Late last summer I travelled to Orkney to study and gain a training certificate in permaculture design with Graham Bell and his training assistants. It had always been my intention to do this after attending an Introduction course back in 2010. In the years in between I have moved several times due to work commitments and for now I am settled in Tayport. I wouldn’t class myself as a ‘gardener’ or ‘permaculturalist’, I am more someone who has a deep passion for life on Earth and a keen interest to create a life that is in greater harmony with the Earth, its seasons and to play whatever part I can in building a regenerative future. I have fond memories from childhood out in the garden with my Dad who loved to grow things and what little experience I have comes from those memories topped up with a love for nature.
So, what about permaculture? There are many things that excite me about permaculture. First, it is a direction not a destination. Its about producing edible landscapes that mirror natural ecosystems and it is a design process. Permaculture was originally developed by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the late 1970’s. Since then permaculture has evolved and is gaining more and more recognition as more and more people today look for better solutions to living sustainably on Earth. It is not just about growing, it is a way of life, “it’s a revolution disguised as gardening” and a thriving global movement. (more on that soon).
Just before the outbreak of Covid 19 and lockdown I had planned to develop my front garden, building some raised beds, and to develop more growing space creating my own edible landscape. But the pandemic meant putting aside what I was planning for now and gathering what resources I had to think of different ways to grow – adaptation is the key. What this time allowed me to do was to engage with the first principle of the permaculture design process, observe and interact.
I have been working through a design process based on those observations and interactions with my garden, nature, the elements, and my home lifestyle. I have interacted with the prevailing winds to think carefully about shelter and where to position each element of the design for optimum growth and suitable plant species. I have observed the magnitude of snails that love this space and lack of predators to help control their numbers. I have watched the trajectory of the sun to help think about spacing and plant species. I have been thrilled to witness goldfinches and yellow hammers timidly visit the garden to feast on dandelion seed heads and have been entertained by sparrows jumping around on my huge Angelica and fennel plants. I am also beyond excited to see how many different species of bees and pollinators that you can attract with careful attention to what you grow with them in mind and I am happy that I would never use any kind of pesticide or other chemicals. I know that I need to install a better system to capture and store rainwater and to give much more time and thought to composting. I have done a basic soil sample and know that I need to build a healthier soil to support healthier plant growth and animal species with more organic matter to enhance the soil health. From here I am now developing a careful design that will consider these observations and hopefully during Autumn I can begin to work through some of the implementation of more permanent solutions.