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Planning on having most of the garden in bio-intensive, how can I still learn about permaculture ?

 
pollinator
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Hello permies,

I've decided to change most of my garden to bio-intensive beds, to produce as much as possible with the limited space I have. Maybe permaculture could be more productive (I'm not sure about that, even if I'd agree that it would require less effort in the long run) but I don't own the place and so can't invest in trees. A few trees (pears, prunus) are in the garden, and not all of the garden is usable for gardening: I still need paths, and some place have decorative bushes that I can't remove (as I don't own the place, and the land owners are nice). To me, it seems that to get the most of the garden is to turn most of it into a bio-intensive minifarm.

BUT ! At some point in my life, I plan to have a food forest, have a lot of permaculture stuff. So I want to still learn as much as possible. I have a few awkward spots in the garden, that I believe could be improved with some permaculture touch. I also have a terrace where I put in a lot of plants in pots (even if a few plants still manage to grow IN the terrace).

So I'm wondering what I can do to learn more about permaculture, apply more of its principles despite having less space for it. Technically this can be a good thing as it mean being more creative for weird places.

A few spots in the garden could emulate some parts of a food forest. I have a few existing trees there, so I might be able to grow some climbing plants on them.

So to sum it up: how can I still learn about permaculture, practice it, while having in general less space as it'll be used for another way of growing plants ? If you happen to have examples in limited spaces that would be wonderful.
 
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Since you already have a fruit tree, you could make a guild to support it. There are fun to make and your imagination and likes and dislikes are all you need. You can work on small earthworks, learn to build soil, make biochar, learn to grow annual veggies in your bio intensive gardens, learn to make great compost, build frog, snake, toad, bee habitats, make a small area for pollinators in one of the little open areas, build a water catchment system, build a small solar heater on the south side of the house, I can think of lots more. Maybe you can get a couple chickens. Bug hotels are awesome.

An easy way to start may be by doing badge bits towards the PEP levels. Lots of those are things that work in small spaces, building bee houses, bat houses, toad areas, and many are things that will benefit you wherever you go.
 
pollinator
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The book, Gaia's Garden by Toby Hemenway sounds perfect for you!
 
gardener
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In my mind permaculture is not a growing method, but a design framework based on observation and nature.

I would say the best way to practice permaculture is too take some dedicated time to watch your growies and the space they're in and just let it soak in. Then maybe take notes about key factors like light, water, wind, visitors, etc over a long term, at least a year.
 
pollinator
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Since I have followed Permaculture and gathered lots of info I actually realized that this way is the most natural bio intensive farming method.
It brings you into an abundance of food on a minimized footprint.

- if one crop fails the loss is actually minimized as there are more options of success.
- you will not need so much labor and time as in bio intensive farming
- fertilizer will balance by itself
- animals can work for you and don't ask for payment but create an extra income
- your land stays fertile and alive year by year

all this can be achieved also on land you don't own.
If temporary then you use what is growing there already and grow the best involving perennials and annual companion plants..

and on and on...

(if done right)
 
master gardener
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What is Permaculture? We have a long thread about the nature of Permaculture here: https://permies.com/t/2594/permaculture I agree with L Johnson:

L Johnson wrote:In my mind permaculture is not a growing method, but a design framework based on observation and nature.



So you can absolutely have biointensive as part of a permaculture design. We even have a forum about it on Permies here. The important bit to me is the 'sustainable' bit - how you propose to make the biointensive bit infinitely possible. I guess you will need to continually add compost to an intensive vegetable area. Where do you get the nutrients from to avoid degrading another area (or your own)?

One of the keys to me is thinking where you inputs and outputs come from and go. But as others have said there is nothing to stop you trying out techniques (that are reversable) in a rented space. If you are thinking of making a food forest in the future - these tend to use perennial plants in the main - research what grows well in your area. Do you like them? How do you grow cook and eat them? Try and start as many plants as you can from seed in the next few years, keep them in pots if you have to. This will give you better biodiversity and save $$$s when you come to your 'forever home'.
Araucaria monkey puzzle growing from seed
Monkey puzzle trees from seed (source)

(edited to add image source)


 
master steward
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I agree with what the others have said especially about observation.

