Tag Archives: community garden design

‘Imagineering a better future’

 Why a course in Imagineering?

When I first learned about Permaculture Design in 1993 I was working part-time with a toddler on my hip and a lively pre-schooler in tow. I read lots of books in library, was inspired by the documentary Global Gardener.  I experimented with bits and pieces of permaculture. There was no local permaculture network at that time. What I was doing, was trying imagineer a better future for family without the full set of permaculture design thinking skills.

So, with the support of my extended family I traveled to the mountains to learn with visiting permaculture teachers Jude and Michel Fanton and Rosemary Morrow.  Rosemary’s books got me thinking about the power of simple art to teach complex issues with some clarity.

But the journey had to start at home. With small successes at home, growing delicious and rare foods, my interest in permaculture was sustained. If I hadn’t experienced the health from growing food I would be back shopping for the latest fashions, stressing over debt and working in a heavily competitive environment to earn enough to live a few glamorous weekends.

Not every day is a happy day. But every day is a lesson about nature.  This I share with students and fellow permies. Pioneering Permaculture ideas helps build a healthy future for humanity.

Over the decades I have created designs for others but I know the most successful implementation has happened with those clients who actually understood how the design worked.  Since I started teaching permaculture online in 1995 I have had students from 65 countries. These students have been remarkable and I am very proud of their work.

Once a year I venture out and teach a winter retreat. Come and join us.

What is Imagineering?

Imagineering is the implementing of creative ideas into practical form. That is exactly what permaculture design does.

Few people, once they are in the full swing of life, take time to sit down to study again.  Most folks set up house, take a job in a new area, plan their holidays and embrace a family life without much planning. They might get the chance to do the odd one-day course and piece together a lifestyle that they enjoy.

The advantage of doing a full course in permaculture is that you get to piece together all the concepts – the tangible and the intangible.

Intangible concepts?

Perhaps that sounds like a load of philosophy, not practical permaculture.  Um, yes there is a bit of philosophy needed when you want to imagine a future. To imagine and engineer your future you might want to think about what you love most and how to nurture that. Other concepts are how to design a lifestyle, a community, how to use money effectively, or how to mimic patterns in nature. Other intangibles include dealing with debt and stress. How to see the world differently and not just as a set of problems.

Don’t just do something, sit there!

Get Empowered

It would be wonderful to be able to steer the permaculture design as your needs change. It would be paradise to understand how the design functions, know how to connect with it and build the abundance. Yet the ultimate permaculture experience is the empowerment.

The permaculture design course gives you more than a design. It gives the skills and tools for empowerment.

In the earlier years of Permaculture interviews London asked: Short of starting a farm, what can we do to make our cities more sustainable?

Mollison answered: Catch the water off your roof. Grow your own food. Make your own energy. It’s insanely easy to do all that. It takes you less time to grow your food than to walk down to the supermarket to buy it. Ask any good organic gardener who mulches how much time he spends on his garden and he’ll say, “Oh, a few minutes every week.”  By the time you have driven to the supermarket, taken your foraging-trolley and collected your wild greens, and driven back home again, you’ve spent a good hour or two — plus you’ve spent a lot of money. Permaculture can be as simple as sitting down and drawing the plan then a little effort in implementing it and then some time in harvesting the rewards.

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Big Permaculture Design

One of our latest projects has been to produce a large-scale design for a yoga retreat.

Our Design Process

  1. Conduct diagnosis of existing site features (including risks).
  2. Prepare guiding policy. The permaculture design offers a detailed plan to build wealth and empowerment to the residents and visitors.
  3. Set an action plan based on the fundamental ethics and ideals. These actions are driven by passion and feelings of the residents and result in self-reliance, abundance and greater harmony within the local community.yoga retreat permaculture design

Diagnosis

watershed for permaulture design

Firstly, we examined the current land use and drew up a sector analysis. One of the aspects of the sector analysis was the narrow solar window. The yoga retreat sits in a narrow valley. This means the morning sun is late and the afternoon sun falls away early in the afternoon.

