I've been very excited about permaculture since last fall when I came across the concept and this forum. I spent the fall collecting leaves and yard waste from my neighbors. They look at me a little strange, but I don't mind. I bought a grow light so I could start some seeds in February. (I'm out here in the midwest, Columbus, Ohio, in fact.) I've also picked up several books and traveled up to Michigan for 4 classes -- some classroom and a couple hands on.
I wanted to start small -- so the attached picture is my attempt at a veggie bed with some permaculture techniques. As I'm trying to learn this from self-study and trail and error, I was hoping that folks might offer me some advice and suggestions with regard to plants or small-scale projects to maximize my little area.
My yard is a lot of clay. So here's what I did last fall. The blue ring in the picture is a baby pool. I cut the bottom out and dug down about 2 feet and added 2 feet of decaying wood. (I have no idea what kind of tree -- but it was on my parents property for about 7 years, so it was nice and rotten.) I also added shredded leaves, straw, grass clippings, and whatever kitchen waste I had at the time. I put about in 80 pounds of top soil mixed with coir and dead leaves. Then I topped all of that with more leaves and waited for winter to be over.
Come springtime, inside the pool I buried a pair of clay pots for sub-soil irrigation. I still water them by hand from my rain barrel... so I'm probably permaculture level 1 still with my water. I added a worm tower for on-site composting, but didn't design well because the wood buried under doesn't allow me to dig it into the earth as far as I think it should go. It's only in there about 8 - 10 inches. I placed a bunch of marigolds, 3 yarrow plants, 2 mini-bell peppers, 2 eggplant, and celery that I have already harvested.
Just this past weekend I built up the area in front of the pool. Smashed down the grass and did the sheet mulch from Gaia's Garden. Then I added 5 bags of top soil mixed up with coir and leaves. Those beds are probably 14 - 16 inches deep. I outlined with logs leaving a little space for my path. I have 3 mums and a cabbage. Both sides could take more plants, but I feel as if I had too many in the pool and not enough in the outer area. Maybe 2 or 3 too many marigolds? With the insectary plants, I didn't feel like I had a lot of space for veggies. And I am having trouble envisioning vertical space here.
I was trying to use the path for water as well, should I use bark and not leaves for that area?
Any thoughts, suggestions, projects, or ideas are more than welcome. I will build a second area later this fall so that will double my space, but I would love to start to be efficient.
(The white fencing is just to keep my dogs out of it. No other purpose.)
Hi, A.J. It looks great, but I think you're overthinking it! Having clay soil does not mean you have to go to heroic efforts to bring in soil from elsewhere. I have very heavy clay here in Emporia, Kansas, and I find sheet mulching (with no additional soil) is very good for bringing soil life in to boost the organic matter and loosen the heavy soil. If you have standing water, just dig some clay from one spot and pile it on another -- the elevated clay will drain and weather into soil in a few weeks.
But my favorite technique is to add a layer of clay (from a spot where it's unwanted) on top of every layer of greens & browns in the compost pile... it inoculates the pile with soil life to speed decomposition, holds water in the pile so it doesn't dry out as quickly, and when the pile is decomposed -- without turning! -- the compost is already mixed with soil and ready to use.
Another way to water the bed efficiently from a rain barrel would be a soaker hose (recycled rubber) underneath the mulch. It doesn't deliver the water directly deep into the soil like the buried flowerpots, but if you let it drain a whole rain barrel at a time, the water will soak quite deep. I've had great success with this approach.
I'm not sure what you mean by using the path for water.
Ben -- Thank you for the reply. I've been told in the past that I over think...it's a common theme with me.
I didn't realize that sheet mulching would break up the clay underneath it. For some reason I thought only the stuff between the layers would become soil, but it does make sense that the worms and other critters will burrow upward from the clay to get at the sheet mulch and make good soil in the process.
And I'm very excited to try adding clay to my compost -- what a cool way to hold the right amount of moisture and speed up the process. I'll also go and get a soaker hose. I've been lugging gallons of water to fill the clay pots and water the food. While I have gotten a lot of exercise, I'd love for the process to be less manual. I've seen those hoses at the store and it seems like a good investment.
What I meant by my 'path / water' is I have a trench moving excess water from the downspout into the path (about 20 - 25 feet of a two inch trench). I thought with the dead wood buried under the blue baby pool (about two feet by three feet of wood mass) that if I directed water there, the path would fill up and the wood would hold it in place and build the water table.
Brenda -- thank you also for the reply. This coming spring I was going to plant a serviceberry. At my Kalamazoo class a few weekends ago the instructor said it was a great, low maintenance replacement for a blueberry bush.
Location: Ohio, Zone 6a
Suburban lot (for now)
You can't have everything. Where would you put it?
paul's patreon stuff got his videos and podcasts running again!