Permaculture Home Garden

Permaculture Home Garden

“Co-operation, not competition, is the key”

My Senior project was the best experience of all my undergraduate studies as it allowed be to analyze and synthesize the information that I have gained during my “Sustainability” studies. My interest towards Permaculture and Agriculture in general has allowed me to expand my knowledge in both practice and theory by creating a “home garden” using the materials of the land and no power tools.

The aim of my project was not only for me to earn my qualifying credit for graduation but it was to demonstrate that with the correct “technique” and “attention” we are able to grow our own food to sustain ourselves. If you would like to view the method and details of my project please follow this link: Permaculture Design


Schematic Design- Design Process

Sample of Design Elements Placed

The design process was very interesting. We began to generate the cards, which consisted of the elements that were already on the site as well as newer element that the client desired. As we began to place the cards on our base map, we were able to see patterns and relationships develop between elements already existing on the site as well as newer ones. We had re-arranged the cards many times to setup the best scenario by integrating what we have learnt in class. While moving the cards we see more clearly how the permaculture principles were able to fit into our design. As we continued to move around the cards, our relationships between the elements and the functions were strengthened. We were now getting the hang of the permaculture principles at use. I had many “aha” experiences with seeing the striking relationships between elements, the form, and their function.

For example, we placed the vegetable garden, green house and compost in relative location to each other. If we need compost for the garden and green house it is nearby as when we weed the garden the compost pile in nearby. The chickens are also in relative location to the garden and green house to provide manure and assist in weeding. These are the principles of biological use of resources, and nutrient cycling.

We have also made use of micro-climates on the south and west wall, as well as created more micro-climates. For example we placed a trellis system, of beans, peas and squash on the south side to allow for shade for other cooler plants that require less sun hours. Since there is a disease on some of the ash bore trees- we looked at this as a solution rather than a problem; by using succession planting under these trees. Another “problem is a solution” was the flooding on the north side of the property during heavy rains. Instead of digging trenches to diver water flow we designed a rain garden, which will enhance the diversity of plant species and create another micro-climate.

Once we decided on the most integrated design, in terms of fulfilling all the principles of permaculture we decided to looking even deeper in various types of species native to the area, and using companion planting techniques. Choosing plants was exciting, as we had variety of native plants in Iowa that all had amazing characteristics.

The entire process for me was the most exciting exercise so far in the course, as it allowed me to express the knowledge learnt in this class, as well as to see how these principles fit together and complement each other in a real life situation.

Hand on Experience With Doug, Brain and Avi

I had a wonderful time today, soaking up the sunshine, getting dirty with making compost, and grafhting and pruning trees.

Building the Compost

We began by making compost. This was very exciting as we began to see the pile being built. The compost materials consists of carbon, nitrogen, and aeration of the pile. This consisted of dried leave, straw, horse manure, freshly cut grass and wood chips. We began by laying a foundation of leaves to the pile. Usually one would use dried branches that would create a raised effect for the compost and allows for air enter from the bottom. We then added the next layer, which was freshly cut grass. This layer was very thin. We then spreaded it out and incorporated it in to the pile. The next layer was straw, which we also spreaded out onto the pile, and next we added the horse manure. Between each layer we added water to enhance the decomposition process. We continued this process layering all the materials together, until we reached a height of 3 ft.

The reason we use the layering technique is to help us gauge the carbon and nitrogen ratio of the materials. Over the next 4 days we will monitor the temperature. When it reaches a temp. of 160 F, we need to turn the compost.

Cleft Graft

Our next lesson was with Brian, we learnt how to graft trees. This was a very interesting process. We used a pear tree for demonstration purposes. We first began by slitting one end of the stem down the middle. Then we used another stem and created a wedge. The reason for this is to expose the cambium layer of the plant so that there would get some growth that would be able to take place. We also learnt how to prune tress. Trees are usually pruned, either to provide fruit, safety, health and for aesthetics. When we prune for safety it involves removing branches that could fall and cause injury or property damage.

Avi on Pruning

Pruning for health involves removing diseased branches, thinning the crown to increase air-flow, and removing crossing and rubbing branches. We also prune to encourage trees to develop a strong structure and reduce the likelihood of damage during severe weather.

