Thursday, 25 October 2012

Genesis Permaculture Resource Page

 Genesis Permaculture Resources and Links

THis is what started it all for me: Greening the Desert with Geoff Lawton

Building a Herb Spiral:

The term “weed” is, in part, a human value judgement of certain plants or plant species as interfering with the desired use of a particular field or tract of land at a particular time. Even alfalfa (Medicago sativa), one of the most highly valued forage or hay crops, can be a weed in a vegetable garden.

Weeds are also, in large part, a human creation.

Nature does NOT till

What is a pioneer species?
Weeds, don’t shoot the messenger:

Pioneer species are hardy species which are the first to colonize previously disrupted or damaged ecosystems, beginning a chain of ecological succession that ultimately leads to a more biodiverse steady-state ecosystem. Since uncolonized land may have thin, poor quality soils with few nutrients, pioneer species are often hardy plants with adaptations such as long roots, root nodes containing nitrogen-fixing bacteria, and leaves that employ transpiration. Pioneer species will die creating plant litter, and break down as "leaf mold" after some time, making new soil for secondary succession

Weeds are hard wired to immediately cover disturbed and bare soil helping us to reduce the loss of soil from erosion and winds. Whenever we rototill, we create a disturbance (an edge) which provides an opportunity for weeds.

What are Dynamic Accumulators? 
Dynamic accumulators are plants that mine nutrients from the soil through their roots. These plants can then be used as a fertilizer, or as part of a fertilizer mix, for other plants that may be deficient in those particular nutrients. They play an important role in many permaculture guilds.

What is Succession and how will it benefit my garden or farm fields?

We can help the succession of weeds through the landscape by not tilling our soil anymore, creating established raised beds and chopping and dropping the weeds as they come up (prior to seed) and allowing the plant to decompose into the soil; thus feeding the necessary nutrients from the weed into our soil (dynamic accumulator)and allowing for natural succession of plant species.

For larger areas, we can help succession by:

  • Reducing or eliminating the need for soil disturbance 
  • mowing the weeds at a height of about 7 to 8 inches prior to any appearance of seeds (thus ensuring that competing plants are not mowed down in the mix) 
  •  Planting native grasses, shrubs, trees, willows etc. 
  •  Planting pulse crops which come up earlier in the season therefore choking out the invasive species

Polyculture is the practice of planting a community of interrelated, interdependent plants, mimicking in your garden the complex relationships that are found between plants in nature.

In the case of food crops, a polyculture tries to set up conditions where you can eat almost continually out of a garden bed filled with different varieties of plants maturing at different times. The faster growing plants protect the tender ones from the sun. The thickness of the planting virtually eliminates weeds, and also functions as a living mulch, keeping the soil moist and cool beneath a carpet of green. These beds look quite different than the tidy rows of carrots and cabbages one used to see.

Here is an example of a professional polyculture bed out of Gaia's Garden, one which creates salads, cabbages, and beans. Polyculture from Gaia's Garden, attributed to Lanto Evan:

After the last frost cover your garden bed evenly with a light broadcasting of the following seeds. Don't mix them before broadcasting because they will fall differently according to their weight., and so separate out in the throwing. Spread one type of seed at a time, aiming for an even distribution of each type of seed all over the bed. Sow: radish, dill, parsnip, calendula and many types of lettuces, late and early harvesting types to extend the length of your season. Cover the seeds with 1/4 inch of soil.

Meanwhile, start cabbages from seeds in containers, early and late maturing varieties.

4 weeks after sowing you can pull some of the first radishes, because they grow fast. As you eat those, put the cabbage seedlings in the holes.

6 weeks after sowing you can eat the lettuce; first as a baby lettuce mix, later in its more mature leafing form. Pull out entire plants to make space, so things don't get too crowded.

Continue this way until the soil warms up. As you eliminate lettuce plants, begin to put beans in their place. The dill and calendula will start coming into their own, and the early cabbages. The beans will be ready by midsummer, and the parsnips and the rest of the cabbages will follow in the fall.

The secret is in choosing plants with staggered harvesting times, so they don't come in all at once, overwhelming you and competing with each other for space, and also in choosing plants that are not all from the same families, so they don't compete for the same nutrients. The beans in the polyculture above help replenish the nitrogen in the soil that the other plants drain out. Very clever; with little effort compared to normal gardening, you will be harvesting veggies from one plot all season long.

