Episode-1138- Low Input vs. High Input Permaculture Design
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I figured now would be a good time to discuss this subject as it applies to two major projects underway at the Spirko homestead. Of course we just recently completed the contour based wood core garden beds at our first workshop. Those who attended also got to see the area that will be our “showcase urban forest garden”, an area of 2700-3500 square feet depending on what we actually use of it.
The work involved in establishment of these two systems is dramatically different. One required a lot of initial inputs, mulch, wood cores, heavy equipment, fungal and bacterial inoculation, organic fertilizer and lots of manual labor. The result is pretty much a turn key system. While it will take a year to fully mature, it is a long term and very stable system.
The new project, the forest garden will be remarkably low input. We did dig out one hole for a garden pond based out of a stock tank and a short trench to connect it to one upgrade. But the work could have been done in a day with a shovel by one person.
Today I will contrast these two systems and discuss the permaculture concept of an “energy audit” and why it is critical to our long tern sustainability. Specifically if the SHTF, we will immediately go into a scenario where what comes out must at least equal what we put in. Today this is measured in money with no concept of the damage done to the system long term. Tomorrow that likely won’t be an option.
Join Me Today to Discuss…
- Contour based wood core beds
- Initial materials
- 12 yards of wood mulch
- About 5 tons of wood core
- 30-40 lbs of blood meal
- 15-20 lbs of bone meal
- 5 lbs of cover crop seed
- 4 days of heavy equipment usage
- 20 gallons of gasoline
- Work required and system output analysis
- One man 2 months 110 feet by hand
- 20 men, one machine 160 feet in 1.5 days in the rain
- System life time, annuals 10-15 years, perennials infinite
- Required ongoing inputs, planting, weeding, fertility, mulching
- Primary attributes, water harvesting, nutrient retention, erosion resistance
- 3000 Square Foot Forest Garden
- Initial Materials
- Landscaping timbers (20-35)
- Large spikes (40-70)
- 2 galvanized stock tanks 6 ft by 2 ft (capacity 840 gallons)
- 1 galvanized oval end tank 2 x 1 x 6 ft (for reed bed)
- 4 polyethylene barrels for aquaponics system
- Gravel for the aquaponics system
- Pumps for the aquaponics system
- 1 Polyethylene tank, capacity 1,500 gallons
- PVC pipes and fittings
- Hardwood mulch (20-25 yards)
- Rain gutters for out building
- Electrical wiring
- Work required and system output analysis
- 1 Person, time required unknown but work load is easy
- Aquaponics system is an add on
- Required ongoing inputs, planting, weeding, fertility, mulching, pruning
- System life time infinite for most components
- Primary attributes, water harvesting, nutrient retention, erosion resistance, protein production, energy conserving
- Final analysis
- Forest garden will take longer but require less phyical and machine labor
- Wood core system is more conducive to row crops
- Both systems require many initial inputs, the list grows
- Both systems are true long term systems developing their own cycles
- The forest garden is more energy conserving and easier to maintain
- On a larger property the two systems provide for each other
- Planting and plants must be calculated based on final designs and are not really suited to direct comparison
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Haven’t listened yet but, I think back to when you were in Arlington, then the big move to Arkansas, then back to Texas; now this. Throw in some Silver launches and I think you should pee in a bottle Spirko…you packed in more in four years than anyone I know
Jack, those beds look amazing on your property!
I’m shocked at what I saw before vs. what I see now. Truly inspiring. I look forward to listening on my commute home today.
Is there a link to a site with all the before and after photos and/or videos of your raised “woody” beds?
I’m basing my observation on the Hugelkulture videos on the TSP YouTube channel. I think they were made this April or March.
Is this a typo?
Yes it is a typo fixing it now.
Jack, obviously I can only attempt to understand the true meaning and intentions of your words, but I have some further thoughts, 3rd party view, regarding this energy analysis topic that may be useful.
