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Posts Tagged ‘Sepp Holzer’

Permaculture Design Food Forest Apple Tee Guild Community Gaia's Garden Toby Hemenway

Beautiful fruit tree guild/community from Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway

Permaculture is more than growing food; it includes how we live with each other, how we live with the land. It’s living sustainably, a way of life!

It started in the modern sense with Australian Bill Mollison, researcher, author, scientist, teacher and biologist. His legacy was carried on by his student David Holmgren. Bill’s most famous book is the 1991 Introduction to Permaculture, still a great read today!

Geoff Lawton has taken Permaculture to over thirty countries around the world, to teach, to restore deserts. Permaculture uses nature’s ways of bringing land back to life. It has been done on many continents. The UK and China recently announced ambitious projects to plant millions of trees in an effort to create new forests. Feb 13, 2018 – China has reportedly reassigned over 60,000 soldiers, and some of their police force, to plant trees in a bid to combat pollution by increasing the country’s forest coverage.

High altitudes Austrian Sepp Holzer is another hero. His book is Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture: A Practical Guide to Small-Scale, Integrative Farming and Gardening. One admirer says: ‘Sepp’s approaches to horticulture and agriculture generally sound CRAZY! And then you hear the logic behind it and see the amazing results. The dude is a genius!’ He’s great to hear in person. It is said he was doing permaculture before he ever heard the word! And I’ll bet some of you are too!  

Gaia’s Garden, the best-selling permaculture book in the world, by Toby Hemenway brought permaculture to the average American veggie gardener, urban and suburban growers. His chapter on living SOIL changed my life! It woke me to how gardening is a 100% living adventure!

His book explains how ‘many people mistakenly think that ecological gardening—which involves growing a wide range of edible and other useful plants—can take place only on a large, multiacre scale. As Hemenway demonstrates, it’s fun and easy to create a “backyard ecosystem” by assembling communities of plants that can work cooperatively and perform a variety of functions, including:

  • Building and maintaining soil fertility and structure
  • Catching and conserving water in the landscape
  • Providing habitat for beneficial insects, birds, and animals
  • Growing an edible “forest” that yields seasonal fruits, nuts, and other foods’

‘[The] revised and updated edition features a new chapter on urban permaculture, designed especially for people in cities and suburbs who have very limited growing space. Whatever size yard or garden you have to work with, you can apply basic permaculture principles to make it more diverse, more natural, more productive, and more beautiful. Best of all, once it’s established, an ecological garden will reduce or eliminate most of the backbreaking work that’s needed to maintain the typical lawn and garden.’ That’s quite a claim, but it’s true!

How I got to know permaculture was the large scale version, first selecting the land – ideally choosing an area that has higher land that drains to a lower area, a creek is lovely. You can have hillside terracing, your veggies are watered, and you have fish ponds below that water and fertilize veggies there! Food forests can be a part of this setup with the seven levels of plants. First you plant core trees, install shrubs as undergrowth, on down to ground covers and lowest level veggies. Trees, like other plants and us, get along with some plants, not others. Tree guilds, communities, are important to establish. Depending on how much land you have, select your trees wisely.

Here are three basic diagrams to help your decision making:

1) Wind protection, keeping your garden warm in a cool climate or dryer in a moist shore area climate, or conversely, more sheltered from drying winds in a dry climate! This U shaped keyhole garden lets the warmest southern sunshine in. Adjust it to your needs.

Garden Design U-Shaped Sun Trap Keyhole Permaculture

2) Food Forests – Guilds/Communities!

Food Forest - Forest Garden 7 Level Design
There are variations! Every gardener’s situation and wants are different. This is a guide to stir your thinking. If you have a lot of wind, the shrub layer can be super important to the veggies. Adjust as makes sense. IE # 3, the shrub layer height depends on what you choose. I like blueberries, and blackberries are a lot taller!!!

A remarkable feature of Forest Gardens is when many who have never seen such a thing before see them for the first time, not being familiar with the food plants of an area, they don’t know it is a garden! Indigenous peoples ‘gardens’ blend so perfectly with nature, unknowing visitors think that area is simply the nearby perimeter undergrowth surrounding the village!

3) Here is an Apple Tree guild/community example. Look how much can happen there! If you don’t do that, put in a legume and oats cover crop to feed and condition the soil. Maybe you would do that the first year. Here’s a more extensive post Living Mulch! When, Which and Why?!
Design Guild Community Apple Tree Permaculture
Another permie principle is to be as self sufficient as possible. Select soil enhancing legume trees, trees for quick growing firewood, trees with nuts for protein. Have fish and chicken for protein and manures! Raise bunnies, goats and sheep for fur/wool for clothing, and poop and meat. Make your own energy.