I have a large garden and I don't know if I can plant the entire space and keep everything covered - what do I do? Mulch the rest

Nature never does just one thing; large blocks of single plant type and vegetation that is all the same height and root depth is Man's creation and causes weeds and plant disease.

Companion Planting – Attachment D
There are so many different camps on this subject and all kinds of resources; one of my favourites is Carrots love Tomatoes – a great little book on companion planting. Rather than go into great detail here I would say that this subject is a course of self discovery. Talk to the lady down the street that always has such a lush and vibrant garden or peruse the Internet for insights. Another great resource is Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemingway but each region is different so most of what you will be doing is taking steps forward and then accepting the feedback – don’t forget to keep a diary of all your adventures:-D

Micro Climates
You have all heard me talk about Sepp Holzer, a very resourceful man who lives in the Tyrol Mountains in Austria; well here is a great article on the work he has done creating micro climates, pond & fish systems, Hugelkultur; the list is endless but this article and embedded videos is a great start.

1.      South facing - Build your beds facing the south and plant the highest plants in the back of your beds to frame the smaller or more fragile plants that will be planted in front.
2.      Reflective surfaces – by utilizing a white or light coloured wall we are able to reflect the sun’s rays back onto the garden or directly onto our plants growing along the wall for additional warmth and sunlight
3.      Thermal Mass & Greenhouses - fill rain barrels with water and paint them black; fill black plastic bags with gravel or sand these will also store heat. Two liter bottles painted black and filled with sand will also serve this purpose. Black stones can also be used or cinder blocks painted black. You can utilize this method to help grapes and Arctic Kiwi to grow as it provides a warm place for the roots and the thermal mass holds the warmth of the day well into the evening. Now where else can I use thermal mass mmmmm....?

4.      Increase reflective capacity by placing a pond in front of a Heat Sink. With or without a pond, these systems are beneficial to plants and trees like orchard trees that require warmer conditions but don’t limit yourself to these types of trees and vegetation.

Taller plants are placed in the back and frame the smaller plants in front; this provides protection from the elements just like a warm hug. You can also utilize this system to provide more warmth for your home.
Keyhole beds

Keyhole beds increase growing capacity in your garden and provide access to everything growing within its radius; keyhole beds allow for some pretty funky companion planting; you can plant taller trees, shrubs or vegetables in the back (or north side of the bed) getting shorter and smaller as you come forward. Although keyhole beds work at a premium when they are designed as south facing, this is not absolutely necessary but make sure to plant your taller plants to the north end of the bed. 

Raised beds and mulched pathways
Raised beds and swale (ditch on contour) pathways filled with wood chips provide so many benefits. By establishing this type of garden, you eliminate the need for tilling. Tilling, as we know depletes the quality and nutrient levels of our soil and provides a short term benefit for a long term deficit.
Raised beds allow for:
·         easier access
·         good water drainage
·         plants get watered from the bottom up ensuring healthy plants with good strong root structures that are able to mine for nutrients.
·         Fantastic Soil building benefits
·         The woodchips offer a wonderful soft pathway and add humidity to our garden area.

Wicking Beds
The best video ever on how to build a Wicking Bed

Beneficial insects
We all know about lady bugs and how they love aphids well, there are so many more insects more that are more than happy to work alongside with us to keep our gardens and edibles foodscapes healthy and humming along – check them out:

plants that attract Pollinators

Swales and re-hydrating the landscape
Swales have to be one of my most favourite Permaculture designs; they are a key element in maintaining healthy soils and so important in re-hydrating degraded systems.

I come across farms that have too much water and farms that don’t have enough water and the solution for both of these problems is to build swales to allow the water to hydrate “into” the land instead of spilling over the land and either washing everything out or simply evaporating into thin air.

Whether you are digging a swale or ditch on contour within your garden (nice and level just like the bottom of a bathtub) to ensure that all of the water evenly distributes throughout your entire garden or you would like to construct a large swale dug on contour across your land to bring large volumes of water into your land to rehydrate your soil here are some great answers on how to:

Keyline Swale

Lasagna Method or Sheet Mulching – GROWING FOOD ALL THE WHILE GROWING SOIL
So easy and so beneficial, we are going to add 6”to 8”of material to build our soil. You can do this any time of the year but the most beneficial time is in the fall, that way ensuring that you have plenty of humus to work with next year when planting your gardens.