I think the exercise in understanding energy inputs and outputs, if looking through the lens of permaculture, should be considered much more broadly than attempting to understand a single element’s energy in/energy out. In my opinion its just not that simple, especially when we talk about an annual garden, whose almost sole function is to provide usable energy for ourselves (and perhaps some other things as well). I know you’re taking the Lawton PDC like the rest of us so I know you heard him call an annual garden a tool in the toolshed of permaculture. =)
That is like saying the energy that goes into putting in a clothesline won’t have a return on energy, and therefore perhaps may not be the best thing, is obviously nonsensical. We could just lay our clothes on the ground. But even the process of putting them there and retrieving them requires energy that will never be returned ever, 100% energy loss, but yet its still a worthwhile endeavor. Where I’m going with this, is that an annual garden has one (of many) functions, of which is to provide energy for ourselves. It requires start up costs, but it provides energy that is extremely high in minerals.
A “permaculture” annual garden should be part of a larger system by which the inputs required to maintain and improve exist within the entire system. In my opinion, it should be stated, that the energy required to maintain something that provides us with energy, should not require more energy than it takes to maintain it. Everything has a start up cost. At a minimum you have to get seeds (from somewhere), walk over to location and plant them. If you don’t get a return of energy at least equivalent as it took to do that, then its not worth doing. You’ve set up a great ground work for at least a few years, to allow EASY annual garden cultivation. So now you don’t have to spend as much time toiling away if you just threw some seeds on the ground and hoped for best.
An annual garden by its very nature is labor and energy intensive. It wouldn’t be in zone 1 otherwise. Food forests exist in zone 2. Saying an annual garden is intensive, really should just be an obvious statement.
Gardens converts inedible materials that contain the suns energy in various forms into edible materials that provide energy to the human/s who are maintaining both the garden and the overall system. That’s its purpose and its function. Comparing a “low-energy” system like a food forest to an annual garden doesn’t really make sense. Its arguably apples to oranges. They’re two different tools, used as part of the entire picture. In fact, Geoff Lawton particularly talks about Main Crop production at zone 2 and 3, while still pitching for food forests an annual gardens. (This is a pet peeve of mine about Paul Wheaton’s idea of just getting a bunch of seeds and throwing it on the ground and you magically have food with no work. That’s just nonsense. Also the idea that you can have a garden without nitrogen inputs from animals is completely nonsense, but thats a totally different rant of mine.)
Once you get everything up and going, eventually you’ll probably be able to corral some awesome chicken and geese poop so that (purchased) blood meal may not be necessary. (I would hope you”ll be saving all that great blood from processing animals so you can provide your own blood meal!) The difference between just any annual garden, and one integrated into a permaculture system, in general, can be described (in my mind) as the level of integration between it and all other elements of the overall system. Energy is attempting to be recycled whenever possible so that the inputs required may be less and less.
The pictures look great, and I will attest to being able to build spirko beds in man hours. It appears we have roughly the same work schedule, and I’ve built basically the same amount in the same time, although I need to scavage more fallen wood out of the forests to build some more true spirko beds (wood core, raised bed, wood mulched on contour).
Mike an annual garden is composed to two components the infrastructure (beds) and the production (plants). Of course there are nutrients, etc included in the equation but the simplest breakdown is plants and earth, make sense.
On the plant side we plant annuals yearly but the energy needed to put one bean in the ground is vastly exceeded by the energy from the beans one bean seed can grow, even when we consider harvesting. So there is no energy sync to planting annuals.
The sync is from poor infrastructure. Badly designed beds that down harvest/retain water. Systems that you must till annually then still weed heavily. Systems that leech nutrient rather then retain it.
Seen this way a system isn’t non sustainable just because it is composed largely of annuals.
I’m glad you didn’t take my post in a negative way haha. It was mostly trying to bolster you and say “Hey what you’re doing would appear to be right on the money.” It is always nice to now and again question what we’re doing from an outside perspective and perhaps give us another opportunity to revisit why we’re doing what we’re doing.
If there is any use for fossil fuels, jump starting our own systems should be it. Maintaining it is another story.
No it was a perfectly valid question and one many new to permaculture struggle with. 5 years ago when I began my journey I simply thought permaculture was planting perennials and trees vs. annuals. I am so glad I looked deeper.