However, if you are gardening at a community garden in a 10X20′ plot like I am, you scale down to the most simple applications of the principles. You take sun/shade, high/low areas, wind direction, into account, plant cover crops when the soil needs refurbishing. You might install a small water pool or plant water loving plants in a low area near the hose. Plant companions to enhance growth, protect from pests and diseases. Intentionally include habitat for beneficial insects, birds and animals in your space or nearby. Install wild bee homes and owl houses.

Row or monoculture planting, like farm plantings, are ‘unnatural,’ not as useful as biodiversity like in nature. Research has shown home gardeners efficiently produce more per square foot than farms do! We don’t need tractor or harvest machinery space. Plants can be grown side by side, trellised above and grown under the biggers, around and among! Even in rows, ie lettuce, carrots, onion, kale can grow all together, from tall to short, harvesting is no problem! If you plant along the sun’s path of the day, you can grow on both sides of the tallest plants!

Companion Planting

Organic growers are combining strips of bright flowers and legumes among their plantings to bring bees, enhance their soil, interrupt pest patterns, eliminate the need for pesticides! We can do that on a smaller scale, and not necessarily in rows! In drought areas savvy farmers are using land differently, following the contours of hillsides, along canyon walls, like farmers all over the world have done for centuries. They are resurrecting old tricks like cultivating after a rain to prevent evaporation.

Pest Pesticides Reduction Flower Stripes Habitat in Fields

Seed Saving is clearly a vital part of permaculture. In the old days, isolated people’s lives depended on it. Saving our local seeds, from our best plants, each year, yields super plants with improved production. Those plants love that location, that soil. They love you and how you garden! Seed Saving is still a very vital ritual.

Getting a Permaculture Design Certificate, PDC, is most admirable, recognized around the world. In Santa Barbara CA area Santa Barbara City College offers a right smart course by two savvy instructors! Nearby Quail Springs Permaculture Farm offers a 2 week intensive taught by well-known instructors. You live-on-the-land, applying the principles as you learn them. It is a treasured experience. Getting your certificate with the world renowned Larry Santoyo, water specialist, is much coveted.

There are many permaculture publications, including ecopsychology!

There are events worldwide! This site lists events important to those of us interested in permaculture. This page by Oregon State University lists permaculture organizations worldwide!

The idea is to get maximum return per the land’s ability to support it in harmony with nature and each other.

Permaculture applies to all facets of your life. Being thoughtful about growing fruitful relationships with people is part of permaculture. We are all part of the greater ecosystem. Humans need specific care. Special kindnesses, sharing, to be able to secure our needs in times of stress – illnesses, injury, losing a loved one, crop failure, hard seasons or years. Collaborating like companion plants certainly enhances our chances. Plants can’t go walkabout, but we can. We can do good for many other humans and spread the good word. We can share our abundance. At times we can trade one thing for another.

Stand way back. Get a good look at the big picture. Take time to be thoughtful. The earliest facets of your Permaculture choices, like the selection of trees, are the most permanent, that shape the long term plan, the backdrop for years to come. Let go of artificial time limits. Wait. Have patience, learn more. If you don’t feel quite sure yet, talk with more others. ‘Mistakes,’ like growing the ‘wrong’ tree, could have 20 or 30 year consequences. Ask others why and how they got started, what mistakes they made, how, if they could be, repaired. What were their successes that have done well for them. Search online for the pros and cons of your ideas. If you are on totally new ground you may just have to fly by the seat of your pants! Take images to document your experiences. Make a few reminder notes as to why you made that decision at that time.

The most natural times to establish a new permaculture garden in southern climates are at season changes, but, of course, there are variables for many reasons. Start when you can. In northern areas we’re looking at spring. Well before that time, be researching and designing – notice nature’s ways with your land and let that be part of what shapes your plans. Smaller shrubs, veggies, can be adjusted along the way all year every year.

Permaculture isn’t really something new. It is way more complicated than these few words. I hope you look into it further for yourself. We are each so different, no two situations quite the same, each are making our own unique contribution. It takes a village. Please make comments, leave a trail of knowledge for others to follow. Blog your experiments and experiences. That is like fertile soil to our minds that translates to our gardens.

Live in as good a way as possible in ultimate harmony with nature! 

