Permaculture case study

Permaculture case study

Permaculture case study

Mark and Elaine both work full time. Mark is a surveyor whilst Elaine is a full time carer

They recently bought a new build home in Dorset, the couple work full time so they can afford to keep paying the mortgage, and with energy bills rising, interest rates rising and fuel costs rising their income, like many others, is stretched. However, because their time is also stretched to the limit, they decided to lay fake grass, (plastic turf) in the back garden, believing it will give them back valuable time to complete other tasks and hobbies.

Their borders are laid with pebbles and slate and they have a plastic recycled decking with an array of led lights. The garden furniture is also plastic.

During the summer, their garden became so hot they couldn’t walk barefooted on the plastic turf. The 6′ high fence around the perimeter edge provided the perfect environment to capture the daytime heat and as such the garden became unbearable to be enjoy for longer periods of time.

This was becoming stressful for them, all the time and money they invested now felt wasted as they couldn’t fully enjoy the space they created to relax in. On top of this, the garden smelt rotten. The soil beneath the plastic turf was beginning to give off a nasty rotten chemical like smell, which was likely to be contributed from the neighbours cats using it to relieve themselves as well as the rotten organisms beneath the plastic covering.

By the 2nd year, the heat and smell of the plastic turf and cat wee became unbearable and they needed help. However, with the cost of bills rising, their funds were stretched and couldn’t afford an instant garden landscaping solution.

Whilst scrolling around on social media Elaine found us, and made contact. We explained what we could do and how a bespoke design could be created based on their lifestyle and their needs and would also involve minimal maintenance input whilst being able to provide in return in the form of fresh produce, in turn, this would help with reducing their food costs.

Mark was interested in the fact they could grow food in their garden with little maintenance by creating a mini food forest. Elaine liked the idea of a small pond to encourage pest eating wildlife and grape vines that could make homebrewed wine!

The Permaculture design would be created to allow them to create the environment in stages knowing that their time was limited due to work commitments and assist with overall costs by spreading them out over the time.

Our first task was researching the location, soil testing, topography, solar path, rainfall and wind effects as well as the surrounding area and any history available to us that would provide evidence of contamination of the ground likely to have been cussed during the disturbance throughout the construction of the property.

Our most concerning aspect was the results of the soil samples from the lab. These indicated high levels of toxicity and microplastics. The toxicity levels were believed to be a combination of building chemicals used and the breakdown of the plastic from the artificial turf. Clearly we couldn’t use the soil for planting edibles without Bioremediation, so we had to come up with an alternative solution.

For planting, we needed raised beds, pots or to provide a new layer of organic soil. Where the trees would be planted for providing edible fruits, we dug a considerable amount of Soil away and replaced it with new organic soil, mulch, compost, rotten wood, potash and organic matter. Beneath the trees we planted radish, clover and ferns to fix the nitrogen levels and provide absorption of any remaining contamination or any likelihood of contamination that seeped into the root system from the surrounding soil, though we believed this would be avoidable by the first steps taken during planting therfore was simply a precaution.

The design would incorporate water catchment using two stacked and interconnected 1000 ltr IBC containers connected to the downspouts of the guttering and hidden using recycled timber and grape vines producing fruit which could be eaten straight from the vine, dried or crushed to make wine. This would reduce the need to use tap water which is not suitable for plants due to the amount of chemicals and fluoride etc that prevents the plant from producing a good crop.

A small food forest that would provide apples of their choice, pears, plums and cherries would be planted in the area that needed to provide shade for other low lying plants which would encourage wildlife. Pollinating bees, hover flies and butterflies so that they can ensure a good crop of fruits from the fruit trees. It would encourage small birds to the garden giving a sense of peace and tranquillity as well as foragers for nematodes.

The pond would provide a microclimate for the trees whilst also allowing insects and other wildlife such as amphibians to deal with the pest control and manage slugs. A pond liner would be used to eliminate any contamination from the soil. The aeration of the pond would be handled by a solar powered pump. Leaves that fall from the trees during winter would provide the ground with mulch, leaf litter that gives microorganisms protection and food as well as valuable nutrients that will be drawn into the soil as part of the regeneration process.

Even the pond sludge could be cleared periodically and used by spreading it around the base of the trees to encourage a more productive ecosystem and boost organic life.

In the larger area remaining, raised beds were designed due to the condition of the soil and growing food directly in the existing soil was to be avoided due to the level of toxicity caused from the chemicals and microplastics that had leeched into the soil. Utilising organic top soil throughout the design was too costly.

Bioremediation could have been used for soil recovery, whereby specific species of plants are planted in order to absorb the pollutants.

These are sacrificial plants which absorb the pollutants often during only one season, which are then destroyed and burnt. However, this would have generated additional labour, cost, and time that wasn’t available for this project.

A range of easy to grow vegetables of their choosing will be grown in the raised beds. Woodchip will provide pathways between the beds, aiding in retaining moisture in the soil as well as providing deep drainage and absorption of any contamination into the lower layers of the soil.

A Herb spiral was designed to add flavour to their favourite dishes and for Elaine to enjoy freshly made herbal teas to which she is fond of and currently sourced by buying expensive ready made herbal teabags.

Extra additions to the design included a small wormery which including guidance and support on managing the Worms which will provide the most amazing fertiliser for their plants.

A compost bin was also included to collect organic waste.

Throughout the design careful consideration was given to the solar path, wind directions and rain fall. This allowed us to determine the optimum layout for the design to allow all the plants and trees to flourish and have full potential.

Companion planting was also a key consideration. Ensuring that the most vulnerable plants and vegetables had some form of protection from pests within each of their guilds. Companion planting not only provides the right nutrients to allow the plants to thrive, it also provides a distraction for pests. Some plants such as onions for example can put off pests and protect vulnerable species such as lettuce.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *