I have always been interested in being self-sustaining, have grown food in containers and reducing energy/water usage, waste production, etc. We have a few chickens, worm bins, and setting up a new garden in our new home!
I am trying to figure out how to permaculture - but there is more information than I can absorb. I read about Huegel kultur beds (trying to build one) but with four children I do not have the mental space to learn so much! We really can't afford a Landscape Architect (still saving up to have the unhealthy Cedar removed this summer before it falls on our house in the increasing winter storms). If anyone willing to come to Burlington, Washington - or even advise electronically! - wants to help me plan how to make the most with my quarter-acre property, it would be much appreciated! We could compensate some, but more likely would be able to pay only as food bill is reduced with harvest. Attaching a layout of our property =D Chickens are along the eastern fence! Thank you!
I totally understand what you mean when you say that with four kids you're a little short on energy. I've got five myself. I think in your case doing one little project at a time is going to benefit you a lot better than trying to landscape the whole place at once.
For starters I would say to make a list of your resources:
-Sunlight; you've got some large trees, so what are the areas of your yard that are sunny-est. Do something there.
-You already have compost; fantastic!
- Mulch material: leaves? grass clippings? cheap hay? straw? woodchips?
- Water; can you collect if from your downspout in rainbarrels?
- Energy; realistically, how much time can you devote to this? Your most important resource in permaculture is human. So take stock of how much you've got. This will really help in the planning.
Secondly, start with zone 1. In permaculture there are five zones. Zone 1 is right next to your house or places that you walk by every day. There's no reason to make this harder than it needs to be, so start where it's easiest.
When you've identified that spot, plant something there. Make it something that grows REAL easily in your climate and will give you some food. Give it plenty of good stuff: sunlight, water, compost, and plenty of mulch on top. And obtain a yield.
When you have a nutrition cycle going then we can move on to things like guilds, landscaping for fertility greywater usage and all that. But I would suggest that you start this simply. Or perhaps you already have a functioning garden?
Thanks, Nathan! The encouragement is helpful. I want to do so many things, but so much work is needed! Including removing one big cedar for safety will give my garden more sunlight.
Part of my challenge is the layout- so there is no real Zone 1. The lot slopes to the east losing 6 feet elevation, and the house is raised, entered via a raised porch. Doorway is facing west, but is fenced off from yard and is only entered from driveway on the north. I want to remove fencing and put steps to the west to increase zone 1 . . . Next year.
I planted Raspberry canes along the front fence low maintenance and easy harvest.
The back is a patio and full flight of stairs which are slippery when wet. I used the hens to clear a 10x6 ft garden space on that east fence, but today noted it only gets 5 hours full light, and found a 2x3 cement box under 3" top soil. . . . Leaving that as is for now, planting around it.
So your fence runs along the driveway? I think raspberry canes are the perfect start! They're perennial and super tastey. Before moving on I would recommend really spoiling them with your compost and a very thick layer of mulch--like, as deep as your hand.
Then, move out from there. It sounds like blueberries are perfect for you for two reason: 1, you have pine trees and blueberries love the acidic soil from pine pulch, and 2, they can take a little shade even if it does reduce production.
But here's a real important thing to keep in mind: the slope. You seem to have a handle on thinking about sunlight, now about water. Garden beds need to run perpendicular to the slope of your yard this way they catch and hold the water that would otherwise flow away. For instance, you could put a semi-circular bed to the East of your Japanese maple. You would see it from your porch (qualifies for zone 1 in my book) and it can catch water runoff down the slope and leaf mulch and other goodness from the maple. It would also connect to the biome that you are building up in your raspberry bed along the fence--if I have understood your layout correctly.
Thanks for the clue about using the slope the front of the house is flat, no slope there. Prior Tennant paid to have the yard leveled in front, but the driveway and south side of the house are very sloped.
