Permaculture

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Permaculture

Post by moose on Fri Sep 11, 2015 6:08 pm

I was in the process of compiling this theory-heavy introduction to applied permaculture for my own uses. As such, it may not reflect the needs or desires of this group and the target climate. It is incomplete and is at this point really only the first stepping stone towards a complete and practical education. Read it as such and do your own research. I also had to cut out all the helpful images because apparently new members aren't allowed to post pictures.




Food

Most of the food for the farm would come from a food forest system. It's an agricultural method that harnesses nature's principles by planning out the most productive and ecologically renewable forest possible. Combining this and other permaculture methods would maximize self-reliance, work efficiency, and environmental sustainability.




The Layers:

Fruit and nut trees would provide an edible canopy. Pioneer trees are grown before the fruit/nut trees mature to provide lumber and fuel and to help establish the forest quickly. Specifics would change based on the region chosen for the farm, but most places would support at least apples, pears, plums, cherries, walnuts, and hazelnuts. Of each species chosen, multiple varieties would be planted to decrease pest and disease attacks and increase diversity. Diversity is important because it strengthens the interconnected web of forest life; a forest with multiple varieties of many plants supports more types of non-plant life while also increasing the beneficial aspects of these plants. Different trees produce fruit at different times of the year and some varieties are better for certain uses than others, so diversity also benefits harvesting and consuming by humans.

Shrubs and small trees provide an understory. Blueberries, mulberries, and fig plants provide more food. Also, plants with beneficial functions can start to be planted. These plants can feed bees or butterflies, fertilize the soil, repel pests, feed butterflies or pest eaters, and/ or provide medicine. Smaller shrubs and herbs would include mostly beneficial plants and some food. Below them, ground covers and vines fill in gaps on the most important layer: the forest floor. There are plenty of ground covers that build soil and stop weeds and several fruit vines that could grow on other plants.

Other Food Sources:

The goal is to build an ecosystem full of as much life as possible, with all niches are filled. Food sources other than fruits and nuts are incorporated into a food forest system too. Goats, chickens, and other animals benefit from being a part of it's multi-layered, self-sustaining qualities. Depending on how much water there is fish and aquatic edibles could be grown. Bees are cheap to maintain and provide a necessary function for the entire ecosystem in addition to honey. Vegetable beds could easily be made in the style of or even in the middle of a forest. Vegetables, beans, and other plants all benefit from the same plant and animal relationships as edible trees and shrubs. Once the beds and forest are established, the work to maintain them will drop sharply as they sustain themselves. Fruit/nut trees might take five years to start producing food, so they can't be relied on at first. Vegetables and livestock together could start producing enough food the first year for at least two people. It all depends on the specific plan though. It might make more sense to build up food systems before or during the construction of an actual home(s).




Farming


Permaculture is a type of agriculture focusing on organic and sustainable farming practices. Techniques have been mostly adopted from ancient farms but many have been invented recently in response to modern corporate farms. The goal of the permaculture movement is to replace environmentally toxic and unsustainable farming methods like pesticide/herbicide use, monocropping, overgrazing, and nutrient/water depletion. To do this, farmers must adopt practices that make the best of the land they have and learn to use natural systems to their advantage.

Methods:


Intercropping


Intercropping is planting multiple plants together so that they benefit one another. Things like light level, nutrient needs, and root depth are the main factors in choosing plants to grow together. The Native Americans grew corn, beans, and squash together because they are all compatible and helpful together. The corn grows tall stalks that provide a vertical space for beans to grow. The beans have a relationship with bacteria in the soil which produce nitrogen to help fertilize the soil. The squash spreads over the ground to suppress weeds and has hairy stems which deter pests. There are many combinations of plants that grow well together, and intercropping grows even more useful with the addition of non-food plants that can bring more beneficial functions.


Crop Rotation


Crop rotation keeps specific patches of land nutritionally balanced and in the case of livestock, prevents destruction by overgrazing. Cycling many crops through many beds lets the same crops be grown every year but in the place where they are needed most. This doesn't make planting any more laborious since it only changes where each crop is planted. Combining intercropping with crop rotation might complicate the cycle but would ultimately make the best use of both systems. In addition, plants have very different time tables for planting and growing which means that a single space could be harvested of different crops two or three times a year. Sometimes farmers also leave potatoes or wheat in the soil in the fall to grow up in the spring for animal or human food early in the year.

