Reflections on April

My principle for April was ‘Integrate rather than segregate’. I found a little time to reflect on this between child wrangling and Easter egg eating! I looked into companion planting and guilds. I am working on improving the apple tree guild at the community allotment and writing up an info board to explain what plants are included and why. Quite a few of the parents who attend Muddy Boots, don’t have a clue about gardening, so I thought I would educate them! And those that do garden, well I plan to convert them to the ways of Permaculture!photo 4The apple tree guild as it looked yesterday after I weeded it to discover which plants remained after two seasons of neglect. I spotted daffodils, wild garlic, fennel and comfrey. I will be adding to this patch soon.

I started making another web of connections diagram to show good and bad companions amongst plants that I am growing. I admit to getting too busy to complete this, but here is the picture of it as a work in progress.I should have increased the size or spaced the annual vegetable tags out more, as it is rather too crowded to read with ease.

IMG_1721I am using companion plants and polycultures in my garden. I am leaving in quite a few of the more useful ‘weeds’ and lots of the volunteer plants that have self seeded into my patch. So rather than the sea of brown that I see at many allotment plots, my garden is already a riot of green growth with a wide variety of colours, leave forms and plant structures. Some will be weeded out as and when I am really to pop in seedlings, other plants will be left to grow on and put to good use in the garden or the kitchen. All ‘weeds’ are food for the chickens, so where others see a front lawn full of dandelions, I see a crop for the chickens to eat!

I have made a number of patchwork quilts for my children using fabrics from clothes they have grown out of. I thought this was a lovely way to integrate what would be wasted or passed on. It’s also lovely to look at their quilts and be reminded of them in their younger years wearing those dungarees or that pretty dress.IMG_1718

I feel I am integrating the diploma into my life rather well. I am trying to make my diploma projects be about activities that I would be doing anyway, but Permaculture is helping me to do them far more effectively. It is also giving me the confidence to do things, like managing Muddy Boots, that maybe I wouldn’t have felt brave enough to take on otherwise.

My neighbour, an elderly lady with mental health issue has had a gardener erect a 6 foot fence along the boundary of our gardens. We felt really sad about this and asked if she’d consider a lower fence and a trellis to keep the light and views from being blocked out of our garden. She said no. She has fenced in the other side too and seems to be wanting to block everyone out and alienate her neighbours. I feel sorry for her. In stark contrast to this, our neighbours the other side have great. Our kids are constantly in and out of each other’s gardens, we have put a gate between the two gardens which is always open. We all hang out together a lot. It’s a really lovely sense of community. These two stark contrasts of neighbourly relations seemed to me to highlight the importance of the principle ‘integrate rather than segregate’ and the yield you can obtain if you do so effectively.

Twelve Principles for twelve months – April – Integrate rather than segregate

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This month I will be reflecting on the Permaculture Principle ‘Integrate rather than segregate’. April is likely to be a busy month for me in the garden and the kids will be at home for two weeks enjoying their Easter holidays. So with that in mind, I am not going to try to do too much this month. I want to look more into Companion planting and Guilds and use these great techniques in my garden planning and planting.

I want to ensure that my Permaculture diploma designs are fully integrated into my life and relevant to the activities I am involved in and the projects I want to achieve. My next design will on the outdoor play-group ‘Muddy Boots’ that I am involved in running. This year I will be taking the reins and steering the project by myself. I am planning on using Permaculture to help me to set up and manage the group. I want the participants to assist with how the group operates, so I will be using Looby Macnamara’s book ‘People and Permaculture’ to help me facilitate this.

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My principle for March was ‘Catch and store energy’ I only managed to fulfil two of my four aims linked to this principle. Wood was chopped and stored for the winter and the water catchment systems implemented. I didn’t get a chance to look into solar or wind power for the cabin. I will come back to this at a later date. As for watching how my energy levels changed and where I wasted energy, well, I just didn’t have the energy to address this one!

My garden design – Design process part three.

The write up for my garden design now enters the ‘Design’ stage. This post will cover; Ethics and Principles, web of connections, placements and pattern, companion planting and guilds.

Ethics IMG_0903I have considered where my design fulfilled Permaculture ethics. I drew this out in the form of the three ethics circles. I also considered where garden elements touched on two of the ethics simultaneously and included this in the overlap areas.

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The diagram above shows how my design fulfils Permaculture principles. Some principles were focussed on more than others, but I have considered each principle at least briefly during the design process.

Web of connections

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All of the garden elements are linked with at least a few of the others. The web of connections represents this visually. I can instantly see that water capture, perennial vegetables, chickens and the greenhouse have many connections. So this was considered during the placement stage.

Placements and pattern.  I talked about placement of man-made elements such as paths, chicken run, water catchment and table and chairs in my previous post. I  used Random assembly to consider placements and connections. This is also detailed in a previous post. For natural elements, in particular the planting, I looked at the Permaculture Principle ‘Design from pattern to detail’ to help me consider how to place the elements required in my garden. I drew out the current planting and marked where the spaces were for new or additional planting.

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I then chose to focus on the mid section of the garden as this was the most intensive food production zone. This includes the 7 raised beds, 2 key hole beds, greenhouse and chickens. I drew out this section of the garden at a larger scale.

IMG_0908IMG_0906The overlay shows this section of the garden and the pattern of the beds labelled in their most simple terms, ie, the pattern,  annual veg, kids bed, chickens etc.

IMG_0907This overlay adds detail, with existing planting marked in and details of mulching done over the winter.

IMG_0905Even more detail can be seen when the two overlays are viewed together. Gaps for planting are easily seen alongside the broad plan for what type of planting I have in mind.

Placement of plants. I used the design tool, Planning for real to decide where to plant my crops. This is a great way of trying out various combinations and moving them around until you find a layout you are happy with. The plants were written onto post-it notes and shuffled around on the maps and overlays. The photo below shows the process

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Companion planting and Guilds. I created a Web of connections to help me to think about companion planting. I wrote crops that I wanted to grow around the edge of a sheet of paper, then drew lines to connect plants that grow well together. I found this a very useful tool to depict visually a lot of information in a simple way. I’d like to do this again for a future project, adding more plants and connections. I could also include information on plants to keep apart (maybe by colour-coding the connection lines?) IMG_0913

IMG_0915 I noted ideas for good companion planting schemes for crops I wanted to grow.

IMG_0914I thought about guilds, specifically for around the young fruit trees. I intend to replicate elements of this guild around each young fruit tree in my garden. The left hand page of my sketch book above shows the guild plants and their purposes. The right hand page shows some initial ideas for the new keyhole beds.

My next post will share my design proposal.