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Simplifying the steps of the design process?

 
brad rowland
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Hi Aranya,

I got your book last week on Amazon. I am learning quite a bit, but I think I am really struggling knowing where to start with planning the layout for our land.

Any suggestions on simplifying the thought process so we can take baby steps forward? Or any specific section of the book you suggest I focus on?

Thanks

Brad
 
Aranya
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Location: Seaton, Devon, England
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Hi Brad,

The observation phase is the most important, but that doesn't mean you have to stand back and do nothing. You might just want to avoid doing anything particularly hard to reverse, like building a house for instance!

Anything you do will teach you something and by getting some plants and trees out in the landscape you'll see how they fare. As time passes and you learn more about your place (& the best time to do this is when it's especially hot, wet, windy or cold), you'll get better at identifying microclimates and do less things 'wrongly'.

So consider what would make the biggest difference (this is often something in zone 1 near your back door) and make a start. And celebrate your mistakes for the gifts that they are.

I've learned most from just trying things out and seeing what happens - nature is so forgiving, she lets us start again every new year.
 
John Polk
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Along the same lines, while you observe for the 4 seasons, I don't think anybody can just sit there and watch a year go past. What I would do is grow a lot of annual plants. They will be gone anyway within a few months, so it doesn't really matter where they grow and die. If you plant open pollinated varieties, you will be building your seed bank for future years as well as getting a lot of compost for when you are ready to begin your perennial forest. Not to mention all of the healthy meals along the way.

Planting an entire field of clovers mixed with some bulky biomass plants will fix a lot of nitrogen and provide a lot of green manure. Both are great soil builders. A one pound package of wild flower seeds for your region ($30), mixed into the mix will also help build a healthy colony of native pollinators which will serve you well in the future regardless of what your final plan looks like. Your 'waiting time' doesn't need to be non-productive.

Good luck.

 
Aranya
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Location: Seaton, Devon, England
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Just to clarify that often that wonderful diversity of wild flowers we seek do well on less fertile land (thinner soils, often steep slopes & meadows where hay is regularly cut and taken away, keeping fertility down). Where fertility levels are higher, a few hungry plants tend to dominate (nettles are a classic indicator species for that here in Britain). Clovers will raise nitrogen levels in the soil and ultimately favour those hungrier plants. Do both, but perhaps in the places best suited to each.
 
James Slaughter
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Things to watch out for -

where is the WINTER SUN going to be? 6 hours of sunlight per day is a good guide for healthy veg gardens in winter, though many of the tougher leaf varieties of plants can still do well (parsley, mustard, nettles). Main problem is it sets you back a little (depending on your climate) with potentially cold soils in spring.

LARGE TREES - (especially things with allelopathic tendencies like Eucalyptus and Walnut) Not only can they shade they shade your site on the wrong sides (such as morning sun), they often can and will send roots to whatever vegetable garden you may be preparing. I have a large casuarina nearby that tends to suck all the moisture and nutrient out of the vegetable beds I initially prepared. What this means is that I generally have to double dig the area on at least a biennial basis. I would rather practice no dig, sheet muching, but have found that this is just not doable for the site that I have.

JOURNAL - buy a journal that you can carry around with you to note down ideas as they occur and make observations as your garden progresses. Its also a good place to put the information about what you have planted and where.

SEED SAVERS - try to find a local seed saving group or other people that are growing veg in your area. They can often give you a great start, as well as vital information about your climate and what does well in your area.

Other things to consider - prevailing strong winds and the potential for some sort of wind break plants; soil testing (at least for PH values); on site sources of mulch; and look out for local fruit trees that you can see are doing well. Peaches for instance are often better to propagate from seed from a local tree that is doing well. Loquats are also a great choice for an early fruiting species that is easily grown from seed.

Hope some of this helps.
 
Alex Ames
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Location: Georgia
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I like some perennial herbs placed in easy access. Then grow parsley, basil and so forth from seed. All close to where you
plan to use them. That gets you involved in growing and eating what you grow. Chances are you will not put it close enough
to the door and you will have learned any easy lesson about growing an environment that is yours.
 
John Polk
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Yeah. Years ago, we built a planter box on my sister's kitchen window sill.
Walk over to the sink, and clip, clip. She loved it!
 
LaLena MaeRee
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James Slaughter wrote:


JOURNAL - buy a journal that you can carry around with you to note down ideas as they occur and make observations as your garden progresses. Its also a good place to put the information about what you have planted and where.

Journals are so helpful! Just remember to actually write in it, especially the important things like dates planted, we forgot with a few, ooops!
 
Aranya
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Location: Seaton, Devon, England
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I'd definitely recommend keeping a journal, something the Diploma system here encourages apprentices to do anyway. Photograph everything too - especially easy now with digital cameras in everything. If you have one, use it, much quicker to photograph shade lines in a garden than try & sketch them onto a map.
 
She still doesn't approve of my superhero lifestyle. Or this shameless plug:
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