Monday, November 29, 2010

Care for the Earth ....Growing Soil

Soil testing showed a pH range of 8-10, with no access to sulphate returning crop waste and jungle mulch was the only option. Returning organic matter has shown pH can be lowered to 6.5-7 the ideal range for vegetable and fruit gardens. Other strategies to improve tropical soils are the planting of ground and tree legumes, water harvesting techniques to avoid loss and run off.  


The ceasing of bare soil cropping and designing garden beds to hold humus and avoid leaching are a necessity. Dig long trenches to a depth of 1-1.5m and 1-2m wide or 2 arm spans to avoid compacting soil when walking on. Line trenches with cardboard, paper, green leafy plant material or plastic. Be careful not to create a pond that can fill up, allow water to drain leaving an end unsealed.  Raised beds up to 750mm above ground level lined with cardboard and filled with mulch and soil acheive the same result.


For this bed (3m x3m) due to the pH and need for long term food production the bed had soil removed to a depth of apox 1m as going further would of started to get close to the water lense. Cardboard was then layed , drainage, seepage pipes  were placed to catch water from heavy downpours and filled with food waste as a store for worms which could act as a slow release fertiliser. 

Organic waste including weeds from the garden, kitchen  scraps including fish and chicken frames were spread. Removed soil was then replaced  mixed and layered with previously made compost. 



Finally a 100mm thick layer of mulch was then applied and watered in. 

The next step is to plant nitrogen fixing beans and edge plant with lemongrass for a chop and drop mulch. 

In one month a soil pH test will be done ... stayed tuned   

Materials used:
Green waste 1x wheelbarrow
Vegetable waste 2xwheelbarrow
Compost 10x wheelbarrow
Mulch 5xwheelbarrow
Chicken and Fish frames half a wheelbarrow


Monday, November 22, 2010

Dirty Hands

After two weeks of training I have now got down and dirty.. yahoo!
My first permaculture garden in the Maldives !! The brief was to design a garden for the hosts accommodation area to beautify and to have a place to relax and chill as previously it looked like a waste land.

Earlier in the week pH tests were done in various parts of the island which showed alkaline soil ranging from 8-10 so here was the perfect opportunity to design using tropical strategies for sandy soils.

The design of the garden was to be low maintenance, use of hardy local plants and to be productive as well as welcoming. The design included two banana circles, red and green varieties. Lemon grass, pandan and native Spider Lilly as a guild for edge planting . This guild will provide chop and drop mulching material as well as a natural mosquito repellent and a food source for teas and cooking . Aloe and passion fruit were also included for medicinal use and pick and eat . For mass planting, plants from the jungle were collected as well. 
Soil was removed to a depth of about 1 m then cardboard was layed to seal the bottom to prevent loss of organic matter through leaching. Drainage was added either by a 45 mill pvc pipe with shade cloth over each end to prevent root penetration and leaving one end free to drain if became water logged .  Leaves were also spread over the cardboard to help seal then vegetable scraps were scattered on top to add organic matter . To lower pH organic matter is seen as necessary if flowers of sulfate are not available . More compost was then added to the soil and placed back with finally a thick mulch covering of 10cm of jungle cutting put through a mulcher.
The banana circles had water run off from the roof and laundry water  diverted to them with cuts in the pipe also covered in shade cloth to prevent root invasion as drip irrigation to the beds. Banana circles were dug to a depth of 1 m and also lined with cardboard then filled with Jungle cuttings with water and a lot of jumping up and down .  Bananas were planted in each circle with the smaller variety to the front.
Finally Coconut fibre was used on the pathway which in time will be used as mulch on the garden beds once decayed enough.

Now watch it grow !!!!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Silver Lining

This week has been the start of an amazing adventure. I have been undergoing  orientation to all the different departments within the resort finding out how they function looking at their inputs and outputs.

As the role of Permaculturist is to manage "Waste to Wealth"  in such a fragile environment I am continually assessing each department to the 8 principles of Permaculture.  

Permaculture Principles

  1. Relative location of elements placed to assist each other
  2. Each element performs many functions at least 3
  3. Efficient energy planning ( zones and sectors)
  4. Emphasis on use of biological resources over fossil fuels
  5. Energy recycling on site (fuel and human)
  6. Using and accelerating natural plant succession to establish favorable sites and soils
  7. Polyculture and diversity to benefit species for productive , interactive systems
  8. Use of edge and natural patterns for best effect
Through addressing these principles when designing solutions for this unique environment we can only plan to succeed .