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New to permaculture - questions *Pics added*  RSS feed

 
                                    
Posts: 27
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We just moved on to our new plot of land two weeks ago, but I've been reading and researching everything I could get my hands on for months now. I read part of Gaia's Garden but had to return it to the library so never got to finish it. It's on hold now for others. I thought I had a handle on what I wanted to do, but now that we're actually on our property I don't have a clue where to start. We were thinking before doing anything major we should live here for a summer and see what the sun was like at different times of year, but there are certain things we'd like to start sooner rather than later because they could take a few years to start producing (like asparagus, fruit trees, etc.)

There are a ton of large stumps all over the land, and so I've been reading about hugulkultur with great interest, as well as mushrooms. I was thinking maybe I could use one of the stumps under a herb spiral, would that be a good idea? Some of the stumps are over our leech field, so I'm not sure if those ones maybe should just be burned or something as I'm not entirely comfortable putting food over the field. Of course, those are also the ones closest to the kitchen. I can't be sure what kind of stumps they are either. I used to be really good at tree identification but I'm drawing a blank.

I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed with everything I've been reading. For example, we have tons of leaves and downed logs and trees. I've read to use them for hugulkultur, but then others say to leave them because they could be important habitat, but then others again to clear them because they could be a fire hazard. Our land is only 1.4 acres, but behind us is an undeveloped but protected park (forest) so fire is something we have to be aware of.

I guess I feel like even with all my reading and preparing, I don't know anything. We were thinking this year of getting some chickens and planting a small garden where one exists already, but I want to work on preparing the soil if it needs it. I would love to create an edible food forest. Deer are definitely a consideration.

Anyway, I don't really want this to get overly long (if it's not already!), I just was wondering if there's any useful tips on how to start basically from scratch. (The land wasn't lived on for 8 months before we got it, and it doesn't seem like the previous owners who did live here were gardeners at all.) We're on Vancouver Island, zone 7b I believe, on 1.4 acres with a big forest behind us. Most of the land is pretty wild and forested, covered in trees, ferns, one willow, etc. There is one patch that is lawn but I'm not at all adverse to turning that into garden too. There is a possibility of selling and moving off the island to get even more land if we enjoy the homesteading/permaculture lifestyle, but that wouldn't be for at least 4 or 5 years. It's something I want to keep in mind though, so things like converting all our toilets to composting toilets isn't something that's going to happen yet.

Thanks!

ETA: There are a couple of pictures below, the rest are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wilsonfamilypictures/sets/72157625631059389/
 
Susanna de Villareal-Quintela
Posts: 143
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I don't have any experience in your climate zone to offer.  However, I have plenty of moral support!      I think most people here consider themselves life learners and, to some degree, experimentalists.  In that spirit, my advice is to read, consider what you've learned and make decisions that fit you best. 

You're going to make some "mistakes" in your design choices (I, certainly, have) or somethings just not going to work out like you wanted.  BUT!  You get to get dirty in the process..,  for me, that's one of the best parts!

Congratulations on your land purchase!  Enjoy it!
 
                        
Posts: 122
Location: sub-tropics downunder
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g'day,

i probably can't help much with your climate, we are sub-tropical east coast app'8 month summers.

aspect will play a part in if nothing else telling you where your best sun will be, for you a southern aspect around to south east, then whether you are high up or sahded by tall trees how much benefit it will be will be an issue, then comes to housedesign is it designed to capture the sun in the winter at all?

without telling all and sundry you can convert to composting toilet by using the humanure bucket system that will give you some organic material to improve soil feed trees even gardens. the yuk factor and false fear hype usually cloud clear thinking on this one.

so usually you want the herb garden going right near the kitchen door then get the vege' patches going and the rest will fall into place, check our site might be some further help there for you?

len
 
                      
Posts: 32
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Hi zone 7b here as well.  I'm below you in the Puget Sound area.  I'm new to the whole permaculture thing too, so I don't have anything to add other than to observe your property.  I moved here from TX (where I could garden all year) in the fall.  I planned my first garden in a sunny spot.  Got the soil etc built up to have it ready for the spring and summer's plantings. 

When spring and summer rolled around, I found my perfect garden spot was now in a shady spot.  It is like a tilt a whirl up here in the PNW!

I also put a nice gate up too.  Three months later it was under water, and stayed that way until the dry season.

Congrats on your new property!!
 
