Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Permaculture Design Course with Geoff Lawton

So, I have started the online permaculture design course with the greening of the desert man Geoff Lawton.

What do I think of it?  It is a very intense course with a very steep learning curve.  A lot of the information I had heard of before and had a general understanding, however the detail that the course goes into is quite daunting.  Some of the terms used such as energy and entropy are on the edge of scientific definition and, although this could be irritating, it is still understandable within the context of permaculture.

Some of the concepts such as; 'always make the problem the solution' and 'gardening can solve all problems'  I like!

Even though; I still cannot find a solution for Equisetum arvensis that does not involve removing it completely from the garden.  There must be an easier way of controlling it and working it into a viable sustainable system.

The best thing about the course is that you can see what is being talked about and there are a number of good examples where people have got it right and everything is working together.  Is it a cliché  to quote the Loess Plateau in China?

Also, I was pleased to see that Geoff uses a tractor and plough to turn over his main crop vegetable garden.  Appropriate technology as Mollison would say.

What is the downside?  The culture of the celebrity is such an irritation.  Geoff Lawton knows things that I would like to know and he explains things quite succinctly. After more than forty years of experience he gets things right more than he gets things wrong.  This does not mean that he should be 'celebritised'.  The comments that verge on the sycophantic irritate me to distraction.  

I have stopped reading the comments now.  I know that I should be joining in with the chatter but I really don't find it a learning process.    Maybe I am just a grumpy old man.

So, is it applicable to cool temperate maritime climates?  Definitely.

Let's qualify that a little.  We have it easy in the Uk because there is rarely a scarcity of water on the allotment.  If there is a lack of rain, then water capture and storage in water butts can usually be counted on to provide enough water to see most plants over the drought.  I rarely water any of my vegetables and still get a very good crop.

For many years I have been cursing the three springs on my old allotment garden.  I drained the soil with commercial drainage pipes not really realising the fantastic resource I had.  Just thinking about the flushes of vegetation around springs should have alerted me to the potential but I had never connected the springs on my allotment to those flushes on the hillside.

Accepting that in the Uk we do not usually have a lack of rain water, there are still benefits to controlling water flow on the allotment.  It is all about slowing the mass flow of water through the soil.  This will slow leaching, allow more time for uptake of soluble minerals; capture eroded soil particles, enhance water filtration  and provide more opportunity for upward water capillary action for plant growth.

Also, having my comfrey bed at the bottom of the hill on the old allotment meant that all the nutrients washed down by water from the allotments up the hill could be taken up and harvested. This is what I am going to do on the new allotment but probably using a much smaller catchment area.

Water is not really a limiting factor in the UK although light is.  I really don't want to plant on contour.  The planting rows need to be running north to south so that plants can get maximum light.
This I will do while still considering the slope and slowing mass water flow. 

I will mulch the whole of the allotment with chippings.  However, I will find not digging very difficult. 

So now that I have finished the course and find that I can use a lot of the techniques that Geoff suggests.  However, I do not have a farm or small holding to do the big projects. 

Still every little helps as the Vicar said as he peed into the sea. 


  1. I agree that low WINTER light is a big UK problem, especially for those gardeners who insist on sowing their vegetables far to early under glass.(not that I am against glass, just too early sowing)
    But in Summer we have those wonderful long days to compensate!

    1. I never thought about long summer days, Roger, however with our fickle climate and so many overcast days I would still like to plant on north south orientation.

      Trouble with being an old traditional gardener it is very difficult to change.

      Now I have reconsidered I am covering the allotment with mulches. However, after previous experiences particularly with slugs and snails, I will try to time their application a little better. The only material I will have enough of to mulch to any effect is woody chippings. I will cover the ground with at least forty millimetres and see what effect this has.