Friday, August 29, 2008

Permaculture Design

This section is to describe the nuts and bolts of my
Permaculture project in Minnesota.
I am dealing with a colder climate than most permaculturists,
but I am making the most of what I can grow.

Dome Greenhouse - This was an essential piece of the overall project. Most greenhouses dont have the height needed to grow fruit trees inside. This 22ft diameter dome gave me over 600 sq ft of growing space, plus 14ft in height needed to grow figs, goumis, gojis, persimmons, paw paws, and the fuzzy kiwi vines. Because of its shape, I can cycle warm air from the top to the bottom quite easily, and it gives a pleasant experience to be in a circle, rather than a square glass box. I will also be able to grow my greens year round, providing me with nourishment 365 days a year, and it will also allow the early establishment of seedlings before the outside ground becomes suitable for tender seedlings. I am extending my growing season by 2 month on EACH side of the summer.
I am pretty sure that eventually I will keep chickens in here during the winter. It is going to get very crowded in there eventually, but with some pruning and conscious arrangement, things will work out.

Wood-heated cedar hot tub -In the back of the greenhouse is the wood-heated cedar hot tub. By filling the tub with rainwater, heating it up, enjoying it, then using that same water for irrigating plants, I am getting much more utility out of the water and it also helps to keep the greenhouse warm and humid in the spring and fall. I am planting fruit trees around the tub so fruit will be hanging over us as we relax on the cool fall evenings.

Deck - The deck is made from recycled wood and pressed plastic. The ultimate in recycling. The base had to be made with wood, but it was minimal. I have it shaped like an octagon in honor of sacred geometry. Along the railings of the deck are gooseberry bushes, grape, and hardy kiwi vines.
This is where we will do our morning workouts and dry our fruit harvests. In the center will be a gazebo or cottage shaped like an octagon. This will be a great place to have ceremonies, sit by the fire, sing get the idea.

Perennial Polycultures - The vast majority of the plants in my space are perennials. Plants that only need to be established once. No tilling, no pulling and replanting. This is the way nature works, and if we can work WITH her, the natural energy she puts out will make things way easier on us humans. The Earth wants to be covered in forests again. When we strip the land of trees and plant monocultures or even organic annual gardens, nature keeps trying to turn it back into a forest. So by planting lots of shrubs, trees, and herbs that live for many decades, we can use more of our free time to pursure other interests instead of weeding and tilling every year.
And by the term "polyculture" I mean BIODIVERSITY. I never have pest problems anymore. Just deer and raccoons, because all the major predators have been pushed away from our part of the state. However, there are so many predator insects, spiders, birds, snakes, and frogs in my space that nothing has a chance to really do any damage. When someone plants a field of corn, there is no incentive for other animals to be there except the ones that like to eat corn. And with all the poisons used, no predator insect ever has a chance to get established enough to control pest populations.
So what I recommend to you is that you cover your area with perennials that feed both you, and the animal populations around you. You will be creating a real ecosystem, not just a veggie garden. Emulate nature, and use her energy to recreate the Garden of Eden. She wants you to have it again. Stop reminicing about paradise, create it now while you still can.

Square Foot Gardening - I use this method for my annuals because it is the best way to micro-manage the garden and keep the soil in a pristine and unpacked condition. I will grow most of my melons, tomatoes, peppers, and other cultivars in this area. The rest of the site will be more "chaotic", leaving perennial plants to naturally grow where they choose and I will manage them by continuously harvesting whatever I need, without pulling up the plant in its entirety. Whatever is strongest will survive and be present in the garden, so we will only be having the best food available.With the raised bed, I will be able to extend their life by covering them with plastic in the spring and fall to keep things warm. I highly recommend this method for intensive gardens that are low on space.

Honeybees - I have two hives on the site, and by working with the bees, I am able to have my fruit trees pollinated much more efficiently and will have some honey and bee pollen of my own to enjoy. I honor and cherish these bees, and treat them with the utmost respect and dignity. I see myself as their guardian, and I take a very small percentage of what they create for themselves. Vegans will protest, but few have actually worked with bees on their own and understand the relationship between bees and the beekeeper. We take very little, and provide
lots of flowers for them to feast on. "The Ladies" can get feisty sometimes, but they are
a complete joy to have on the property.

Fruit and Nut Trees - I have over 150 fruit and nut trees on the site, most accustomed to the colder climate of Central Minnesota. I have many heirloom varieties, and quite a few tropical as well. - Some of the varieties that stand out are: Spitzenburg Apples, Green Gage Plums, Ranier Cherries, Figs, Hardy Lemons, Guavas, Hachiya and Chocolate Persimmons, Black and White Sapotes, Hazelnuts, Jujubes, Mulberries, Black Walnut, Mountain Ash, and lots of different Pears and Apricots. I also plan to plant Korean Nut Pines and, Shagbark Hickory, and Michigan Pecans next spring for both a border and food which can be stored for many months.

Grapes and Berries - These will be used as natural borders and shade producers. The grapes will placed in the entryway arbor of the property and the deck railing itself. The trellising will provide wonderfully tasty seeded grapes with ease. Because they are growing off of the ground, there will be much less chance for fungus problems. I am growing only seeded grapes and lots of different berries which still have seeds. My internal garden is surrounded by a thick hedge of raspberries, so this will help define the border and provide shade for lettuce and other cooler temp greens. Ive also recently discovered seaberries (Sea Buckthorn) and Buffaloberries, which fix nitrogen into the soil and provide food for birds througout the winter and create a lovely hedge. Others I am using are autumn olive, siberian pea shrub, honeyberries, prinsepia, and many nanking cherries. Highly recommended.

Soil - I am remineralizing the soil by using compost from leaves, horse manure, swamp mud, sea water concentrate, and worm castings. By doing this, I am creating incredibly strong plants what will have more vitamins and minerals, and will be able to fight off pests without the use of any chemical pesticides. Im encouraging a very healthy bacteria and fungal community in the soil as well. I am also using only copper tools after the first excavation in order to keep the magnetic properties of the soil intact. If you can splurge, get copper tools. I highly recommend investing heavily in your soil...spend a few hundred dollars (or much more if you can) on a large load of black soil and compost and start off right.

Water - Water is harvested by collecting rainwater and a well. Water is brought inside by buckets into a reservoir in the kitchen and bathroom whenever needed. There should be no dishwasher needed. The used water will be saved and placed on the fruit trees. Ultimate water conservation will be the goal. We will also be mulching the ground heavily, to reduce evaporation and keep the soil moist and alive. Most of the water will be naturally stored in the soil, and the rest will be in large light-proof containers. I will be using drip irrigation on a timer to keep things automated, and this will give us more free time to be working on other projects besides watering each and every plant on the property if needed.

Culinary Mushrooms - Underneath the deck, we will have a space suitable for the cultivation of mushrooms like maitake and shitake. We are making the most out of all of our space in order to produce the most abundant and varied food available.
I have lots of scrap wood on the property, including oaks, ironwoods, poplars, and birch. All will be used to raise mushrooms. Different trees require differnet mushrooms, so we will have even more variety.