Hugel-pallet-pond-kultur

11 07 2012

Criteria 1; Holmgren principles, zones, patterns, base map. Criteria 2; applying permaculture in my home. Criteria 3; site development. Criteria 4; writing articles]

Through my overall garden design I defined a zone 3 of the garden which was to be primarily a wildlife area.  I also defined a need for a pond in the garden.  Ponds attract wildlife and add diversity.  Therefore this design is for a pond in the zone 3 area of my garden.  This design began in April 2012.  A lot of the survey and analysis work is extracted from the overall garden design.

Observations

Site conditions

The site conditions are sketched on this plan and summarised in words below.

Site conditions for zone 3

Site conditions for zone 3

Sun/shade.  I marked out where the shade fell on the site at different times of day at different times of the year for the whole garden, and looked at the zone 3 area for this design.

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    • Soil analysis. I dug a couple of trial holes.  Outcome: silty/sand/clay.  The soil was very dry and lacking in soil life in the east 2m from the fence line.
    • Species on site.
      • Rose bushes – one tall with two different flowers grafted onto it.  4 short.
      • Grass.
      • Big pink flowering bush – loved by bees and other insects.  Flowers in April/May
      • Cats (ours plus a couple of other neighbourhood cats) – the neighbourhood cats use this area of the garden as a thoroughfare.
      • Pigeons nest in next door but one’s pear tree
    • Wind.  I have found really hard to observe.  Above the fence line it blows NE-SW.  Mostly from the NE.  Observed through the direction of drying washing being blown.  I am not yet sure I know what the impact of wind is below the fenceline, occasionally (especially in winter) it swirls and blows around.  Wind tunnel along the alleyway beside the house.
    • Microclimates.
      • Warm and sunny on the north side.
      • Dank right beside the south side fence (i.e. north facing)
      • Where the run off from the roof gathers there is a boggy patch with very large dandelion like plants growing extremely tall – much taller than anywhere else in the garden.
    • Structures.
      • Fence surrounding three sides of the area
    • Other
      • Land is flat
      • No pooling of water observed
      • Access from house (side and back door) and via side gate.
      • No existing desire lines (but we created a few once we started walking about on the space)

Boundaries

Physical boundaries shown on the site conditions plan.  There is a wooden fence on 3 sides, the exact position of the west boundary (i.e. the zone 2/3 boundary) is not defined.

Time boundary:  no real boundary it would be great to have the pond designed and implemented in 2012.

Resources

Consider the resources mandala – natural, physical, social, personal and financial resources available to us for this design

  • Ourselves (Liz and Catherine) and our energy (N, Ph, Pe, So).
  • Pallets/local skips for wood, stone etc available for free (Ph, Fi)
  • Local stables with well rotted manure available for free (Ph, Fi)
  • Tree surgery waste – wood chippings and logs for free (Ph, Fi)
  • Waste concrete dug up from another part of the garden (Ph, Fi)
  • Liz’s attendance on a Permaculture Design Course, particularly the hugel bed session (So, Pe, N)
  • Key books: Gaia’s Garden, Hemenway, Creating a forest garden, Martin Crawford.  Plus lots of others (Ph)
  • Web resources on pond design (Pe)
  • Previous growing experience from allotment and garden since 2006 (Pe)

We didn’t set a budget, but have kept a record of money spent on the design implementation.  This design seems low on social resources, is this a problem, or simply a reflection of the nature of who we are and how we are designing?

Evaluate/examine

Consider the ethics to help with the evaluation:

Earth Care People Care Fair shares
Pond done well can increase biodiversity in the garden can we attract frogs? How can I incorporate techniques I have learnt about into this design, so I can try them out practically? Reuse site won materials
Techniques to minimise resource use:
Puddling
Reduce/eliminate removal of spoil from site (transport/reprocessing etc)
Locally available materials/resources
Look after the workers – and let them have fun! Provide space in the garden for wildlife as well as people and crops
Place for bees and other insects to drink

I asked myself lots of questions in the evaluation phase including:

  • How much space for the pond?  How big should the pond be?
    • Dig a hole
    • Use a sink/bathtub
  • How will we fill it?
  • If we dig, what will happen to the waste materials?
  • What happens in a drought?
  • What techniques are there for making a hole in the ground hold water in it?
  • What other elements of the garden design are interesting/relevant to the pond?
  • How to make it aesthetically pleasing and child safe?

