Forgive another basic question... I'm about to start planting Zone 1. Area has been laid with newspaper/cardboard, and well rotted manure etc added. Now I need to add my plants and I have a wide range to choose from, right for the climate. But how to decide which plants to put where...?
The possible species that can go in the area are more than 400...
I'm used to 'traditional' veg gardening so my inclination would be to plant companion species close to each other....but permaculture has pretty much thrown everything i thought I knew out of the box... Wish I could find a detailed plan or diagram of a zone 1 to follow...
The plants that need the most attention go in Zone 1.
"Attention' means watering, weeding, harvesting and checking for problems. The plants that you plant and water occasionally, but are harvested at the end of the season don't go here, like winter squashes.
If you use (or intend to use) herbs in cooking, having it just outside the door is very useful. The same with salad ingredients. Leaf lettuces, kale, chives and spinach can be harvested one leaf at a time, so you'll be doing it frequently. Green bunching onions are usually pulled a few at a time, and the same with radishes. Edible flowers like nasturtiums and calendula. Tomatoes. Carrots. Maybe a couple of bush zucchini or other summer squashes. A couple of cucumber plants on trellises.
Just a little further from the door, asparagus and artichokes.
Why not make a list of all your possible plants in your word processing program, then separate them into groups by the amount of care they will need. The most care gets the lower number, the least care gets the highest numbers.
And for your Zone 1, if you don't go to the back end of the house much, that isn't Zone 1 even if it's close. Between the house and car is Zone 1. Between the back door and along the path to the chicken pen is Zone 1.
Sometimes there is a blending of zones, which is okay. if you can't decide EXACTLY where it goes, put it somewhere in the middle. After it's been there for a while, you'll know if you need to bring it in closer for convenience or farther out because it doesn't need as much attention as you thought.
Having your compost pile and/or worm farm near the back door is quick when it's raining.
posted 10 years ago
Sue, that all makes sense. But planting by ease of use seems to easy! Am I not supposed to structure zone 1 according to various levels of height, as in a forest system? I'm far happier planting a great mass of plants and then observing carefully how they turn out... But is it that simple?
Location: Western WA
posted 10 years ago
People have put certain kinds of agriculture into boxes, and so other people think it has to be that way.
Once the plow was invented, larger areas could be grown. It was simplest to make long rows because you can't turn an ox or a horse on a dime.
Some Permaculture people have been trying for YEARS (well, at least since 1978) to turn it into a religion. It isn't, and never was intended to be, as far as I can tell. It is a GUIDE, not rules engraved in stone.
But, breaking it down to the simplest way, go with ease, common sense, multifunctionality (if that is a word), and protect resources.
Put the plants that need the most care closest to where you usually are, or where you pass frequently.
Some plants like all the sun they can get, others don't mind some shade in summer. So, if you want to trellis your cucumbers to keep them growing straight and away from ground bugs and slugs, put it up to get the maximum amount of sun, but the best place might be the north side of your Zone 1, so it doesn't cast a lot of shade on other plants. Where the trellised cucumbers shade the ground for part of the day is a good place to grow lettuces, so it might not even matter. Just don't put sun/heat lovers in the shade. Hiding your tomatoes from the sun behind a bean trellis will cut down on the amount of tomatoes you get, and they will be slow to ripen.
Improve the soil on a regular basis with organic matter. A soil test from a reliable lab will tell you what nutrients are missing from your soil (no soil is perfect), and go by their recommendations to replace them. Tell them you are growing organically, so they know what kind of specific recommendations to make.
Don't get paralyzed trying to get the design perfect. Perennials and trees are more difficult to move, so why not wait until next year to decide what the best places for them might be? An asparagus bed would be a pain to move, but rhubarb and blueberry bushes can be moved. Most vegetables are annuals. If you put the cabbages in the 'wrong' place this year, you can plant them in a better place next year. You will be learning all the time. After a few years, a lot of stuff will have become instinctive. A really BAD mistake will teach you a lot, and you aren't likely to do it again!
Pay attention to what is going on in your garden. The best gardeners and permaculturists are good observers. Taking notes is a good thing.
Keep it simple.
posted 10 years ago
Thanks for taking the time to explain all that Sue, excellent advice! I shall get to work....
I think one of the most powerful things about permaculture is the polyculture. It's kinda like taking the whole polyculture concept to a whole new level.
When you look at how Sepp does it, he has seed mixes and he will plant a massive area with a gallon of one big mix of probably 50 different things.
In your zone 1, you will have, maybe, three or four beds, and, thus three or four mixes.
Or, what I tend to do is to go out one week and plant a bunch of stuff, and then go out a few weeks later and plant a bunch of other stuff .... Just don't be bashful about thinning stuff that isn't doing well. Zone 1 is where you do lots of futzing with your growies.
Oh, and about the cardboard: I am part of the 30% of permies that are against the use of cardboard or newspaper as a garden mulch.
"...this layer will often create a layer that cannot be penetrated by air or water"
That's not been my experience, although I guess it could be in other climates. The first creatures visible under the cardboard are worms and sowbugs. The worms and coming and going, as I can see their holes when I lift the cardboard. Almost immediately, the layer of cardboard on the bottom starts to rot and show signs that something is eating on it. It breaks down fastest under rocks or bricks, and next is under a good mulch. The last to break down are the cardboard surfaces exposed to sunlight and air -- I think the drying effect is what is 'preserving' it.
