Cold Climate Design
The site is basically an empty canvas apart from an existing shed and rainwater tank. There is a slope leading up from the house to a flattened area at the back of the property.
Materials required :
-Sleepers for steps
-Bamboo / sticks / fence posts as trellis system for natural barriers around zone II
- Large rocks (some already exist on property) as a retaining wall on sloped area dividing one I and II and rock spiral in zone III
- chicken coop
- wood chips for pathways
- pond liner, solar pump
- stakes and protective barriers for initial growth of orchard trees
- 4 posts and 2 gates
- trellis system for fence near chicken coop in zone II
zone I veges :
Rotations that have a heavy feeder, light feeder, green manure, then legume such as:
Zone II orchard and chicken run :
Zone III - rock spiral
Australorps and Leghorns for chicken run
Goldfish for pond
Zone & Sector
The proposed site backs on to several industrial buildings which thmeselves are bordered by open, undeveloped land and some grazing paddocks for cows. Kangaroos are sometimes seen hopping through the area. The ground of the site is higher around the buildings and dlopes down to a draining point. These earthworks had been completed during the construction of the buildings and serve as a suitable variation in creation potential microclimates. Some notable observations are :
- Lower ground regularly floods heavily in winter
- dandelion and caopeweed are present
- significant rainwater can be harvested from the extensive roof structures of the 3 buildings.
- Some staff use the rear gates to enter the area and a rough pathway can be seen where foot traffic has prevented groundcover from growing.
- There are few onsite resources that are available apart from green waste from the 3 buildings.
Sector analysis :
Water flows to the drain but pools in excessive rains anywhere up to 10-15 cm, plants that can make use of/ survive in this area will be useful. The buildings serve as a good windbreak as does the embankment built up beyond the drain. It wouldn't be a bad idea to use fire retardant plants on the western side of the embankment. The sun travels east to west directly over the current foot path which may benefit keyhole beds either side.
The path will be the best for Zone 1, close to the courtyard gate. The courtyard would be considered zone 0. Zone 1 contains edibles that may be used for workers lunches, eg lettuce, herbs, tomato, strawberries and other pickables. Zone 1 stretches out 20-30 metres beyond the courtyard along the path, past that it becomes too far to be viable. Flanking either side of zone 1 will be a good area for zones 2 holding some fruit trees. Zone 3 lies along the path but beyond the proximity of zone 0 so is a low to no maintenance area. Section 4 generally follows the east side of the embankment but would benefit from penetrating inwards somewhat to the flood area where perhaps river redgum could be planted. The western side of the embankment will rarely see human presence and serves as a wildlife area as Kangaroos already travel this zone.
1. Begin with a drawing of the site
2. Overlay specific features
3. Define zones
4. Initial plantings
5. Expected development over time
When preparing to create a Permaculture design, here's three areas you may want to consider first:
1. Soil management
- observe - what problems currently exist
- soil testing - ph, texture, structure, organic matter, erosion potential, ability to absorb water
- employ compost strategies in response to soil test, dig in organic matter
- cover/legume crops, mulch, bark chips for erosion and weed control
- stock take existing resources on site
- list local resources that are cheap or free and are easy to access
- list on site tools and structures
- develop designs to make use of resources
- observe where water flows
- stock take existing water management resources
- assess suitability of existing management resources
- plan diversionary earthworks if required
- plan irrigation, ponds, dams, water tanks
- plan overflows
Testing soil is an important start to any development of a permaculture system. Knowing the pH will help select plants and also possibly give you some idea of how the land has previously been used and what you might have to do to bring it back to balance. It will also define the need to mulch and provide cover crops if the soil appears to lack in nutrients. Developing a strategy for composting is highly relevant in the early stages of the design as the earlier this is established, the quicker the compost can be used. Taking stock of current issues through observation will also help to ensure problems don't arise when plants are being established, eg weeds and pests.