Modern agriculture… They should have learned the lesson taught by the Kansas dust bowl event. Every time I see a huge tractor pulled disc tiller raising the wind driven dust cloud that almost always results, I cant help but wonder how many times it can that happen before the breadbasket of America is a burned out wasteland. I have a feeling that Permaculture is our lifeboat in the coming famine storm.
Great start, but I have to disagree that the system you described today is in anyway permaculture. Just the large amounts of fertilizer you will have to bring in make the system very un-sustainable. Where are the animals to support the system? I don’t see any layers to this plan, where are they?
I realize you are trying to re-invent yourself now that the survival business boom is over, but you need to learn a bit more before you try teaching. How long was it that Mollison and Lawton took before they started teaching for money?
I thought you were done posting here, but clearly your understanding of permaculture is pathetic. The fertilizer is all 100% from animals blood and bone moron! The inputs are one time, perhaps two then done, the system then looks after itself.
The survival boom by the way is something I never rode and it isn’t over.
Tell you what you sorry little excuse for skin, this goes against everything I believe in but I am completely tired of you. How about we meet for a good old fashioned regulated MMA stye fight and I beat the piss out of you? We can sell tickets and I promise to give all proceeds to charity.
I really am sick of you and your pathetic bullshit! Put up or shut up.
Oh and you might want to talk to a few of the guys who came to the work shop before you say yes to my challenge. You can start with this guy a boxer well over heavy weight limits, https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10152852718280543&set=p.10152852718280543&type=1
Then talk to the guy with about a decade of Muay Thai behind him that I played around with. This is way out of character for me but your clownish ass has taunted me long enough so either stand up or begone assclown.
To all watching, yes this violates the concept of non aggression I realize that but how many times do you “turn the other cheek”. This sorry little bitch has sniped at me for years now, I am done, he either steps up or gets his ass banned from TSP forever. I am really not the aggressor here, this guy has asked for it and will likely puss out anyway and come up with some bullshit excuse for it. I have basically let this little prick spit on me for a few years and now I am done with it.
@Mike oh God please take Jack up on this challenge but let me tell you what it is like when he hits you. First take a sledge hammer, go find a big steak and wrap the head of the sledge hammer in the meat and get someone to hit you with it. That is the best I can do to explain this.
I was at the workshop and wasn’t the big boxer or the Muay Thai guy but I too asked for a “tap” by Jack, he gave me a proclaimed 10% and I don’t want 20% ever! 10% in the chin would have put me the hell out by the way.
The Muay Thai guy who I will not name unless he wants that and does it himself said, “this guy could kill me without trying” and “did you see how fast he is”. Oh well, Jack was drunk and not even looking at the guy while they were fooling around.
There was another guy that was a wing chung guy and Jack “played a game with him” that guy was fast as hell and actually hurt Jack’s arm but only because Jack showed him how to do it.
I had been a listener for years and heard Jack talk about how systema disarms you and there is no stance, no effort, etc for years. Well, I figured Jack is cool but overselling this one, again I am a multi decade martial artist. Well watching it play out in real time woke me up, again sledge hammer wrapped in a steak and the guy puts zero effort into it.
So yea Mike stop sniping from the shadows and step up and I will be there watching BUT my money will be on Jack. And well, I will donate all winnings to charity as well just to watch you learn a lesson that seems long over due.
I suppose you think that the chickens and the ducks that Jack already has somehow don’t figure into your theory? Or the rabbits he’s planning on getting?
Guess what those produce?
When the plants live out their lives and stop producing, and are chopped and dropped to feed back into the dirt, guess what they do?
They return the nutrients they took back into the dirt.
Now, guess who’s been talking closely with Jack regarding this project, and will be coming over in person to supervise what’s been done and add to it?
You, sir, don’t pay enough attention to be relevant. Go troll somewhere else.
Ok first and foremost, A single element isn’t permaculture. A food forest, for example, is not permaculture. Permaculture is the integration of elements together to create a sustainable, human centric/powered, ecosystem. An annual garden is part of this. No annual garden ever provided its own nitrogen source, nor would holding it to that bar ever make sense. The human derives the integration of systems together, often powered by the human, in order to maximize the systems. Excesses if not taken up by the integration of the systems (no integration is perfect) would be moved to a better location. The example regarding reed beds shows this point perfectly. Is a reed bed sustainable or permaculture? No, but integrating it into a larger system is.
