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This topic contains 62 replies, has 28 voices, and was last updated by  mkelleygc 3 years, 6 months ago.

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    Smithna, That sustainable agriculture certificate sounds like fun. Wish they had the community college system here in France! Your garden in the front yard kind of reminds me of the way things are in France–we pretty much only have a front yard as you would be crazy in this climate to not put your house on the north end of the property facing South. So our yard is a southern slope going down from the house. Different from my experience in Southern California!

    We’ve also been experimenting with lots of things growing all together and in a small space. Not so much because we don’t have the room, but because we don’t have very good soil–so if whe want something to grow we really need it to be in a place we’ve sheet mulched and brought a lot of organic matter to. So–for now, just a few intensive beds. I hear you on finding shady places for planting the leafy greens. It’s kind of frustrating here because early in the season it can be too cool for then to develop well and then, all of the sudden, they bolt in July–possibly because they’ve been a bit exposed to late frost. I’m thinking of setting out some protective tunnels in the early spring next year, but UNDER fruit trees. This way, I’m thinking as the leaves are still coming in, the greens will grow well in a warmer environment and once it gets too hot, they will (hopefully) be in the shade.

    We put in a rainwater catchment tank on one of our downspouts and it was quite easy actually. It’s 1 meter cube in size and filled up after just a few rain storms. For now, we’re just saving it for when they cut off our garden water during the summer if there isn’t enough. We have a small hose that can run out of it to anything downhill (and the watering can for uphill areas. I’d like to put in at least 2 more tanks on other downspouts and see if we can’t wean ourselves off the irrigation water altogether, but I think we’d really need a pump system for that to happen. I’m still mulling it over, but I’d love to see what you come up with. As for using too much water still–I really found that all the organic matter of the sheet mulches and the plants growing closely together plus a layer of my neighbor’s lawn clippings kept things pretty moist. Last summer I only had to water a few times–but we get summer rains. It sounds like you’ve done a lot of that–maybe you have dryer summers?? We’re also experimenting with kind of mini hugelkultures–just to see if the rotting wood can help retain a bit more water for things like raspberries, near fruit trees or on the contours of our property. But I think it will take a year or so before I can really tell if it’s having an effect.



    Thanks for the reply. I agree with the logs vs rocks over the drive. I think logs leading the water off the driveway and into rocked holding pools (good for animal life frogs/tadpoles etc and good for not drowning kids) is my idea for now. Re-cutting a drive is not an option due to both cost and lay of the land.

    My first suggestion for the gravel weeds (apart from the weed matting and tree planting for shade) probably isn’t very permaculture of me but vinegar and or baking soda sprinkled over weeds is supposed to work well.
    My permaculture voice says “Free salad – are the weeds edible?”



    Inhernest–I would absolutely eat the dandilions but I’m worried about what the previous owners might have sprayed on the site. I get the feeling they may have gone with roundup on the gravel. Maybe it doesn’t last forever. . .




    So glad to see your reply, I certainly understand about the expense of changing an already functional road. However, if you are like me, the text stimulates all kinds of great brainstorming ideas. Weather it is describing a micro or a macro process I see my little plot as a beneficiary of the knowledge conveyed. As I read the chapters I collect a little pile of ideas, techniques, and suggestions that relate to my property, yet your property has been floating in my thoughts because it is an intriguing situation. I sometimes imagine half circles filled with trees for stability (of the soil) below your overflowing holding ponds off the road, with ground cover that slows the water until it overflows into subsequent half circles to regulate the water speed until you reach a contour swale which spreads and stores the water; and might lead to another storage or holding pond as well. Such a strategy might allow spaced flat areas for vehicles as well next to the level swales as described in the text for access and egress. Although a slow process, over time, connecting those pathways might result in a future resolution to displace the less desirable, higher maintenance, road was my thought. My own project (if accepted) will be to unravel my own errors caused by my own ignorance (unlike yours which was created by others). A Master Plan provides the opportunity to entertain new solutions which may develop over several successions yet all build towards an end goal. If we imagine it in the beginning there is less to unravel when we reevaluate for “lessons learned” to improve future plans. Of course, once again I cannot see your property, but the challenge it represents is definitely a worthy one. My best wishes toward your project.




    I have no idea about publications which might be helpful for your community in terms of sources or resources. However, I am jealous of the amount of information available in “Permaculture A Designer’s Manual” specifically related to tropical strategies for many situations. If you develop a Master Plan for your community and get others on board, then connecting with resources for funding or technical help will become simpler. Bringing a permaculture certificate into the mix, coupled with a collaborated plan under the revue of experts strengthens your chances for funding or technical help.

    That might not be much help or good advice, but I wanted you to know that I heard your question, and wanted to at least acknowledge such a valid question. Sorry I could not be more helpful.




