Living in an area that receives all of its water over the winter months and almost none over the summer means that most productive food gardens are irrigated to some extent. Taking the challenge to create a garden that has no access to water means thinking carefully about catching and storing every available bit of water that passes as well as being prepared to work within the limits of the seasons.
Working with the seasons is important but extending the growing season by catching and storing water in the soil is when things start to become clever….this is where Permaculture Design comes into play.
This patch was a part of what we always referred to as the second veggie garden, a large area that was fenced off many years ago for exactly that purpose but, with the changing times reverted back to kikuyu and chickens. Too big an area for even the chickens to have an impact on, the kikuyu ran rampant.
Last autumn we did the big job of internally fencing the area, dividing it into 3 (chook accessible) runs, so that each section could be managed intensively by poultry. This means not only healthier garden beds but also healthier poultry as we can move them onto new ground frequently.
To get things started in the new garden the poultry came in for some intensive scratching, bug eating and pooing, giving the area a fine work over. This lasted for a number of months before Do and her team followed with hand digging to remove the remaining kikuyu that the chooks missed. When the chooks were locked out the ground was mounded into swales , mounds of earth that run along the contour of the slope, catching water and nutrients and allowing all the goodness to soak into the mounds.
The area was then planted, once the plants were up it was mulched heavily with wood chips. The chickens had already supplied a huge amount of nitrogen rich manure so there was no need to compost. As the area is surrounded by poultry it has had virtually no pest impact. Around 15 years ago we planted outside the area with acacias so a thick windbreak protects the garden from the drying impacts of winds as well as providing a haven for birds and bees to help manage peat control.
All the fences around the edges have been planted to peas which are in full flower and just starting to produce, while we love eating them the chickens can also pick at them through the fence providing them with a great source of protein. While the garden will not be replanted for a summer crop it will be a useful garden for seeds, choosing the best varieties to go to seed and be fenced off from poultry and netted if need be using the structure already in place. We can continue to observe the garden to see if it needs poultry management again before planting next autumn.
I love this little garden as so many of the Permaculture Principles are in play at the same time.
How many can you see?
1 Observe and Interact (hint – when are we going to put the chickens in next)
2 Catch and Store Energy (hint – water management)
3Obtain a Yield (hint – vegetables, seed)
4 Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback (hint – do we need to put the chooks in agian?)
5Use and Value Renewable Resources (hint – chickens)
6Produce No Waste (hint – water, chooks)
7Design from Patterns to Details (hints, contours and swales)
8Integrate Rather than Segregate (hint – chickens, bees)
9Use small and slow solutions (hint – size of plot)
10Use and Value Diversity (hint – birds and bees, veggies and seeds)
11 Use Edges and Value the Marginal (hint- peas)
12 Creatively Use and Respond to Change (hint – rainfall)