I did get the Raspberrys mulched in the fall- used all the maple and alder leaves! In the front, The fence runs parallel to the house, making the Japanese Maple a longer "J" shaped walk as I have to walk down the 10 steps to the driveway before I can get to that area. Dead Nettles have sprung up all around the Maple and I have been harvesting them for breakfast ;-D. Not enough there to feed the family, but enough for me! That spot seems too small to do anything else with, it would get trampled by my 2 year old when he gets out of the van
Would a raised bed down the slope defeat the purppse?
The general rule of thumb is to start at the top of the slope so that your landscape on contour starts catching rain water. But if your situation does not allow that till next year, then by all means, start where you can.
Wherever you do it, I would just emphasize the need for making it on contour, especially because of the very significant slope you have. A swale on contour before your garden bed--serving as a dug-out path on the up-sloap side of the be--would be even better. . And make sure you have a little spillway. This way it will keep the rainwater from washing down hill and taking your garden nutrient with it. Instead it will catch that nutrient and soak it into the garden.
Another option would be too make a terrace. If you have any access to stone, brick or lumber you can build a short wall the length of your garden bed tall enoubh so that the width of the bed comes out level. Terraces look real pretty too.
I forgot to mention one of your best resources: chicken manure! Since you have tree leaves too I would do a lasagna bed with layers of tree leaves, compost, dirt and chicken manure. You certainly don't seem to be lacking for fertility in any case!
One question: how much precipitation do you get there annually?
Hi, Briana. Maybe I missed it, but I'm not sure where North, South, East and West is.
There can be an issue with redwood trees and pine trees, they can create a type of mold that grows in shady, damp spots on the roof, sometimes the outside walls and windows of houses. So testing for that kind of thing inside your house might be a good idea. So don't feel too guilty if you decide to remove it.
If the Sequoia is really big, you might be able to sell it to a lumber company for the lumber. Sometimes whole large trees can go for $1,000+
Are you interested in passive solar heating in your house? If there are large windows on the south side, when the sun is low in the winter that is something to consider. But if shade in the summer is more important, then a deciduous tree on the south side will let light in in the winter and be shady in the summer.
Establishing paths is probably the most important thing. The ways you already walk through the yard show how you prefer to traverse it. If you make the paths at least wide enough for a big wheelbarrow, or two people to pass, it will make it easier and more efficient to move around the garden. Then establish growing beds on either side of these paths. Where the sun stays for the longest in the summer will most likely determine the rest of the garden.
Something to consider is using Hugel trenches instead of a compost pile, because when you think about it, the best soil is under your compost pile, yet that's not where we plant. So it seems kind of a shame. But digging down about the depth of the shovel, filling in with kitchen scraps and composted manure, then covering back over with soil, then leaf mulch, allows you to plant and compost at the same time.
Don't fall for the My-Place-Is-Special, It-Won't-Happen-Here Syndrome.
Nathan: the front yard was mostly leveled, with the slope running towards the driveway. I'm puzzling over how to use this area now, and will let it percolate a bit while I talk with my husband about how much I can tear up the front yard =D
The original image is situated so that North is the top, east is the right, west is the left =)
The Sequoia is HUGE - easily 100 years old - and we are not cutting it down =) It shades the house in the summer months which is a blessing! The house faces west, so that afternoon shade is vital since we don't have AC. We talked about solar (heating, water, etc) but our house is gabled the wrong way, we wouldn't get enough sun for it to make sense. So we installed natural gas heating instead.
Paths - I may need to bump up my project for building a direct-to-front-yard path =D I like going out the front and around the side of the house, but it isn't easy right now (lots of elevation change) which is also why the garden is all set for the back yard right now - it's where the sun hits for more than 4 hours.
If you can get around to paying some pictures that would help greatly. There's no replacement for "reading "the landscape itself.
It sounds like with your slope the first thing is to think about water harvesting. Swales? Contour garden beds? Terraces? This stuff has to be read carefully into the landscape. That's where I would start. Good luck!