    You probably are already familiar with this Geoff Lawton series tape, but I thought of you when I watched it. http://www.geofflawton.com/fe/65840-student-property-tour

    I thought of you whenI watched it.



    Hello Trisha! I´m from Brazil and I´ve just started working on a design project in my family´s property which has been abandoned for a few years and I have lots of things to share! If you´re interested let me know and we can share many ideas around that subject by email or any other way where we can share files. By the moment I´ve been working with water issues, bee keeping and queenuts all organic. I hope we can share things to improve our knowledge. Bless the nature!



    Definition of Back Yard Habitat (www.cwf-fcf.org)and Bee Friendly Garden/Farming (www.pollinationcanada.ca) certification:
    Recognition of farmers and gardeners who plant native and pollinator-friendly plants, minimize tilling, use no chemicals (fertilizers, herbacides, pesticides), and provide both water and habitat for a wide array of living beings.

    The Canadian Wildlife Federation (www.cwf-fcf.org) has some amazing programs and how-to instructions that help people green their yards, roofs and balconies while creating diverse beauty and habitat for native and migrating creatures. One of their programs is called the Backyard Habitat Certification that honors and celebrates those who have created a diverse backyard habitat with different types of landscaping, ponds, gardens and trees that provide food or habitat for a wide array of organisms from bees, butterflies, birds, and frogs to humans. Dave and I had the honor of being awarded this certification for our last property. When we purchased that double corner lot, it had been a rental for a long time, some of whom were mechanics. When we looked into the history of the property we learned that many years ago the property was also a repair yard for the railway that used to exist there at the turn of the century. On top of this, the earth was compact, rocky, heavy clay and what little greenery that survived there was mostly weeds. While building a privacy fence around the entire property we also created a 3-bin compost system in order to create good soil. The cedar fence panels were raised 2’ off the ground so we could run wire fencing along the bottom for the dogs to have a view, the neighbors could enjoy the flowers and the landscaping could have air circulation and sunshine. Slowly over the next 5 years we put mortared rock wall lined raised beds surrounding the inside of this fence line, some landscaping outside the fence in the grassy area between the fence and the curb and 9 raised beds for our berry and vegetable garden. We then put in a small pond with a fountain and raised flower beds along the patio, carport and driveway.
    We focused on choosing plants that provided nectar or berries for a wide array of living beings and to provide a constant supply of fresh flowers throughout the growing season. Another important aspect in our choice was placing deciduous shade-producing vines or trees on the areas of the house that got the most sun exposure for the best energy savings. We also planted berries and herbs for our own consumption, installed 5 bird houses, a bird bath and both a suet and seed bird feeder.
    The home became a stunning park that anyone passing by paused to enjoy. The air was cooler and had more moisture than outside the property, which meant we had less energy costs and less dust in the home. We spent more time outside because the yard had become beautiful, quieter and private and the dogs had a better experience on summer days because they could seek out the shade and water. We noticed increasing numbers and diversity of birds, butterflies, pollinators and other insects. Frogs and dragonflies magically appeared with the installation of the pond, and we always had a full freezer and pantry from the garden harvests.
    After putting in so much time and passion into that property it was difficult to leave it when it was reaching maturity and the peak of its beauty. However it was important for us to follow our dream and move to the Kootenay region of BC, Canada. Real estate agents often state that landscaping can add 15% or more to the value of your home – this is something we can attest to, and it did not take long to sell due to the beauty of the yard and, evidently, the certification was also a selling feature.
    We purchased a home in the heart of the Kootenays and using what we learned from the last place – we began again. Because this property was not likely going to have toxins in the soil, we were able to use the earth and sod that we dug up from various projects to layer in the 3-bin compost system. We’ve been here 4 years now and already have 7 raised garden beds. We started the landscaping including 11 shrubs, 9 trees, various flowers and herbs, and 2 bird feeders. Another year will see the completion of the landscaping, the final 2 raised beds for the garden, a pond and bird, bat and butterfly houses to help attract them to the property.
    It is important to note that the plants we’ve put in so far will help mitigate global warming – when mature the trees and shrubs will absorb 1875 kg of pollution and release enough oxygen for 25 people every single year.
    We learned from experience that creating diverse yards not only increases property value and inspires others; it also reduces energy costs, reduces dust and noise, and provides leaves for our gardens.


    Derek Smith

    Molasses Creek Farm is a 14 acre homestead in southeast Ohio. It has been a dream of mine to build my own ecosystem, and now it is happening. Chipping away little by little. It is nice to see progress, and I look forward to being able to live on the property. Follow along on Facebook (Molasses Creek Farm).