We looked at all the natural energies on the site. The analysis included the surface watershed to and from the property. We identified which risks were threatening property.  The risk diagnosis alone will save the client in substantial costs far greater than the cost of the design. There were expensive threats to key structures. One of the threats to the foundations of a building was by local deer.  Another structure was suffering erosion by surface water from a poorly directed drain.view of solar window to yoga retreat - permaculture design tool

Permaculture Zoning

deerAlthough the current practices on the site by staff and residents were fairly sensible, there were plenty of opportunities to increase efficiency.

Zoning enables the design to put groups of elements into an area based on their needs and products.  Put elements that require high levels of observation and attention close to the staff and resources.  When an element requires less attention, it is positioned further away.

Delicate sprouts and seedlings require daily observation and attention to keep them watered and pest-free.  Simply position needy elements near to the care-givers. Zone 0 contains the elements that demand the highest level of attention.

In contrast to the sprouts and seedlings, vegetable greens are harvested as they become ready.  These elements are slightly less needy. They belong in Zone 1.

A tree that bears fruit only once a year goes further away in Zone 2 or 3.  Crops that need lots of space include pumpkin vines, corn or choko. So these go in Zone 3.  Crops that are harvested only as required (e.g. tinder for winter fires) are positioned far away. But they sit along a track to make the harvest, storage and transportation easy.  Deer and other large animals are directed to outer zones only.

permaculture design large property zoning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sun Trap Gardens

The sun-trap garden faces the morning sun. Plant deciduous trees on the north-east boundary. The winter sun will penetrate through the bare branches.  Whereas, evergreen trees sit on the southern and western boundaries to shelter the sun-trap from hot afternoon suns rays.

sun trap permaculture design

Water Management

Slow the water to consolidate your resources.  One can never argue with water.  Water knows gravity and follows. Slowing the water increases the chances for plants to absorb it.  Water falls gently to the plants below.

redress water flow permaculture design

Easy Tea Gardens

before and after improvements tea garden permaculture design

There were areas where expensive and thirsty lawns had died off to expose the dusty soil below. The design adds wicking beds of tea herbs. These structures are multi-functional. They include relaxing garden seats.

Making A Sacred Space

April under boulder at Wave rock WA

A Sacred space is positioned beside the riverbank. The focal point could be a very large rock or platform. Large rocks are abstract but majestic. Abstract creations are not easily damaged by passing travelers. Sculptures, one the other hand, are at higher risk.

An alternative focal point is a defined space. A space can hold reverence. Often a sunken area formed by mounds, a glade of trees or walled garden feels inviting and embracing.

Social Strategies

Residents will learn to eat what grows easily in their environment. This is easier than forcing the landscape to grow foods that we are in the habit of demanding. The notion of re-educating our palette helps us to adapt to climate uncertainty.

Connections with the broader local community are enriched by the allocation of space for a community garden. This design element is a win-win. The community garden would help maintain the neglected corner of the property whilst benefiting from ideas and better connections to the local community.

Key Activities in Staging Plan

  1.  Redress the risks
  2.  Build diversity and intensity within the existing gardens before building any new garden areas
  3. Use natural attrition plan to replace evergreen trees on northern side of structures with deciduous trees
  4. Start at Zone 0 and work outwards. For example: grow sprouts, seedlings and tea herbs. These provide a good yield for minimum cost and effort. Then add companion plants to the orchard.

Start small and build on the successes.

Build your own permaculture design skills. Study with us at Permaculture Visions.

Set limits and redistribute surplus

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difference between self-reliance and self-sufficiency

Self-Reliance Not Self-Sufficiency

Self-Reliance Is Empowering

You could be forgiven if you thought that permaculture was about self-sufficiency. Self-sufficiency is not the idealised ‘GOOD LIFE’ as speculated in the 70’s by BBC.  If you want long days of lonely, repetitive hard work and the very real risk of starvation and disease, then self-sufficiency would be for you.

Alternatively, if you are looking for a lifestyle that connects you with nature and your neighbours, boost your Self-Reliance.

