One of the most important aspects of Permaculture Design is to reduce our own waste by chosing more wisely, chosing products that have many uses and can be composted at end of life. Eg, clothes and containers furniture made of natural fibres or easily recycled materials such as metal and glass.
In our permaculture garden we aim to protect the soil from erosion so mulch is essential. We can use a lot of biodegradable rubbish for this task. Our neighbours donate material and slowly we have built up a good supply of edible or useful living mulch. Living mulch never decays or blows away, it also suppresses weeds by absorbing as well as blocking the light rays that ‘weed’ seeds need to germinate. We can also use clover on the driveway to catch dust and improve soil. Sweet potatoe goes directly in mulch and is our year round supply of greens and seasons tubers. Other encouraged ground covers include native violets, native wandering jew, warrigal greens, thyme, yarrow, and some variegated mint. Liquid manure is made from any infected or mouldy summer fruit. Noxious weeds such as Madiera Vine are fed to chickens or the worm farm. Others such as the Jasmine were suppressed with cardboard or carpet. Worms are fed to chickens, worm castings are tonic for young seedlings and cuttings. Blue tongue Lizards and Ducks control snails and slugs and fertilise the garden. Chickens eat kitchen scraps and clear grasses. Chickens also attack snakes deterring them from wood stacks and stick piles. Sticks are allowed to dry rot and then are used as mulch. Branches are used as fuel for heater, edges for no dig beds and to protect young plants from wayward hens or trampling ducks. Prickly stick-piles such as lantana have protected poultry from roaming dogs. Old bricks, and rocks found on site are also good mulch, attracting and holding moisture and supplying minerals. Old rusty metal is buried near citrus. The guinea pig “whipper” does a great job on lawn edges. Rain water is harvested from house (to tank and garden), front garden, driveway, poultry house. Garden beds are positioned within the natural shape of the site to direct, catch and hold rain water. The whole garden is designed to imitate nature and use natural energies (e.g. gravity, sun, wind). Boundary plants act to filter air (air quality indicators such as lichens have increased). Native plants and ponds are incorporated to shelter wildlife and increase diversity within the garden. Beneficial insects and amphibians are also encouraged by ponds and flowering plants. Plants are allowed to die back and set seed.
We also use some neighbour’s garden waste. Cypress pine chip is used to cover used wool carpet on paths, the carpet is relocated once the grass dies off and re-used again and again. No pesticides, fungicides or herbicides are used and no harsh chemicals are used in the home. We use different mulches in various stages of decay for different purposes.
- Hot, fresh grass clippings are good for edges of garden beds.
- Composted grass is ideal for spot mulching around young trees.
- Spoiled straw is best in areas that may contain self-seeded plants that we want to encourage because it is light and airy and nurtures seeds.
- Decayed mulch (good black compost) is rare and applied to pots and seedlings.