    This thread is inspiring to me. I’m in the US Pacific Northwest in a big city. I’m getting goats next week to clear an area that is about 10,000 square feet of blackberries on a steep slope and “belongs” to a combination of me, a few neighbors, and the city. I want to have a great, appealing design drawn up by the time the goats are finished so that instead of the not-being-used grass space the neighbors might default to (my kids get all they need from our little front yard and no other kids are on the block) I can convince my neighbors that a food forest will meet all our needs, so they would do well to let me design and implement the whole space. That’s a lot of trust for the new family on the block, as I have only been here a year and most of them have been here 20+. I don’t have any landscape design experience. Can anyone refer me to a good how-to on drawing up a design? Like, how should I represent different types of plants? Draw out how a design will evolve over time? Graphically represent the quantity of anticipated food production and/or labor? I want it to look very pretty and professional, which is something I don’t usually give a fig about.



    So many good projects! Makes me smile. 🙂 I too am working on one and I did sign up for the PDC in hopes to teach aspects of this and maybe apply for grants for non-profits to persue this, work on city property – who knows. But for now my project is my own 9 acres in KY (zone 6b, Eastern USA). Food forest, big garden, smaller gardens – sun trap, kids garden, herbs…, wild area, sheep, goats, chickens in movable coops, geese, – dug swales etc…I have actually done about 2/5th of my 5 year plan for this place.

    The hardest part by far for me will be the visual representaion. I have cut out colored circles and taped them to graph-paper, drawn in swales and other plants by hand, It looks very cut and paste but is accurate to 2 inches. It looks even crappier photographed. I see such nice digital designs but I am not familliar let alone comfortable with anything past msPaint. I too would like it to look professional and clear to people who havn’t seen my actual land and what it going on there. I am a very visual 3D thinker which seems to help with the actual design and hinder the turning it into a 2D pretty representaion.

    I too echo the request for a How to for drawing a design. I am open to any suggestion of a very intuitive way to turn it into colored circles with text labels and ability to draw curves – but to an accurate scale. And would it look professional if I did it as a very quality sketch using stencils instead, colors and all?

    Just a thought – Academically it is good for us all to understand each step. In reality going forward after this PDC course, I envision premaculture desgn teams that handles each aspect with a person best suited in talents, and together it flows.



    Hi vegansimon, I spotted your question about a how-to on drawing up a design and would love to hear from someone on that! Have you had any luck so far? I would love a few recommended resources to check out.

    I have downloaded SketchUp and SmartDraw but haven’t used them before so I don’t know if it’s worth investing the time to build the skills and then have them potentially not fulfil my needs. What do others think?



    I am beginning my design project phase. Just sent in my topic description to Vladislav. I hope what I sent is what they are looking for. Here’s what I said, and it basically describes what you are asking about:

    My project vision is to transform our property – a South-facing 1/8 acre close-to-urban lot with a challenging steep hill/ravine for a back yard and neighbors on both sides – into a food and wildlife habitiat producing location. To do this, I will include a portion of my adjacent neighbor’s property to expand the wildlife habitat. Also, the vision has the possibility to expand in the future to include the property across the street which is now an empty lot, providing it hasn’t been sold by the time we are ready to begin that phase. Some of the permaculture elements I intend to include are: water-diverting swales to help correct basement leaking problems, an herb spiral and keyhole garden in the front yard, a small dog run in one side yard, a bamboo patch on the steepest part of the back hill for use as garden stakes and possibly food (young shoots), a pollinator garden between mine and the neighbor’s house and including a bed along her front porch, a water catchment system on the back corner of the house, a mini fruit orchard in back of the property and small pockets of “wild forest” in the back corners.

    I’m in southwest Ohio, by the way.

    To add my two cents to the design method discussion, I have alot of experience with horticulture and landscape design, mostly just hand-drawn, which I find more personally satisfying, if not the most professional looking. At my last job, I had the opportunity to learn Dynascape, but it’s too expensive for me to buy outright. I am interested in knowing how others on here have fared with learning SketchUp and/or Smart Draw. also, there are alot of examples on the web of permaculture designs, if you just google that phrase. Looks like most of them are hand drawn and range from basic to very professional looking, and there are some that look like they were done on a CAD system. It’s probably a personal choice, as the instructions on here state they welcome either. I do remember it stating they want it colored though. I use watercolor pencils, which give a nice texture that looks alot better than just regular colored pencils that are made for kids’ use. Also, they can be actually used as watercolor paint, or put down on paper dry then you can paint in with a wet brush to blend, etc. I haven’t played with them that way yet, but probably will begin to experiment a little to get a good look from them.

    sorry this post is so long…….

    Mary Ann



    I am working on a design project as well. I was wondering what software any of you are using or plan to use for your design? Or, are you just free hand drawing it?



    Also, has anyone had success with their submitted site design toward their PDC? I may be able to share my experiences of what does not work.

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