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Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara’s community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are often in a fog belt/marine layer most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. In 2018 they lasted into September and October! Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is.

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Veggies growing in homemade compost!

Veggies growing in homemade compost! Photo by Rod Zimmer

Compost is the single most best thing you can do for your soil! It feeds your plants, adds water holding capacity, and much more! 

Anytime we have a season change, compost becomes more important. In summer most of us are thinking how can I do it all?! Harvesting takes more time than waiting for the plants to produce. There’s more watering to do in summer. Yet, fall is soon upon us and though making compost takes a wee bit more time, it is so needed to give our plants a good start! In winter, making compost is essential for spring planting!

Here are some possibilities!

There are 3 basic kinds of compost, cold and hot and composting in place.

Of the cold kind….

The kind that finishes the quickest is the kitchen veggie waste that gets chopped vigorously with the shovel every few days, turned and turned again. Small bits decompose faster. The pile is kept moist. The dry brown material in the pile isn’t usually  straw. Straw is hard to chop and takes a long time to decompose. It’s more like leaves, some already chopped, partially decomposed mulch type stuff. The right leaves have nutrient value. See more. With only a couple of turns, this whole process might take two weeks, usually less – even in cooler weather! It’s quick. For quick results it’s also best to put your compost in full sun. Shaded compost usually ends up untened. It’s in an out-of-the-way place, processes so slowly a lot of gardeners forget they ever made the pile. Neglected, the pile literally dies.

In a community garden or a small garden area you might not have space for such a pile. But if it’s a priority you probably will make the space! If you do, and if you want to keep it a bit contained, instead, make a shallow pit and put your ‘pile’ in there. Toss a thin layer of healthy soil over it and turn that in to inoculate your compost with soil organisms. They will speed the decomposition process. A thin layer of soil also keeps flies away and you have no smell. Cover it with a light layer of straw or plastic to keep it from being unsightly to visitors while it is in process. A wire cover over straw lets rain in, so I use a couple plastic bags left from manure. I put a light weight board over my cover and a concrete stepping stone on the board to keep it from blowing away. If it rains, the cover keeps your processing compost from getting too wet. If it’s dry weather, covering keeps it moist. It will decompose better rather than off gas the Nitrogen, dry and die. The cover is instantaneous to remove, then you can have at that pile with gusto! With that kind of pile, you have a fairly steady supply of compost. Most of the time some of it is ready to put here and there.

I am very grateful to three neighbors who give me their green kitchen waste. Since I also grow worms, I ask them to give me only what they imagine a worm could eat. Worms!

Compost Sifting‘Every day I fill the wheelbarrow with rich screened compost. It really smells quite delicious; nutty with a spicy note.’ Sifting your compost is a piece of cake! Grab your wheelbarrow or bucket, get a piece of hardware cloth/hogwire or a nursery plant flat with a smaller weave to it, like in the image, and sift away! You can build a lovely framed sifter or buy great rolling devices. Choose the size opening you want. Or, don’t sift at all. I like a little texture to my compost. 

Have your compost pile handy, nearby, warm in the sun for speedy decomposition! Keep it moist, cover it when it needs it – in hot/dry or rainy weather, turn it! Compost that gets turned regularly often gets raided before it’s completely finished. You can still make out some of what the stuff is that’s there. That works just fine because it finishes quickly, in the ground, at home with all the lovely soil organisms.

If there comes a time when you compost has been sadly neglected, spread the stuff out as a mulch and start over, or let it go and just buy what you need. No shame in that.

Hot Compost is PDF, pretty darn fast!

It can heat up to amazing temps, so hot it makes ash and you cannot put your hands in it without getting burned. You can see it steaming on a winter morning! The point is to kill diseases, pests, weed seeds. Well that almost gets done, because, you see, the heat is in the middle of the pile. So they say turn it so the hot part goes to the outside and the cool part to the inside. That, my friends, is easier said than done. But, at least some of it happens.

Two interesting points here. My cold compost pile gets that hot! Yep, it does. A well-built pile with thin layers will cook quite happily no matter your intention. It’s nature. The other thing is I don’t put diseased plants or seeding weeds in my pile, so I don’t need it to get hot. Sure, some pest eggs probably make it. However, what happens most is veggie seeds sprout when I put the compost in to amend my soil! I swear, I can’t see those seeds when it is compost. It all looks dark and yummy. But lots of times I’m glad that happens! The plants get a terrific start and I get surprises! This year I enjoyed two elegant celery plants that came up about a foot and a half from each other and everyone complimented how beautiful they were, robust, with gorgeous long dark green stalks!

