Sunseed News

may 2012

by kirsty, project coordinator

Permaculture Design and Action

Following the Introduction to Permaculture course in April several volunteers wanted to get more experience designing a garden. I have been working with volunteers Rebecca and Hannah on a design for the Far Terrace; we started by surveying, doing interviews with the gardeners, and drawing maps and beginning the design concepts. The three of us made several visits to the garden then sat around a table with paper, reference books and coloured pencils and came up with a beautiful design.

The design brief is: 1) to simplify paths and water channels so that it is easier to navigate the garden and 2) increase the yield from the garden with a focus on perennial plants that don’t need as much attention as the annual plants. The final design includes reforming existing paths and irrigation channels into a branching pattern to ensure a better distribution of water. Also planting 4 new trees (apple, hazel, sweet orange, kaki) and many grape vines and kiwis; the idea is that in 5 years time the shade from these plants will create microclimates for plants that can’t stand the heat of the summer. We will also make sweet potato beds and grow them perennially; if you leave some of the tubers in the ground they will produce more the following year. Other perennials such as strawberries, rhubarb, perennial kale, and asparagus were included in guilds around the new trees. We researched different guilds which are communities of plants that like to grow near each other- as designers we can help to create beneficial relationships between plants.

The design started to be implemented on a Communal work day; 20 people took to the field at the Far terrace, cutting, digging, clearing, mulching beds thickly with manure, newspaper then seaweed and then planting planting planting! The trees have been planted with healthy piles of well composted humanure. Next steps include sourcing the sweet potatoes and sprouting them before planting out. We will also be checking the newly formed irrigation channels to see if the water flow is easier to manage. On the same day volunteer Maria, a permaculture teacher herself, demonstrated Berkely composting, a form of composting that takes only 18 days. The mix includes goat manure, green leafy plants, wood ash, urine, a few layers of ready made compost, and lots of water to keep it moist- essential in this hot dry climate. The trick is to keep it juicy and keep it moving; the heap gets turned every 3 days. After 18 days you can see that it is fairly well broken down, turning a rich dark brown. Only the seaweed is taking a bit longer. We have been putting handfuls of this micro-organism rich compost next to nearby plants to give them a boost.