Is a clothes line permaculture? No. But integrating it as part of a system it could be. Is a tire (or as the Aussies spell it Tyre) permaculture? No, but perhaps including it in a garden as a pond might be.
Do you have more pictures of the beds?
Also another question.
Are you concerned with the wood you use in the wood core having ants?
I have found a good amount of wood on my land, but most of it has carpenter ants living in it. Is this something to be concerned about? On one hand the ants may break down the wood faster. I just don’t want to worry about ants getting in the house.
The ants that annoy me are fireants, carpenter ants wouldn’t do any harm here and we don’t really have them anyway but termites accelerate the way Zai farming works in Africa so I don’t know why this would be any different. As for ants getting in the house, just don’t build these adjacent to your foundation. They likely wouldn’t do much anyway to wood with over a foot of cover on it. The wood chips can and will attract termites and should not be used against the foundation of a wood frame home. On the forest garden the buildings are all steel frame and steel walls so if they want to have at it, let em try it. LOL
LOL Fire ants are the worse. My wife has started to join me in the garden at our new house. She is always on threat level midnight when it comes to fire ants. Some how she always finds(then stands on) them.
These beds are about 30 feet from the house, so I think we are good. Thanks Jack. I have been elbow deep in Geoff’s PDC. It is pretty dang awesome
I’ve also heard that ants farm fungi… It seems that ants invented agriculture by farming fungi 50 million years ago.
Kinda cool to think about. Just onw more reason to like ants.
Also I am going to take more pictures this week.
I have been using wood chips in a garden for a few years, using a no till method in North Texas. I chip all of my tree trimmings, to make mulch for garden and walkways. I have a fire ant problem, but have found that the fire ants do not mound under wood chip mulch. My chips include a variety of wood, including eastern red cedar. I don’t know the mechanics of it, but did notice the fire ants never bother me around a wood chip mulched area.
I am taking GF’s Online PDC. I also just put in small hugelkutlure beds. Newspaper (didn’t know it was bad then, oops) 30 year old firewood cut into quarters, straw and soil. Where can you point me to for information about the nitrogen/carbon relationship. And any tips on how to raise nitrogen on my brand new beds. Around my plants and under the grass clippings mulch I am using Rabbit Manure as fertilizer.
Another GREAT show Jack! I am taking Geoff’s P.D.C. Because of you and your show …. Nice to hear his teachings going on the ground !
God speed Jack !
On landscape timbers: I use thin long rebar (maybe half inch diameter) sections, cut small pieces with the sawsall. Then I drill a nice hole in the timber and hammer the rebar pieces in the whole. This is very fast and cheap.
Do you think that saves money over say 12 inch galvanized spikes, taking the time into consideration as well. I am only giving 80 cents each for them but Rebar would be thicker and pretty easy to cut.
I probably would save a little money. For me I wanted longer spikes than 12 inch, with the rebar I can make length adjustments. If the ground is soft I would make it longer. The longer ones were much more expensive. I also did a section with timber 2 high. I was trying to keep the bed mostly level so the down hill side needed higher frame.
One problem I ran into was water draining out of my first bed but as luck had it I had the next bed right there so I put tomatoes right at the leak area and let the water where it wants to go.
I implemented one idea you gave me. The idea was to use plastic for presure treated wood, well my wood is not pressure treated but I do want to keep the water contained in the garden so in my next down hill bed I put a liner of plastic.
I will email a picture to you in a few minutes.
My 2 cents on landscape timbers. If there is a sawmill in your area you might consider checking them out to see if they have any timber that is naturualy rot resistant. Not because of concerns with the wood treatment but getting wood from local sawmills is like buying food from local farmers. It just makes sense to try to do as much as possible.
You may even find a local guy with a portable mill that will two side some of that live oak you have.
Personaly I have seen white oak out last landscape timbers in ground contact (I don’t know if live oak is similar). Of course landscape timbers can be considerably different depending on where they come from.
