How often have you seen a garden being choked out by weeds, teeming with overripe produce because it sits 100 yards away from the house? How about the chore of hiking down to this far away garden to catch up on the weeding, harvesting, and watering of the forgotten seedlings? I stress chore because it can sure feel like one when you are lacking the proper design. Gardening should never be a chore, it should be one of life’s pleasant activities that we look forward to. In permaculture we use zones to make our lives easier, and the smaller intensively cultivated food gardens belong in zone 1. …Keep Reading!
As I mentioned in the previous post, during the second half of the PDC class we worked on designing the food forest. Having the ability to discuss, create, and design a functioning ecosystem is really empowering. Knowing that you are creating something that will function long past the time you turn back into the earth is breathtaking.
In order to create a functioning ecosystem you must understand what each plant produces and what its needs are. Taking the time to research what the selected plants need in order to thrive, can help you find its specific niche. The more you know about the plant, the better you can design a plant community — better known as a guild in permaculture. When I first got into permaculture three years ago, I wanted to find a resource for every single guild out there. However, there isn’t one, and even if there was such a resource, the guilds would not be designed specifically for your site. Remember, every single site is different, so we must not treat them all the same.
My fellow farmer apprentices decided it would be best if we took some time to research the 24 different plants that we chose to work with. Mind you, these 24 plants are either in the canopy or understory range. We will be planting a plethora of varieties, but these are the first ones we have chosen to start with.
Since there were four farmer apprentices (I say were because now we have five), we each got six plants. If you are designing your own food forest, what you want to look at is each plant’s needs, inputs, and outputs. This information will help you design an effectively functioning guild.
Here are the plants I researched:
Needs: Mid-canopy; small plants are not frost tolerant; most need male and females to propagate (polygamo dioecious); best germinates after passing through an avian gut; requires full sun; slow growing.
Produces: Edible leaves and unripe fruits; very aromatic flowers which appear mid-summer; wood is perfect for tool making; its essential oils can be used as deodorant; grows well with guava; can be used for trellising.
Araza- Eugenia stipitata:
Needs: Susceptible to anthracnose; needs potassium and enjoys nitrogen; tolerates limited flooding, but can adopt to flooding over time; occupies shrub layer of the food forest; enjoys dense, humid areas; can withstand 2 month drought.
Produces: Multiple harvests; branches from base (great for critters); edible tart fruit.
Atemoya- Anona x Atemoya:
Needs: Mature trees killed at 24F and young trees killed 29F; needs windbreak; enjoys humidity and well drained soil; not flood tolerant; propagation best at the end of winter; appreciates full sun; does not favor high nitrogen when mature; optimum temperatures 72F-90F.
Produces: Delicious fruit with lots of seed; definitely has more outputs than what I was able to find.
Needs: Strong pest issues in Florida (Redbay Ambrosia Beetle); needs windbreak; some varieties are not frost tolerant, yet others can moderately tolerate frost; not flood tolerant; prefers some shade.
Produces: Thick canopy provides strong shade; drops its leaves in winter (biomass); produces edible fruit; limbs can fall with lots of fruit which provides shelter for animals.
Banana- Musa sp.:
Needs: Irreversible freeze damage — 28F or below may kill plants to ground; heavy feeders; not flood tolerant; needs windbreak for winds from 25-45mph; full/near full sun recommended; needs mulch; heavy drinker.
Produces: Edible fruits; potassium; great for mulch; can be used as trellis; produces partial shade; suckers.
Cacao- Theobroma cacao:
Needs: Pollinated via crawling and flying insects; 65F-90F optimum growing temperature — 50F or below can kill the plant; enjoys water (do not over water); understory crop; needs windbreak; enjoys mulch; low pests.
Produces: Edible juicy fruits; seeds used for chocolate; large taproot; great for nutrient recycling within soil; cacao shells are great mulch; timber.
Now that we’ve found the plants’ needs and what they can provide for other plants and animals, we must figure out where they work best.
In modern western lifestyles we typically find excessive consumerism existing in our central location which is zone 0. Most homes are consumer junkies, devouring huge amounts of finite resources and the releasing toxic or polluted air. People in this culture are spending most of their time in sick houses (or buildings for work) that are covered in chemicals, using processed materials, off gassing, and are surrounded by massive amounts of electromagnetic radiation. Our central locations are vulnerable as they are completely dependent of external resources such as electricity, gas, and even needing water being brought in from sometimes thousands of miles away.
This is why, as designers, we need to build properly designed new homes or retrofit old homes if a house already exists on the site. When we are siting a new house we should pay thoughtful observation to climate, topography, water, soil, surrounding land use, site access, vegetation, and house orientation. We want to consider where our water supply will come from, how much water do we need, how can we store the water in case of drought, what is our energy usage, how will the energy be stored, the materials we will need to use, and even what will be our main transportation. We want to be able to use as much materials from either on site or as local as we can find them. It is really important that we do use this thoughtful observation instead of relying on thoughtless action which we can see has failed by looking closely at our modern western society.
Remember, this zone will be designed to reduce the amount of energy used here, including water needs, and creating a harmonious environment in which to live and work in, as this is where we will spend the majority of our time.
During this class I challenged everyone to do a water audit these next two weeks. I will be doing a post specifically on a water audit and an energy audit, so pay attention if you want to learn how to prepare yourself for drought and learn how to become more independent.
What is Permaculture Design Certificate Course (PDC)
Permaculture founder Bill Mollison developed the Permaculture Design Course to teach the foundations and principles of sustainable design. To guarantee that the integrity of the the certification process is upheld, every PDC taught through out the world must follow the same format and be a total of 72 hours. This format is always based upon the syllabus from Bill Mollison’s Introduction to Permaculture.
Bill Mollison is an amazing teacher and is someone that I would consider to be a genius. While his Introduction to Permaculture is a must have, it can sometimes be tough for certain people to “digest” in one sitting. Which is why Earth Learning’s PDC is centered around Rosemary Morrow’s Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture, as they found it easier to teach from.
If you are in the Miami area and are interested in taking a PDC or just interested in permaculture, you should check out Permaculture Miami’s facebook page and Permaculture Miami’s website. The creator of Permaculture Miami, Marcus Thomson, is a great permaculture instructor who studied at the Permaculture Research Institute in Australia.