Permaculture Garden Observation

Reader Contribution by Michelle Martin
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Where we began: before permaculture.

This is how the side garden looked 3 years ago. If you look at the wall you can see there is quite a slope on the garden. It also slopes from right to left, the left side being lower. Over the last 3 years during heavy storms we have seen the rainwater run down the garden diagonally so it floods the left hand corner of the garden.

One of the things that we decided to do here (before the days of our permaculture journey) was to build terracing. We had lots of rocks available to us, from having the swimming pool built, and it just made sense to use these rocks.

We do everything by hand…so it is a slow process. First the rocks have to be dug out of the pool mound. Then they have to be sorted into size and moved into the garden. Next the wall is built and then the top soil has to be burrowed into the terrace.

This is the first terrace we built. It took 10 tonnes of top soil to fill it. The top soil was clay based and was lacking organic matter and as you can see looks very bare.

When we started researching permaculture we were surprised to realize we had actually done something they talk about. Apparently, building terracing on slopes helps to slow the water movement down the land. The only thing that we missed out was adding organic matter that would hold even more water. We still have some way to go with the terracing…another 3 at least to build, so these new terraces will be filled with logs and branches before the top soil goes on.

All the way through researching permaculture, everyone talks about food forests. My idea 4 years ago was to make a fruit forest. I had always wanted fruit trees and now we had the land to do it.

We bought fruit trees, plum, apple, cherry, pear, peach, nectarine, apricot and a walnut tree too. We planted then up at the bottom of the garden, hoping that they would grow and produce much needed shade in the Summer.

This is basically how it looks today (January 2013) We tried to grow grass from seed but because the rains didn’t come it didn’t grow. As we are not on mains water, we couldn’t spare the water needed to get it to germinate.

We intend to build swales and mounds around the garden, on a small scale to see if we can increase our yields and improve the amount of organic matter in the soil. We want to plant around the trees to begin the formation of a real forest. Fruit bushes, fast growing legumes and ground cover too. We will set up drip irrigation systems that will water the mounds for starters and see how it goes.

We are hoping, if everything goes to plan, to develop areas of our land that are barren other than the olive and almond trees that have been there years. We want to be able to create spaces for our animals that enable them to source their own food with a little supplement from us. At the minute we are having to give them more food as there is nothing growing on the land because of the missed rains.