One of the first principles of permaculture is "observation".

These are some of the principles of permaculture that might work for you:

I can see "Observation", "Obtain a yield", and "Produce no waste".

Mike said, "So to sum it up: how can I still learn about permaculture, practice it, while having in general less space as it'll be used for another way of growing plants ?



Grow plants in pots.  This way you can increase your yield.

The best place for your to learn about permaculture is right here on the forum.
 
Mike Lafay
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Thanks everybody for the first replies.

Trace Oswald wrote:Since you already have a fruit tree, you could make a guild to support it. There are fun to make and your imagination and likes and dislikes are all you need. You can work on small earthworks, learn to build soil, make biochar, learn to grow annual veggies in your bio intensive gardens, learn to make great compost, build frog, snake, toad, bee habitats, make a small area for pollinators in one of the little open areas, build a water catchment system, build a small solar heater on the south side of the house, I can think of lots more. Maybe you can get a couple chickens. Bug hotels are awesome.

An easy way to start may be by doing badge bits towards the PEP levels. Lots of those are things that work in small spaces, building bee houses, bat houses, toad areas, and many are things that will benefit you wherever you go.



So basically, planting around those tree ?

Basically, I have one prunus who is making a bit of shade, but I still managed to grow corn and amaranth around it. Next year I will probably put yarrow all around it (at least) so that the current spot with yarrow can be used for annuals or at least other herbs that are more picky. I have one tree which I have no idea if it's giving peaches or something else (the peaches have always been green in september, for the last 2 years I've been here); this one got one big cornfrey plant next to it which seems to enjoy the spot, but that's basically it. I have two other pear tree, with some cornfrey with it, and a few raspberry plant in between. I tried some kiwi, but the plants all roasted and didn't grow.

However for some very shady spot, perhaps having some bug hotel could be nice. Earthwork, I'm not sure what you mean by it, is it making hugelkultur ?

Building soil is a big part of bio-intensive, and since it's the third year in a row where I have tons of semi-random medicinal but not even of f***ing lettuce (to be fair, I do have tomatoes as a more classic harvest), I do have some learning to do at least with some annuals. One thing I learned this year, is that for now I can't plant directly in the ground. The soil is probably not welcoming enough yet, slugs and snails are still king for now, and I still need to pay more attention.

Chicken should be coming with the neighbors, I'm already harvesting rain water, and I might not put solar panels as I'd need to do weird stuff to connect with the rest of the house, and the worst, it would mean less place for plants.


Melissa Ferrin wrote:The book, Gaia's Garden by Toby Hemenway sounds perfect for you!



Thanks, i'll check it it out !

L. Johnson wrote:In my mind permaculture is not a growing method, but a design framework based on observation and nature.

I would say the best way to practice permaculture is too take some dedicated time to watch your growies and the space they're in and just let it soak in. Then maybe take notes about key factors like light, water, wind, visitors, etc over a long term, at least a year.



Yeah, there's a lot to permaculture. It's not one or two tools. It's a philosophy, and I'll say I am doing permaculture the day I will at the very least have done some hardcore design. Honestly I'm starting to get a lot of information about how this garden work, and about most of the plant I grow. One example with squash and watermelon, next year I'll plant the seeds directly in the best compost I can make, instead of transplanting them in "classic" soil. I also know more about how the light evolve around the year.

I do need to put in more observation though, but I have a very busy schedule.

See Hes wrote:Since I have followed Permaculture and gathered lots of info I actually realized that this way is the most natural bio intensive farming method.
It brings you into an abundance of food on a minimized footprint.

- if one crop fails the loss is actually minimized as there are more options of success.
- you will not need so much labor and time as in bio intensive farming
- fertilizer will balance by itself
- animals can work for you and don't ask for payment but create an extra income
- your land stays fertile and alive year by year

all this can be achieved also on land you don't own.
If temporary then you use what is growing there already and grow the best involving perennials and annual companion plants..

and on and on...