Also there is a product for treating wood that John over at Grow your greens suggested using…
I am testing a similar product that I got from Amazon.
Of course having said all that I can see that grabbing a pickup load of landscabe timbers would be easier… Although developing a relationship with a local sawmill owner might be worth the trouble.
Hi Jack. I love the bed design. I am hoping to implement this system for my home garden on the farm I have just moved to.
I am being very nit picky here, but in the episode you ranked the top five natural soil building systems and placed forests above a savannah. There is no way that forest build more soil than pasture dominant eco-system. Nothing on land builds topsoil faster and deeper than grasslands.
Anyway, keep it up you are doing great work
@Evan, really well you better tell Geoff Lawton that, LOL.
Concepts and Themes in Design > Hierarchy of Soil Creation in Natural Systems>
Geoff Lists the following for soil creation in order
1. Shallow Marine
2. Shallow Lakes and Ponds
5. Mulched Gardens
A game laden savanna is pretty awesome but it can’t compete with the annual leaf drop from a mature forest. I remember days in the deer woods with leaf drop so deep it was like wading in snow up to my thighs. Take that and fungus and you get soil creation very rapidly with far less erosion then on open plains.
Funny you should mention the flue liners. I bury mine in the ground (rock on bottom), and store carrots for the winter….
I would like to see the input(s) for a lawn… I see three acre lawns out here with some old retired fart plodding along with a ride on mover….for what?
Jack…great podcast…I do have a concern with sing a galvanized tank in you ap system…according to Murray hallum, galvanized tanks are poisonous to fish and should not be used in any part of a system….use things that are chemically inert. ..copper is out also
With all respect to Murry there are literally thousands upon thousands of successful systems with galvanized tanks, the majority in fact are using them. Even those with plastic totes for the fish are still 9 times out of 10 using stock tanks for grow beds.
Hey Jack, I sent you an email about being stuck in Dallas today offering to be an input for the back yard permaculter project.
Let me know if I can help
I replied with where exactly are you and that I am up in Azle and tied up with production till at least 2pm today. Sounds like you need a ride over, I may or may not be able to do that today, depending on where exactly you are and when you need to be taken back.
I don’t think I would be doing aquaponics. Those systems seem to always need eyeballs on them at some level. Could you ever go on an extended vacation with an aquaponics system? Or do you merely gut the fish, put them in the freezer, pull the plants, and start over when you get back?
As far as sustainability and energy balances, isn’t a lot of this talk silly?
It is completely subjective of the person applying the boundary conditions as to what energy is seen as an ‘input (low or high)’ and what is an ‘output’. How close or wide you scope those boundaries can lead you to very different answers on any given system.
As far as sustainability, that is a made-up term because entropy is eating your lunch. I don’t care if the energy is coming from a person or coming from chicken manure and leaf litter. The 2nd law of thermo says it will give out. It may not give out in a person’s lifetime; however, it will. Without the next generations wanting/needing to understand these systems, and keep them functional for people, these systems will go away, nothing is sustainable.
Some would argue that ‘nature hates voids’, something will always takes it places. Sure, but are you ready to eat whatever nature sees fit as that environment changes? Nature could push something into a forest condition or desert. But to assume that a system is somehow isolated in a bottle, and is able to keep itself in perfect balance is a dam lie.
Permaculture is great from a systems point of view. Most people think of gardening as isolated plots that the person doesn’t want interacting with the surrounding environment. Permaculture gets a plus-up for moving the boundary conditions wider than a person’s raised beds. It also does a good job of getting everybody reacquainted with their 6th grade environmental science classes. However, it’s preachers, need to be willing to accept that the ethics are nice, but the return ethos is very high-minded, and sustainability is about as achievable as perpetual motion.
In closing, permaculture needs to be honest with people about what it can achieve and what it’s limits are, and get real in their usage of words. Until that happens, claiming permaculture do be a ‘science’ is being intellectually dishonest.
Ah, the second law of thermodynamics, the law that is true but does not matter because no system is isolated.
