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Modularizing Polyculture - The Lego Method

 
pollinator
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Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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I just realized that alot of the site specific information can be combined into just one variable, Eco-region Cold and Heat hardiness, soil type, avg terrain data, etc)
http://www.epa.gov/wed/pages/ecoregions/level_iii_iv.htm#Level IV

The website that you mentioned have alot of good feature that I think are awesome.
Its open source/data.
Sharing garden layout.
Finding garden layout.
Simplified plant list.
Very conductive to having(finding) a template garden even if it is static based on ecoregions.
Very conductive to finding most successful combo, Data-mining crowd source garden data.
 
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I think some of you are making implementing a polyculture more difficult than it needs to be... When people have little or no experience with a thing they often do more work than is necessary to be effective. Instead of databases we should just come up with a basic list(s) that work in most areas and this is not a difficult task.
 
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I have been out of town for a few days but want to keep the conversation going. Everyone's ideas and feedback have been great and have served to shape the direction of the idea of Lego-izing polyculture. There seems to be a few different directions that this post is moving towards.

One direction is for a simple infographic similar to the USDA "Plant Hardiness Zone" map.

Another solution suggested is the method that James Colbert put forth with creating a seed mix comprised of at least 3 different plants from each of the 4 categories listed below. The mixes would be tailored for dry, temperate and cold environments:

Biomass producers
Nitrogen fixers
Pest Management (Insect attracters/repelers)
Soil conditioners (looseners/nutrient minners)

And lastly a solution which is highly data driven and dependent on a extensive relational database to allow a user to input specifics about their plot and output a complete planting plan.

In my opinion all these possible solutions are equally valid and its great to see the creativity that everyone has put into this post. I think we should start small and branch out. Crawl, walk, run.

I really like the idea of combining James's 4 category method with a simple to use infographic and I will work towards this. I believe that I can create a map of the US shaded similar to the Plant Hardiness Zone map to denote dry, temperate and cold environments and then provide a list of appropriate seed mixes for that climate.

@James Colbert: James would you be willing to create the necessary prototype seed mixes for dry and cold climates? We already have the very detailed one you submitted for temperate climates.

As always please continue to post your great ideas and feedback as I think that collectively we can create something useful and wonderful.
 
James Colbert
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Joe Proto wrote:I have been out of town for a few days but want to keep the conversation going. Everyone's ideas and feedback have been great and have served to shape the direction of the idea of Lego-izing polyculture. There seems to be a few different directions that this post is moving towards.

One direction is for a simple infographic similar to the USDA "Plant Hardiness Zone" map.

Another solution suggested is the method that James Colbert put forth with creating a seed mix comprised of at least 3 different plants from each of the 4 categories listed below. The mixes would be tailored for dry, temperate and cold environments:

Biomass producers
Nitrogen fixers
Pest Management (Insect attracters/repelers)
Soil conditioners (looseners/nutrient minners)

And lastly a solution which is highly data driven and dependent on a extensive relational database to allow a user to input specifics about their plot and output a complete planting plan.

In my opinion all these possible solutions are equally valid and its great to see the creativity that everyone has put into this post. I think we should start small and branch out. Crawl, walk, run.

I really like the idea of combining James's 4 category method with a simple to use infographic and I will work towards this. I believe that I can create a map of the US shaded similar to the Plant Hardiness Zone map to denote dry, temperate and cold environments and then provide a list of appropriate seed mixes for that climate.

@James Colbert: James would you be willing to create the necessary prototype seed mixes for dry and cold climates? We already have the very detailed one you submitted for temperate climates.

As always please continue to post your great ideas and feedback as I think that collectively we can create something useful and wonderful.



My knowledge of drought and cold tolerant plants is limited. Sepp Holzer's book would probably be a good resource for cold climates and geoff lawton's work for dry climates. I can see what I can come up with. Keep in mind many if not most of the plants in my temperate climate seed mix will work for both cold and dry climates. I will attempt to create lists for dry and cold climates.
 