A couple of years ago, a neighbor set some old plywood out to take to the dump. I was looking for a simple way to keep the weeds and grass down in a hard-to-mow area, and wondered if just laying the plywood down would do the job, so I did some research.
I discovered that indoor plywood has a urea/formaldehyde adhesive, and outdoor plywood has a phenol/formaldehyde adhesive. Urea is a form of nitrogen fertilizer by itself, and neither the phenol nor the formaldehyde lasts long when composted, about two weeks, IIRC. Higher additions of nitrogen assisted with the breakdown of the plywood and the adhesives. With the breakdown of the phenol and formaldehyde in compost, the researchers said plywood would be okay to use in those large commercial composting sites (where they use large equipment to turn the windrows of compost).
While it may not be to organic standards, I was only using it in a few places that were highly unlikely to be used for food production, anyway.
I hadn't really thought about cardboard having formaldehyde, so I just looked it up, and at a British/organic site, they had this to say about corrugated cardboard:
Just a few months ago I was asked to take a look at a site and give my opinion.
There was an apple tree that had very few weeds under it and the tree looked sickly. When I asked about this, the owner told me about how she cleverly beat out the weeds by laying newspaper down and then covering it with a bit of dirt - now the tree did not have to compete with those weeds!
And y'all know how I feel about this practice so I was thinking this was connected to the problem. So we dug down a bit. About an inch deep we found the newspaper. About a quarter of an inch thick. We could steal read some words on it. It was all back and white newspaper - the color inks contain toxins.
This newspaper had been laid down five years previously.
It is my obnoxious opinion that the newspaper did, indeed, beat the weeds, and it also cut off all air and water to the roots of the apple tree under the newspaper. So the only air and water available to the tree where where the tree's roots extended beyond the newspaper.
As to the carboard or paper being made from tree cellulose alone - I've heard this before and did some of my own research and came back from the research more convinced than ever that I choose to not use newspaper or carboard in my projects. I guess it would be far more helpful to you all if I took better notes on that journey.
But WHY did the paper not break down? In the desert, you would think at least the termites would eat it. In wetter areas, you would think the paper would absorb moisture, and soil microbes would go to work on it.
That's very peculiar! What part of the country was this in?
It sounds more like the soil was dead. I wonder if she had applied herbicide under the tree to kill the weeds first, then laid down the paper?
There aren't supposed to be any newspapers now that have toxic colors, as they're supposed to be soy-based so they can be recycled. I don't know that the same can be said of all printing inks, though.
Sometimes we have to be careful about attributing certain causes to certain situations. If my chickens disappeared, it might be goblins, or it might be spirits, or it might be foxes, or it might be a neighbor.
Hi Sue, Paul was looking at the ground under my grandmother's sickly apple tree here in the suburbs of Seattle. The tree is positioned next to her raised vegetable beds on the south end of the lot which gets sun only because it is facing the street - otherwise the lot and the neighborhood are quite shady with lots of tall evergreens.
My grandma (93 and still living and gardening on her own!) gardens mostly organic, but has used tree spikes for the tree - likely chemical - and doesn't use herbicides that I'm aware of. I've worked her garden for her in the past, and I know her methods. Lots of composting, lots of mulching, and pulling weeds or digging out the invasive salal or blackberries if needed. She probably uses too much wood chip mulch around some things, but it's free and she's one of those Depression-era frugal folks, if you know what I mean.
The soil was quite damp, and still alive. The paper just seemed to mat up and petrify into a solid barrier under the wood chips. I'm pretty sure there was probably still grass or plant matter under the paper, though I can't recall if she added compost under the paper, or between the paper and the wood chips. The wood chip mulch on top of the paper was composting and beginning to grow plants - that's how long it had been there.
But WHY would it not rot? If she's got moisture, oxygen, microbes and earthworms, WHAT is preventing decomposition? If the newspaper was shutting off oxygen or moisture, there wouldn't be worms or other insects.
To me, that is a real puzzle. Maybe whatever is preventing the breakdown of matter is also the problem with the tree. I'm just saying that cause and effect aren't always what they seem to be, so I wouldn't be in a hurry to attribute a certain cause to a condition without more information, esp when so many other people have good results using the same methods.
Has anyone sent a soil sample to a good lab? If the newspaper and chips have robbed the soil of nitrogen, it should show up in a soil test. But I have always understood that high-carbon sources just sitting on the surface and not mixed in wouldn't be much of a threat to nitrogen levels. Unless maybe there was a serious nitrogen shortage prior to application of the paper and chips???
I don't even bother with newspaper anymore because it breaks down too fast to be much good. I use corrugated cardboard, 6-ply when I can get it, and it won't even last a full year. And I DO have a shortage of available nitrogen, my last soil test indicates.
This was about a quarter of an inch thick. Maybe a third of an inch thick in places.
In order for it to break down, it would need nitrogen, water, oxygen and microbial activity. Assuming it has some toxic glues in it, I would think that some of your normal microbes/mycelium would find it distasteful. Further, only the top can be decomposed - the bottom would be too dry, low in air and low in N. Since there is a little slope right there, the water is going to run right off.
To break down something that is almost 100% carbon will take a bit of nitrogen. And there probably isn't all that much finding its way there.
(I just had a thought - maybe the best use for old newspaper is as a form of roofing!)