Nope not one system on planet earth is completely isolated. You see there is this big bright yellow colored ball hanging out in the sky we call the sun that continues to beam energy onto the surface of the planet day after day and so on. So yes these permaculture systems can and will go on with minimal to no inputs, because they will continue to gain inputs from the sun for free, no matter what we do.
I think one of the goals of permaculture is to make the best use of that sun input to create a system that gives and eventually only needs that one input from the sun.
My friend, touting the idea that the second law of thermodynamics even matters is intellectually dishonest.
So would it make you feel better if they used a disclaimer stating that when they use the term sustainability they don’t actually mean the system will last forever?
Sometimes ones intellect gets in the way of common sense
But some of these systems do last forever, they simply success if we stop limiting them. People that want to nit pick about entropy never actually understand permaculture. They certainly do not understand the work we do to cope with it, little energy rebounds and flicks, like this one.
They will say look at the human labor that goes in. Yet if a human puts in 5,000 calories of work and that extracts 25,000 calories of food, the human labor has a positive return.
Barngeek has it right with that little yellow fireball. The energy dumped on the earth for one day could sustain us for many months if only we could harvest it all. Permaculture is massive solar harvesting system, even if no glass panels are used in it.
If you want to get technical and say no system is infinitely sustainable you get down to the fact that one day the sun will go nova and burn the entire place to a crisp.
To start, yes, words matter, it would be better to say Permaculture is building more resilient systems. Jack has talked numerous times about the fact that the meaning of words has been hijacked from their original definition. If you ever want to correct that problem, make it a point to not succumb to the current tendencies. Sustainability has been hijacked to the point that it lives with the unicorns in most people’s head (i.e.- perpetual motion).
I agree with one of your statements. Permaculture is trying to get your system setup so the only input needed is the sun. If you can do that, then you are very close (even the sun causes problems). However, I don’t see that as possible. Outside forces always come in. And from a life science perspective, that is your entropy. It isn’t about waiting for the sun to burnout. A feral pig is entropy in action, same with a hailstorm. Entropy is a fancy way to talk about chaos theory. And you don’t need the extreme examples of the 100-year flood or freak storm. You just need enough of any other outside forces, and the system will need your attention.
The solutions permaculture should be trying to present, keep your ecosystem in the elastic part of the stress-strain curve. Once your system enters the plastic region, you don’t necessarily reach failure, but your curve changes because the system has been permanently deformed, which in turn means your elastic region could be much smaller or larger (though highly doubtful).
Permaculture, as most people state it, reminds me of physicist that always work with frictionless systems. It makes things easy to calculate on paper, but it is always more complex. I turn to your simple compost pile as an example. If you feel heat coming off your pile, that is entropy. You are not getting 100% energy transfer from one state to the next. Yes, even for those that want to bury pipes in their compost pile. Energy is being conserved, but some is always going to take a form that will escape the ability of utility no matter how many traps are made for it. I think most people don’t realize just how inefficient composting is from a energy transfer perspective, but for all its inefficiencies the system is incredibly resilient.
I am not an enemy of permaculture. I actually embrace the systems approach it takes. However, I get set off because I don’t think many of its bullhorns have a very good science background to teach it as a science. If Lawton, Jack, or any of its disciples actually did an energy balance equation on a whiteboard versus the general hand waving you always see, it would start to be more science.
The biggest test for permaculture would be to create a true 5 zone system with real numbers attached to it. To bill itself as a science, gather all the inputs, energy available, energy needed, outputs, biomass, etc. Have the system run for say 10 years with human interaction, to allow the recording of continued energy inputs and outputs (from storms to fruits). They have models and numbers for all this stuff. I will grant you that margin of error can be substantial, but a lot of biological science does. At that point, have the humans take their hands off the wheel, and lets see what happens. Go in and make recordings every 10 years. I don’t think the results will be kind.
Granted, such a test clearly goes against ethic #2 (care for people, it technically is doing nothing for people, if people are prohibited from entering other than to monitor and record). However, I feel many talks always go to the extreme saying that ‘even if people disappeared this system would last indefinitely.’ I say prove it. That is science.
