maandag 9 augustus 2010

Permaculture experiences

This weblog is about my other biggest interest!


Since I was a little kid I was already convinced that the way we live, the way we treat our planet is not the correct way. Since I was young I was always active in trying to make people  aware about what we  are doing to our planet. Nature will always survive us;  we can never survive nature. If we want to live longer on this planet we should respect her more. At the moment we are only taking her sources and never giving something back. We are just taking, taking, taking...
We should start to worry and make sure that we should bring back what we take. It is most important that we are starting to make the biological circle  round again. We are just some visiters on this planet.
It took me a very long time to find proper way to live on this planet. Two years ago I discovered Permaculture

That was it!!!!! Till now it is still for me the best solution for the future. My focus is fully on it.

In 2008 I started to volunteer in a beautiful permaculture garden in Den Oever, Holland. Elzo Stubbe started this  garden   He taught me so much about permaculture. Elzo is an amazing,  inspiring person with so much knowledge of plants and always willing to help.

The permaculture garden of Elzo

Overview garden
In 2009 I followed a Permaculture Design Course by Darren Doherty from Australia.  In the meantime I also kept on helping Elzo Stubbe


Practical class

Creating a Permaculture Design

More designs till late at night

Our exam to get our certifcate

In 2010 I stayed for two months on a permaculture farm in Trinidad, an amazing place with  wonderful people. Erle  Rahaman-Noronha  is the owner of the farm. I am so thankful to him for giving me this chance to learn more about tropical permaculture, to introduce me to a lot of realy nice people, to give me so much freedom and trust to design and create  a gardenmandala on his farm.

The farm in Trinidad

These are my experiences
                                              Coconut Beds

The borders of the beds are like little walls. The material consist of coconut husks who are chopped into pieces. The coconut husks will keep grasses out and it is also holding water. It is always better to build up instead of digging. In between the walls we put also some husks so we don’t have to use to much soil. Because I was “renovating” the beds, the beds were already a partly filled with old soil. I started to reconstruct the walls. Afterwards I brought in some horse manure, which had been laying for a while. This will make it more fertile and it fixes nitrogen. Than it was time to make the soil. The soil is a mixture of 6 barrels of topsoil, 2 barrels of compost and 1 barrel of sharp sand. The compost is made of dry leaves and horse manure (1 barrel of manure and 30 barrels of leaves) and then you let it rot for months. The sharp sand is used for drainage since here we have heavy clay soil. I filled all the beds with the “soil”. After that I put an extra thin layer of pure compost.Then I made everything wet and put a lot of mulch. We took the mulch(dry leaves) from zone 3,4,5 since we had te remove the leaves there because of the  bushfires. I used the mulch to maintain the soil and to prevent it from water evaporation. The best part was to make a little hole through the mulch and the soil and plant the seedling which will give us food. I planted the seedlings in a certain way so thathe different kind of species get their benefits from each other. (companion planting, guilds).

Coconut bed husks
With a lot of mulch 

                                                                   Long beds 
When I arrived, there were already 5 beautiful long beds in place. The soil was quite well maintained and there were some vegetables growing. The only thing I had to do was to punch holes with a fork for better drainage, add some horse manure, make it wet and put a lot of mulch!
After letting it rest for a couple of weeks I was planting lots of seedlings in “companion planting way”. The next thing I found was that some of the seedlingwere eaten by insects. I planted new seedlings, different species. Still some were eaten. One day, by accident, I put some lemongrass on top of a seedling and I found out, after more testing, that  insects don’t like lemon grass!

Long beds
longbeds with mulch

        The Garden Mandala         
First I started to make a design. In the meantime we started to cut the grass in the shape of a circle. Because of the dryness we were forced to plough the plot. The clay was like concrete.
I am not a big fan of plowing but it was highly necessary.
We let this sit for a couple of days to make sure the grass would dry.
Measurements and design

Grass being cut

Heavy clay soil

It was great to start drawing the design on the soil. I collected a lot of sticks, a hammer, measuring tape, we started to measure and pound the sticks in the soil.

Later on we started to dig the pathways which are giving the shape to the garden mandala!
We were throwing the topsoil of the pathway on the mandala to safe and reuse the soil.

Digging out the top soil

Overview of the mandala shape

We wanted to make the clay soil a bit more fertile. After wetting the soil I started to put some calcium on top of it. Erle made some natural nitrogen fixing liquid. It is made of
legume plant with water and letting it ferment for 3 months. After the 3 months you dilute it 1:3, and spray it over the soil. After spraying we put compost and some horse manure,
made everything wet and then applied a big layer of mulch!

The white bags are full with horse manure

Putting a big layer of mulch

Pile of hay and we had 3 piles of leaves

Over view

Outside  the circles we put calcium and compost, we gave the soil water and put lots of bamboo leaves and hay on top of it. When you have clay soil, you can better use bamboo leaves. Bamboe leaves contain lots of silica which is very good for making the claysoil more healthy. It will also be good to use sand for drainage. (In Trinidad sand is very expensive).

After all this work, we made a little hut of bamboo to create some shade for the plants who cannot handle a lot of sun.

On top of the frame we put some palmtree leaves

        Plants of the garden mandala

Now everything is ready to plant. We choose certain edible plants which also break down the hard claysoil.

Banana circle (the circle in the middle) 
We made a ditch of 1 meter deep and 2 meters wide. The ditch will be filled up with mulch and green matter. On top of the ditch there will be a frane and a shower. Around it there will be different kinds of species of bananas mixed in with papaya and around it sweet potato. Inside we can try to grow taro and yam.

The middle circles are called keyholes.
The function of keyholes is that you can stand in the middle and that you can  harvest easily.

L= Lemongrass

the yellow small circles on the outside cirle are pineapple

Planting all the plants, seedlings, seeds
       List of costs:
In total we worked 140 hours on the garden mandala.

Also you have to calculate the time to collect 3 huge piles of leaves and bringing it to the farm.
1/4 of pile of hay
21 bags of horse manure
14 wheel barrels of compost
1/4 bag of calcium
The time to plow the soil.
You should not forget the time to make the natural fixing Nitrigen liquid.

Now it is waiting for the rain to let everything grow!

Final result
After crossing the ocean by sailboat I created an herb spiral in france.

        The herb spiral       

First I checked out the place, it should be close to the kitchen and also you should consider the position of the sun on the herb spiral.
The place where I started to build one, was full with grass.
So first thing I started to do is take all the grass away.
Making a circle with a diameter of 2 meters. An easy way to do is to take 5 sticks and a rope of a litle bit more then  1 meter.
Put 1 stick in the middle and tie the rope to the stick. Follow the end of the rope, put on north, east, south, west a stick. There you have your circle.
The circle
Digging out the gras

After this job. I made a sprinkler to water the herb spiral. Also I added some big stones in the centre to make the herb spiral more stable. I started to make a circle of stones.

Now, there is some work to do, making a big pile of good soil, I used 700 liters.
Slowly with the help of the stones, soil and a level I build the spiral.
When it got the right shape I made everything wet and started to plant the  herbs. The herbs who don't need a lot of water on the top, and the ones who need more water you put them lower.
 Drawing side view

View from above

All the soil and the sprinkler

Starting to level the soil

Building the spiral

Planting all the herbs

Final result