Keeping at least two different pastures for livestock would allow grasses and bushes to regrow and stop trees from being killed. Depending on the animals, it might be necessary to separate males from females or milking mothers and babies from the larger herd. It's common to have a large square space divided into four parts, with two herds diagonal to each other and rotated at the same time.


Hugelkultur


Hugelkultur was historically used in Germany but is today a favorite method of growing organic food. Hugelkultur beds can be any height or width, but for the purposes of the farm would probably be low and wide. It usually begins with digging a hole until all the topsoil is removed, then wood is piled into it until the desired height. Large, fresh logs are better but branches and rotting wood also work well. The soil is placed on top of the wood and should be planted soon to prevent weed growth.

The buried wood breaks down over time and slowly releases a lot of nutrients into the soil as well as providing a massive feast for all sorts of microorganisms in the soil. Since wood holds a lot of water, plants often don't need to be watered since rainwater is captured and released slowly by the wood. Even after the wood has completely decomposed the bed continues to thrive since the wood simulates the building of a lush forest's soil in an accelerated process. Roots will hold the rich soil in place while composting and proper farming keeps the soil from losing any of its nutrients.


Supporting Plants


Almost as important as fruits and vegetables are the plants that support them. These plants have a wide range of functions that are essential to any ecosystem, and a food forest is a carefully planned ecosystem designed to be productive. Also, any type of threat could be about to attack a plant, therefore, any self-respecting forest farmer must make sure there is a network of assistance between every plant. The types of supportive plants are:

  • Pollinator attractors (bees, butterflies, hummingbirds)
  • Food for caterpillars and other larvae
  • Pest-eating insect attractor
  • Pest insect repellent
  • Nitrogen-fixer
  • Dynamic accumulator
  • "Chop-and-drop" mulcher
  • Weed suppression


Many plants have two or more of the above functions, and many are also edible, medicinal, or otherwise useful. Attracting pollinators and their larvae is essential to a healthy forest, especially one full of fruits and vegetables that must be pollinated. Plants that attract these that are often beautiful flowers, so a healthy food forest should be full of delicious food as well as flowers and butterflies. Pest-repelling and pest predator attractors are key for preventing plants from being destroyed by insects. When insects do attack, there are organic methods that utilize other plants to kill or ward off pests without hurting pollinators. Some plants are tastier to insects than crops; these "trap plants" can also keep pests distracted.

Some of the most versatile supporting plants are those that help fertilize the soil. Dynamic accumulators have very deep roots that bring up nutrients from below the level of other roots. Comfrey is extremely popular among homesteaders and the permaculture community because it brings up deep nutrients, is an effective medicine, grows quickly, and decomposes well.  Nitrogen fixers have a symbiotic relationship with bacteria in the soil that take nitrogen from the atmosphere and convert it into a usable form. Clover and alfalfa are nitrogen fixers that are also great weed-suppressing ground covers, as well as a major food source for bees and a dynamic accumulator (respectively.) Fast-growing plants with deep roots and/or beneficial bacteria are additionally useful because they are used in the chop-and-drop mulch technique. Instead of mulching with things that need to be hauled in like woodchips or any outside products, any beds or trees can be mulched with the most nutrient-dense plants from right nearby. This keeps up the high volume of organic matter flowing throughout the forest at a greater speed.


Composting


Composting could be as simple as making a huge pile and turning it every so often. but that's boring. Vermicomposting involves taking some soil, organic scraps from leaves to ash to banana peels, and a handful of worms and letting them sit in a tub for a while. Over time, the worms and micro-organisms will flourish and digest all organic matter they can. The result is a potent fertilizer that is also inoculated with all the fungi, bacteria, and animals that are part of great soil. The only maintenance required is draining the bin(s) (which gives "compost tea") or keeping it moist. This is faster and more consistent than a standard pile method.

Composting in general would help keep nutrients being cycled and allows for organic matter to be distributed easily. The food forest is the centerpiece and it should contribute to the entire farm's productivity, since the entire farm is really one meticulously designed forest system. Weeds and excess clippings are fed to livestock which process them into manure. Leaves that aren't mulched are composted. The fruit and vegetables are digested and processed through composting toilets. All these products then feed back into system equally.