Until a control system is created, permaculture has the same problem science has with God. It cannot prove or disprove the subject because it is all talk. To say the proof is that the earth has had life for XX numbers of years is a bull**** answer. Most of that time people were not here, so just start building the control group to prove the concept.
I believe that many of these systems could last for many generations, but they will always need our help and energy. And for the bold statements that people tend to make, they are not helping to promote permaculture as a science. It will continue to be seen as merely religion and hippie lingo.
Closing, I don’t feel you can simply cast the topic of entropy/energy-loss off when every conversation revolving around systems humans’ need/want is a struggle towards higher efficiencies. It doesn’t matter if it is your garden, your money, or your air conditioner. Entropy is very real, and although it would seem to most to be such a big thing and nothing they can do about it. I don’t think many grasp the reason why you will continue to have to work no matter how good the marketing message is.
Looking forward to seeing some of the visuals you referenced in this podcast–your vids and the pics of the dude’s aquaponic setup.
glad to hear things are coming along nicely!
Jack how come you didn’t just build the beds higher ala Sepp Holzer style?
1. I didn’t want 1.5 meter hills in that area of my property
2. Even if I did with our shallow top soil and rock I would need to bring in likely 15 – 20 yards of soil per bed to build them, too input intensive.
Another awesome show!
Sometimes I feel like you are spying on me as you keep making shows talking about, and doing exactly what I am doing when the show comes out. Don’t stop it’s very helpful and reassuring 🙂
Woody core beds
I made some woody core contour beds last summer / fall that look very similar to yours with only a few minor differences. After I piled the wood up I covered it ~2″ deep with rabbit shit, then put the black dirt on top. These were cover cropped until this spring, they are now in production and going nuts. I also installed worm towers every 3′, and micro irrigation. Being right off my back deck, zone 1, I wanted to intensify the fertility as much as possible.
Forest garden / Food forest
I just finished swale #2 out of 4 for my backyard forest garden. This is the back 1/2 of my property, ~50’x120′. What did I do to help dig the swales? The tiller!! Flagged off contour, then ran the tiller over it a few times to loosen up the turf for easier digging.
I think it’s awesome that we are both implementing similar systems in roughly the same time frame in completely different climates. Can’t wait to compare notes and lessons learned with you and fellow TSPers.
Hey Jack, Any web links or contact info for your guest with the simplistic aquaponic drain system?? I’m about to start building my grow beds and I’m always looking for a more reliable functioing system.
Waiting on some pics from him.
Please tell me besides daikon radish bringing up nutrients, what factors figured into your crop choices? Could you let us know, how you figured out to put a certain cover crop into your mix when you picked buckwheat, cowpea, millet, and others? If a person would design a mix, what would they be looking for? Is this from a list in a permaculture study?
Mostly I wanted FAST growing annuals that would make lots of organic matter but be easy to make go away when I decided too.
Millet is basically an annual grass, with it I get a yeild for the chickens and some straw style mulch. It loves heat and we are about to be hot as heck. It is shallow rooted and will pretty much die when I chop it.
Buckwheat is very fast, full cycle in 6-8 weeks, lots of flowers to attract insects. When mature I can cut and use some as mulch and toss some to the birds.
Daikon you pretty much nailed, dynamic accumulator and a fast carbon pathway. The big dying tap roots will encourage bacterial activity in the soil as well.
White Cayouse Oat will be cut and regrow for about 18 months so lots of mulch and it will out live the rest of the stuff.
Red Cow Pea will fix nitrogen and provide organic matter and if I let it mature the chickens will love the peas.
No it isn’t a list from a permaculture class but it is the results of a permaculture view. It is understanding functional relationships and it is also time stacking, the bed isn’t meant to be a place for this stuff to grow long term. These crops are being used to provide mulch, accumulate nutrient, choke out weeds, repair the soil, retain moisture, encourage bacterial activity and provide a yield for livestock.
Based on my results this year I would advise people to seriously consider just doing this and may be adding perennials like I did to beds that will support them for the first crop. It really is working better then the planted and mulched beds. I may even look into establishing annuals via this method next year. If I did that long livers like the daikon would get cut way back and likely the oats would be eliminated.