Imagine being able to step of your backdoor and pluck fresh red currants and strawberries for breakfast, gathering salads for lunch, or gathering fresh vegetables everyday from your garden every day. How great would that be? It’s the kind of lifestyle that most homeowners desire to have. If you are one of those homeowners, here are a few permaculture strategies that will help you realize diverse and abundant yields from your backyard.
Nourish the soil: It’s funny to think that despite all the accomplishments made by humans, their entire existence is due to a six inch layer of the topsoil and rainfall. To get deep soil, you can build 5X5ft raised beds with scaffold planks. Use wood chip at the bottom, and a mixture of manure and top soil. While they help build up biomass, wood chips break down with time releasing nutrients to the soil. Avoid walking on the beds or digging to allow the microorganisms do their job.
Tesselate crops: Vegetable crops are traditionally grown in rows but this is not exactly the best way to maximize on yields as it doesn’t save on space. In natural ecosystems, plants don’t grow in rows and the best way to mimic this culture is to grow crops in more staggered patterns, probably in triangles. Such a pattern will allow for up to 10% more yield that the row pattern.
Increase the surface area: Use raised beds that are dome-shaped with sloping sides to increase the surface area on which crops are grown. Increasing the surface area also allows you to create micro-climates that favor the growth of specific crops considering that some areas may be cooler than others depending on the time of the day.
Utilize vertical space: In a natural ecosystem, you will find that plants take advantage of all layers of a three dimensional space, from the ground to the canopy. What better way to mimic such a culture than by stacking crops in multi-layers rather than in a single dimension alone. Vegetables like cucumbers and beans can be trained to grow up trellis or poles to allow growth of lower vegetables like beetroot, chards and salads. Check regenerative leadership institute for more information.
Discover plant guilds: Guilds simply refer to groups of plants that mutually benefit from each other and which if grown together, can save on space and increase the yield. A good example is growing squash, climbing corns and sweet corn together. Squash acts as living mulch, helping the soil to retain moisture, sweet corn provides support for climbing beans, which act as nitrogen fixers.
The reuse of greywater in freezing climates is a great challenge. There is nothing much to do with the greywater as the garden is always full of snow and nothing is growing. Further, the greywater freezes in the pipes and clogs the whole system. Many people divert the greywater systems to the septic systems. However, it is still possible to reuse greywater even when the winter is very cold.
Planning for winter season
Here are several planning steps when maintaining your greywater system during the winter period.
- There should not be any standing greywater on the pipes. Any stagnant water may freeze and cause blockage to the pipe. This could result in a blockage. All pipes must slope downwards to deliver the water to the leach box. The same should happen in the pumped systems. The water should drain into the garden or back into the tank.
- If it is not possible to drain the pipelines in the pumped system, an automatic bypass tube should be created at the junction of the main system. If there is any freezing in the main line, the water can safely escape to the bypass system. To ensure that this works, you can have a tee with a tube running higher than the main line so that water is only forced into the tube when there is a blockage.
- You could also set up a greenhouse in the backyard and have it irrigated by greywater all year round. The greenhouse will require the water during the winter and the summer season. You have the benefit of enjoying fresh foods all year round.
- If you plan to shut the entire system, ensure that there is no water, that stands in the system. You can have a drain-down valve to drain all the water that may be left in the system
- Some piping systems that are exposed on the outside may need insulation or are buried in the soil. If you have a bio-filter in place, you should have it insulated too. This will prevent water from freezing in its compartments and causing a blockage all the way to your sink.
The main goal of winter planning for your greywater system is to ensure that there is no freezing within the pipe. Frozen water in the pipes will damage the system and cost you dearly once the cold season is over.
Learn more about greywater management and conservation at Open Permaculture School and Regenerative Leadership Institute. They teach all the relevant topics on maintaining your water systems in addition to saving on your water bills.
Applying mulch to the plants in your garden is an easy process. However, anyone can do well with some tips on how to apply mulch.
Do not put mulch straight against tree bases and plant crowns. When it is in direct contact with the tree trunks and stems, it may retain too much moisture near the base of the plant. The excess moisture can support the development of illnesses like crown rot. It can also act as lodging for rodents that eat barks and stems.
