One of our latest projects has been to produce a large-scale design for a yoga retreat.
Our Design Process
- Conduct diagnosis of existing site features (including risks).
- Prepare guiding policy. The permaculture design offers a detailed plan to build wealth and empowerment to the residents and visitors.
- Set an action plan based on the fundamental ethics and ideals. These actions are driven by passion and feelings of the residents and result in self-reliance, abundance and greater harmony within the local community.
Firstly, we examined the current land use and drew up a sector analysis. One of the aspects of the sector analysis was the narrow solar window. The yoga retreat sits in a narrow valley. This means the morning sun is late and the afternoon sun falls away early in the afternoon.
We looked at all the natural energies on the site. The analysis included the surface watershed to and from the property. We identified which risks were threatening property. The risk diagnosis alone will save the client in substantial costs far greater than the cost of the design. There were expensive threats to key structures. One of the threats to the foundations of a building was by local deer. Another structure was suffering erosion by surface water from a poorly directed drain.
Although the current practices on the site by staff and residents were fairly sensible, there were plenty of opportunities to increase efficiency.
Zoning enables the design to put groups of elements into an area based on their needs and products. Put elements that require high levels of observation and attention close to the staff and resources. When an element requires less attention, it is positioned further away.
Delicate sprouts and seedlings require daily observation and attention to keep them watered and pest-free. Simply position needy elements near to the care-givers. Zone 0 contains the elements that demand the highest level of attention.
In contrast to the sprouts and seedlings, vegetable greens are harvested as they become ready. These elements are slightly less needy. They belong in Zone 1.
A tree that bears fruit only once a year goes further away in Zone 2 or 3. Crops that need lots of space include pumpkin vines, corn or choko. So these go in Zone 3. Crops that are harvested only as required (e.g. tinder for winter fires) are positioned far away. But they sit along a track to make the harvest, storage and transportation easy. Deer and other large animals are directed to outer zones only.
Sun Trap Gardens
The sun-trap garden faces the morning sun. Plant deciduous trees on the north-east boundary. The winter sun will penetrate through the bare branches. Whereas, evergreen trees sit on the southern and western boundaries to shelter the sun-trap from hot afternoon suns rays.
Slow the water to consolidate your resources. One can never argue with water. Water knows gravity and follows. Slowing the water increases the chances for plants to absorb it. Water falls gently to the plants below.
Easy Tea Gardens
There were areas where expensive and thirsty lawns had died off to expose the dusty soil below. The design adds wicking beds of tea herbs. These structures are multi-functional. They include relaxing garden seats.
Making A Sacred Space
A Sacred space is positioned beside the riverbank. The focal point could be a very large rock or platform. Large rocks are abstract but majestic. Abstract creations are not easily damaged by passing travelers. Sculptures, one the other hand, are at higher risk.
An alternative focal point is a defined space. A space can hold reverence. Often a sunken area formed by mounds, a glade of trees or walled garden feels inviting and embracing.
Residents will learn to eat what grows easily in their environment. This is easier than forcing the landscape to grow foods that we are in the habit of demanding. The notion of re-educating our palette helps us to adapt to climate uncertainty.
Connections with the broader local community are enriched by the allocation of space for a community garden. This design element is a win-win. The community garden would help maintain the neglected corner of the property whilst benefiting from ideas and better connections to the local community.
Key Activities in Staging Plan
- Redress the risks
- Build diversity and intensity within the existing gardens before building any new garden areas
- Use natural attrition plan to replace evergreen trees on northern side of structures with deciduous trees
- Start at Zone 0 and work outwards. For example: grow sprouts, seedlings and tea herbs. These provide a good yield for minimum cost and effort. Then add companion plants to the orchard.
Start small and build on the successes.
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