Twelve Principles for twelve months – February – Edge effect

Throughout 2015 I will be looking at Bill Mollison’s Permaculture Principles. I have allocated one principle per month at random. I will aim to find a relevant image, some quotations around the subject, some possible applications and a challenge for myself that relates to the principle and the Permaculture activity I am involved in at that time. February – Edge effect

imageThis image shows how materials collect where one material meets another and an edge is created. Here fallen leaves accumulate along a kerb. This principle could be applied in a garden, for example to capture materials alongside the edges of a raised bed and add beneficial nutrients to the soil.


“Edges are places of varied ecology as they share resources between two distinct ecosystems and are known as a net and sieve for energy. We can increase the yield of the system by manipulating where two ecosystems meet, and designing in their unique species. Here the patterns of nature merge to utilize their inspiration with our creativity.” Bill Mollison. ‘Introduction to Permaculture’

“Edges themselves are often very diverse. Many of the species from both ecosystems live there together with some that live only on the edge, giving more species diversity than the interior of either ecosystem.”                                                                                    Patrick Whitefield. ‘The Earth Care Manual’

When we are in the edge between illness and health, and on the road to recovery, we can use our wellness to create more wellness… There is a familiar pattern of trying to step out of the edge too quickly and thinking we are well again, doing too much and then relapsing. This edge period needs to contain a balance of relaxation and activity. There are advantages of staying in the edge, it is a good place to take time to reassess and create new patterns, and to make sure that wellness can really take root in our lives.           Looby Macnamara For Permaculture magazine 

APPLICATIONS To create a successful garden pond, it is important to consider the edges. A pond with straight vertical sides will be uninviting to wildlife. Whereas a pond with gently curving undulating edges and a variety of depths will create niches suitable for a multitude of life forms to inhabit.

Keyhole and mandala gardens are much used in Permaculture. Garden beds in these shapes provide easy access and produce many different spaces suited to different plants. Curved edges are more pleasing to the eye than straight edges and they follow nature more closely too. something we always try to do in permaculture. Personally I have found it challenging to fit curved beds into my garden as it is narrow and long, but I certainly like the theory behind the idea.

CHALLENGE I am going to use the edges of my day to be as productive as possible. I plan to use early mornings and the few hours between the kids going to sleep and my own bedtime for exercise and diploma work. These quiet moments are currently under used parts of my day and they have the benefit of providing time for me to be alone. My brain is most active early in the morning, so it’s a great time to write to-do lists and make plans. I also find that I have good ideas whilst running, particularly at dusk as my mind is concentrated on the task at hand and the general brain-chatter is silenced. However I must remember to write down my ideas as soon as I arrive home before the daily chaos rushes in again.

Another challenge for this month is to push myself to the edge of my comfort zone. When you stretch yourself, important things can happen. When you run a little faster or further than you are really comfortable with, something amazing happens, you get fitter! Likewise when you take on an uncomfortable challenge, such as attending a scary meeting or daring to speak up against an opinionated friend, you find new strength and confidence in your own abilities.

Another thing I want to do is try to overlap some of the projects that I am working on to create new edges. Lots of my activity has areas in common, such as the outdoor playgroup and Forest schools training. Both are involved in helping children engage with nature. So rather than keeping these parts of my life apart, I hope to ‘Integrate rather than segregate’ and join up my thinking. I hope this will make my life easier and create new abundant edges, sparking off new ideas and creative ways of working.



Early morning edges

sunset grasses

Good morning all. I have been up since 5am today with wide-awake children. Not my favourite way to spend a cold, dark, rainy saturday morning! But rather than being annoyed, I decided to use this unexpected ‘edge’ of my day to do something productive.

I have sorted through hundreds of photographs from gardens I visited over the summer. Doing so has taken me back to the sunny happy days of the summer adventures we had as a family. I will be sharing some of these garden photos on my blog over the coming few days. Have a lovely and produtive weekend. xx


Twelve Principles for twelve months- July- Use edges and value the marginal.


The place where two ecosystems meet is a place rich in life and possibilities. Consider the seashore, the edge of a wood or the margins of a pond. In these areas, one type of environment meets another and provides a bountiful ecosystem that provides more niches for life than either of the environments do singularly.  Edges are exciting and active places and if we can learn how to use this for our own benefits, it can have great effects, both in the garden and in our lives.

I find edges very beautiful. Last autumn I took lots of photographs of edges, looking at lines of textures and colour meeting and blending with others. Here is one example.

You can see more in the original posts here. and here I’d like to pick up this project again and take more edge photographs this month while I am on my travels.

On days when I am short of time, I like to concentrate my efforts in the garden on the edges of beds next to paths that I walk along most often. I have planted a diversity of crops on these edges, one bed has strawberries, Calendula, lavender, mint and tomatoes. These are plants that I like to brush past, touch and smell or admire. I want to keep on planting up edges to make my garden beautiful, productive and a joy to spend time in.

I also want to think about the edges in my life. Three aspects spring to mind.

1. The edges of my days and how to use these effectively to fulfill my personal goals. I want to find just a few minutes each morning for some yoga and exercise. I want to use the hour after my children have gone to bed to catch up on Permaculture work, read and plan for my nutrition course and spend time outdoors in the garden enjoying the light evenings while they last.

2. The edges of my comfort zone. I think you can learn a lot about yourself when pushed to the edge of your comfort zone. I have recently been pushed to this edge and found it a very difficult experience. I think its good to keep pushing but not topple over that edge! I have learnt more about my future aspirations by being at the edge, even though I pulled back from breaking down my boundaries in the end.

