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Towards Sky Gardens and Chicken Orchards

 
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Today I had to explain to someone what I mean by Sky Gardens and Chicken Orchards.
This is how I like to label my zone 1 and 2ish of my permaculture framework for the stuff I visit and eat often.
I also have to do barely any work here because my garden elves (chickens and other beneficial creatures - most of whom I'm not even aware of) do it for me.

I will use this thread to periodically update the goings on of this slice of the system.
This will probably mean posting and discussing one image at a time, as that works for my brain.

The idea here is that the chickens free range (part of the day, for now) through the entire zone 1 & 2 of the garden.

I define zone 1 as my kitchen garden.

The kitchen garden is broken into different sections depending on how often they are visited. Closest to the house is the stuff I call garnish. picking small amounts of things to add flavour, colour and crispness to food. It consists mostly of perennials (short lived) and some self seeding annuals in-between. It consists of 3 wicking beds placed up against the house, 3 wicking beds in the garden, and 5 raised beds.
The front of the house has about 20 raised beds. Here I plant self seeding annuals, short lived perennials and long season crops.
All of the beds have some kind of vertical support, and most of the garden is edged by espaliered fruit trees. these trees are the mother stock of varieties that I use to graft and air layer to fill up the food forest in zone 3.

Zone 2 is quite a steeped terraced area that is not very easy to traverse. It is where the chickens live and where the tree nursery is. There are a lot of pergolas and food mainly grows on trees or in the sky trained on the pergolas.
Here I've planted things that grow like weeds. Because chickens. Luckily I have a long list of food crops with weed like tendencies in my climate.. and I'm always discovering more!

Although the chickens have access to the whole site, they will typically work away at the garden one paddock at a time, so I don't even have to herd them. also, I trained a dog to do that if it is necessary.
Which means even less work for me! Yay!
I designed the space as a bio intensive, vertically stacked system, based on market garden planting strategies. Then I realised that harvesting and maintaining an annual system is more work than I'm willing to put in, started population it with perennials, got busy doing other stuff, and handed it over to nature.
 
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Hi Leigh,
I'm also not familiar with the term "sky garden".  Do you mean the vertical stacking nature of a forest garden?
(I've got a Skye Garden 😉)
 
Leigh Martin
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Currently growing outside the kitchen door. An African cucumber tower.
I harvested a fruit from the food forest, left it on the table to dry out... it must have fallen off.
It shouted next to an amaranth, started creeping up it, eventually got too large and I added a trellis. It’s overwhelming. Definitely calling this one a weed!
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African cucumber tower
African cucumber tower
 
Leigh Martin
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Long season beds of the kitchen garden. This garden is only about 6 months old. It’s going crazy in the back. Trellising pumpkin, watermelon, beans, cucumbers.
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Long season beds
Long season beds
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The not lawn edge of the bed
The not lawn edge of the bed
 
Leigh Martin
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The ‘garnish’ kitchen garden.
Wicking beds on paving (on the right) and raised beds on the left. Some lovely avocados and bananas in the background. Grapes, goji berry and a few other surprises in the wicking beds.
024FC866-7C5F-4ADA-8BF6-625F0640A7D0.jpeg
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Leigh Martin
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Nancy Reading wrote: Do you mean the vertical stacking nature of a forest garden?



Hi Nancy,
I would define it predominantly as growing food off the ground - though the roots are still in the soil.
So very much taking advantage of the vining nature of plants, in the absence of a mature system with full canopy that would naturally support them.
It's a little more structured than a food forest, makes for more visibility of fruits for harvest, but still allows the chickens to function in the system without absolutely destroying it.

On a different note, I was listening to a guy talking about how he is now using his tree layer to predominantly support the vine layer, to the extent that he will eventually be able to walk on them.
Sky garden goals

 
Nancy Reading
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Thanks Leigh,
That makes it more clear, thanks.  I do this a bit in my polytunnel, using the crop bars, wires and strings to support grapes vines, akebia, sharks fin melon, and other vining plants.  I had to evict my kiwi though, it cast too much shade.
Outside I still don't have enough shelter for climbers, the kiwi will have to take it's chances!  We have 90mph winds most winters (sometimes more) so it is challenging to grow upwards.  Most of the faster trees grow sideways as well, although they are starting to shelter each other a bit.
Your garden does look productive and lush!
 
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Leigh Martin wrote: I was listening to a guy talking about how he is now using his tree layer to predominantly support the vine layer, to the extent that he will eventually be able to walk on them.
Sky garden goals


I can tell I'm going to absolutely love watching this thread Leigh.  Thank you so much for sharing....love it!
 