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Location: Central Wisconsin
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Great ideas all. Would love if something comes out of all this. For those looking for program to design now, let me know if you find it, I spent hours on net looking for tools that would help. For me the best I could do is site that lets you print Hexagonal grids in PDF. I would suggest setting parameters to 0.25, 0.5, and 0.75 inches for small, medium and large grids. These grids allow you too more easily plan layout in staggered fashion and you can cut out and use the smaller ones inside of larger ones for groupings. They also more truly represent edge interaction. Lowtech I know, but I wish I had these three hours ago so I could have started arranging and shuffling planting arrangments and guilds.

http://incompetech.com/graphpaper/hexagonal/

Hope this helps.

PS I attached PDFS of sm, med, large below( I Think)
Filename: hexagonal-.25-inch.pdf
Description: .25 inch hexagonal graph paper.
File size: 11 Kbytes
Filename: hexagonal-.5-inch.pdf
Description: .5 inch hexagonal graph paper.
File size: 6 Kbytes
Filename: hexagonal-.8-inch.pdf
Description: .8 inch hexagonal graph paper.
File size: 5 Kbytes
 
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Location: Hamilton, MT
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Just an fyi, Cloud 9 farms in Montana has a custom made Polyculture seed mix with perennials, annuals, nitrogen fixers, cold hardy, natives, etc. I can send list if interested, but understand they will be posting to Permies in the next week. I plan to use the mix to modify my pastures which have monoculture hay grass for decades.
 
S Bengi
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I would really like it if you where to post the cold hardy (zone3/4) pasture mix. For cloud 9.
I also see that they recommend 15lbs per acre at $10/lbs. http://www.localharvest.org/cloud-nine-farm-M32669

Tim Southwell wrote:Just an fyi, Cloud 9 farms in Montana has a custom made Polyculture seed mix with perennials, annuals, nitrogen fixers, cold hardy, natives, etc. I can send list if interested, but understand they will be posting to Permies in the next week. I plan to use the mix to modify my pastures which have monoculture hay grass for decades.

 
Tim Southwell
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Location: Hamilton, MT
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As you wish... This seed mix is care of Cloud 9 Farms out of Wilsall, MT (SW Montana). They call it their 'Synergy West Perennial Pasture Seed Blend'.

It is as follows:
Paiute Orchardgrass
Oroverde Perennial Ryegrass
Rimrock Indian Ricegrass
Rosana Western Wheatgrass
Secar Snake River Wheatgrass
Medium Red Clover
Ladino Clover
Eski Sanfoin
Delar Small Burnet
Annual Sunflower
Appar Blue Flax
Chicory
Stillwater Yellow Prairie Coneflower
Kaneb Purple Prairie Clover
Purple Conflower Echinacea Purpurea
Western Yarrow

They go on with this description... "This blend is a unique mix of cold hardy and drought tolerant perennial plants that have been combined to create a natural ecosystem-mimiking mix that provides a biodiverse and fertility-building prairie-like or pastoral plant community designed to create resilience in management-intensive grazing systems, perennial food forest / orchard understories and long term soil building applications. This mix provides premium forage for cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and poultry. many species are edible / medicinal for people. Excellent pollinator habitat and bee forage. Sow 1# of seed for 50' x 50', or 25# per acre. Cool season grasses. Several non-gmo nitrogen fixing legumes. For best results, seed in fall, or very early in spring, and irrigate to establish" Give Allison a buzz at Cloud 9 for more details.
 
S Bengi
pollinator
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Thanks for the info.
 
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Like Joe Proto, I’ve been a long time stocker first time poster on the forum. I've come out of hiding because this is something I’ve been seriously looking into.
I've had the same questions regarding scope - huge database or simple infographic.
I’ve started compiling info for a database because i want this to be a resource that can help the novice and the expert. Nothing can take away experience however this can be a tool to help guide/give ideas regarding how plants might interact, respond, and/or developed into a system.
The goal is to provide a tool that (1.) helps create better food systems (2.) get more people in the dirt (3.) facilitates knowledge growth.

Because the amount of information is so amazingly large, I’ve put phased completion on the progress with the ultimate goal of including crops, trees, and flowers for more complete systems. For example, the first phase is to complete the subset of data of household gardens. Even at this level this is a functional tool for many.