I thought all these techniques that I learnt today is very useful, and it is something that I will surely use in my field of study.

Bike Field Trip

Today was an amazing day, as we seen three wonderful home gardens that I had no idea it existed .

4th street garden

The first stop was on the corner of 4th and Broadway street. The front garden of the house has a beautiful setup. It has a large oak tree, which provides a good shelter for the diversity of plants growing underneath them. The garden mainly consists of perennial plants. The soil was very rich and filled with organic matter, and beneficial insects. The garden had a great diversity of flowers that attract bee and other beneficial insects. The back yard was filled with many garden beds, including two paw-paw trees. The owners also made there own compost fro all the waste in their garden. They have a rain catchment system that collects 1500 gallons of water. The site took nine years to be fully established.

Our next stop was Brian’s house. Brain has a beautiful house south east of town. This was a very different site compared to the first one that we went to, as this is the first year that the garden was established. IN the front garden Brain has setup a few guilds. One of the guilds has asparagus, and serviceberry and comfrey. He also has graphted trees of which he graphted three different onto. In the back yard Brain has built a beautiful patio, and laid a foundation for solar oven.

Banana Pit

I was really amazed with Brian’s creativity, as it was expressed in all aspects of his work. Below the patio he has created a grey water system, which feeds into a banana pit that he has recently planted. These are wild bananas and growth really fast. On the south side of the property Brian has constructed a burm, of which most of the material came from the patio. Here is an example of a permaculture principle; each element supports many functions. Brian also has many other plants and a herb garden that he has started. He also has two paw-paw trees that he started from seed.

Pollacks Home

The next stop was the Pollack’s. This was an amazing place filled with diversity in all directions. The plot consisted of a vegetable garden, chickens, large ash wood trees, and many other trees, and a home built shower. I would of never of imagined that there would be an oasis of beautiful plants and flowers here in Fairfield. The entire garden has many trees, which shelter the garden and provide a microclimate for all the plants to thrive. The home really expressed the consciousness of the residence. The atmosphere was very calm and serene, which invited various types of birds.

The entire field trip was a full of knowledge and exciting, as I learnt a lot of different techniques that other people used in their gardens. This is always useful, since gardening does not really have a set of rules to follow. It always depends on climate, soil type and the attitude of the gardener. I really appreciate these field trips as it is a new way to learn, share and integrate knowledge learnt in class.

Abundance Eco-Village Tour

Eco-Village Sunrise

Today we spent the morning at eco-village. We started of with a cool bike ride from campus and flowed with the wind. The day was very beautiful and full of sunshine- a little windy though. We started the tour off from the Michael Havelka’s farm . This was a really inspiring tour, as it displayed many of the permaculture principles that we are learning in class. The elements such as the chicken, vegetable garden, orchards, and the pond were all in relative location to each other. There is a lot of diversity on the farm. Each aspect of the farm used permaculture principles. Another interesting part was that the farm was completely off the grid; mainly powered by solar pv, solar thermal and wind energy. The main house was built out of natural materials, and properly insulated.

Map of the Eco-Village

Our next stop was at the eco-village. This is sub-division of the farm; located 5 minutes walk away from the Halvelka farm. This area is also completely of the grid, but is more of a housing settlement. This also is powered by pv, solar thermal and wind power.

We toured the farm and found out many interesting facts such as the wildlife and plant species. We then moved to the southwest of the eco-village, where we toured three building all made from natural and local building materials.

The first house was made of cob. This was very interesting, however, the owners regretted using this material due to its low r-value (resistance value) to the cold winters. Heat would easily escape despite the wood-burning stove.

The other house was made of clay straw bale. They encounter many problems here; the main one being rotten hay bales. The owner had to take down the walls and replace the all the straw bale.

The third house, was much larger, and relied onto the grid for power. The design was very interesting, as it consisted of wooden floor, and ceiling panels. These houses are very inexpensive, as the only cost is for the materials, which are al harvested locally. The labor is usually covered by the owner, or in some cases, the entire community get involved- and the job gets done faster.

This is the value of community- where everybody living in short distance from each other being to learn from each other. There is more of  trade of skills set and knowledge rather then money and just labor.

Overall I enjoyed the tour of the eco-village. Although, I had spent a lot of time in the eco-village doing various projects, I did not know about the natural building structures.