  1.  To reduce the compaction in the soil we are going to take a pitch fork and lightly rock back and forth to loosen the soil material – do not turn the soil over as this will kill off and disturb the microbes living in the soil. Do this for the entire area you wish to sheet mulch. 
  2. Next, spread a layer 4” thick of good compost over the entire area, this will ensure that you have millions of helpful microbes going to work for you right away, breaking up and aerating the soil. 
  3.  Next, is the Cardboard – a barrier layer preventing the grass from growing up 
  4.  Next is the Mulch layer wood chips, leaf litter, straw, any kind of carbonaceous material 
  5.  Then Water

Keyline Plow with Darren Doherty

Food Forests

7 Layers of the Food Fores
Mature forests occupy all available space with lush growth. “Forest gardens” model themselves after natural forest Eco-systems but focus on plants that provide food, medicines and other resources. Urban yards can also take advantage of the possibilities of using vertical space to make up for what they lack in horizontal space. All 7 layers (root, ground cover, herb layer, shrubs, mall trees, large trees, vines) can be occupied by plants that offer not only beauty but food, medicine, or other benefits as well. When appropriately designed for a particular bio-region, forest gardens provide an abundance of food in a way that is self-perpetuating, self-fertilizing, self-mulching, self-watering, self-pollinating and highly resistant to disease.

One Million Pounds of Food on 3 Acres – Aquaponics/Greenhouses/Closed Loop Systems

Forest Succession

SPIN FARMING – (Small Plot Intensive Farming)

StackingPlants incorporated into a permaculture landscape are “stacked” both in space and in time. Plants will be chosen to occupy the following 7 layers; below ground (i.e. root crops), ground cover, herbaceous plants, shrubs, small trees, tall trees, and vines. Similarly, thought should be given into the long term development of the landscape over time, ensuring that the system will be thriving many years from now.

Stacking Functions
Stacking Functions #1 – All elements in the design should serve multiple functions.
All elements in nature do more than one thing- they are imbedded in a multitude of relationships performing a variety of services for the life community in which they reside. So too does each element in a permaculture design play multiple roles and offer multiple yields. A well chosen and placed tree can provide food, shade, cooling, bio-mass, beauty, building materials, a structure for other plants to climb, habitat for many species, recreation and many other functions. A fence can be made of plants that provide privacy, food, habitat, beauty, and bio-mass. A water cistern can also store heat for a greenhouse or function as a structure as part of a building.

Stacking Functions # 2 – All functions in the system should be served by multiple elements.
This principle is essentially one of planning redundancy into the system so there is less fragility and more resilience. We may have a variety of strategies to meet the water needs of the system including household grey water use, roof-top catchment, soil building organic matter, landscape contours such as swales or ponds, in addition to the conventional water sources available to us. In order to support the key element of food production we may employ a variety of food growing models including annual vegetable beds, edible perennials, edible forest gardens, mushroom cultivation and small livestock such as bees, rabbits or chickens. In short, don’t put all your eggs in one basket!

Stacking Functions # 3 – Stack elements in vertical and horizontal space as well as in time.
Particularly in smaller urban lots, we want to be able to grow as much as possible in a vertical plane to maximize the amount of bio-mass we can generate and the food and other yields we can create within the system. This might include multilayered growing areas, espaliered fruit trees, wall mounted systems, and green roofs. Similarly, we will design the space along temporal lines, ensuring that the annual vegetables are planted in succession or that perennial systems are evolving towards a state of succession in which they are at maximum productivity, and that there are younger plants prepared to replace older ones. Edible Forest Gardens are a good example of permaculture systems that are stacked in both space and time.

Excerpt taken from


One of the most important and exciting elements of applying permaculture principles to all that we do in the garden is that we are building soil.

What is Soil?
Soil is a substance made up of sands, silts, clays, decaying organic matter, air, water and an enormous number of living organisms. Survival of all living systems depends greatly on synergy and efficiency to optimize the functioning of all processes and to keep waste as low as possible. When synergy and efficiency begin to wane, declines follow.