Whether you do hot or cold compost is your choice. I’ve tried it both ways. Sincerely. Got a long thermometer, built cubic yard piles and turned them. Now I have cold compost and turn it. No way around that turning if you want results sooner than later. It doesn’t matter what size I build it. I’ve seen 1 cubic foot piles heat up just fine! If it gets hot, it’s hot. If it doesn’t that’s fine with me. Taking care of it, turning, keeping it moist, making thin layers gets the job done. The layers are more a measuring device – 1 dry to 2 wet. Once they are in, mix up the material so the straw is moistened and the wet just doesn’t make a mass. My friend who chops and turns his with vigor gets much faster results, and I may take that up too.

Composting in place

No dig composting in place is an age old technique more recently called Lasagna Gardening. It takes some prep time, that is often done with a group of friends, but once that is done, you’re home free! There’s no turning, no carrying finished compost about because it is already where you want it! Materials may take longer to decompose. It is a cold pile, but if your pile is directly on the earth, soil organisms happily munching makes things happen quickly. It takes a lot of materials to start depending on the size you want your garden to be. You can start with a small area, add more later.

The beauty is it can be done on top of a lawn to form a raised bed, with or without a box border. If you have lawn where you want to plant, peel back the lawn or not, lay down cardboard or newspaper to kill off the lawn, prevent it growing back, up into your bed. If you choose cardboard, water a LOT to soak that cardboard. Layer to your heart’s content until you run out of materials. You can make beds 18″ high to start. They will settle a lot. That 18″ can easily become 9″ in two or three days in warm weather! You can plant instantly! Just pull back a planting hole, add some ready or nursery-bought compost and any other amendments right for your plant, and plant! Your amazing ‘lasagna’ will decompose and make beautiful soil without you doing a thing more! Add more materials as you acquire them to any spots you want to build up or if you want more compost or a bigger or another bed!

If you are doing composting in place while gardening, you just put on the layers, between the plants or down a row, with the materials you have on hand until you run out. The smaller the chop, the pieces, the faster the decomp. Keep them moist so they will decompose faster.

Trench it and forget it! Trenching has always been the simplest technique of all! It’s a super simple way of putting chopped veggie kitchen wastes to work. Dig, pull back a 6″ trench, no deeper. Soil organisms live at the top. Put your kitchen waste in the trench, grab the shovel and vigorously chop the waste into fine pieces. If you don’t feel like chopping it, don’t! Put in the stuff, cover with some of the soil you pulled back. Turn that a couple times to mix in soil organisms to speed the decomp process, cover with the remaining soil and forget it. Period. Done. A week later you can dig in that area and find no trace of it. Soil organisms are intelligent and born hungry.

I combine trenching and a pit. If I have a spot needing compost, I trench it there. If there are no spots needing it right now, I put it in the pit and hold it until a spot needs it or a plant needs sidedressing (feeding mid season). In that case, in summer I also at a bit of manure or if it’s SoCal winter time, a little fish emulsion for easy and quick uptake.

NOTE! Compost you make isn’t the same as manure, nor nursery bought bagged compost. When you trench, you can add those at the same time if you wish. Manure is good ole down home stinky poopy stuff high in Nitrogen. You can also plant cover crops, living mulch, green manure for Nitrogen. You plant different areas to restore your soil, or in SoCal winter to make good soil for spring planting. Your soil also needs water holding capacity from bulk – what is called forest materials in nursery compost bags. Bagged nursery compost is fluffy. Air space. Your soil needs that too. Kitchen waste compost doesn’t have that. I buy bags of nursery compost – bulk and chicken manure – Nitrogen, as well and add them, sometimes to an area, definitely to my planting holes. Plants uptake a lot of their nutrition from tiny lateral feeder roots that often grow beyond the dripline of your plant, so if you can, do a whole area. Add special amendments to your planting hole. Make that planting hole a bit larger than you have been doing? Sometimes it depends on your budget how much materials you have available. Planting cover crops is cheaper, but it takes longer…

If you have massive amounts of stuff to compost, the fastest way of all, record time, is to use maggots! Cities use them and sell the compost! See all about it!

