Designs

Reducing my carbon footprint/Making better use of my time and energy

1. Overview

This design started life as an exercise to look at my carbon footprint, with a view to looking at how I can reduce my impact on earth's resources, especially fossil fuels. It later evolved into a design looking at how to make better use of my time and energy.

Read more: Reducing my carbon footprint/Making better use of my time and energy

Indian Family Forest Garden Design

Overview

This is a private job, where I have been asked by the client to keep their information private. However they are okay for me to share some parts of the design. They are an Indian couple, living in a suburb of London, in a nice large house with a medium sized London garden. They wanted to become more self sufficient, and make good use of their garden.

 

Working with a client

I met the client at a free event where I was showing one of my designs. The clinet approached me after to do something similar for their garden. I was rather reticent at first, as I preferred to do community jobs than private jobs. However they bribed me with some Indian home cooking and agreed to pay for me to come for the evening just to discuss the idea. So I went and looked at the site and conducted a basic interview. During the discussion they convinced me this would be a good example for the Asian community and that they would make sure plenty of people would be inspired by this garden, and the deall clincher was, that they would keep feeding me with their wonderful home cooking. So how could I refuse to take on this job.

 

The following day I gave them my proposal by email

04 IFFG 00 Proposal

 

The clinet agreed to the terms and so I set to work

 

Choosing a methodology

 

They wanted a simple low maintenance forest garden designed, so I chose to use my forest garden design methodology "Raks Forest Garden Design Methodology". I would like to give it a fancy name or any acronym, but being clever with words is not my strong point (if someone would like to offer any help, please do email me).

 

The parts of the design are as follows

  • Collect info
  • Evaluate
  • Make a map
  • Canopy
  • Understory
  • Water
  • Paths
  • Nutrients
  • Adjust trees shrubs and paths to accommodate nutrient requirements
  • Shrubs
  • Complete paths
  • Identify uses for sections
  • Design guilds to include herbaceous, climbers,creepers and root layers
  • Implement
  • Manage

 

Now if we tried to make into an acronym from this it would be "CEMCUWPNASCIDIM".... yeah right!!!! I think we can discount that idea! Lets stick to Raks Forest Garden design methodology" for now.

 

Working through the methodology

 

Collect info

Clients wants

  • As much food as possible
  • No fixed ideas as they have no idea what can and what cannot grow here
  • Unusual or expensive things which would save them money and could be used to swap
  • They asked me to recommend whatever I think would be appropriate
  • They have a green chair that they made from wood and grass, whcih they would like to keep
  • They like the idea of treating their own greywater and having a pond
  • They liked my suggestions of a mix of herbs, medicines, fruits as well as green leaves, roots, salads, etc
  • They had no idea the one tree they had was a magnolia, so I suggested we keep it, but they were not bothered either way.

 

Maps

I was given some rough maps which they drew up before I arrived. I later checked these measurements and made a google sketchup map of the place

 

Soil sample

I took some soil samples from various places

 

Wind statistics

I found some statistics for the prevailing wind. The client had no idea, so I went to the local park and spoke to the park keeper to confirm the general pattern was correct

 

Evaluate

The site is very sunny, apart from directly in front of the shed. The only plant in the place is a magnolia tree and an apple tree that hangs over from next door. The soil is silty clay, so needs organic matter and the pH is reasonable. Given the open scope of this project I drew up some categories of plants and made a suggested plant list accordingly. This is roughly the list I recommended (this is the polished version, which came later in the design).

 

Zones

As you can see I made the zones map on top of the final plan. Thoug in the real design I identified the zones long before. And identified it on the sketchup designs (which is not as nice to look at, hence including the more pretty zone map with the rough planting design underneath).

 

Make a map

04 IFFG 01 collect Map Basemap 110921

 

 

 

Canopy, Understory and structures

The following pictures do not accurately describe the actual process, but they do show wher esome of the elements are finally placed. The real process is to list all possible canopy and understory trees as well as any structures. The structures are run through the permaculture principles to evolve them, and the trees are discussed and I move them around until they are in the best position to ensure they thrive, i.e. they all get the amount of light, soil type, etc.