In a nut-shell, Self-reliance enables empowerment through increased local production by giving, trading and/or sharing. ‘Self-Reliance’ values and cares for the weak and the elderly. Self-Reliance has the power to  strengthen community connections, improve our health and the planet’s health.

Community Values You

Permaculture promotes a sense of community. The basic ethic of Caring for People drives us to build better communities. By consulting the community we design adaptable  structures – physical and invisible. Physical structures include social hubs, educational and recreational areas.  Invisible structures include trading centers, banking systems and news exchange facilities.

Supercharged Design

winter harvest_croppedPermaculture designs for whole ‘villages’ not just individual households. This increases the efficiency of the waste cycles. Resources (physical, intellectual, social) are more immediate and usable. At best, the cycle of local production and disposal of the waste are tightly connected.

Self Reliance Grows By Sharing

city-farm-sharing

Frequent exchange of little resources requires very little planning. In a busy community, resources are shared, traded and loaned. ‘Hand-me-downs’ are passed on as needed. Harvests and meals are casually shared. Valuable and timely knowledge is offered informally.

One of the most obvious features of this ‘informal’ economy is that the consumer and producer meet. They tend to be kind to one another. In his free e-book, Permaculture Strategy for the South African Villages Terry Leahy explores the power of the gift economy. The gift economy fulfills the permaculture principle of ‘working where it counts’.

Self Reliance builds Self Esteem

sharing-the-tree-of-hearts

Many farmers work in isolation with heavy budget pressures.  On a large property, farming is time-consuming, lonely and destructive.

In surprising contrast to this, small holdings can be highly productive and rewarding. This works especially well when the local community supports local food production directly through farmers markets.

Given that Rural suicide is significantly higher than urban, healthy relationships are the key to survival. When farmers need assistance (psychological, medical and veterinary services) help needs to be close at hand. Enriching the community bonds through localised trade helps to build bridges and understanding.

Owning a large property is huge responsibility

ladies-morning-meeting-in-glasshouse-market-gardenLarge properties have heavy maintenance requirements. The cost of neglect can increase the risk of disasters such as fire. A community management team can help share this responsibility and combine resources for tree loping, noxious weeds control, soil erosion management, water pollution filtration, and emergency response.

Elders adopt the ‘benefactor’ model

Self reliant eldersElders can share their workload whilst mentoring young people. Sharing your resources, skills and know-how creates a closer-knit community.

This is known as the ‘benefactor’ model. This model works well for Polyface farms and other small communities. As a result, a succession of skilled people in a specialist field is ensured.

Permaculture values people as well as our environment.

Build your own self-reliance skills. Enrol with us today.

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Is Permaculture Design Different?

Unique Design Approach

Permaculture Design

  • uses patterns
  • builds on observation
  • enables a dynamic evolution of the design
  • strives for energy efficiency
  • imitates nature
  • strengthens connections
  • seeks biological solutions.

Patterns

mandala-cubaThere are a vast array of patterns in nature. Rarely are there naturally made straight lines. Machines operate in straight lines because they do things at speed and without feedback. When nature is in a hurry she too blasts a straight line. In day-to-day situation, most natural environments have very few straight edges.  When we aim to fit a growing system to a gentle landscape we will find curves fit comfortably.

Over time, the paths will move, the plants will begin to shape the site. This is when the permaculture design starts to adapt. We start to see the patterns forming as our design works with the nature of the landscape and the nature of the people connected to the land.

In the initial design, we can create patterns that in tune with the landscape. These patterns help the various elements to inter-relate harmoniously. The use of patterns ensures beauty, function and ease of use.

Observation

coffee tree flowersThrough observation, a site or social situation can inspire the design.  We can learn from the history of the site, the way the natural energies interplay. Observation is one of the most powerful tools in design. “To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.”  ― Marilyn Vos Savant

Dynamic Evolution

adapt-to-environmental-change

A good permaculture design is like a bicycle [Bill Mollison]. When a bicycle is well designed, it is easy to adapt to changing conditions (it can go off-road, up a steep incline, or be used to carry a variety of loads).