Hugelkultur Sepp Holzer Diagram Cross Section

Hugelkultur is a long term choice. Hugelkultur, hill mound, is the quintessential sustainable variation of ‘composting’ in place. It can be above and/or below ground and takes a lot more energy to start but what a payoff! Get some big logs, branches. If you are doing it above ground, lay two logs closely side by side, put a lot of bigger to smaller branches between them, then go for it! Woods that work best are alders, apple, aspen, birch, cottonwood, maple, oak, poplar, willow (make sure it is dead or it will sprout). Add leaves, grass clippings, straw, cardboard, petroleum-free newspaper, manure, compost or whatever other biomass you have available. Add some red wiggler casting worms if you have them. As possible add your materials in thin 1/2 to 1″ layers, dry, wet, dry, wet until the area is filled. Lay a third log on top of them and if you have sod you peeled up, lay it on top of the whole pile upside down and do it again! Top the turf with grass clippings, seaweed, compost, aged manure, straw, green leaves, mulch, etc. Top that with soil and plant your veggies! If you did it right, you end up with a steep sided tall pyramid pile and veggies planted at easy picking heights. See a LOT more and example variations at permaculture, practical solutions for self-reliance.

Raised bed Hugelkultur Lasagna Combo Buckman StyleIf you are starting a raised Hugelkultur bed, dig down about a foot or more, lay in the big logs, big branches around them, smaller branches on top, layer as above to the height you want, allowing for settling. The difference is that this is a flat top raised bed. You can also dig deeper and make the top of the bed flush with your soil! Also, you can do terracing with a Hugelkultur substructure.

Container gardeners you can do your own mini Hugelkultur version as well. A 1/2 beer barrel, a five gallon can, kid’s swimming pool, whatever you have, can be repurposed! Just be sure there are drainage holes. Double purpose your container by making it a self-watering system as well!

Hugelkultur is an excellent long term sustainable choice!

~ The heat from decomposition gives your plants a terrific early start or extends your growing season. You do need to be careful of freezes if you live in a cold area.
~ The right hardwood logs will give your plants steady nutrition for 20 or more years!
~ If you do the above ground version, you have more planting space because it is tall and vertical!
~ Nearby fruit trees are also fed.
~ The logs and branches soak up water and hold it, so less water to none is needed after the first year.

More clever tips!

  1. At intervals, near the center of your compost pile, place handfuls of old compost or fresh rich soil, as an infusion, an inoculant of soil making organisms.
  2. In dry SoCal, I cover my compost pile to keep it from drying out, and I never need to water it.
  3. When cold composting and composting in place, add red wriggler worms to chomp up materials. They add worm castings that help your plants’ immune systems and uptake of nutrients. If you will be turning the compost, kindly use a pitchfork so there will be the least damage to your worms.
  4. Be smart, add herbs! Penny Woodward says: ‘Regular handfuls of chamomile, dandelion and yarrow leaves and flowers will all speed up decomposition of the compost with YARROW being the most effective. Yarrow also adds copper, nitrates, phosphates and potash while chamomile adds calcium and ‘sweetens’ the mixture. Dandelions contribute copper, iron and potash. Nettles are problem weeds but they actually improve the quality of the soil they are growing in and when added to the compost they contribute iron and nitrogen. Tansy adds potassium, which is very important for plant growth while Valerian increases the phosphorus content so essential for good flowers and fruits [but is invasive!]. The most nutritious compost plant is COMFREY and it grows most of the year in SoCal coastal climate. The leaves are rich in potassium, nitrogen, calcium and phosphates. I keep a clump growing next to the compost. It grows like crazy, and I layer on a handful of leaves whenever I throw in kitchen scraps.
Stemilt's World Famous compost!

Fine finished Stemilt World’s Famous Compost!

Mix it up! Do any version or combo of compost versions that work for you or as you have the materials available to do what you want! Do more than one method at the same time! Super soil is the Number 1 thing you can do for your garden and compost makes the difference! When your compost smells great and you could just about eat it, you know you made it right!

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All that said, there are tons of composting devices available. Some work more or less, some work for one person but not another, for various reasons. Google for pros and cons of each one before you purchase. See if you think you will tend it as it needs to be tended, if it suits your needs, your location. Will you need additional tools. Imagine doing the process it requires. Would that really work for you. Worst is you buy and it fails. You can resell it, give it to someone who would be dedicated to the process it needs, donate it to a charity sale, or an organization that needs one. It’s ok.

All that said, if building your own compost isn’t your choice, support your local nursery and get the best from them! Otherwise, have a good dirty time of it!

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The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. We are very coastal, during late spring/summer in a fog belt/marine layer area most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

Read Full Post »

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