All of the posts have had great ideas about things to track - i want them all. It's an insane amount of information but a tool like that is something that i actually want.
I think having this resource can help create better permaculture systems.
 
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Howdy!

I've just stumbled across this thread and thought that I should introduce myself as I'm working on something very similar. I've been a lurker of permies in the past, but this is my first post.

I am Juliet Norton from Orlando, Florida and I'm quite involved in our delightful permaculture community. I took my PDC as I was starting grad school for computer science at UCF and have incorporated my love for permaculture into my dissertation. In our local permaculture community we spoke about the need for organized data and even for design tool to especially help those who are just getting started. As was discussed on this thread, the giant database and organization of this content is a non-trivial problem - but perfect for a dissertation. Long story short a really cool Informatics professor at University of California Irvine has me working with him and four of his researchers on creating a prototype of this by the end of March.

Although we have lots of specs from the Orlando Permaculture community, I'd love to fold in requests that you guys have too. I see that you guys have a general list of requirements, most of which we're already incorporating, but if you guys are actively building on this and want to collaborate then lets get in touch!

My email is julietnorton@gmail.com

-- Juliet
 
Joe Proto
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Dave and Juliet I am so pleased to learn about your efforts and that others are starting to stumble upon this post. The original goal of this post was to spark a conversation around "Lego"-izng polyculture so that even a child could plan a polyculture garden. Please let me know how I or others can contribute to your projects.
 
James Colbert
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Per request I am currently working on a general seed mix which should work in most climates from hot and dry to cold and wet. I will try to post it in the next few days.
 
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Hello All,
I am joining the converstation late and the topics, content and passion are inspiring. I have been visualizing and modeling a software suite to accomplish much of what everyone has been talking about for decades. For what it is worth I have spent 43 years as a software developer, project manager, architect and IT Director for government, aerospace, schools, corporations (Microsoft, KPMG) and many others. I am retiring to a 2.4 acre home that I hope to build into a Permaculture Food Forest.

My niche is developing multi platform business applications that can stand alone without outside web connections, connect and share data via IP (Web). In my opinion for a system to be resiliant and helpful when it counts the most, the historical golden data of what you do on your place must be kept on a database on your machine. Nowdays many web developer feel that everything can be done on the web. Mother Earth News and others have Gardening software you can use for a reasonable monthly or annual fee. However if you loose your web connection for whatever reason, you have lost everything you have built.

The other side of this is that the world is full of data on plants and soil in general and which nursuries in your town have the best stock of trees that are regionally hearty.

The database is the first layer of information management. Once you have gathered general data, filtered it down by regional heartynes, nutritional needs, or whatever, you need to download it onto your local machine. Once you have that data on your machine you must massage it by need, calendar and quantity. At that point, since most humans are very visual, you should have an OPTION to be able to model the positional relationships as guilds in 3D.

Therefore my approach is to create a shared database in the cloud. Simple import/export protocals for getting data into it from other databases like Practical Plants.
Have a Personal Computer (Client) application that can import what you need for your garden into your application. You can use standard plant keys to create (many to many) relationships between plants (A likes B, B provide N to C, C is allelopathic to A and C, A can be a guild member with B, A can be a guild member with C, etc).

A user/member can then upload their proposed connections/relationships up into the cloud as a Member provided (observed) connection. MEMBER Mike in BIOM 5 has proposed a guild called "Inland Northwest Hazelnut Guild". Others can comment and rate. Highest rated rise to the top. People download the Guild and all of the associated plants and relationships onto their machine and build a Regional Repository. On their next connection to the group site, they can chose to update any of the related data autoamatically... or not.

The final stage would be to import YOUR data into YOUR modeling programs on YOUR computer so if the lights go out... if only for a moment, or the Open Source Group disolves (FY!! no FY!! WTF...) , or Mother Earth News decides that the on-line garden planning software business is loosing money... you have harvested what you could and now own the program, the platform and the data.

We are going into hard times. Local food resiliance is very important though most people don't really know it yet. When they do show up to the party they will need help right away. Permaculture is essential. A method to get basic information that first year will be priceless. Building a comprehensive method of sharing bioregion specific information on essential nutrition can be delivered many ways. Neighbor to Neighbor, books, videos or a Simple garden program. Or a fancy modeling design...