Swales


Swales are an element of food forests that are built on sloped land, especially hills. They are made by digging a path along the contour of the land with the dirt being piled into a berm on the lower side. Their purpose is to stop erosion of the hillside and to help trap rainfall. In a swale-based plan, the forest is sometimes planned out to have a repeating pattern. Trees might be next to the swale then shrubs and herbs up to the next berm, which would have grasses and herbs planted on it. Swales also have possibilities with irrigation or ponds depending on the land.


Miscellaneous


  • Mycorrhizae
    Fungi have been proven to be extremely important to the health and growth of plants. A fungus' network of mycelium expands throughout even the most infertile soils picking up nutrients the fungus needs and leaving nutrients that other organisms need. When connecting to a plant's root system, the mycelium will trade nutrients for sugar directly from the plant. With a direct line of energy, the fungus can grow and expand faster to grab even more nutrients for the plant in exchange for more sugar. Some fungi have abilities to remove toxins in the soil and help plants survive in harsh environments. Others produce chemicals that combat harmful bacteria and viruses that would infect plants and insects like bees.

    Old-growth forests have complex mycelium networks that are connected to every plant. It normally takes hundreds of years to build up to such a size though, but through the magic of the Internet, anybody can buy fungus spores. With just a packet of spores and a watering can, one can inoculate any soil with any fungus. Even simpler than planting plants, it's possible to seed an entire food forest (which would be constantly full of decomposing matter) with fungi that could produce all sorts of mushrooms. It is almost essential to establishing a food forest quickly and effectively since fungi are great at decomposing, extremely beneficial to plants, and can be edible or medicinal for humans at no expense to anything else.

  • Coppicing
    Coppicing is an ancient technique of forest management in which a tree or shrub is cut down leaving its stump behind to sprout new shoots. Not all plants coppice, but ones that do will live to do it for centuries without succumbing to old age. Depending on the desired size of wood and the tree species, a "stool" of new shoots can be cut back every 3 years for small poles or tinder or up to 50 years for firewood logs. This is done in patches so that some can be harvested every year.

    Often coppicing results in straighter wood that is useful for fence posts, handles, or trellis for vines. Black locust would be best for those and fuel uses. Alder also makes good firewood and is useful for mushroom farming. Both species coppice easily, grow quickly, and fertilize the soil around them for other plants.

  • Living Fences
    Many species of trees or shrubs can be grown in thick lines into a barrier. Often these will graft together into one cohesive organism. Edible, soil-building, and bee-food species are available to use. These living fences can even be coppiced by sections for a constant and multi-functional source of building materials or firewood. A wall of berry-producing hawthorn or blackthorn trees could be planted along with blackberries, roses, or other vines and thick bushes. Instead of the upfront cost or hard work in setting up a wooden fence, only planting and occasional pruning will be required for a living barrier.

moose

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Re: Permaculture

Post by Ranger on Fri Sep 11, 2015 7:28 pm

(((I'm not sure why image posting is not allowed. I'll look over at the security panel and see if I can't fix this.))

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Re: Permaculture

Post by ceevichee on Sun Sep 13, 2015 6:37 am

I'm not sure if this is the proper place for it, but currently I have these seeds stockpiled:

-Golden honeydew
-Tomato
-Jalapeno
-Green bell pepper
-Mango
-Peach
-Avocado
-Sunflower
* blueberry bush, aloe and a Pineapple plant.

I also have a good friend who gives me 100-200 young tomato, eggplant, cucumber, squash, and pumpkin plants every spring. I could probably ask her for as many young plants as she could spare as well as some seeds before heading to Maine.
I know most of these items would not survive in Maine's climate, at least for the colder months, but if I built a small greenhouse it might just work out.

I'm also willing to share-whether it be seeds, plants, or crops!

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Re: Permaculture

Post by mainebub on Sun Sep 13, 2015 8:31 am

ceevichee wrote:I'm not sure if this is the proper place for it, but currently I have these seeds stockpiled:

-Golden honeydew
-Tomato
-Jalapeno
-Green bell pepper
-Mango
-Peach
-Avocado
-Sunflower
* blueberry bush, aloe and a Pineapple plant.

