My garden design – Tweaks

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I have started this post with an image of a sunflower head as I think it fits well with my current activity of bringing all my ideas together in a harmonious way and looking to nature for inspiration.

To approach the ‘Tweak’ stage of my garden design, I revisited OBREDIMET.

Observations – I looked back at my notes for 2014. I walked around the garden and checked what needed immediate attention. I looked back over the monthly photographs I had taken of my garden.  See post here. I used my in-depth knowledge of my garden, its eco-systems and microclimates built up over the seven years I have lived here.  I looked back at my records of what I harvested from the garden and graded each crop and garden feature to access the effectiveness of my design. See more about this on this post

Boundaries– I looked at what did not work last year and needed changing. I looked at my available time, energy, assistance, resources and money to make changes. I considered the changing needs of my family, how they use the garden and what they like to eat.

Resources– I again looked at my blog posts planning the garden and read over my notes from last year. I looked at the flip-side boundaries and focussed on the positives of time, energy, assistance, resources and money I had available to devote to the design. I looked at the seeds I had left over from previous years. I looked at the garden vouchers I was given for Christmas. I looked at what I could propagate from existing plants in my garden.

 

Evaluation – I brought all of the above together and considered what my priorities were. I set myself aims for my garden in 2015. These are detailed at the bottom of this post.

Design – I looked back at my original design and created an overlay. I used a temporary pen to play around with fitting crops into spaces on the plan, using the tool ‘planning for real’ When I was happy with these I wrote them in with permanent pen. I used the Permaculture principles of ‘Least change for greatest effect’ ‘Creatively use and respond to change’ ‘ Apply self-regulation and accept feedback’ and ‘Observe and interact’

Implement – I will create an implementation plan over the next few weeks

Maintain – I will create a maintenance plan.

Evaluation – I will keep notes on the effectiveness of the design like I did during 2014 in order to evaluate it against my aims at the end of the growing season.

Tweak – I will tweak the garden again next year and continue this cycle year after year.

IMG_5497The original design

IMG_5495 The tweaked overlay

The overlay shows new planting plans for the annual vegetable beds and more focus put onto Forest garden areas. I looked back to my notes about which crops were best for the needs of my family and the environment of my garden. I have excluded lots of crops that don’t do well in my garden and plan to focus on a more limited range of crops this year. I have chosen crops we like to eat a lot of and those that taste better fresh from the garden. I also plan to use varieties that are not easily to purchase in the shops. I also plan to develop the forest garden areas.

IMG_5496This image shows the original design and overlay combined to show how the new and old designs work together.

 

Aims for my garden design during 2015

1. To develop the forest garden areas. I plan to re-read my books on Forest gardening and plan these areas carefully to be as self-sustaining as possible.

2. To focus more on perennial crops I have a lot of demands on my time this coming year which will take me away from the garden, so one aim for this year is to plant less annuals and focus more on perennials that will need less input from me to do well.

3. To ensure the chickens are safe and well cared for. To develop a new enclosed run area using the space behind the greenhouse that is currently neglected. A fox has moved into the area and took two of my chickens recently, so I am being far more wary about allowing them to free-range.

4. To experiment with new varieties of crops that I know do well in my garden.

5. To grow more edible flowers and salad crops.

6. To maintain and develop the good work I have started in the garden, especially with composting, mulching and water capture.

 

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Twelve Principles for twelve months – December – Use and value renewable resources and services

 

Throughout 2014, I have been looking at one of David Holmgren’s Permaculture principles each month. I have tried to apply a principle to my life and the activity that I am involved in. My aim was to try to memorize them and try to understand a few applications for each principle. It has been a really interesting process for me. Here is a reminder of all twelve.

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I have left this month’s Principle ‘Use and value renewable resources and services’ until last. I think that is because I find it a tricky one. I can see how this applies to the big picture, for example using solar, wind and wave power. Or planting more tree than we cut down. But I find it harder to see how to apply it to my life in smaller domestic ways.