Dream big, design practically, use available tools and resources, create trusted resiliant communities, build modularly, Obtain a yield.

Just my two cents...

YearOneFarmPlan.jpg
[Thumbnail for YearOneFarmPlan.jpg]
Year One Farm Plan
PlantObjectInFarmPlan.jpg
[Thumbnail for PlantObjectInFarmPlan.jpg]
Plant Objects
GardenModel.jpg
[Thumbnail for GardenModel.jpg]
Farm Plan
 
Juliet Norton
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EDIT: THE INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY PART OF THIS THREAD HAS BEEN MOVED.

Hi Joe,


I suppose first off we should have everybody post exactly what they've accomplished so far and what their end goals are. The reason I say this is because many of us have started down a similar path, but where we wind up might be quite different. Although this may be the case, we have a lot of common needs, specifically in regard to a database.

For example, I'm not sure what Mike Hagar's database looks like, but I need a database that essentially represents the functional analysis of a plant. As such, Practical Plants has an infrastructure that seems to be aligned with mine. This has been echoed by others in the forum to be a preferred way to organize the data. So what I need is contact with Andru Vallance and access to the practical plant API.

On another note, I quite support Mike Hagar's comment about the internet not being a reliable resource. We're concerned with sustainability, and as such we should be applying permaculture principles to how we're designing technology for our community... right?! So, in the case of collapse or crisis our technology should continue to be useful... we can call it adaptable, and in the mean time we should be working together to achieve as much good as possible. I can see we're on track and that makes me quite happy.

Ok, so lets get to work. I propose each of us who are already developing some form of information technology list what their goals are, what their application specs are, and what progress we've made.

Given this information we will be equipped with the knowledge to align our forces in the most beneficial and effective ways.

I'll go first:

GOAL STATEMENT:

My goal is to create a tool that helps users organize and visualize the information needed to plan a perennial guilds / small-scale food forests for surburban settings in effort to rip out the lawns and put in edible and sustainable landscapes.

A lesser goal, although also important, is for this to be robust enough and well thought out enough to serve as my PhD dissertation research in computer science. It should be noted that development of such an application is worthy of several dissertation projects, so collaboration with all of you fits perfectly with in this requirement.


SPECIFICATIONS:
1. Suggests plants / rule plants out : this was a request of some of our senior permies and permie educators. Their reasoning was so that students and newbies had it as an aide / learning tool. Furthermore, it could encourage seasoned designers be variable in their plant selection, not automatically defaulting to their go-to species. Suggesting plants and ruling them out are dictated by the constraints of the site and the clients needs, as well as the key species that support the users needs.... you all know the drill.
2. Visualize client / user needs fulfillment in design process : This goes with the point made above.
3. Instruction on the permaculture principles : For those who come across this who aren't permaculture designers, they're gonna need to know why they're doing what they're doing.
4. Design canvas : This is the meat and potatoes. Complete with ability to modularize designs, visualize site analysis, and of course place plants for a design.
5. Collaborative Opportunity : Need to see what your neighbor has done so that you have added context to your design. Although whats over the fence may be out of sight, it should not be out of mind. Furthermore, there should be ability to borrow components of other's designs. Again, why require people re-create the wheel.
6. Produce an implementation plan

There are a lot more details to our design, but these are the big requirements.

PROGRESS:
1. Database designed, but little data inserted. On hold to see if we could grab data from another resource.. then we found practical plants! I'm waiting for a response from Tiny Mighty.
2. Prototype of canvas up and running - presently using javascript and html5. Runs in browser, doesn't require internet, but is augmented with data from internet. Basically it is better if you have the internet then if you don't. Not a big surprise there. Currently developing means to create a visual site analysis.
3. Interaction design for guild/food forest design underway. This is the stuff that decides how the design process goes down in the application.