An excerpt from “We Have The Tools Series”

Article derived from:

Most people have a static rot compost pile in their back yard which helps to reduce waste and provides a level of goodness for your garden but for the most nutrient rich, dynamic compost possible, Building a Thermophilic Compost Pile is the way to go. Thermophilic composting is the practice of breaking down biological waste with thermophilic (heat-loving) bacteria. One teaspoon of compost derived from this method can contain up to 1 Billion microbes on 1 teaspoon of compost.
The most important element in building healthy compost is OXYGEN and most of these backyard compost bins are made of black plastic and create a stinky anaerobic mess – certainly not what we want to put into our garden.

When we build a thermophilic compost pile we are using a 30 to 1 ratio of Carbon to Nitrogen by weight. This is hard for people to envision and they are often shocked when participating in the actual construction of a composting pile to see how little nitrogen is added compared to how much carbon.

What is Carbon and What is Nitrogen
Carbon is brown and nitrogen is green; other examples include the following items that can be used in building a compost pile
Nitrogen Rich Materials:
fresh, juicy materials are usually higher in nitrogen. In addition, materials of animal origin (such as feathers, manure (cow, chicken, goat - NOT horse), and organic blood meal) are typically higher in nitrogen; grass clippings, green leaves, coffee grounds, all great sources of Nitrogen.

Carbonaceous Materials: Drier, older, or woody vegetable and plant tissues are usually higher in carbon; Wood shavings, fine wood mulch, straw, old dried up hay bales, cardboard (cutup fine), dry leaf litter etc.

Composting Made Easy:

If your compost pile starts to smell, then it is too hot and has gone anaerobic; quickly add more carbon material to cool things down and monitor the compost pile to regulate heat. The preferred temperature is no higher than 65 degrees Celsius.

How to Calculate Compost Coverage
Compost is one of the most valuable garden materials available and can improve nearly any type of garden. Not only does it provide valuable nutrients without the use of chemicals, it also helps loosen soil, prevents soil compaction, retains moisture and provides winter protection for tender plants. Compost also reduces the amount of work needed to maintain a garden by helping to keep weeds down. Using the right amount of compost is the key to ensuring plants receive all the benefits it has to offer.

Step 1 - Measure the length and width of the area where you plan to spread the compost.
Step 2 - Multiply the length by the width to determine the square footage of the area you plan to cover.
Step 3 - Decide how deep you want the compost to be spread. We recommend spreading compost between 1 and 3 inches deep in vegetable gardens or for covering crops or plants over the winter..
Step 4 - Multiply the square footage that you determined in steps 1 and 2 by the depth of compost that you chose in Step 3.
Step 5 - Multiply the number you arrived at in Step 4 by .0031. For example, if the area you are covering measures 5 feet by 5 feet, or a total of 25 square feet, and you want the compost to be 2 inches deep, you would multiply 25 by 2, and then multiply the result by .0031. The resulting number is the amount of cubic yards of compost required to cover the area to the desired depth.

Rainwater Harvesting
To determine how much rain falls upon your house and out buildings, look up your average rainfall on the internet; now measure the square footage of your house or building you are going to use to harvest the rain

for every inch of rain that falls on a catchment area of 1,000 square feet, you can expect to collect approximately 600 gallons of rainwater. Ten inches of rain falling on a 1,000 square foot catchment area will generate about 6,000 gallons of rainwater!

Your roof catchment area is equal to the total square feet of your house plus the extension of your eaves. You don’t need to consider the angle of your roof, like you would if you were buying roofing material, because rain falls evenly on every part of the roof.

To calculate the square feet of your house’s catchment area, measure the area of the outside walls and then include the overhang of any eaves. For example, let’s say you have an oblong house with outside dimensions of 36 feet by 46 feet. You’ve calculated the overhang of your eaves as 2 feet. So, add the 4 feet of the eaves to each wall length (2 eaves of 2 feet equals an additional 4 feet for each wall) to get the total length of the walls plus the eaves (40 by 50 feet).

Now multiply 40 times 50 (length times width) to get your total roof catchment area.

(36 + 4) x (46 + 4) = 2,000 sq ft

Your roof catchment area is thus 2,000 square feet.

Since one inch of rainfall provides approximately 600 gallons of water for a 1,000 square foot catchment area, and our theoretical house has a 2,000 square foot catchment area (twice the area), you will multiply 600 gallons by 2.

1” of rain = 600 gallons of water from a 1,000 square foot catchment; therefore a 2,000 square foot home would be 1,200 gallons of water catchment.