The entire eco-village project; Havelka farm, eco-village settlement, and natural building structures, reminds me of the SCI principle of unity in diversity. In one place we can find so much diversity, and they all are connected with each other in their own way. This brings to my mind that a small community such as this one can certainly serve as a model of inspiration for other cities, states and countries to adopt.

Eco-Fair Blog

Richard Khan

The eco fair was really amazing, as I learn t so many new skills and ideas that will prepare for me for the future. To start of I went to Richard Khan’s talk. I thought that it was very interesting, as he spoke about the change that we need to make in society, due to the disconnect from the individual and the environment.

I also attended the talk by Kevin Doyle on job search within the field of sustainability. This was very inspiring as he broke down the necessary steps needed to take for looking for a job. The main point taken here was that it is important to know what field  of sustainability we would like to work in. We should research that field and then connect with the right people and setup a network.

I was a volunteer for the dirty electricity workshop, which was really interesting. I was amazed to find out about all the dirty electricity or electromagnetic fields that are around us, in our homes and workplaces. The workshop covered, many aspects such as how to find an electr-magnetic field, and also provided some ways to avoid it.

Yesterday, I attended Doug’s workshop on permaculture. This workshop involved permaculture garden design. I really enjoyed this process as we designed our own garden space in a real garden bed. We decided where the garden would be located, where and how wide the paths would be , and designed a list of plant that would be suitable for Iowa’s growing conditions. I really enjoyed Dough, as he is a reservoir of knowledge, he truly is an exponent of the knowledge of permaculture.

Eco-Fair Stalls

I enjoyed the eco-fair, and wish that more people could of attended to learn about sustainability. My overall take home point is that if people want to make a significant change in the world they would need to certainly change their mindset as hoe they view things in life, with regard to their connection with themselves and relationship with nature.

SCI and Permaculture Principles

Permaculture Design Principles and SCI

Efficient Energy Planning- This involves zone and sector placements of different plants, animals and structures that would benefit the holistic functioning of the farm. These techniques enable the farmer to reduce the amount of physical labor, and rather make use of the energy in nature to do the work.

This reminds me of the SCI principle “do less and accomplish more,” which reflects energy efficient planning. When we use zone, sector and slope analysis, we are able to see the bigger picture in terms of where all structures should be placed, and where energy can be conserved rather than wasted. For example we place the water on the hill to gravity feed down, instead of using a pump. We can also plan to grow timber on top of the hill making transporting easier.

Accelerate Succession and Evolution

Evolution and succession involves development and change over time of different plant and animal species. The farmer makes use of what is already growing already. This includes a group of weeds or herb layer, which initially colonize the land. This stage later develops into pioneer species, which inhabit the land and thereafter give rising to climax species. Each stage of succession gives rise to nitrogen rich soil provided by pioneer legume species, as well as fertilizer in the form of biomass. Each stage seems to prepare the land for a more complex ecosystem.

The SCI principle connected to this is the “nature of life is to grow. According to Maharishi, the force of evolution is responsible for the maintenance and growth of individual life. Our success and failures prepare us and provide solutions for the future. In this same way nature, evolves in succession and evolution of the land, preparing at every stage for the next stage to come into being.

Small Scale Intensive Systems

Small scale intensive systems, means that much of the land can be used efficiently.Small scale intensive systems also include diversity in an ecosystem, which provides stability for that system. This stability occurs among co-operative species of plant and animals. In permaculture diversity or small scale intensive systems can be seen in edible food forests, which involves an association of species around a central element (plant stacking), and making functional connections between them to assist its health, aid in management, or act as a buffer from harsh environmental effects. As we begin to study the nature and characteristics of food forests, we see a common pattern of layers. This reminds me of the SCI principle life is found in layers. As we have the solid matter of an object, which then leads into subtler and subtler levels, atomic, and subatomic, so to this can be seen in the edible forest model. In this edible landscape we have the high tree canopy, which shades the rest of the plants. Next we have another layer with smaller shrubs and fruit trees and then we have the herb layer on the ground. As a whole system each layer of tree, shrubs, plants and herb layer plays an important function to play, such as trapping heat, and providing sunlight to different layers of the forest.