Wednesday, December 19, 2012

2012 Review

2012 has been a year of many changes. it was the biggest year for the Permaculture test patch at The White House [on the Corner], a community house that is no longer [Dec.2008-2012]. the garden expansion gave way to try new things, and left the opportunity to see how the previous year's patch would come back on it's own.

winter '11-'12 was exceptionally warm, we have become used to waiting for our big snowfalls, but last winter we barely saw the white stuff. there were a few things that stayed green all winter in the patch, some of the herbs and berry leaves hung around.. it was interesting to see how the plants adapted to the warmer winter.

spring was an exciting time with an opportunity to expand, experience the second year cycle for half of the garden, and build some new planter boxes in the yard. the lettuce did well in the planter boxes, and last year's greens came back strong in the polyculture patch in the first phase of the garden. seeing the berry bushes produce fruit in year two was a satisfying experience, anyone who tasted these blueberries couldn't help but smile.

the summer was long, hot and very dry. learning from last year's grow season some plants were better placed for shade and moisture control, but new lessons were learned this season also. we had planned to put in a fruit tree or two and never went so far, regrettably. the next step from a permaculture test patch to a true food forest is just that... trees!

despite the scorching summer there was a very fruitful bounty this year. many species of lettuce in early sping, a variety of tomatoes, eggplants and an abundance of peppers, which did very well this season. especially the hot ones. the squashes were exciting to grow as well, though the bigger species didnt make it through the heatwave, the smaller bush variety did pretty well.

after trying for half the year to permanently acquire the house and land to keep the permaculture test patch, the deal fell through and we were forced to abandon the garden. sad as it was to experience, it gave us an opportunity to see what survived without any human interaction. these things are important to know for the next style of gardening we intend to try.. stay tuned for the 2013 blueprint, err.. map?!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Recycled Pallet Planters

free used shipping pallets are not hard to come by in this area, especially the untreated ones. it's free wood, already partially pre-constructed, so why not recycle them? we originally collected old broken skids to use for firewood, but now we are more selective in our picks. all we needed was a hammer to pry the skids apart and nail them back together [yes, we even re-used the nails], some burlap, scissors to cut and a staple gun to attach it with.

first we picked out some solid skids, and pulled the planks off of the bottom. skid number one was turned upside down, and this became the bottom of the box. other skids were taken apart and reconfigured to create open layers to stack up, creating a deeper box. a couple of the skids were left as single layers to be used for shallow planter beds. many pallet gardens we have seen are left in tact to use the existing planks as planting rows, but we decided to use the extra planks to build with to get maximum growing space inside.


to make a deeper planter box, the same frame built for the shallow planter was repeated, stacked and nailed together. the large planter box will be used for potatoes, or broccoli and cauliflower, we have yet to decide. planting things that require special care or soil conditions is easier in a container as the soil can be changed out or added to if need be.

the beds were then lined with burlap, we had extra rolls left over from last year that was marked down to a couple dollars in the garden center.. i have seen these types of containers lined with landscaping fabric, but at that price i couldn't resist. looks nicer too!

one of the shallow beds is being used as a strawberry patch. strawberries tend to spread if they are not contained, so we thought it would be a good pick for a pallet bed. we had some strawberries in buckets last year, but they didn't have enough space to continue fruiting. the planter box will hopefully be a happy medium.

the strawberries are doing well so far, and the second shallow planter bed is being seeded with lettuce, mostly a leafy mesclun mix. the center planter has since been topped up with a triple blend, and it's fate shall be decided later on this week.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Food Garden

 2012 is year two for the Permaculture Test Patch here in Niagara. we have recently expanded, from 12x18 feet to 19.5x18, plus a 3 foot wide space along the entire back fence, all connected. so far, we have approximately 452 square feet of garden space, with further room to expand by late spring.

in 2011, we successfully planted many species of vegetables, fruits and herbs, using white clover as a 'living mulch' or ground cover on the garden bed. the clover helps to keep the bed moist and shaded from the sun, and returns nitrogen to the soil.

our bounty last year included 8 different species of tomato [heirloom, cherry, grape, roma, beefsteak etc.], green, red and purple bell peppers, jalapenos, opo squash, eggplant, cucumbers, raspberries, strawberries, and many herbs such as sage, savoury, chamomile, rosemary, lavender, 3 different species of mint, sweet basil, and one or two more. we also started blackberries and blueberries, they didn't bear any fruit last year, but we're hopeful they will produce this season.

 we spent the day in the yard building planter boxes, and creating hanging baskets for the herbs that we plan to bring in and keep alive and fresh for the winter. a lot of this year's garden expansion will be started from adopted seedlings as we don't have much indoor space to start seeds. next year we plan to have a room dedicated to do so.

our next post will be the step-by-step process of using old shipping pallets to build planter boxes.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Introduction to Permaculture

the word Permaculture was first coined by David Holmgren and Bill Mollison of Australia. it originally referred to "permanent agriculture", but was later expanded to include "permanent culture", as it was seen that social aspects were equally integral to a truly sustainable system.

Inspired by Fukuoka natural farming philosophy, Mollison has described permaculture as "a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than premature and thoughtless labor; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single project system." . Permaculture follows a guideline set of principles, that in gardening by, and living by, creates a more sustainable way of life.

What sets permaculture apart from other developmental approaches is that it is not just a model, it is a comprehensive design process. Each environment, whether in a home, school, office, workplace, farm, or village, has a unique set of elements and design considerations. But while each environment is viewed as unique, in permaculture design and practice, economic benefit does not contradict, or even benefit to, these three core values or ethics.

  • Care of the Earth: Provision for all life systems to continue and multiply.
  • Care of People: Provision for people to access those resources necessary for their existence.
  • Distribution of the bounty: By governing our own needs, we can set resources aside to further the above principles.

Permaculture focuses on patterns of landscape, function, and 'species assemblies', also referred to as guilds. by creating guilds of species that work together, one can maximize the 'synergies' in the environment, and thus maximize productivity. it's all about observation, to see how different elements relate to one another, and putting said elements in it's most useful place. there is no waste in Permaculture!


Holmgren's 12 Design Principles:

  1. Observe and interact: By taking time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.
  2. Catch and store energy: By developing systems that collect resources at peak abundance, we can use them in times of need.
  3. Obtain a yield: Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the work that you are doing.
  4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback: We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well.
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services: Make the best use of nature's abundance to reduce our consumptive behavior and dependence on non-renewable resources.
  6. Produce no waste: By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.
  7. Design from patterns to details: By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.
  8. Integrate rather than segregate: By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other.
  9. Use small and slow solutions: Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and producing more sustainable outcomes.
  10. Use and value diversity: Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.
  11. Use edges and value the marginal: The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.
  12. Creatively use and respond to change: We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing, and then intervening at the right time.

 as previously stated, these design principles applied to any environment or setting can create a more sustainable one. even the principles themselves are cyclical, once an inevitable change arises, we can start over again from one... observe and interact.

Welcome to Southern Ontario Urban Permaculture.. we have created this page spread the word about more sustainable methods of growing food, and living life.. and show that permaculture style gardening is viable for our climate/hardiness zone. we will post about the garden patch, sustainable resources and practices, and share links for useful information. thanks for checking us out!