600 gal x 2 = 1,200 gallons
Edmonton average rainfall = 18”

1,200 gal x 18 inches of rain = 21,600 gallons

Multiply number of Canadian Gallons by 4.5 to establish how many litres
21, 600 ÷ 4.5 = 97,200 Litres

If you have an average rainfall of say 20 inches per year, you have the potential to collect 24,000 gallons of water in one year.

Depending on the needs of your household, that can be significant amount of water to augment your water supply.

You should consider that rainwater harvesting systems aren’t necessarily 100% efficient. Most sources estimate efficiency between 70% and 90%. All rainwater harvesting systems lose some of the rainwater. It may spill out of the gutters or the wind may blow it away. Evaporation will undoubtedly affect some of it. To maximize your collection of rainwater, you can use out buildings such as barns or sheds. If you’re creative, you can even use rainwater from a patio or other paved areas around your house.

Our society tends to be an Aquaphobic society where water is driven out and away when really, water is our greatest resource and we should be slowing it, soaking it and sinking it into our landscape. What can you do on your property to slow it, soak it and sink it?

Two great references for Rainwater Harvesting are Brad Lancaster:
And Craig Sponholtz:

There are many ways to harvest the rain and take advantage of this great resource in nurturing and caring for your landscape. Please feel free to contact me for additional information or to help you design and setup up a rainwater harvesting system for your home.

Bats are extremely valuable to our country’s agriculture due to the incredible number of insects these small animals consume and many homeowners encourage bats to roost near their homes by installing specially designed bat houses to reap the insect control benefits that bats provide. Bat habitats have reduced all over N. America which has reduced populations and endangered the species so by placing a Bat house on your property you can do your part to ensure that these beneficial bat populations return.


Rocket mass heaters are simply amazing and can be fired up simply with coppice wood from willow or Caragana. Heat your home, chicken coop, workshop, hot water tank, so many uses.

Bunyip Water Level

Dynamic Accumulators and the periodic table

7 Layers of a Food Forest
 Permaculture Design Principles

Companion Planting
Many of these relationships are fairly general. The best results come from creating diversity by using a variety of herbs and ornamental plants alongside the edible crops planted in the garden.

Some Companion Plants are:
  • Basil helps repel flies and mosquitoes
  • Birch leaves encourage compost fermentation
  • Borage in the strawberry patch will increase the yield
  • Catnip repels fleas, ants and rodents
  • Caraway helps breakdown heavy soils
  • Chamomile deters flies and mosquitoes and gives strength to any plant growing nearby
  •  Chives grown beneath apple trees will help to prevent apple scab; beneath roses will keep away aphids and blackspot.
  • Elderberry a general insecticide, the leaves encourage compost fermentation, the flowers and berries make good wine.
  • Fennel repel flies and ants
  • French Marigold root secretions kill nasty nematodes (not the beneficial ones) and will repel white fly amongst tomatoes.
  • Garlic helps keep aphids away from roses
  • Hyssop attracts cabbage white moth keeping brassicas free from infestation
  • Mint repels cabbage white moth. Dried and placed with clothes will repel clothes moth.
  • Nasturtium secrete a mustard oil, which many insects find attractive and will seek out, particularly the cabbage white moth. Alternatively, the flowers repel aphids and the cucumber beetle. The climbing variety grown up apple trees will repel codling moth.
  • Pyrethrum will repel bugs if grown around the vegetable garden
  • Rosemary repels carrot fly
  • Sage protects cabbages from cabbage white moth
  • Tansy (Tanacetum, not Senecio) repels moths, flies and ants. Plant beneath peach trees to repel harmful flying insects. Tansy leaves assist compost fermentation.
  • Wormwood (Artemesia, not Ambrosia) although it can inhibit the growth of plants near it, wormwood does repel moths and flies and keeps animals off the garden.
Some compatible vegetables are:
  • Beetroot: Onions, Lettuce, Cabbage, Silverbeet
  • Cabbages: Beans, Celery, Beetroot, Onions, Potatoes
  • Cauliflower: Celery
  • Celery & Celeriac: Chives, Leeks, Tomatoes, Dwarf Beans
  • Carrots: Lettuce, Peas, Leeks, Chives, Onions, Cucumbers, Beans
  • Broadbeans: Potatoes, Peas, Beans
  • Tomatoes: Asparagus, Parsley, Broccoli, Sweet Basil, Carrots
  • Sweet Corn: Potatoes, Peas, Beans

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