Permaculture in a Nutshell by Patrick Whitefield

I have read another book! And it was well worth the two month wait for the library to get it in.

I’m been interested in the subject of permaculture for a while and the more I found out about it the more interested and the more of a good idea, or right way of doing things, it seems to be. But it is a massive subject, and it is very hard to work out where to start with it but this book is excellent starting place, easy to read and, possibly most importantly, it makes it easier to see how permaculture can be made use of.

After reading the book I have decided on two smallish projects that will make a real difference, with very little work and with mean less of a work load in the long run.

Firstly; water butts near to the chickens and goat housing. We did have water butts by the goat house, isn’t that far from where the chickens and rabbits are kept, but the main one fell over twice (the garden isn’t very level in places and it wasn’t the best made or placed stand for it) and then the tap broke and it hasn’t been used since, meaning that water has to be carried all the way from the top of the garden by the house to the bottom of the garden where all the animals are. It also comes off the mains, which is not ideal.  We have a few water butts that could be used, they just need taps and putting in place. And now is the prefect time of year to do this seeing as we should be getting all the winter rain soon.

The input for this will be small maybe a few hours work, and minimum cost, the out come and productivity of it will be less carrying of water by people, less use of mains water, rain water is probably better for the animals, making use of a resource that would have otherwise gone to waste and the guttering on the goat housing (which is already up until the new housing is finished) will help stop some of the run off into the goat pen which makes is wet and bogging in wet weather.

Secondly; I am going to use a ‘no-dig’ method to bring the new allotment ground into use. The beds will be 1.2 meters wide, and the length of the allotment long, and the paths will all be 1 meter wide. After the beds have been pegged out (which has already started being done) they are ‘lined’ with cardboard boxes, which our local supermarket are more than grateful to give us, so as all of the ground and any weeds are covered and then this is covered in manure. This can be planted straight into, so long as the manure isn’t to fresh, and a layer of grass cuttings or straw (hay is not a good idea as it probably has lots of grass seeds in amongst it) to keep the moisture and warmth in.

The input for this will be a lot less than if I dug over each bed by hand, and added manure and then dug this in. It will mean weeds are less of a problem as the cardboard will block off the light to them. It will also mean that the ‘eco-system’ that builds up in soil to break things down and turn them into usable materials for the plants will not be disturbed and so can carrying on building up as the field was turned from grazing to allotment plots in April. Hopefully resulting in better soil and better crops.

Some other interesting bits from the book:

  • The first LETS was started in Canada in the 1930s in a small mining town, when the mining company pulled out of the area people were left with skills, and a need for other skills, but no way of earning a living and so the first LETS was born.
  • Growing vegetables in the tradition rows of beds is not the most productive way of growing them but where they are grown in this way than beds should be 1.2 meters way meaning the middle can be reached from either side, and paths should be 1 meter wide.
  • If you are already doing any of the following then you have already started practising permaculture: Enjoying the beauty of nature, growing some of your own food, walking, cycling or taking public transport instead of taking the car, making decisions about what you buy on the basis of how it affects the earth, reusing and recycling materials, supporting nature conservation

7 responses to “Permaculture in a Nutshell by Patrick Whitefield

  1. I love the permaculture concept, but feel really overwhelmed with it all. We have heavy clay soil and I just cannot see the no dig method working for us 😦
    I’m seriously thinking of grassing over our vegetable beds, putting down grass and planting apple trees instead – it’s such hard work and every year, without fail the weeds take over, no matter how hard I work out there – it’s really disheartening.

    Still, your plans sound fab – have you ever read Permaculture magazine? I might have a couple of issues if you want a browse.

    • I would find that disheartening too; have you tried growing veg in containers? Apple trees are nice, and fresh apples have so much taste to them.

      I have a few old copies of peraculture magazine that I have picked up from LETS but have never managed to read them in any detail, which is something I do with magazines where as books I somehow managed to take in much more information

  2. I’ve done deep beds in some shape or form for the last 20 years, it’s the only way I could gorw veg and work full time without being completely overwhelmed by digging or weeding a veg plot. It is the only way in my book to grow veg etc.
    Mrs Green – re clay soil, deep beds help tremendously as they help raise the soil level and make the clay easier to work. Where I live now I only have 6″ to 12″ of top soil, then onto solid clay. Deep beds have added another 8″ of growing medium to the soil. It will take a few years to get it fully friable, but I’m finding that each year it gets easier. Best start with 1 or 2 beds, and then increase them by 1 or 2 each year.


  3. Hiya, yes we grew in containers on the patio this year and had a lot of success, so I might try that again.

    Denise, thanks for sharing your experiences. I guess you are right; I think I’m just so tired of trying to work our soil and getting nowhere (seriously!)
    We have horsetail, bindweed, dock and something else I’m not sure of and it just takes over ….

    I’m not a natural gardener, as much as I would like to be one. I’m sitting here looking at weeds which have strangled most things and I know it will be the same again next year, despite the fact I clear the ground well at the beginning of the year.


    I sound like a whinger I know, but I’m just fed up of 6 years effort ending up nowhere

  4. One thing I have found with weeds, apart from the drated mares tail, is that the more I turn the soil over, the more weeds there are. Dock seeds live for up to 40years in the soil. What I do, and it’s not very organic, is for the first couple of years, spray the bed out that has all the weeds in, wait until they die down, then mulch with compost, grass clippings etc, to cover the soil. The weeds that grow in the compost are annuals, which I pull out, making sure not to expose the soil underneath. Slowly but surely the weeds get less.
    My Dad, who was a farmer, used to say that if a piece of new land was covered in weeds, it would grow anything

  5. Pingback: Sustainable food « A Life Less Simple

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