I actually think it is a Principle that encompasses a large area. ‘Use’ and ‘Value’ are two separate things, as are ‘resources’ and ‘services’. I think people are included in this mention of ‘services’. and it is vitally important to value the services people provide for us. You could design the most perfect Permaculture garden in the world, but without the people to plant, tend and harvest it, it would never come to fruition. I think I have realised this year the importance of people and carefully designing around the people and their needs in all the designs that I undertake. People care is vitally important in designing a successful system.

This month, reflecting on this Principle I have been heating my house with wood and using solar-powered fairy lights. I have been grateful to my husband for sourcing, stacking and chopping the wood. I have been grateful to have the technology to light up my garden and deck using just the power of the sun. I have also tried to give something back to other people. I know that consumer goods are not truly ‘renewable’ but they certainly can be better used than many of us manage. I have donated goods to the local women and children’s refuge and passed on bags and bags of baby clothes to my sister and to a friend. These are goods that have served me well and I have valued. I like to think that they will now be used again rather than sitting in my attic or ending up in landfill.

In 2015 I am planning on continuing this project by looking at one of Bill Mollison’s Permaculture Principles each month. More on this coming up in January.

Twelve Principles for twelve months – November- Creatively use and respond to change

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How do you interpret this image? Is it the sun? Or a flower? Or something else?

Our individual perceptions can change how we view the world and shape our choices.

The Principle I am looking at during November is ‘Creatively use and respond to change’ So I will be looking at changes that have occurred or that need to occur in my life and considering how to interpret and respond to them.

1. I will be reflecting on my garden design for 2014 and planning in changes to make the design more effective for 2015.

2. I will be looking at my daily routine and rhythms and considering changes to make as we enter the darker part of the year.

3. I will be looking at positive changes to my health, diet and exercise and working on my health and nutrition design.

4. All three of my children seem to be entering new phases of development currently, so I will be researching, reading up and considering ways of helping them to cope better with their changes. I hope to limit the frustration that the kids are all feeling currently for their own unique reasons.

By the way, the image I asked you to consider at the start of this post is of the bottom of a pumpkin, it really looks like the sun to me, isn’t nature amazing and beautiful!

Diploma design for “Muddy Boots’ – Principles

Look through the lens of each Principle… What do I see? What does it tell me about my current situation? What ideas does it give me about the direction I want to go in and how to get there?                                        L. Macnamara People and Permaculture 2012

IMG_5795I looked briefly at all twelve principles and I have chosen four of the twelve principles to look at in more detail in relation to this design. I chose these four because they just seemed right, they somehow spoke to me and felt relevant to what I wanted to achieve with Muddy Boots outdoor playgroup. Below I will attempt to explain how each of the four principles has influenced my planning so far and how I intend to use wisdom from it in my future planning.

OBTAIN A YIELDIMG_42851. I want to make sure that I am ‘Obtaining a yield’ or getting something in return for all my hard work. Muddy Boots takes a lot of my time in the planning and carrying out of sessions. In return I am getting; a diploma design, useful experience leading outdoor education workshops that I can use in the future, continued access to the community allotment and a share of produce grown there.

2.  To find and develop a new network of like-minded people to connect with. This network could lead to unexpected positive outcomes. 

3. I also want to ensure the participants are obtaining a yield. I hope they feel they are getting good value for money and are enjoying a positive experience with their children, taking home ideas and inspiration for outdoor play.

4. We also create and gather in an actual yield of local, seasonal organically grown crops to be eaten as a group and excess taken home. I hope this will encourage others to begin growing food with their children and encourage kids to try fruit and vegetables they perhaps would otherwise of refused to eat.

DESIGN FROM PATTERN TO DETAILIMG_1378This is one of my favourite Principles and I have used it where-ever possible.

1. In planning the structure of the timetable. Dates of sessions first, details of session themes and leaders filled in as the weeks progress. I used post-it notes to record sessions and leader info to allow flexibility and this was definitely needed!

2. I thought about the structure of the group, how the leadership would work and related this to other patterns found in nature. I decided that my flock of chickens was a good group structure to replicate. The cockerel works hard to lead the way and protect the flock, but also all the chickens know what their roles are and they fulfill them on a regular basis. I am not sure I am particularly comfortable being the cockerel though!

