Last weekend I did some Permaculture planning and got going with the gardening work for this season. I was sowing some seeds directly in the garden beds outside and started drawing up seedlings indoors for some of the more sensitive plants.
Planning, then planting
First I made sure to do a review of what I had been growing in my garden beds and pots last year. I always try to apply crop rotation to do my best to avoid diseases in my plants and soil depletion. The first step was to try to find the best succession making sure plants of different families were planted in each container. If you’re doing this kind of planning for a normal garden it’s always good to try to find a succession where plants needing less nutrients are being planted after nutrient hungry plants have grown in one space. Since I use quite small containers I will need to add nutrients manually anyway, but it’s good to keep in mind. Adding some leguminous plants after cabbages or tomatoes is one suggestion.
My experiences from last year made me think a bit more about placement of different crops, for instance in relation to sun exposure and shade. Some parts of the terrace are exposed to high amounts of direct sunlight and the soil tends to dry out fast. This year I have prepared better against that through buying some wood chip mulch. But I still have taken the experiences in consideration when planning where to put what this year. High plants will not be put where the wind might break them. Plants that are sensitive to cold and moist will be put where they get enough sun and vice versa.
At the same time I’m trying to experiment a bit too. I want to see what happens when I put some plants in less than ideal conditions. (To be honest, the whole terrace has less than ideal conditions, but it works quite well anyway.) Many times you will be surprised with the results. What should work a certain way in theory might give a quite different outcome in reality. Sometimes because nature is tougher than we think and sometimes because we have overlooked some detail that has a huge impact on the situation. Experimenting a bit with a few plants won’t cost much but might give invaluable insights that you wouldn’t get if you would only follow the textbook examples of how to do things.
One of the raised beds has been converted into a compost this season. It turned out that not enough sun was reaching the corner where it stands and I did need somewhere to start a compost, so I simply adapted it. That’s what Permaculture is about – adapting and finding the most beneficial patterns and systems for the conditions present.
Two books with good tips
I finished reading Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture (his second book) and it was just brilliant. Sure, some people might complain about him being a bit obsessed with doing heavy landscaping work in many of his designs rather than working with the present conditions. I believe that comes from him having grown up and gained most experience in an environment where it was absolutely necessary to do so to gain the wanted results. But I’m also quite sure that he only does this kind of work when he deems it fit due to the positive effects it will have in the long run. Still, it’s worth remembering that heavy changes in land structure is better to use as a secondary option after other solutions with less impact have first been examined.
One guy (among many others within the Permaculture movement) which promotes that kind of approach is Aranya who has written the book Permaculture Design – a step by step guide. I’m currently half-way through the book and I really love it. It’s the handbook I have been looking for a long time containing a good structure for how to go through a full Permaculture design process. It also brings up a bunch of useful strategies, methods and techniques that can be useful in so many other fields. For instance some of the group management techniques and strategies on how to work with clients can be used way beyond Permaculture. If you have some basic Permaculture knowledge already I highly recommend this book. It’s one that I will be carrying with me on future projects for sure to make sure I remember to go through all steps systematically.
What I found particularly useful in Sepp Holzer’s book was all the small hints on good plants to put together to solve different problems. Several examples I had never heard about before, so I learned a lot. The book also has some really smart and useful tables with suggestions for plants that work well together (companion planting) and also which ones to avoid. All in all a brilliant book which I will have a lot of use for in the future.
What I have sown so far
Some seeds still need a few weeks before they go into the soil, but this is what I have sown so far:
Directly in the garden beds
- Buckrams/Wild garlic (Allium Ursinum)
- Kohlrabi (the giant Superschmelz version)
- Borlotti beans
Drawing up in pots indoors
- Tomatoes (all the three types I got)
- Spaghetti squash
- Rucola (I wanted some growing inside to eat soon)
Now I’m just wondering how I will fit all this + the remaining seeds I have in my raised beds… I guess I’ll be giving some surplus plants away + probably engage in some guerilla gardening… (Shhh… don’t tell anyone!)