I did an input-output analysis to help to think of any wider unthought of pond elements.

Pond input output analysis

Pond input output analysis

I extracted the relevant items from my overall garden PASE into a zone 3 PASE.

Zone 3 PASE

Zone 3 PASE

Looking at these two tools I was able to make some links between PASE desires and outputs from the pond as the following overlay shows.

I-O with relevant PASE elements overlay

I-O with relevant PASE elements overlay

Pond requirements that I gleaned and wanted to use in the design from my web research into wildlife ponds:

  • Some sun, some shade, not deep shade
  • A deep bit (at least 1m) to prevent drying out in drought times
  • Various depth shallow bits for different types of wildlife
  • Access for wildlife – gently sloping, protected areas on the banks, different materials/plants around the bank
  • A waterproof lining options are puddling with clay or bought liners.
  • Native species planted in the pond

Design

How big and where?

I used my overall garden basemap and a number of cut out pond shapes with diameters of 1.5, 3 and 4.5m to assess size.  I cut out round

Base map with shapes cut out to move around (note this picture is NOT only pond shapes it is also trees for other areas of the garden)

Base map with shapes cut out to move around (note this picture is NOT only pond shapes it is also trees for other areas of the garden)

shapes for ease although I knew that I wanted to maximise edge so the final implemented pond would not be a perfect circle.  4.5m was too big, 1.5m was too small so approx 3m seemed just right.

I also looked at the zone 3 area and eliminated certain areas that were unsuitable as the following plan shows.  This gave a large area within which we could place the pond.

Zone 3 site conditions with overlay showing excluded areas

Zone 3 site conditions with overlay showing excluded areas

Lining the pond?

The soil analysis shows that puddling is not going to work for this site as there is not enough clay in the soil, we will have to buy a liner.  This seemed a shame as puddling feels like a small and slow solution compared with using liners.  We chose a butyl liner because it is longer lasting, less likely to get holes or degrade than other materials on the market (futurecasting to produce no or less waste in the long term).  We also decided to lay soft sand underneath to protect the liner.

Edges and what to do with the soil?

The issue of what to do with the soil once we had removed it was an important one, we didn’t want to remove it from site so we decided to incorporate it into the pond border in some way (produce no waste).

We wanted an aesthetic where the pond was a bit hidden in the garden – create some height so you couldn’t necessarily see it from the house.  And we wanted there to be an abundance of bee and insect friendly plants near to the pond to encourage more biodiversity into our garden (multiple functions from one element).

Pallets are a locally available abundant and renewable resource – so we thought to make a raised curved bed out of pallets that we could plant up to give us the height and intrigue we were looking for and the insect friendly plants on top.

So the west side would have the pallet raised bed and the east side would be the side accessible to wildlife, the design for this side included:

  1. integrate waste concrete from a path we’d recently broken up in the garden into some sort of rockery effect that could provide shelter for wildlife on the bankx – making it look less concrete-ish but still making it useful (integrate rather than segregate, produce no waste),
  2. making sure that we had some gentle slopes and easy access areas for wildlife to get in

What to plant?

This element of the design wasn’t planned in detail before the implementation.

  1. In the pond: I observed what’s growing in local ponds to see whether we might be able to harvest some cuttings of local pond species that could go into our new pond to get it thriving with the local species.  I took lots of photos to identify what’s growing.
  2. In the raised bed:  we have a lot of lavenders in pots that are bee friendly, other plants on my garden perennials that I like (see overall garden design) list that might be good to include sweet cicely, salad burnett, lemon balm and chives.

Implementation

The design was roughly in place when we experienced the wettest drought on record in mid June 2012.  I observed that we had brimming full water butts and the ground was easy to dig.  It felt like I had gone far enough on paper even though I hadn’t drawn it out in full.