In the garden, the dynamic design adapts to periods of drought and heavy rains.

A good design for a Social structure or economy will enable healthy dynamic response to changes. ie. The structure can expand and shrink as member numbers dictate, it can allow diversity of input and facilitate results with ease. “The most powerful species are those who adapt without losing their fundamental identity which gives them their competitive advantage” Charles Darwin

Energy Efficiency

bringing in sun-dried washing and little home grown tomatoesEfficiency ensures success in nature. Closing the nutrient and energy systems loops build efficiency. For every calorie of food grown near the back step, over a hundred calories of food-waste, transport energy and packaging material is avoided. Permaculture offers comfortable solutions on all scales: A balcony can produce food and a farm can be designed to reduce its impact on the remaining stands of native habitat.

Imitation Of Nature

beesThere is still much to learn from nature and how she operates.  We are all slowly benefiting from experiments with product bio-mimicry and new medicines. By imitating nature, we appreciate the need for a holistic approach in the designs.

Connections

Mutually beneficial connections between elements are vital in the permaculture design. Likewise, there can be webs of connections within other webs creating a rich network of systems. We can use zoning, sector planning and interconnection of elements to optimise energy exchanges.

relationship-of-elements-demo

Biological Solutions

tipi with edible vinesThere are two main types of investment we can engage: Procreative Vs Degenerative.  When we invest in living systems we build wealth. Whereas, as soon as we invest in a non-living product it begins to degenerate and unless we can use it continuously to generate income, it is simply loosing value.  for example: The car is one of the poorest investments a family can make unless it is in almost constant use. “Many people see an automobile as a social status symbol, but is the luxury component of an automobile worth the investment dollars?” [Forbes]
Biological tools, structures (like a shade tree rather than a shade house), plants, animals and people and have the potential to build wealth for many generations.

we develop world leading resources

 

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have a giving spirit

Permaculture Community Garden Design

Permaculture Design For Community Garden by A. Sampson-KellyBuilding Blocks of Permaculture

There are two basic goals in a permaculture site plan: Use natural energies to increase our productivity and make the key features serve multiple functions. A permaculture design for a community garden would address some key steps to build resilience and long term success of the community garden:

  1.  Choose a site with a good position. Check there is a gentle slope.  A slope that greets the morning sun can provide lots of growing time. If there is too much sun, shade plants will help to reduce the glare.
  2. Ensure the entry has good visibility. Make signs and gates that look welcoming.
  3. Plan and implement good water filtration and re-use.
  4. Include strategically placed perennial food plants for windbreaks, privacy screens and shade in hot summer months.  A typical western community garden has a lot of annual plants. Aim to include carbon-sequestering perennials. Perennials need less maintenance. These food plants are good structural plants and last for several years and sometimes decades. The space will mature and be enhanced as it ages.
  5. Native animals and insects would be encouraged to help with pest control and increase biodiversity. Position some big trees on the far corners of the sun-less side of the site. These trees will trap condensation. They will also provide tinder for cooking, mulch for the garden, sticks for small trellises or plant ti-pis, a shady corner for nursery plants and habitat for wildlife.
  6. Encourage participants to learn to cook and eat what grows easily rather than force the landscape and climate to grow what they are in the habit of eating.  The notion of re-educating our palette can be very helpful for us to cope with climate uncertainty.

Strengthening Community Heart

Include spaces to enhance the social unity in your community garden.
Create spaces to:

  • meet andHello there! exchange ideas (this can also be a stage) Northey Street City Farm has a small outdoor stage under a mature tree.  For decades this space has served as a great space to hangout day and night.
  • share tools and enjoy harvests together
  • Entertain one another and have fun. In our recent design here for a Permaculture community garden we have made the whole site in the shape of an amphitheater. This demonstrates the true creative spirit of permaculture – to serve many functions!

Stacking The Action

A multi-functional community space like this can run events throughout the seasons and at different times of the day. This is the stacking principle taught by Bill Mollison. When we stack different plants together we utilise the vertical space and when we put things into the space at different times of the day or year, we are utilising the 4th dimension – time.