3. The edge between myself and others. The children break up from school next week, so I will not have a moment to myself. I always find that rather difficult. So I want to try to explore why I find this hard and try to carve out a way of everyone getting what they need from these family relationships. Likewise with my husband, we very rarely get time to be together just the two of us, so I’d like to find this time and make it special. We have been talking about doing the 4 questions together. I think that would be really good for us to really hear each other without being able to but-in with our own opinions!


Maximising edge – My garden raised beds

In my posts of last week I talked about edges and got slightly pre-occupied with photographing beautiful edges where one material met another. In the woods I noticed this tree stump with fungi all around the edge, 360 degree edge action! IMG_6944

I decided to run with this obsession and this week I have been working hard in the garden adding another level of boarding to my raised beds to maximise the edges and allow me to add a layer of mulch to these beds over the winter.

We made these beds early this year in the centre of our garden after taking down our dilapidated poly tunnel. The beds get lots of sunshine and were very productive this summer. However, due to a lack of funds, they were not really very ‘raised’ They were one decking board high and now they are two! I am pleased to have done all the work myself and i loved a little uninterrupted garden time creating something, it is so satisfying.


I used decking boards for the edges, pieces of old timber we had knocking around for the stakes, screws, a lump hammer, a drill, a saw, a tape measure and a ruler.


Before I started, the edges looked like this. I have added a paved path between each bed since they were made, so the level in between the beds has risen, leaving just a small lip between bed and edge. This was fine for year 1 but now I wanted to add material to the beds to increase fertility so more space was required. The decking boards were on sale in my local hardware shop so it seemed like a good time to tackle this little project.


The beds now look like this, much more like raised beds should!


I have gone on to do the same to the other five beds, so now all six beds are looking pretty smart. I have added various materials as a mulch. I used materials that I had available, I would be interested to hear what other people use to mulch their beds and what works best for increasing yields, reducing weeds and retaining water.  I have used old compost from pots of summer crops, fallen leaves, straw from the chicken housing, newspaper and the contents of the compost bins.

Use edges and Mark Rothko

We took a walk in the park yesterday. The leaves were blowing around madly in advance of the storm we have been promised tonight. I was interested to notice where the leaves had accumulated. Lots of ‘edges’ were adorned with masses of leaves. These areas were where one material or structure transitioned to another such as lawn to flower bed, path to wall or tree base to bare bed.

I liked the appearance of these areas and took a few photos. The different linear sections reminded me of a more earthy version of Mark Rothko’s paintings. I want to take more photos like this. This is a perfect little project for me as two of my great passions are photography and gardening and my background is in fine art. Not that I have much time to think about art these days! My creative outlet is my garden and my home-making.


Photographing the edges in the park also led me to consider the added fertility that this leaf litter would be leaving on these ‘edges’ and how we, as gardeners can turn this to our advantage. The more edge we can create, the better. Especially edge with capture capacity, that the way forward!

I have recently been removing some of my summer plants to make way for winter crops. I decided to leave the plants that have volunteered along the edges of the bed. Violets, alpine strawberries, forget-me-nots and what I think is borage have self seeded into the edges. I think they will look beautiful and be beneficial. So not only did I avoid the task of weeding these areas, I also got plants for free! This Permaculture thing is ok isn’t it!

IMG_1862 IMG_1863 IMG_1864

Sewing nook – Design process continued.

2013-10-10 11.47.018. Base map

This is my working drawing of the dimensions of the wardrobe. The normal Permaculture tools of lines of desire, zones and sectors could be applied here, but the space is tiny so I am just using common sense about placements and scale.

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9. Apply Permaculture ethics and principles

Earth care – Use materials I already have whenever possible rather than purchasing new. People care – Zone 00, myself! I will mainly be making things for other people, so they will benefit from handmade presents and clothes repairs.                                                     Fair shares – I don’t really know, errm, let other people use the area too? Maybe I can teach my eldest daughter how to use the sewing machine in a couple of years.

Obtain a yield– Something for myself                                                                         Produce no waste– Make use of materials and objects we have already. Plan carefully and then only purchase what is absolutely necessary.                                                           Use small and slow solutions – A quick first project to ease me into the diploma.       Use edges and value the marginal – Using a marginal area of the house. Also using the edges of the space to the best potential.                                                                   Creatively use and respond to change– Our use of this house has changed a lot since we brought it. Two more children and loads of additional stuff has filled the house up a lot. So I have had to adapt and change how I practice my creative hobbies in the house. I expect this will continue to change in the future.

10. Working Design

This is the wardrobe I am using. The colour-coded book shelf on the left of the wardrobe is the result of nesting madness undertaken at 9 months pregnant. I do like it though, so it has stayed. The limited book shelf space is helping me curb my habit for secondhand paperbacks too!The second image shows the shoddy use of space in the wardrobe. The boxes, baskets and bags were moved elsewhere.

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2013-10-16 11.45.4111. Implementation plan

Go and buy wood for the desk and shelving, get this cut to size in the shop. Re-use wood from previous projects to support the selves and the desk. Check that I have suitable screws, rawl-plugs etc. Make desk, make shelves. Find the folding chair. Find the storage for sewing equipment. Buy a desk lamp and light bulb. Put up Ikea spice rack as a book shelve on inside of door. Use the blackboard paint to paint the inside of the other door. Try it out and see how the space works.

12. Implementation

I have now made the space and tried it out, all went well. There are a few niggles which I can sort out pretty easily. I still need to paint the blackboard on the inside of the door.

13. Documentation and maintenance

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14. Tweak and 15. Evaluate.

I will come back to these stages after I have used the space for a few weeks.