I can already see several differences between my app and what some may want. For example, I'm not including animals for production purposes (human needs) because my scope is for suburban sprawl places which are already battling home owners association that forbid the growth of food in the front yard. I can very much see my envisioned application being expanded to incude animals, but because we're only five people right now just working with plants is plenty. Collaboration could change that.

---
In summary, we're still early in our development, but our team of 5 here at UC Irvine is working on it and each week we make a good amount of leeway. We're on schedule to keep this up through the end of March, then start back up in late April. As I said above, I'd love to collaborate with anybody who has already started working on something like this or wants to get involved. I'm not eager to re-make parts of technology that people have already essentially built, but instead I'd like to apply your efforts to achieve a greater goal and thank you tremendously for playing your part.

I look forward to seeing everybody's explicit goal, specifications, and progress.

Juliet
 
Mike Hagar
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Hi Julie,

Earlier in this thread on "Modularizing Polyculture - the Lego Method" a good point was made that sometimes we can make things more complicated than necessary. It seems that the thread has branched. I like the idea of regionalized Polyculture Seed collections. I am using one "Synergy West Perennial Pasture Grass mixture". This may be a great simple solution for many.

On the other hand, discussion of Database technologies emerged and while that is a worthwhile topic in itself, perhaps it is time to create a new thread called "Database Support for Permaculture", "Permaculture Database Technology", ... or something else as equally techy.

I suggest that you start the thread because you appear to have the most momentum. That way we can allow a discussion on Non-Tech Lego building to proceed unencumbered.

You could start it off with your last post.

Mike
 
Juliet Norton
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Thank you Mike, that is a great suggestion. I've done that and it can be seen here.
 
Mike Hagar
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For all of you who have been posting to this thread (and especially Joe Proto, S Bengi, Andru Vallance, Juliet Norton) I have appreciated all of the great input. Many are like seeds that may spawn other threads of thought.

I have suggested one spin off for consolidating the thoughts on potential Information Techology support for Permaculture. Much of this thread is about database dreams and perhaps should continue here. However there have been points made about simplier ways to think about Polyculture. At one scale it could be backyard garden companion planting. A database could provide help but for many beginners it may be more helpfull to say... "try this and this next to this if you are in a dry area."

If you are contemplating a food forest then having a few simple choices in a collection of soil building plants for (grasses, n-fixers, etc.) Would be what you would want.. I DO!!!

I was talking to Marisha Auerback at the last Inland Northwest Permaculture Conference and she said she had been developing a deck of playing cards for this purpose.

I would love to see these conversations continue and would watch, listen and participate heartily.

My only suggestion was that we move the tech heads (like me) to a different thread to concentrate on platforms, schemas, strategies and projects.

Hope to see you all there.
 
Dave Denysenko
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i'm blown away be the response - i guess we're all on to something.
----------------------------
The purpose:
Combine traditional methods and new research to change the way food is grown.

Goals:
1. create a readily available, easily understandable, visual system of distilling hardness, type, feeding, soil ph, sun, watering, pests, companions, Diseases, earlier & late planting schedules, distance & depth, & height of plants to novices and experts alike.

progress:
Currently amassed a base amount of data on typical house garden plants, overstory and herbs. Working with co-worker to develope the data base.
-------------------------------

So i've been shocked that what i thought was relatively noval is being pursued by so many.
as i was reading through Mike Hagar's original post it really dawned on me that my approach isn't correct for what i really would like to see happen. instead a small group creating this thing, the only way this is going to be as awesome as i would like to see it, is to create a mass user input data base - wikipedia model. Build the structure & generic data and then allow users to build the connections which allow the design of the garden/food forest work. my 2cents

i guess i'll follow on the Permaculture information technology: existing databases and design application efforts.


Mike it sounds like you're in or have been in the bay area? I'm a project manager at Stanford, we might be neighboors.
 
Juliet Norton
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Hey Dave,

Can you repost that onto the Permaculture Information Technology thread?

I thank you kindly.

Juliet
 
Joe Proto
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I am amazed at the responses lately and by how many other people seem to share a similar goal of making polyculture more accessible and to reduce the knowledge barriers of entry.