Do not apply mulch too thickly to avoid any problems. When your mulch is made of wood, decomposition at high temperatures may make it dry out. The fungi that make water repellent conditions all through the mulch can colonize the mulch. Water cannot penetrate the mulch and get to the soil, so the plants do not get adequate moisture. When the mulch is too deep, you make the soil remain constantly wet, and this contributes to stem and root rot issues. It also deprives the plants of necessary oxygen. Do not apply layers of mulch that are more than three inches thick.
Ensure you carefully water wood or bark mulches after you install them. Mulches of good quality are usually in large piles that get to high temperatures. When the mulch spreads or bags, the microorganisms that dwell in the mulch and can tolerate high temperatures die as the mulch cools. If you let the mulch dry out, nuisance fungi can inhabit the mulch and build a surface that can repel water.
Add a nitrogen source to the soils in your garden before you apply mulches made from wood. Soil microorganisms that cause organic materials to decompose compete for the little soil nitrogen available. As a result, there can be temporary deficiencies, particularly in annual and recurrent plants. If the leaves start turning yellow, it is a sign that there is a nitrogen deficiency. To solve this problem, Incorporate a nitrogen source before you use any mulch.
- Do not use plastic mulch near shrubs or any other hardy plants as it is not porous. It stops the flow of air and water to the roots and makes the soil to heat extremely up during summer.
- Pick the appropriate time to mulch. For perennials, shrubs and trees leave the mulch in throughout the year. For veggies and annuals wait till the soil warms before mulching. For shrubs or beds that are permanently mulched, you only need to refresh the top annually to maintain the appropriate depth.
You can get more tips at the Open Permaculture and Regenerative Leadership Institute.
Combining the best of natural landscaping and edible gardening , permaculture systems sustain both themselves and their caregivers . The ultimate purpose of permaculture – a word coined in the mid 1970s by two Australians , Bill Mollison and David Holmgren – is to develop a site until it meets all the needs of its inhabitants , from food and shelter to fuel and entertainment . While it’s the rare home gardener who can follow permaculture principles to the ultimate degree , most can borrow ideas from the permaculture ethos with landscaping techniques based on production and usefulness.
GARDENING + PERMACULTURE
Permaculture emphasizes the use of native plants or those that are well adapted to your locale . The goal here is to plant things you like while making sure they have a purpose and benefit the landscape in some way. Plants such as fruit trees provide food as well as shade ; a patch of bamboo could provide stakes for supporting pole beans and other vining plants . Permaculture gardeners grow many types of perennial food plants – such as arrowhead , sorrel ,chicory ,and asparagus – in addition to standard garden vegetables .
Like all gardeners , permaculture enthusiasts love plants for their beauty and fragrance , but they seek out plants that offer practical benefits along with aesthetic satisfaction . Instead of a border of flowering shrubs , for instance a permaculture site would make use of a raspberry or blackberry border .
Disease-prone plants , such as hybrid tea roses , and plants requiring a lot of water or pampering are not good permaculture candidates . choose a native persimmon tree that doesn’t need spraying and pruning , for example , instead of a high –upkeep peach tree . consider the natural inclinations of your site , along with the needs of its habitats and put as much of your site as possible to use . War with the materials already available rather than trucking in topsoil or stone. And remember that a permaculture design is never finished because the plants within a site are always changing. Learn that on our certified permaculture design course.
- Copy nature’s blueprint and enhance it with useful plants and animals . Think of the structure of a forest and try to mimic it with your plantings . A canopy of tall trees will give way to smaller ones , flanked by large and small shrubs and, finally,by the smallest plants . edge habitats , where trees border open areas , are perfect for fruiting shrubs , such as currents and for a variety of useful native plants such as beargrass , which is used for weaving baskets . Mimicking these natural patterns provides for the greatest diversity of plants.
- Stack plants into guilds . A guild includes plants with compatible roots and canopies that might be layered to form an edge .I’ll discover the plant which work together .for example pines , dogwoods ,and wild blueberries form a guild for acid soil.
- Make use of native plants and others adapted to the site.
- Divide your yard into zones based on use . place heavily used features such as an herb garden in the most accessible zones .
When someone starts talking about permaculture, and they are not involved in it to a degree to understand it, I notice a pattern in which all of them think of permaculture as gardening. It is not a strange thing, all of us at the beginning thought like that. But permaculture is more than that, it is a relationship between the man and the nature.
