Thursday, March 14, 2013

Permaculture thoughts by Robyn Cornwell


The following are excerpts from my notes at Permaculture Training in Portland, Oregon presented by Darren Doherty and Geoff Lawton of the Permaculture Institute in New South Wales, Australia. I hope it is helpful and spurs some curiosity.

·   Permaculture is about food; agriculture is about commodities.
·   Put ducks in a pond on high ground; when it overflows it fertigates your garden below. Fertigation: Mixture of fertilizer with water. See book: The Power of Duck.
·   The east coast of the US is the most difficult place to design for because it has arctic winters and tropical summers with humidity. You would need two structures to be sustainable. The most sustainable building material is what is locally available – clay!
·   The key line is the valley between the convex and concave part of the hill. Build a dam below the key line and build swales on contour. Terracing is the same as contour without the key line.
·   Look at the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map and compare it with other countries with the same climate to see plants you can grow here.
·   Interrow Planting: Alternate fast-growing and slow-growing species. The fast one creates light competition and forces the slow one to grow more.
·   NFT: Nitrogen-fixing trees: Alder and Douglas (
·   Interplanting: In drier conditions, plant closer together, which protects from frost.
·   Grasslands (prairie) grow carbon faster than trees on the planet. The US has the greatest potential.
·   Don’t pull weeds – cut them at the base and leave the roots in, which create humus.
·   Weeds are fast carbon pathways that repair damaged land.
·   Organics is passé. Soil creation is the most important (Ecosystemic).
·   The US averages 200 tons of soil loss per year going into the ocean. This is how we nearly lost the Earth and life. All global warming is linked to it.
·   It takes nature 5,000 years to build 1” of topsoil, Yeoman can build 3” of topsoil in one year (see P. A. Yeomans at the site).
·   A sustainable system produces more energy than it consumes (with surplus to maintain its system) over its lifetime.
·   Earth will not be sustainable in our lifetimes. We are cheating time using gas that equals 1,000 years of sun in the forest without using real time. If we can’t learn to live in real time we are gone. We don’t need 300 horses per person; we need one horse for 100 people.
·   Moderate climate with:
Rocks: They offer thermal mass
Water: It offers thermal mass and reflection
Color:  White walls to cool, black tank to warm inside water.
·   Plant according to orientation:
Windy side: Bamboo
West: Hot plants; Black locust, bay laurel, chestnut, fig, kiwi (male and female), reflective leaves
East: Chestnut (grow very big)
North: Olive (only fruits when under stress), tall poplars. Make a mirror image of the sun’s arc on the north side with plants and tree heights.
For more fantastic information on permaculture see:
-Robyn Cornwell

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