Kirk Hutchison
Posts: 418
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Order a seed catalog from Bountiful Gardens. They have a good selection of cover crops, which are the first thing you need to get the soil real nice. You can then plant all sorts of things (on a small property, be careful what trees you plant, since you have limited space. Plant stuff you know you will like).
 
Pat Black
Posts: 123
Location: Northern New Mexico, USA
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I really feel it is worth considering to spend a full year in careful observation of your new site and to develop a master plan for changes to the property. Observation is a key part of permaculture design. In the mean time, you can do anything that is easily moved, such as compost piles and chicken tractors. If there is a garden bed, you can use it for annual vegetables. If you're looking for direction, hire an experienced permaculture designer from your region to help create the site plan, so you know what you need to learn and implement.
 
Matt Ferrall
Posts: 555
Location: Western WA,usda zone 6/7,80inches of rain,250feet elevation
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The sun is at its lowest right now so take note of that.Leave some flexability for bottom story desighn,but yes,time is of the essense right now in history,so by all means,aim to get some trees in from now to early spring.
 
Irene Kightley
pollinator
Posts: 387
Location: South West France
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chicken food preservation forest garden fungi hunting solar
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I agree with NM Grower about observing not just looking but listening and feeling the wind and wandering around when it's raining or very sunny experiment by leaving pots of plants here and there to see what happens to them.

As far as the tree roots are concerned, why not leave them where they are and work round them ?

You can use them for support and shelter and plant round them too. It's nice to have different planting conditions on your land instead of starting with flat land and the roots will inspire you to use them for different things. Frogs and toads will use them as shelter and birds will come and pick insects out of them and help you. When the roots rot they'll help retain water.

I kept all the roots we had and don't regret it. 









 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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being in the PAC NW you are near a lot of good information..so you are very fortunate there.

I live in Mich so my info may not apply  to you,however I would spend the next couple of months reading as much perma info you can, google Bill Mollison's phamplets on line and read them and also the old gaia's garden was online for free read for a while but I think it was removed..but I do recommend finishing it

If you were me on the property, as per my years of experience, I would after reading so as I know where to plan, put in those fruit trees and perennial crops asap !!

this spring

with a smallish property I suggest dwarf trees so you can fit in as many varieties as you possibly can, and underplant them with forest gardens of perennials and herbs and insectivores.

use your materials that you have to build up your soil, in the planting areas..but don't denude your soil by removing all the duff that is on the ground..just the larger piles and looser stuff can be moved into the planting area but leave the lower looose layer on the ground to protect it..

then when you are sure what you want to do with the rest of the property you can proceed..

has the property been previously developed? if so...you might want to try to find out what is already there before moving things around much..unless you already know..so living there one summer might be a good idea to find out what is already planted..also find out about your soil and water quality.

but yeah, get in those fruit trees and perenials as soon as you possibly can as they take a longer time..i would also put in things like berry bushes if you plan on having them as they bear quickly  and will be providing you food..consider nut trees also for proteins if you like nuts..

plant only what you will really eat..
 
Paul Cereghino
gardener
Posts: 856
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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The observation piece is important... consider mapping as a way to focus attention.  I'd start by mapping soil moisture and shade patterns, I'd map natural circulation patterns (the cow trails of wandering people...)  I'd pay attention to groundwater levels.  I'd dig several soil test pits and learn to interpret what you see.  I'd learn to identify all the plants growing.  You observation skills are the critical ingredient that will go with you if you move to new land.  Start growing annual vegetables in lots of different ways, from broadcasting seed to intensive cultivation... if you are just learning to relate to plants this gives you lots of quick feedback... think about growing annual vegetables not as success or failure, but take notes and think of it as experiments in yield for effort... what actions are critical, what can be left un-done.
 
                                    
Posts: 27
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Thank you all so much! I'm on my iPod so can't write much, but you've all given me lots to mull over. I took some pictures today and will try to get them uploaded tomorrow.
 
Jan Sebastian Dunkelheit
Posts: 201
Location: Germany/Cologne - Finland/Savonlinna
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I would start with a compost pile in a sheltered zone 1 location. If you don't have a hidden but near spot to your house just pick a location and plant some bushes around it.

Can't wait to see the pictures.
 
                                    
Posts: 27
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Does the compost have to be in a sunny location to work well? We have an animal-proof bin now that was here already, but I was thinking a different type might work better anyway. There is an area under our deck that might work, but it wouldn't get much sun. The nice thing is it wouldn't actually touch the house, but we'd likely be able to just lean over the fence right outside the kitchen and toss stuff into it.
 
                    
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I think you are right - better to have some understanding of the site before doing too much.

One thing you might want to do right away is seed areas with clover or other legumes to improve soil formation.

If you are going to do swales or other Earthwork, that is better to do that before putting in lots of trees. 
 
                                    
Posts: 27
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I had a bunch of these left over from my last garden: http://www.westcoastseeds.com/productdetail/Flower-Seeds/Wildflowers/Coastal-Revegetation-Mix/
So I've planted them in a few of the small beds that were here already. Not sure if they're still viable but I figured it can't hurt. I think I may still have some clover seeds from last year left over too. I'm trying to decide if we are going to use the small grassy area as garden or not. I have a feeling it will get some of the best afternoon sun in the summer, so I'm tempted to just plant the whole thing with cover crops to get some nutrients into the soil.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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for several years in the winter I threw the scraps right out on top of the snow on my garden plots and i got some of the richest soil right next to the house that way..it is black, crumbly and full of worms, you can stick your hand right down in it..

i bought a small compost tumbler to use instead and it is gross..i don't like it..but i am sitll using it..not sure how long.

i much  prefer throwing the stuff in the gardens and allowing it to do its thing..but it is messy looking..oh well..works
 
                                    
Posts: 27
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Brenda, that's what I did at our last place. When we moved in there, the weeds and grasses were knee-high through the entire yard. The soil was hard-as-rock clay, and I noticed there was zero life anywhere, no worms or beetles or anything. We started throwing our kitchen scraps in the garden over the fall and winter, and in just the three years we were there the soil was practically transformed. It was rich and loamy and drained well, and you couldn't scoop any out without getting a shovel-full of worms. We did other things besides that, but I do think throwing the scraps on played a big part. I'm concerned about doing the same thing here because of rodents and things like raccoons though. Am I just being paranoid?
 
Kirk Hutchison
Posts: 418
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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You could try it on a very small scale at first. If you get critters, stop. If not, continue.
 
                                    
Posts: 27
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Here are some pictures.

I can't seem to attach more than two to a thread, but the rest are here with my comments: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wilsonfamilypictures/sets/72157625631059389/
garden04.JPG
[Thumbnail for garden04.JPG]
garden01.JPG
[Thumbnail for garden01.JPG]
 
Jan Sebastian Dunkelheit
Posts: 201
Location: Germany/Cologne - Finland/Savonlinna
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Compost piles work best in fully shaded locations. Sunlight only reduces their moisture levels. So if you don't want to water your pile - put it on the right spot. They produce their warmth by thermo-chemical processes. No additional energy needed.
 
                                    
Posts: 27
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Reading through some of the earlier posts a little more thoroughly, I love the idea of mostly waiting and watching and learning our land and our plants. We home school, so the idea of starting a plant identification journal of our own is appealing and could be fun for my older daughter (the younger is still a baby). I would like to at least get a few fruit trees in though. We're thinking of planting them in the open area (the second picture attached above) and adding ground cover. It would be shaded by the house in the mornings but as I said earlier, I think it would get great afternoon sun.

That's good to know about the compost. I'd heard that before too, but wasn't sure if it was accurate.

Thanks for the pictures Irene. I love seeing the established gardens. Our stumps are a lot bigger than that, and currently covered in some sort of creeping ivy. I think my first order of business is identifying everything around our land.
 
Paul Cereghino
gardener
Posts: 856
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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Nice to have pictures,
A small patch in a forest... light and heat will be your limiting factor... small fruit may do best.  Huckleberries are great (but slow growing)... cane fruit sounds better.... learn mushrooms!...  Definately spend time predicting then watching the movement of light.  Experiment lightly with heat loving things (the grapes for example...)... think greens... Montia siberica... don't count on the southern garden (corn, eggplant, peppers, maybe grow these on your roof?!)  Slow to warm in spring... summer plantings of greens for fall might be strongest.  Notice where the frost melts first.  The sun/shade pattern will change dramatically as the sun angle changes.
 
Julie Carney
Posts: 76
Location: Silicon Valley
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Hi;
I just found your topic........
Now you've been there for several years, how are things going
We bought our land 2 1/2 years ago, and like you, once we actually owned it, we thought "now what"....There are so many things to do, and the urge to just do SOMETHING is GREAT......
I'm interested to know how your design is going, and what has worked / not worked for you...What project are you working on now
 
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