For what its worth, I have been reading "Sepp Holzer's Permaculture" and "The One Straw Revolution", these books seem to indicate two vastly different approaches to farming. Sepp Holzer's approach is very labor/machine intensive through the use of groundworks such as swales, ponds and terraces to lay the initial ground work for mother nature while Masanobu Fukuoka in "The One Straw Revolution" advocates a "do nothing" approach that he labels as "natural farming" which advocates working with the landscape at hand in much the same way our ancestors did. Even though these two approaches contrast each other in many regards they share similar ideals and methodologies about farming and both authors advocate the random sowing of seeds in an open field and then covering with mulch. Furthermore, both authors contend that plants will grow where they want to grow and not to focus too much on specific plant positions, you will have to experiment and see what works best on your land.

I am nearly convinced that the most practical method for "Lego"-izing polyculture lies within this approach and using a perennial seed mix of 20+ or so plants tailored to your specific region, you could even mix in some fruit tree seeds so that you would have some deep tap-rooted trees (transplants don't have taproots and are more susceptible to drought) if you were not in a rush to get a yield.

 
pollinator
Posts: 3738
Location: Vermont, off grid for 24 years!
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Like others, I've been aggregating my notes (I'm up to 249 pages) but after reading this thread I though I'd transfer all that data to a spreadsheet. I've been using spreadsheets to decide what variety of trees to buy and it seemed like a good idea for all my info. I've decided to label one of my columns "productivity rank" so I could sort through all the plants.

I've got 11 criteria that "add" to the productivity ranking:
Perennial
Nitrogen Fixer
Storable
Edible
Fodder
Forage for Poultry
Forage for Sheep
Forage for Cows
Forage for Hogs
Forage for Bees
Fencing
And I will probably add yield per a certain area of land

Overall, apple trees rank the best.
In the back of my mind, I remember Paul wishing some of these types of lists (or maybe it was just in Gaia's Garden) had rankings like 1-10. So the best hog perennial would rank 10 and so on. This makes so much sense but it's so location dependent! Others are easier to rank like I'd give Honey Locust a "1" for edibilty and maybe hazelnut a "5" (you have to crack them so there's a little work involved) and apple or raspberry would get "10s" cause you can eat as you pick.

Any thoughts on this approach?
 
Mike Hagar
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Location: Spokane, WA
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Hi CJ. Would you mind sharing your spreadsheet? I am working on a Database idea and looking for ideas and content to develop structure.

Mike
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
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The thought has crossed my mind to post it to google docs but I'd have to explore it. There's also that issue of variability on the ratings. So far, it's only got 100 plants. You'd be better off spending $60 and getting 7000 plants in database format from Plants For A Future.
 
James Colbert
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As promised, a general seed mix intended to work in most climates:


Acacia
Alder
Black Locust
Borage
Buckwheat
Burdock
Chamomile
Chard
Comfrey
Daikon
Dandelion
Fava Bean
Hairy Vetch
Helianthus Tuberosus (sunchoke)
Lamb's Quarter
Landino White Clover
Lavender
Lupine
Mullein
Mustard
Pea (Pisum Arvtiuse)
Siberian Pea Shrub
Stinging Nettle
Sunflower
Sweet Clover
Turnip
Yarrow


This is intended to be a living mix, so species should be added or subtracted based on conditions. This is just a basic template that should produce good results in most places.
 
Joe Proto
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Thanks James the general seed mix list is really great! I would consider the general seed mix a "lego block" to be used when designing a polyculture system. Now someone can take this "lego block" tweak it to their liking and pair it with others such as a vegetable block and a fruit block.
 
Mike Hagar
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Thanks James. When I think of what I will need to do to make use of this list the first question I think of is "How much (or what general percentage) of each seed should be in the mix?"

Any guidance?
 
gardener
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Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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Percent also depends on seed size. Peas and Favas are big... Chamomile are miniscule. Price is a factor... cover crops are $5-10 a pound, while Chamomile is bought by the 1/4 oz, sunchoke by the grocery store bag, but will multiply by mad, nettle is easiest for just put out root divisions. If you have lots of seed, throw it in the mix. If you only have a little, grow it out in a flat, then plant it out with some aftercare.