We got ourselves a length of hose and roughly draped it on the ground (the pattern) – and then we started digging.  As the digging got deeper we evolved our specific plan for edges and depth gradients within the pond (the detail – designing from patterns to details) – there’ll be a deep bit (roughly 1m) and then a middle bit (40cm) and then lots of shallows (5 – 10cm) and we sort of mixed up how the different depth areas met the pond edge and made a sort of oval-ish shaped hole in the ground.

Digging was easy peasy because of it being the wettest drought on record – mindful of the catch and store energy principle it made sense to dig when the ground was soft and crumbly due to all the heavy rain.

With the pond dug and lined we siphoned from our water butts the water flowed and the pond began to fill.

 It was quite clear that though there was a big mound of earth on a tarp beside the raised bed site it wasn’t going to be enough to fill the length, width and height of our pallet bed.  And I didn’t want us to have to import soil from offsite as right now I don’t know of any free local sources.  So we had to come up with another plan during the implementation phase.

Design alteration

I’ve been wanting to build a hugel bed in the garden – but thus far there had been nowhere to fit it in the design.  It suddenly dawned on me that our pallet raised bed could be a hugelkulur inside.  Hugelkultur is a technique for building raised beds with large pieces of wood covered with soil and upturned turf.  Ok so we won’t get the benefits of the microclimates and varied planting conditions generated on the sides of a more traditional hugel bed with our straight sided pallet sides – but instead we will get more control which makes for happy gardeners!  And we get to fill up the raised pallet beds with large pieces of wood and other organic matter that can rot down over time to create the very soil we need in the bed and create a fantastic growing medium with lots of air pockets, water storage and warmth as it decomposes.  This was a chance to try out hugelkultur within a pallet raised bed.  We can over time observe and see what happens to it (observe and interact).  So we decided to try it out.

Implementation (again)

We sourced free wood from a local tree surgeon to fill up the base of the pallet bed covered this with the mounded soil and for good measure we threw in some cardboard, shredded paper and some other bits of organic matter waiting to go into the compost bin.  And in this photo the bed is ready to be planted up.

 

Maintenance

The pond should be relatively self maintaining.  I know from previous experience that pond weed can grow vigorously and needs regular removal.  With the raised bed design we can remove it and use it as a mulch on the bed adjacent.

Planting up the raised bed with perennials will also be relatively self maintaining.

The maintenance plan is to include this area in the garden maintenance with regular inspections and work done as needed.

Evaluation – Sept 2014

  • This last spring our pond nursed frog spawn, tadpoles and finally quite a few frogs.  It has been an absolute joy to watch their development (it took a LOT longer than I thought it would).  I am pleased to have new frogs in our garden to eat through some of the massive slug population that is resident.
  • The system which includes pond, soft fruit hedge and pallet hugel is becoming more and more self regulating I have done very little work this year, the plants are becoming established, wildlife is in abundance and the roots of the soft fruits must be tapping into the pond to keep them flourishing (apply self regulation).
  • The main work is clearing the green algae from the pond – although with the hugel right beside this provides an excellent location to dump this organic matter.
  • I was also amazed at the abundance of life in the pond as witnessed by my nieces and nephews who pond dipped for many happy hours when they came to visit over the summer.
  • We have achieved our desires – place for family, calm and beauty and abundant wildlife!

Reflections on the design process

  • This was an early design and one of the challenges was aligning my desire to have the overall garden design ‘finished’ with a desire to make use of the great digging opportunity the wet summer provided.  I realise now that in terms of the overall garden design this was a small and slow approach tackling one small area and implementing an element we definitely wanted/needed in the design.  I realise now that the overall garden design will continually evolve, and that for this project the level of design that I had reached was entirely adequate for delivering a successful project.
  • I enjoyed the mini design cycles that came up as the implementation evolved and how many design principles and tools etc came into my mind as I thought through a mental permaculture checklist about the challenges we were thinking about.  That mental checklist has only got stronger and better throughout the course of my diploma work and the application of the design process.

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