(if done right)



Honestly, I am not sure if I can get as much from permaculture as from bio-intensive with the space I have. What I mean, right now I have one 100 square ft bed, containing 8 tomato plants, 16 ashwagandhas, 11 artemisia annua and 16 artemisia princeps. Can I beat that with a permacutlture approach ?

Crop fail so far is because seedling didn't sprout or because I have no clue about how to grow them properly. However I do agree that I need a LOT of time right now, honestly most of it is because of a lack of planning (not having some form of automatic gardening for instance) and experience.

With fertilizer, the main point of bio-intensive is you grow "carbon crops" which are plants that have some calories but produce a lot of matter for composting, such as grain although I'm sure other plants could do the job (I might try holy thistle for this purpose next year, as I collect their seeds too). I also try to use my pee as fertilizer, I reuse the bokashi tea I produce from, well, bokashi, and I also tried (more like half-*ssed attempt) something with yeasts and sugar.

Animals are limited, although I am considering having more chickens that just some being shared with the neighbors. I just really don't want to force an animal into a spot it will not enjoy and thrive in.

The big limit I see would be with trees and more perennials plants; although plants like aromatics and small fruits (raspberry, blackberry, etc) are completely fine. If I need to cut down a forest once I move out, not only it will break my heart but probably my back too.

Nancy Reading wrote:What is Permaculture? We have a long thread about the nature of Permaculture here: https://permies.com/t/2594/permaculture I agree with L Johnson:

L Johnson wrote:In my mind permaculture is not a growing method, but a design framework based on observation and nature.



So you can absolutely have biointensive as part of a permaculture design. We even have a forum about it on Permies here. The important bit to me is the 'sustainable' bit - how you propose to make the biointensive bit infinitely possible. I guess you will need to continually add compost to an intensive vegetable area. Where do you get the nutrients from to avoid degrading another area (or your own)?

One of the keys to me is thinking where you inputs and outputs come from and go. But as others have said there is nothing to stop you trying out techniques (that are reversable) in a rented space. If you are thinking of making a food forest in the future - these tend to use perennial plants in the main - research what grows well in your area. Do you like them? How do you grow cook and eat them? Try and start as many plants as you can from seed in the next few years, keep them in pots if you have to. This will give you better biodiversity and save $$$s when you come to your 'forever home'.
Araucaria monkey puzzle growing from seed
Monkey puzzle trees from seed (source)

(edited to add image source)




One day, I will have a huge place. And since I'm building experience, I really think of adding bio-intensive into a final permaculture design. Basically, the bio-intensive part would be for mast production of some plants, including the picky one that will not self-seed, and those that are not really fit in my climate to do so. If Sepp Holzer can throw around cabbages seeds and have them grow mostly on their own, I am not sure he can do the same with tomatoes, ashwagandhas... and I guess it's impossible for corn as the seeds require some depth.

On the nutrient topic. One issue there is with me using the term bio-intensive here, is I don't think everyone replying know everything that it mean. I refer to the method developed over thirty year by a few people, including John jeavons (author of a few books, and the one on bio-intensive are called "How to grow more vegetables than you though possible"). Improving the soil is central here, as you plant things very close instead of in row. Basically, you make carbon from carbon crops such as grains (the figures that comes often are something like 60% carbon crops, 30% calories crops, and 10 or even 5 percent vitamins/minerals crops (think lettuces, cabbages...). This carbon will be used to make compost (the green materiel come from weeds, green manure, kitchen scraps, whatever fit the nitrogen rich tag). I am trying a few other things too, like adding powdered chicken eggs, and the powdered bones of chicken I ate. I should really do more testing on the soil though.

There are a few plants I have in pots right now, either because they are not frost hardy or because they will be mature for harvest in a too long time scale (and I have no idea if I'll still be there when they are ripe).

Starting tree early could be an option; I might be an idealist but it seems that tree grown from seeds are the best when they didn't need a transplant... but that's an area where I might have to make a compromise.