 

Here are some of the Canopy and undserstory trees and a few shrubs

04 IFFG 04 05 canopy understory

 

Here I have added some of the structures. The most interesting invention being a seated area which is the focal point of the design, which has a half hugle sloping around each side. This is a design I have since used severl times in different places, but this was the place where I invented this construction. This came about from the idea of wanting to give them a place they could sit and meet friends, which doubles up as a food growing space. By placing aromatic plants at the top (which happens to be the dryest place, and therefore we can put in medeteranian herbs), we make the place aromatic as well as a plac you can sit while collecting herbs.

04 IFFG 04 05 canopy understory structures

 

 

Water

Given I had already made a similar design, i saw no need to reevaluate this. So I took an existing pattern and adjusted the detail. The water for the garden comes from shower greywater. It comes from a shower which is on the first floor on the east side of the building. We installed a switcher junction so we can adjust where the water goes to. Then took the T-pipe and ran it to the greywater treatment system at the back of the garden. We chose to put it there as garden slightly slopes back to the house, which means any overspil can soak back into the garden. The output from the greywater system then enters the pond, which during the implementation we intentionally modified to take a full round through stones (maximising edge) before entering the deep part of the pond. Water from there then overspills to create a bog. There is also an extra overspil which takes water and soaks it deep into the soil accross the garden.

 

04 IFFG 06 water

 

Here you can

04 IFFG 06 water greywater

 

Paths

With the key elements in place, inlcuing the structures, canopy and understory layers, the paths are then added to most efficiently carry people to each area.

04 IFFG 07 paths and hugle

 

Nutrients

Now that we know all the major plants, we cancluate the nutrients needed to keep all plants happy all year.

04 IFFG 08 nutrient calculation

 

 

Adjust trees shrubs and paths to accommodate nutrient requirements

Now that I know all the elements for this place, I can play with where they all go. At this point I looked at creating 3 scenarios for the client, though I must admit I cannot find the two other scenarios (I have a feeling they were on paper, which is now lost). The other scenarios were taking into consideration their desire to keep the green chair they built, and one scenario which was a hlaf way house between my preferred design and sticking to their specification. In the end they chose my design, which is why I have it in sketchup.

 

Shrubs

While adding the shrubs to the design I do so taking into consideration the nutrient requirements. Often at this stage some of the trees need to be taken out to make room for the necessary nutrient fixing trees and shrubs. Where possible I use shrubs, especially on borders.

 

Complete paths

Having adjusted the shrubs and trees I can now finalise the paths. This then starts to clarly define regions in the landscape, i.e. distinct areas with clear borders, which I can then evolve in the next step.

 

04 IFFG 04 05 canopy understory structures

 

Identify uses for sections

Havng now found some clear areas in the design, I now start to identify what each space will evolve into and how it will be used. I can then set about making guilds as the final stage of the planting plan.

 

04 IFFG 12 sections 06 Guilds

 

 

Design guilds to include herbaceous, climbers,creepers and root layers

This is the final part of the design. We now have a nice clear patternn of what happens in each areas that we have created. So now we can finish off the detail and make plant guilds (plants that help each other), for each section.

 

Implement

Once the three designs were completed I showed them to the client.

1. Clients will

2. My design
3. Combination of mine and their ideas

Client chose my design

 

We then agreed a strategy and chose the dates we would start the work and we began. I insited the client got involed in the implementation so that they could have a good idea of what is going where and start making a connection to their new garden.

 

I only managed to get a few pics of the implementation which are acceptable to show (given the client wants to remain anonamous)

 

 

Manage


 

Summary

Half way through the implementation the couple filed for bankrupcy, so I was unable to complete it in the way I wanted. I did however continue to work there for free just to fulfil my duty to nature and create a haven we were aiming to create. Regarding the methodology, I realise this works much better in practice, than it does on paper. This is the first time I have tried to write up this process, and given that it is not a linear process, I really struggled to capture this process in a linear form of documentation. I have designed many forest gardens using this methodology and it works very smothly. I also teach this and my students also agree it is simple, logical and effective. I will give it some thought to see how I am improve it and make the written form more closely match the documented form. Perhaps the next design I make I will document as I go, rather than as in this case trying to adjust the info I collected for the client and make it fit a design documentation.

Simple day to day permaculture designs - Keeping my bathroom clean

Overview

Not every design has to be a grand affair. Permaculure design methodology and its tools can be used to design almost any aspect of meeting human needs. So here I want to demonstrate how it can be applied to the most mundane areas of life, such as keeping your bathroom clean.

