species of insects and critters so they may pollinate and upkeep the viability and diversity in the garden.  After the removal of invasive plant species we started to till and rotate the soil making sure all root systems were eliminated so they would not grow again.  Once the soil was turned, we took precaution to make sure we did not compact any of the surrounding beds because plants have difficulty growing in soil that is pushed down.  We then continued to plant a wide variety of new plant species so the garden may flourish for years to come.   Impact on Community Our work as a class greatly improved the health of the Bonnie Castle Knot Garden.  Many hands make light work and with every peer from the course participating in this project we were able to accomplish a completely revamped garden.  Not only does the garden look more appealing, it also aids the surrounding environment by encouraging the growth of new species of plants.  New insects will start flocking to the garden and begin to revitalize the health of, not only the garden, but the rest of the yard.  More or less, the project served as a function to show anyone who attends Hiram what we can do with a little know-how and the right attitude.  While our world as a whole may be getting destroyed, we can preserve the health of rural areas so that we may live amongst a sustainable environment.   Impact on Watersheds To understand how the knot garden aided our watershed issues, we must first understand what a watershed is.  Basically, it is the area of land where runoff water drains into a stream or river so it may be carried away to a larger water source.   The idea of a knot garden is not to have plants competing with one another but to have them work together for survival.  This sort of symbiotic relationship will help to improve the survival rate of all plant species included.  Think of the garden as a whole unit that interlocks to protect its vitality.  This drastically reduces our need to spray pesticides and herbicides to keep the garden healthy.  Since only a portion of the chemicals work to aid the garden the remaining amount of chemicals are left to be carried off into the watersheds which ultimately ends up in our drinking water.  We do not realize how many different chemicals are actually in our water and how some are not completely filtered out.  So, ultimately, knot gardens not only remain self-sufficient but they also protect us from dangerous chemicals that contaminate the water we use daily. Our individual group’s task included weeding and turning over old soil in the knot garden and the surrounding beds. This aspect of bed prepping didn’t directly impact Hiram’s watersheds but it was a vital step in setting a foundation for a sustainable and low-impact environment. Our weeding and soil turning helped decrease the amount of invasive species and weeds that were present in the garden to begin with. Invasive species such as trumpet vine and multiflora (as well as a variety of clovers & grasses) rose were taking over a majority of the knot garden and Bonney Castle yard. These plants are non-native to this area of Ohio and therefore have no competing species to keep it in check. Having any sort of plant living in its non-native environment often allows for rapid growth which ultimately leads to the demolition of the native plant species. This decrease in native species and increase in non-native species leads to an incredibly unsustainable environment that often calls for a deal of human interference. Unfortunately human interference usually consists of using a variety of pesticides that run into the watersheds and poison our environment.