I am planning to put perennials in the awkward spots, or in places where it's more convenient, like right next to the kitchen. One example I gave earlier is yarrow. I'll put some right next to one of the tree, as it's the flower that are interesting; if they are there, it will free up place somewhere else.

Anne Miller wrote:I agree with what the others have said especially about observation.

One of the first principles of permaculture is "observation".

These are some of the principles of permaculture that might work for you:

I can see "Observation", "Obtain a yield", and "Produce no waste".

Mike said, "So to sum it up: how can I still learn about permaculture, practice it, while having in general less space as it'll be used for another way of growing plants ?



Grow plants in pots.  This way you can increase your yield.

The best place for your to learn about permaculture is right here on the forum.



Observation is the one I'm having trouble with. With a day job, a lot to take care of in the garden, some other hobbies and the needs of everyday life... I don't take enough time to just sit in the garden and watch. Mosquitoes are clearly an issue too, because any observation session can quickly makes me turn into a human tornado, insulting those flying demons. But that might change, as I've found some anti-mosquito stuff that seems to work well enough.

Obtaining a yield, I'm starting to get my first tomatoes of the year. A bit late I'd say, but next year I'll have some smaller varieties and probably will plant them sooner. I am harvesting a lot of chamomille and holy basil (tulsi). Red peppers are coming. I harvest some wheat but I need to improve the bird defense. I had some cress, some spinach but not a lot. Parsley and coriander. Some agastache too. When the season end however I will harvest a lot of ashwagandha (I have literally more than 30 plants in the garden), decent quantity of artemisia annua, some artemisia princeps; and the corn and amaranth should be nice too. I also have strawberries, raspberries and black currant earlier this year.

Producing no waste is the easiest. I am taking up other people waste. Got some left over branches ? Gimme. That's some hugelkultur potential. Coffee grounds at work ? Mushrooms are coming.

I am planning to use pots already for plants that are not frost hardy, and those that need long time before harvest: Rhodiola Rosea being the prime example. I have also some pots with plants that are better being close to the kitchen (aromatics, medicinals). My terrace is basically one big pot. If you have more idea for pot content, I'm all ears !

However I'd have to disagree with your last sentence. I'd say the best place to learn about permaculture is in the garden, even if there are hoards of mosquitoes.

 
Anne Miller
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Mike said, " Mosquitoes are clearly an issue too, because any observation session can quickly makes me turn into a human tornado, insulting those flying demons. But that might change, as I've found some anti-mosquito stuff that seems to work well enough.



I get these magazines because I am a member of this or that organization.  This one clearly had some good ideas to repel mosquitoes.

I thought this one was pretty which is to put whole cloves in lemons and limes halves to set around your yard.

The magazine also had a list of plants to repel mosquitoes:

Lavender, lemon grass, basil, catnip, marigold, lemon thyme, scented geranium, lemon balm and rosemary.
 
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Regarding mosquitoes...

I used to be highly reactive to mosquito bites. The bite site would still have an itchy bump 3 weeks later. I was miserable. Things that worked for me...

Firstly, a sonic repellant. Something like this. Mine are old, and uses AAA batteries. When walking in the woods, gardening, or camping, I would wear three of these things. One hanging on my shirt neckline. One hanging from a belt loop. One somehow attached to a shoe. Each shoe if four of these things were available! The first time I used these I came home after 10 hours in the woods, with THREE mosquito bites. It was awesome!

I read in an old survival book (title now lost) that the author believed eating plantain seeds helped to make him less attractive to mosquitoes. It worked for me too. For me, it took a 1/4 of the green seed stalk per day to be effective. How to identify plantain. I have not found any reference to this usage of plantain, other than in that one book.

I read that basil repels mosquitoes. So when I found what I thought was purple basil, I planted it all around the border of my front yard. The population in my front yard plummeted. It was actually perilla. This year, we have been including it in almost daily salads. Now when I get bit, they only bother me for a few hours, bumps stay a few days.
 
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