Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Permaculture Principles

Thanks to our introduction to permaculture with the Back to Eden gardening method I have continued to learn about working with God's nature rather than fighting against it. The majority of my information recently has come from a lovely book called "Gaia's Garden: A guide to home scale permaculture. 2nd Edition." as well as tips and tricks from two lovely ladies at Sustainable Renton certified in Permaculture Design. In fact, a tips and tricks lecture was offered last Sunday at the main office but, sadly, I could not make it. However, there is another permaculture-focused class coming up on April 6th at 4pm at the Community Farm. One hour of instruction then everyone working together to implement those plans for the SR P-patch. Should be fun! I hope I can attend the first hour, but no promises! Also, I do plan to attend the Seed and Seedling Swap at the main office on April 12th at 12:30pm. You can find these activities and more at the Events page of the website or on the Sustainable Renton Facebook page.

Ahem! Back to my garden.

My little pest controllers are so cute! 

Since I'm learning so much and it is all so exciting I thought I would share with all of you! So I've summarized the Permaculture Principles from "Gaia's Garden," pages 6-7: 
1. Observe your site over multiple seasons and plan accordingly.
2. Connect the various elements of the design to work as an entire ecosystem.
3. Go with the flow. Work with the cycles of the seasons, slopes, microclimates, etc for maximum yield with minimum input.
4. Design elements to perform multiple functions.
5. Design multiple ways to perform the same important function in case one system fails.
6. Learn the "leverage points" of your system so if something needs tweaking you can achieve your goals with little input.
7. Use small-scale, intensive systems. Work out a small design and expand as you learn. (In the medical field we would say start low, go slow.)
8. Optimize the edge; the joining of two environments is the most diverse part of a system.
9. Work toward a mature ecosystem rather than every year slashing the natural progression back to newborn stage.
10. Use biological and renewable resources.

What I would like to do for future posts is devote an entire post to one principle. That would motivate me to learn even more and would drive a bite sized format for interested readers to digest. I feel comfortable with principles 1-4 but after that i can only claim overview knowledge and I'm still not sure what is meant by the "edge" of different designs working together. But I'm looking forward to learning it!

We are actively implementing Principle number 10 at Healthy Horizons: rain barrels bought off Craigslist, spigot from Lowe's, installed by dad and Tim. Total cost: $29 per barrel! They're not even set up yet because the house is only partially outfitted with gutters right now but we have collected enough rainwater so far in strategically placed buckets and wheelbarrows around the property that I have not needed to use the faucet at all yet! I'm hopeful that rain harvesting combined with covering the soil with wood chips will significantly cut our water usage and the related bill.

Hardening off my first transplants from the greenhouse: white and red onions, snow peas from Caitlin, the Urban Food Warrior herself, kohlrabi, and celeriac.

The greenhouse is fully functional! What a treat! This week dad installed a temperature regulator to the ventilation fan so it would regulate itself. I feel so spoiled!

The girls are so happy to participate! Making a treat with daddy.

Shoshana helping plant the "purple" onions around some of the fruit trees (I'm working on developing more of a forest design in the orchard for attracting additional beneficials, discouraging some of the vole and gopher activity, and complimenting soil chemistry needs.

For example, this apple tree is now surrounded by climbing sweet peas, oregano, thyme, and white onions. Abi loves to help with laying down newspaper and spreading wood chips but I haven't gotten a picture yet.

We have all been working diligently to get as much stuff done and prepped before Judah arrives including laying down more chips, planting seeds, transplanting from the greenhouse to the garden, continuing to work on the greenhouse, and even doubling the size of the chicken coop! 

Some of our upcoming chores include 

  • Setting up the fencing to keep the ducks contained for a month or so until my little plants can develop good root systems otherwise the ducks will uproot everything in search of grubs. So far I have enough netting and row covers to protect what little is already planted but later this week I will run out. 
  • Buy the gutters needed or rain collection and set up rain barrels.
  • Continue planting flowers, veggies, and herbs around the base of fruit trees.
  • Transplant pumpkins to larger pots as they outgrow the baby trays.
  • Build a raised bed along the west side in the greenhouse for future tomatoes, peppers, and herbs.

Despite my growing belly and related lack of mobility Spring and the return to gardening has made me so happy! Happy gardening!

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