I also have a good friend who gives me 100-200 young tomato, eggplant, cucumber, squash, and pumpkin plants every spring. I could probably ask her for as many young plants as she could spare as well as some seeds before heading to Maine.
I know most of these items would not survive in Maine's climate, at least for the colder months, but if I built a small greenhouse it might just work out.

I'm also willing to share-whether it be seeds, plants, or crops!

A lot of this will require a greenhouse, which isn't a big deal.
I was recently working on a farm here is what we grew without the help of a greenhouse
Corn [sparkle, temptation]
Long greens [cucumbers]
Picklers [cucumbers]
Green beans
Tomatos [grandma's and regular]
Cabbage
Summer Squash
Yellow Squash
Pumpkins
Zuccini

There were also Green peppers [which turn to red peppers] Those where started in a green house then transplanted into the field.

Also something to consider is with a simplified greenhouse structure, maybe a few of them we will be able to use natural and hydroponic horticulture techniques, for species of vegetation that simply could not grow due to harsh outdoor conditions. Having the seeds you mentioned would indeed prove to be extremely valuable once we have a greenhouse structure setup, which should be a priority. Also we should stray from "one time grow" seeds. seeds which have been modified to only grow a crop once, a crop which is unable to reproduce.

Permaculture is and should be our overall method for this project. I have started reading/watching Bob Corker resources, as well as resources posted in the threads/forum/doc. It also has some wonderful concepts for group dynamics and self governance.

mainebub
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Re: Permaculture

Post by ceevichee on Sun Sep 13, 2015 12:10 pm

mainebub wrote:

Permaculture is and should be our overall method for this project.  I have started reading/watching Bob Corker resources, as well as resources posted in the threads/forum/doc.  It also has some wonderful concepts for group dynamics and self governance.

Agreed. I've been saving interesting/important propagation links to Pinterest for a month or so now; it might be helpful:
https://www.pinterest.com/s0817480/

It's mostly propagation, tips for improving harvests, and ways to best plan garden spaces.

ceevichee

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Re: Permaculture

Post by HerbBroCal on Tue Sep 22, 2015 9:30 am

Local Wild Plants will also work towards filling gaps in dietary requirements.

I fully intend to start raising:
-Plantago. (Also known as plantain. A fantastic medicinal herb.) It grows in the wild all over the world.
-Dandelion. This 'weed' was brought to America as a food crop by settlers. Completely edible, high in Calcium, Iron, and a decent source of vitamin C.
-Garlic Mustard. Considered an invasive weed, it's a great garlic substitute, tasty, and nutritious.
-Rose Hips. This plant grows all over the country. One of the best sources of wild Vitamin C that's not a straight-up citrus. The plant is exceptionally hardy as well, with the rose hips remaining edible well into the winter months.
-If the terrain we end up purchasing supports it, Cattails. a book could be written on how fantastically useful cattails are. Edible, a great source of starch, they have vitamins A, B, and C, potassium and phosphorus.

Add in some food staple crops, like tomatoes and carrots, and we'll have the makings of a well-balanced diet that has variety of flavor.

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Re: Permaculture

Post by mainebub on Fri Sep 25, 2015 5:07 pm

HerbBroCal wrote:Local Wild Plants will also work towards filling gaps in dietary requirements.

I fully intend to start raising:
-Plantago. (Also known as plantain. A fantastic medicinal herb.) It grows in the wild all over the world.
-Dandelion. This 'weed' was brought to America as a food crop by settlers. Completely edible, high in Calcium, Iron, and a decent source of vitamin C.
-Garlic Mustard. Considered an invasive weed, it's a great garlic substitute, tasty, and nutritious.
-Rose Hips. This plant grows all over the country. One of the best sources of wild Vitamin C that's not a straight-up citrus. The plant is exceptionally hardy as well, with the rose hips remaining edible well into the winter months.
-If the terrain we end up purchasing supports it, Cattails. a book could be written on how fantastically useful cattails are. Edible, a great source of starch, they have vitamins A, B, and C, potassium and phosphorus.

Add in some food staple crops, like tomatoes and carrots, and we'll have the makings of a well-balanced diet that has variety of flavor.

cattails are everywhere in maine, not to mention how delicious they are, they make great fire starter.

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Re: Permaculture

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