3. I used this Principle when looking to design the planting plans and related activities throughout the year. I looked first at the needs and wants and a general overview of the areas we could use and my planned usage of them. I then filled in the details as the weeks rolled on.

4. Finally this Principle guided my weekly session planning. I always started with a broad theme, ‘butterflies’, ‘bug hunt’ or ‘jam making’ I then added a story book related to the theme, an art or gardening activity and sometimes a relevent snack or song too.

INTEGRATE RATHER THAN SEGREGATEIMG_17181. I aimed to integrate every participant into Muddy Boots by making them feel welcomed and valued. I made a real effort to welcome people each week and chat to the new people, especially if they had come on their own.

2. Following on from this, I tried to introduce people to each other, creating stronger networks and linking together friends from different areas of my life.

3. I wanted everyone to feel a sense of ownership over the group and able to contribute their individual skills and ideas. I found that some people were more willing to get involved in the overall running of the group than others. Some people just wanted to turn up, enjoy and leave, but others were more pro-active in helping me set up, making tea and running activities. Both approaches were OK and I tried hard to be accepting of however much or little people felt able to involve themselves and to really show my appreciation for people willing to help out in any way they could.

4. I thought about how to integrate Muddy Boots into my life. I encouraged my friends, family and neighbours to attend the group. I used the produce from the allotment in my home cooking. I talked about the group at the Guilding and PDC sessions. I set up a Facebook page and shared it with all my FB friends and the relevant FB groups I am a member of. I took my own children along to sessions and asked their opinions and those of my husband to help me with planning and reflection.

USE SMALL AND SLOW SOLUTIONSIMG_13121. Don’t rush and try to do everything at once! This is a lesson I need to learn in many aspects of my life. I have lots of ideas and get very impatient to develop them. I am learning to pace myself.

2. Following on from the point above, try to avoid burn-out. Don’t allow myself or members to over-commit. The season runs for 15 sessions, so it is important to maintain the quality of the sessions throughout the whole season.

3. Get group members involved in garden design implementation and maintainance as part of the sessions. Many hands make light work!

4. I decided not to advertise the group initially other than through a small mail-out to existing members and through work of mouth. I later change my mind and after much deliberation, posted about the group on a FB group I am involved in “Leicester natural mummies’ this was well received and a large proportion of members found out about us from that group. This was a relatively ‘small solution’ but it had a large effect. A good example of ‘mamimum benefit from minimal effort’!

I also looked at the ethics of earth care, people care and fair shares as shown in the diagram below.

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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.

Permaculture Principles

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Observe and interact

Catch and store energy

Obtain a yield

Apply self-regulation and accept feedback

Use and value renewable resources and services

Produce no waste

Design from patterns to detail

Integrate rather than segregate

Use small and slow solutions

Use and value diversity

Use edges and value the marginal

Creatively use and respond to change

Some of these Principles are easier than others to abide by. Ones that particularly resonated with me when I started my Permacuture journey are;

Use small and slow solutions; I am a hugely impatient person. As soon as I have had an idea, I tend to jump straight into it without due consideration. This has caused me all sorts of trouble in the past, so permaculture is teaching me to stop, think, consider and then act. Intelligent thought processes followed by considered action!

Use edges and value the marginal; I had never noticed before the abundance of life at the edges. Consider the seashore, the forest edge, the shallows of a pond or even the verge at the side of the road. So much grows and lives in these spaces where two different eco-systems meet. Just have a look as you are walking around today. Permaculture teaches us how we can use the willingness to grow to our best advantage.

Integrate rather than segregate. Organic gardening taught me a bit about companion planting but Permaculture takes this even further with guilds and forest gardens. When we take our lead from nature by looking at how plants grow together, we can group plants carefully to make lots of beneficial connections. Then not only do our gardens look better, but they grow more abundantly and provide us with a greater variety of foods. I much prefer this approach to the old-school allotment style of endless rows of segregated carrots, cabbages and potatoes.