One part of permaculture is about achieving a food surplus and being able to live on your own work, there are more things that permaculture is about and only those that are profoundly involved in permaculture will understand completely what I am talking about. For others, there is a free permaculture training course, which may be essential to gain the knowledge of what permaculture means and to learn the principles and foundations of sustainable design. For starters I have this short article.
Being permaculturist is not wholly about having a permaculture system that provides you and only you with enough food so you don’t have to buy it. That is the gardening, self-sustainability is achieved through this, but there is more in being a permaculturist. To better undestand what a permaculturist aims for you have to understand the ethic every permaculturist have. The ethics can differ one from the other and can be said in different words but they all come down to three things. Vladislav Davidzon explained these thing in few of his works, but I will give you a watered down version of it.
First there is earth care, which focuses on taking care of everything earth has. Just taking from it we are doing damage to the nature, and the way we live has an effect of itself. So permaculture strives toward protecting and helping nature and all its components. Final aim of a permaculturist is to make a planet more healthy place where all of us can live, without destruction we are doing.
Then we have people care. A permaculturist works on nature to provide both himself and everyone else a better way of living and brighter future new generations. Some permaculture projects and systems are made even though those that make them know that they won’t reap the fruits of their labour. It is not about individual gain it is about the wellbeing of many.
And then we have fair share. When someone builds a permaculture system he is not aiming on capitalizing on his work. Core of permaculture is not about earning money through it, it is about self sustainability. And if your permaculture systems thrive and you have surplus you should share. If someone needs food and you have surplus you should share, that is a point of permaculture. Working towards better world, a world without starvation, a world where we all have what we need is what permaculture is all about.
So at the end you can see that there is a big difference between permaculture and gardening. Well to be precise, gardening is in a way watered down version of permaculture, or only a small part of what permaculture really is. Every beginner will start his venture into permaculture by making a garden with permaculture principles and designs interwoven in it, what he does after that defines what he really is, a botanist or a permaculturist.
Applying Permaculture Principles to Your Garden
Permaculture is often described as a complex system of codes and rules in agriculture and gardening, but this over-simplified definition is certainly lacking in objectivity since this “system” is now spread through several areas of human activity and overall society. Therefore, it can be sad that permaculture as a system can be applied in various fields where connection with nature is possible, since the basic idea of this movement is to achieve sustainable ecosystems by mimicking or replicating patterns and designs found in our environment.
The idea of biomimicry has been present for a longer period than permaculture itself, but they are now intertwined and form a coherent unit. Organic farming was a predecessor of permaculture, since farms of that kind existed several decades before the official appearance of the permaculture as a system. Masanobu Fukuoka – a well-known Japanese philosopher and author was very popular because of his natural and “do-nothing” farming, and he was a very big influence on the founding fathers of permaculture, which was established in 1978 by Australian professor Bill Mollison and his student David Holmgren.
They published a book named “Permaculture One” where they elaborated on their system of rules and principles that could be followed to achieve sustainable living. The actual term “permaculture” was coined from the phrase of another famous environmentalist and author – Joseph Russell Smith, who published his work in 1929 with the title “Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture”. Later during the years, this term changed its meaning and is nowadays used to mean “permanent culture”.
Learn more with David Holmgren
Mollison and Holmgren founded institutes, design school, farms of organic food, sustainable gardens and all of that had great impact all over the world. They were also giving lectures and courses all across the globe, and this also helped in making principles of permaculture more popular. Modern day institutes, like Regenerative Leadership Institute that was founded by successful entrepreneur and activist Vladislav Davidzon in 2004, are international companies and are migrating gradually to internet and are available online (Davidzon’s institute offers free courses on their online website since 2013, and their real-life program was visited by more than 250.000 people in over 95 countries).
Permaculture courses nowadays are focused on empowering people to be able to connect with nature, and work with, rather than against it. Synergy of human power and natural environment is the ultimate goal of this system, and this can only be achieved if the three core tenets of permaculture are followed:
• care for the Earth,
• care for the people and
• return of surplus.
All of these are explained to amazing detail on classes of permaculture, along with twelve Holmgren’s principles, which he published in his book “Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability”. Vladislav Davidzon, who I mentioned earlier, insists that his classes have a pragmatic approach and that immersion in nature is very important as well. After going through those courses, people are ready to take on big projects and start their own sustainable ecosystems, since permaculture is present in natural building, agriculture, agroforestry, natural farming, ecology, economy and many more areas.