Friday, 7 September 2012

Practicing Permaculture

For the past few months, I've been studying as much as I can about Permaculture.  The subject fascinates me and makes perfect ecological sense.  I'm planning to take a Permaculture Design Course in Spring of 2013, but in the meantime, I'm reading and trying out a few ideas here on our property.  The more I learn about Permaculture, the more I realize how truly vast this topic really is ~ it will take me a lifetime to learn it all.

As you may know, after 3 years of living in this house, we had a deck built at the back of our house to provide some much needed outdoor living space for our family.   One of the concepts that I learned about through my study of Permaculture is using plantings to cool the house.  The back of the house gets HOT afternoon/evening sun and of course, this heats the interior of the house up in the summer.  In planning the deck, we purposely designed a gap between the deck and the house so that we could plant some vines and other plants to cool and shade the house.  As well, the plantings will eliminate the harsh sun glare that reflects off the siding.  In mid-summer, the heat that radiates off of the exterior house wall is astoundingly uncomfortable - we are really eager to temper that a bit.

The picture above shows the space mid way through the deck project ~ the upper deck at the back of the photo is only just framed in this snapshot, but you can see the space on the right between the start of the deck boards and the house...  it's looked like that for a few months now until I could get some time to address the area.  

Using a garden hose as a guide, we shaped the edge of the deck to the curve we wanted.  Kelly traced the line in pencil on the deck and used the jigsaw to cut off the boards.  After that, he used the router on the cut edges so they would look more like the rounded edges on the sides of the deck boards.  

Notice that the upper deck is all done finally!  You can't see them, but we have french doors from our master bedroom that open up onto this upper deck.  Eventually, we will have enough money saved to buy a re-furbished hot tub for the upper deck - they sell for half the price of a new one and have a warranty through the manufacturer.  Many are barely used as they are trade ins from people looking for a bigger/better model.

I digress... back to the project!  Today, I levelled out the ground where the plantings will go and pulled up some of the bigger weeds.  After that, I spread cardboard and newspapers that I'd been saving for a few weeks to provide a weed suppressing barrier (and carbon for the composting process).  On top of that went grass clippings (nitrogen) from 2 recent grass cuttings.  I'm going to pop a few plants in there right away by separating the papers just enough to add compost and a plant.  By Spring, we should have some nice soil there as I saw a fair amount of worms as I worked the soil today.  The cardboard will encourage them to come to the surface and work their magic!

I'm planning on planting a few tall, native grasses, perennials and a few vines which if placed strategically, will mask the various service related "eyesores" at the back of the house.   I'm choosing NOT to plant any food producing plants as the deck is made from treated wood (necessary here) and I don't want the leaching chemicals to get into the food.  I also have to be mindful of what I plant, as I don't want to attract a lot of bees to this area :)   Additionally, the 2 small windows let in needed natural light to the basement, so I'll have to plant a ground cover in those 2 small areas... 

Planting suggestions?


  1. Amazing, gal. I'm impressed.

    something to consider... what will the vines climb? You don't want them trying to grab the siding or the house (that's bad), you might consider putting up some simple trellising (not sure what else to call it) where you want the vines.

    1. Thanks, Rachael. Good idea... I have a few things lying about that I can use :) Trying to avoid buying some trellis if at all possible.

  2. That looks so good, I love the curved edge, I can see it all greened up in my mind's eye, what a beautiful spot it will be.

  3. It all looks lovely. There is always so much to consider. I did a permaculture course a few weeks ago and I am amazed by how much it changed my thinking. Everything I do in the yard now must have more than one purpose. It must be attractive but also functional. If I put a trellis there, what microclimate am I creating behind it. I was going to keep my grass paths but now I am considering using the paths as additional mulch compost that will break down (newspaper over grass (carbon), poo (nitrogen), mulch (Cargon) - over time I can scratch this up for beds and put it down again. So much to think about..

    1. Oh, I KNOW!!!! It's VERY overwhelming at times, isn't it? I love it though and am so excited to take the course. Where did you take yours?