 

Read more: Simple day to day permaculture designs - Keeping my bathroom clean

Permaculture shed-cum-greenhouse

Overview

This design is to replace the dilapidated shed at the Talbot gardens permaculture garden. The shed is at the back of the garden, underneath the cherry tree. It probably would have fallen over if it were not for a broken branch from the cherry tree, which has been propping it up. Likewise the branch probably would have snapped off if it were not snagged on the shed. The shed was totally rotten on the inside, including the roof walls and floor. So it had to be replaced. One thing we always wanted in this garden was a greenhouse, but we also need a shed, so this design looks to see if we can combine the two.


Choosing a methodology

This is a relatively simple design, hence choosing CEAP.


Working through the methodology


Collect site information

The specification was quite simple, we needed a new shed and we wanted to have a greenhouse. Anything else was useful but not essential. I interviewed my parents about what they wanted and added a few things I also wanted.

 

Interview with my parents, plus a few of my ideas

Main needs: Storage space; Greenhouse
Would also like: Teaching space; Outdoor cooking facilities; Seated area
Security: The shed has been broken into a few times, so do not keep any valuable things in the shed

 

Shed location

The shed is at the back of the garden below the cherry tree

09 Perma-shed Collect Base 

 

Existing shed

Here is a google sketchup image of the existing shed currently

09 Perma-shed Collect Original shed

 

And the real shed. Notice how the tree is supporting the shed

09 Perma-shed Implement 01 old shed

 

Evaluate the information

Input output elements analysis and ethics analysis

This simple mind map takes looks at the elements identified in survey and considers how the ethics of permaculture apply.

09 Perma-shed Evaluate-xm

 

Design web element analysis

The design web takes all the inputs (needs) and outputs (surpluses) of each element and tries to ensure all needs are met from within the system. The elements are in yellow boxes. If a need cannot be met by one of the existing elements, I have introduced a new element, which are in the green boxes. Similarly I also make sure all outputs (surpluses) are used in the system or are used in nearby systems. In this case some the new elements existed and some were new. The new elements are Solar PV, Garden, Compost and sun.

09 Perma-shed Evaluate elements

 

Apply permaculture principles

Apply principles and patterns to the analysis

Here I now go into details using permaculture principles and patterns to stimulate ideas for the design. Please note there are a few unanswered questions in the design.

09 Perma-shed Apply-xm

 

The final design

Having taken into account all the ideas raised in the above design process, this was the final result.

09 Perma-shed Apply-01 complete

 

 

Plan execution

The expected build

Needless to say where you are relying on recycled materials and friends to help with the  build, making a firm plan is very difficult. So at best, the following is a rough step by step guide to how I imagine it will be built. Having said that, as materials come in, we may need to change the design depending to make best use of the material.

 

Demolition time

Took a day to knock down the shed and week to clean up the mess. Here you can see a time lapse of it being taken apart.

09 Perma-shed Implement 03-dismantling-timelapse

 

The actual build

So far we have only managed to find 3 days to build the shed. So its a lot slower than expected, but at least it has a roof and 3 sides, plus a door.

 

Evaluation

Given that the build is not yet complete, it is difficult to make a proper evaluation. I will make an evaluation after it is complete.

 

Summary

The design process was once again very joyful and creative. Taking an old shed and rebuilding it with several functions in mind was a great challenge. The design took a few weeks to evolve, at which point I started making the sketchup design. We found most of the materials from skips and other places, though we did buy a decent marine ply and pond liner for the roof. More or less everything else was recycled. The original walls in case you were wondering have been reused in the back wall and side walls. The rotten wood went into a new hugel bed, and the rest are waiting to find a usage. The beehive was an unexpected addition to the design. I have an idea of making something similar to a Perone hive but nowhere near as tall, and mainly for bees rather than for honey. The solar PV will most likely be fitted to the greenhouse. I am looking at clear amorphous cells which will let light through as well as collecting solar power. 

Council Estate Community Food Growing Project

Overview

This project was on a council estate in central London. The council estate management team made it almost impossible for us to set up a food growing space even though in their public literature they said how great they were at providing food growing spaces for its tenants. So after almost 2 years of failing to make any headway a group of residents decided to do it on our own on a private garden within the estate. We approached a friend who was living with an octogenarian who we knew loved gardening when he was younger, and he very happily invited us to use his garden. The majority of the people who were interested in getting involved had no idea about growing food, so teaching became the priority.

 

Read more: Council Estate Community Food Growing Project

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