One of the major elements of Permaculture design is sustainability and multipurposing. Taking stock of all items on site is extremely vital. An old unused gate may become a trellis for a bean to climb behind which a chicken may be able to hide their eggs for example. An old trough may become a worm farm etc. A pile of rocks can become a hiding place for lizards. What resources are available locally? Is there a furniture factory nearby that is looking to dispose of woodshavings? A cafe looking to dispose of large amounts of coffee grounds? Listing on site tools and utilities will also assist the planning process. If a bore is present for example it may affect the design. The tools available may also impact the type of design. Spending time reflecting on these resources but also imagining creative uses for them is yet another vital step in permaculture design.
When developing a permaculture design, observation is an important first step. Watching where water flows, pools or drains can give you clues about how to best form a design. Planning should also consider what management strategies already exist and what you may employ. Is water being directed to the right place in the first instance? Are there structures that catch water and drain to tanks? Are any diversionary earthworks required? Do any water management resources need to be added such as trees or other plants to absorb the water and make use of it?
Comfrey is a great permaculture plant primarily because of what it can give to the soil as a compost or green manure. It grows fast and can be harvested multiple times over a year and when added to compost or let to rot on the ground it is excellent at increasing microbial activity and adds nitrogen.
To raise comfrey you can sow from seed or propagate via root division in Autumn. Grow in a shady position and regularly water. In a sunny position if you can't keep the water it will wilt and wither, slowly drying up at the ends before passing on to plant heaven.
Choose any average, well drained soil and allow plenty of room for the roots to spread. They generally don't require fertilizing and will survive in pots or the ground. Be aware that they can spread easily via seeding. New growth will appear in spring, with flowers that attract pollinators emerging in summer.
Comfrey is reputedly a great companion for trees such as apple, apricot, peach, pear, plum and nectarine. At times pests such as slugs, snails and aphids will give comfrey some trouble.
Comfrey, once established is a hardy, frost tolerant plant that survives a fair range of climatic and soil conditions.
Here's a couple of photos of a Mandala garden I have designed. The 3 photos show the steps to creating the design. First a series of shapes on tracing paper. Here the paper can be folded so that you can trace a mirror image of the design to create some symmetry. From that first sketch some refining and planning goes on and finally the completed sketch.
The Water Cycle
The water cycle is the movements of water above, upon and below the surface of the earth. This cycle has 4 stages that are : storage, evaporation, precipitation and runoff. These stages are often cyclic.
Water is stored in lakes or within the ground, it evaporates in high temperature and creates clouds then precipitates back to the earth and the cycle starts again.
In a permaculture system that has large trees, ponds and ground cover this water cycle fits firmly with the ecosystem. Trees keep ground cover protected to help retain ground moisture, ponds store the water and provide sources of evaporation. Precipitation occurs and runoff keeps ponds and waterways filled with new, fresh water and the soil with renewed moisture. Deserts have few trees and little rain whereas a rainforest is full of trees and it rains regularly. An environment in balance can easily be disrupted through over consumption of resources and the pollution of water and can turn a flourishing system into a struggling waste.
My first attempt at a no dig garden began on sandy, desolate soil that little else was growing on except a few weeds. It was positioned in an unused area near our toolshed behind where our normal growing beds were located. My colleagues on the farm did wonder what I was up to collecting twigs and stockpiling newspapers.
So it began with a heavy layer of newspaper in a long line, followed with a mesh of twigs and sticks and top. On went a cover of straw and I began watering it all down. We had a bit of compost about, plenty of grass clippings and bags and bags of wood shavings from a local furniture workshop. I inter-layered these on top of the straw as one normally would for a no dig garden bed but the only component I was lacking was manure so I made do with a couple of layers of finely sprinkled dynamic lifter to help the process of decomposition along.
We had leftover lettuce, sunflower, radish and snapdragon seeds so in they went. Everything performed really well in a place that wasn't likely to grow anything particularly well prior to the no dig garden bed. So much so that we decided to lay irrigation hose as I had been hand watering previously. The problem was that we needed a slightly different layout for the no dig bed and it was here that we made a great discovery. By simply grabbing the heavy layer of newspaper underneath we were able to drag out sections of the mounds and reposition them without too much disruption to the plants. Thumbs up for no dig garden beds!