For example... If I had bags of the these I'd:

Grow out in garden beds and transplant or sow in patches where I want woody plants:
Acacia
Alder
Black Locust
Siberian Pea Shrub

And only into stressful locations:
Lavender
Chamomile

Strategically place roots:
Comfrey
Helianthus Tuberosus (sunchoke)
Stinging Nettle

Sow in patches to support future trees:
Lupine

General cover crop with equal parts:
Sunflower
Sweet Clover
Turnip
Yarrow
Borage
Buckwheat
Burdock
Chard
Daikon
Dandelion
Fava Bean
Hairy Vetch
Lamb's Quarter
Landino White Clover
Mustard
Pea (Pisum Arvtiuse)

Seed into any hot gravel or road fringe:
Mullein



 
pollinator
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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hugelkultur dog forest garden fungi trees rabbit urban wofati cooking bee homestead
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Hi Guys. Love the thread, and I just checked out your wiki, Andru. I think if all interested permies were to go and make their contributions, it would fill out in no time.
I thought I'd point out that focussing too much on the plant hardiness zone system might lead to issues regarding that systems accuracy and precision. I just mean to point out that the Canadian and American systems differ, and also that microclimactic issues cannot be addressed. If that weren't enough, the issue of climate change necessitates the review of such 50-year-old systems.
Finally, I also think it important to specifically place the large players in any guild, and deploy seed mixes from there, either by scatter or a more patterned method. I feel that, especially in a system of an acre or less, the placement of trees needs to be planned, and their placement from eachother patterned so as to best benefit. There is definitely a place for the scatter method that allows for natural selection, but I think that you have to micromanage as the scale gets smaller. I need to know my tomato plants have nine sq. ft. each without another tomato plant, but I can mix and scatter the seeds for the herbs and stuff growing on the ground around them.
Thanks,

Chris Kott
 
Paul Cereghino
gardener
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For those interested in the relationship mapping part of this thread...
http://www.nrem.iastate.edu/class/assets/NREM471_571/Agroforestry%20readings_2009/Week%202/Jose%20et%20al_2004_Interspecific_interactions.pdf
Interesting synopsis as well as some model oriented approaches to describing species-species relationships... but one of the underlying messages is that the degree to which two species interact depends in part whether the resource that is at the center of their interaction (light, water, a nutrient) is limiting in that setting for one or both of the species.
 
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Paul, that's an awesome paper, thanks! Practical Plants has a mechanism to model plant interactions, with an outcome (positive, neutral, negative) and a type (just a text field), but I've always felt the type needed to be more specific and for the interaction to be defined both ways (eg positive for one, but negative for the other). I'll use the terms defined in that paper: Amensalism, Commensalism, Competition, Mutualism/Synergism, Neutralism & Predation/Parasitism as the possibilities for the type data.

Chris, AFAIK the hardiness zone is actually pretty flexible if you ignore the geographic component of the system and just pay attention to the minimum temperatures defined by each number. That said, it does lack a time component which is a shame. Do you know of a better system with a solid amount of data behind it? I'd love to get at the data used to calculate the hardiness zone for plants, that's where the real value lies! We're working on integrating degree-day data for fruit ripening as a replacement for the useless heat zone system; and we'd like to integrate chilling hour requirement data too. Ideally we'd like to have maximum heat tolerance data, but I don't know of a system that models this, let alone data for it.

 
Chris Kott
pollinator
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Thanks, Andru. The degree-day system applied to fruit ripening is exactly the sort of thing I was thinking of. Is there the possibility of including a minimum/maximum temperature for perennial plants/trees and shrubs as well? For those of us trying to make full use of microclimates in our systems, this can also be extremely useful.

How far away are we from a program or website where we can input our minimum and maximum temperatures and be provided with a list of plants that will thrive there, and subsequent lists of those on the warmer and colder sides of that list? Anyone who knows the questions to ask can already get most of what they need online, and with Practical Plants, this is made even easier. But I think it would be amazing if someone who'd never heard of permaculture could accidentally happen upon the site and be provided with an optimised plant list for their particular spaces. What if the oblivious were indoctrinated into permaculture without their even knowing?

-CK
 
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