Leigh Martin
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This one might be a better example.
Also the chickens have not ventured in here, so there is a lot of work for them to do!
There are a row of mangoes to the right of the pic, lots of fodder things on the ground.
Propagation nursery raised bed - currently tomato jungle with turmeric jungle and tree spinach jungle next to it.
Grapes and tomatoes above, gooseberries and blackberries between the mangoes on the right.
Some daikon radish and sunchokes/ Jerusalem artichokes on the right of the dog. There may also be some potatoes and cucumbers and indigenous yams in that bed, bananas and sweet potatoes behind.
To the right, next to the bananas, there is a paper/ mushroom composting house, with a giant Avo tree hanging over it.
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Leigh Martin
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Chickens in the sage garden. Next to a peach tree. Espaliered (badly) on the side of a pergola holding up grapes, beans and a variety of butternuts. A row of pomegranates and more watches below, Avo’s and apples and bananas above. There might be a dragon fruit hiding in there somewhere. Hoping that the chickens will help out with the fruit fly issues in the soft fruits. Time will tell.
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Leigh Martin
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Found where pumpkins like to go. Turns out it is 6m (18feet) up in the air.
Busy filling up raised beds with material from the old rabbit house, which will now become my studio.
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Leigh Martin
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Chickens working hard at clearing out the garden, and getting into the kale!
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Leigh Martin
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I don't have pet chickens. I can handle some of them. Some of them are wild.
I tend to prefer the wilder birds. I'm calling them self-sufficient (neglect) birds.

Because less work for me means more time. to work on other things that can make life richer and easier.

I'm also interested in other neglect items - maintenance, plants, other things I can neglect and will flourish.
If you know of any... please let me know (I might do a separate thread for it)

Anyhow, here's a picture of me, and probably the main reason people think I have pet chickens.
772511B2-925E-4E7A-9278-935B8552DD19.jpg
this is not a pet chicken, it is in transit.
this is not a pet chicken, it is in transit.
 
Leigh Martin
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It’s been raining continuously for the last 2 weeks. This is unusual. We were promised a wet summer. Dams are overflowing and there is plenty of flooding in the surrounds.

Found some choice edible mushrooms on the roadside. Picked up a cold due to allergies - probably fungal related, so I’ve not been going at full capacity for the better part of a week.

Divided up the chickens into 2 paddocks. Realized that about 15 chickens is a manageable number for my paddock size. I have great ambitions to send chickens up the mountain to clear the food forest, but need to secure a gate to keep the terriers out.

The gennet got into the coop and killed a young male. It was a particularly ugly young one, but alas, back to locking up this batch of young at night. The gennets seem to have a very specific size in mind when they hunt.

Anyhow, the weather is looking up, we’re in the past month of summer, and it’s time to test out the raised beds with some cooler weather crops.
BC6CF2FD-6492-4987-90F4-A6E7A38E9D16.jpeg
Oh, this giant egg. The broiler hasn’t quite got the laying thing down
Oh, this giant egg. The broiler hasn’t quite got the laying thing down
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Clearing out some bush... or mating a hen
Clearing out some bush... or mating a hen
 
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The pictures are so inspiring, what a great thread!

Everytime my husband finds me sighing over such pictures he has to remind me that envy is a sin ;-)
But to have your own avocados plus so many other crops sounds fantastic. I am sure you put a lot of hard work into your garden but I bet there are things that "just grow" in your climate.
How are your summers? Do you have to irrigate a lot or do you get some rain?

Apart from the genets, how about dangerous wildlife (insects, spiders etc.)?
Thanks for sharing!
 
Leigh Martin
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Hi Anita,
Thanks for your kind words.
Also realised that I spelled genet wrong (oops).

We don't really have any dangerous (to humans) wildlife around.
A few snakes, scorpions, spiders, but those are kind of things everyone is aware of. It is not often that you hear of incidents that involve wildlife.
Mostly things that you can manage at home.
That being said, I am semi suburban, so most of the wildlife has been driven out due to urbanisation.
I'd say that the biggest problem is probably mosquitos. They don't spread malaria here, but the do spread pox, so the chickens are currently dealing with some pox. Other than that, they are just hellishly annoying.

It really is a wonderful climate for growing just about anything. there is hardly any reason to store food, other than the luxuriant aspects of permaculture lifestyle.
I only get about 3 hours of actual sunlight, the rest is dappled light through mature trees, so my journey has been more about how to turn an invasive forest into a productive landscape.

I find that though everything grows, diversified ecosystem management means the difference between some fruit on a tree, and abundance.
Take for example the avocado. it never used to produce much fruit, then I started deep mulching around it, then I moved in some chickens and built a pond that overflows into the avo root zone, last season I got into beekeeping. so each one of those interventions made it a little bit better, every time you integrate systems, and then one day it just compounds into abundance.

I've only recently started to let my animals work for me (mostly chickens) and that has made me superbly lazy... and now I want pigs and goats and I'm starting to feel like I'm pushing the limits of suburbia.

As far as watering is concerned, I used to work much harder, but then I learnt about mulch and fungi and soil; so I hope to build an ecosystem and soil foodweb that can support all of the things that I plant whilst only relying on the rain.
At this point I am still doing a little watering.
I had put in drip irrigation that I thought was going to be there forever... but I don't need it anymore, so now I'm focussing on moveable hoses that can support establishing areas, and the soil micro-organisms have to take care of the rest.

I hope that answers some of your questions.
 
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