The magnificent Laura Sweaney conducted a workshop at Sustainable Renton Community Farm recently, titled How to Plant a P-Patch using Permaculture Design. This was perfect for those of us that want to incorporate permaculture techniques but have a small space to do it in. Typically, permaculture is a large scale philosophy to be utilized by the designer in vast amounts of space, but the plots available at the farm are 10’x 20’ so what is a gardener to do? Well, Laura was able to show us a beautiful design that we can use on a small scale that not only increases yields, increases water retention, increases soil health, decreases pest and disease vulnerability but also increases the overall aesthetics of an ordinary P-Patch plot.
For a more detailed explanation of Permaculture principles you can go here.
We began with a blank slate. Granted, the soil at this location is absolutely luscious, so we did not have to do a lot of amending. The plot was empty save for a few pea starts that were struggling to come up after our heavy rains that all but laughed in the face of our enthusiastic gardeners trying to get something in the ground in March.
The first thing Laura did was to create a pathway through the space. Permaculture is not an advocate of planting in rows. The overarching idea is to mimic nature as closely as possible. For anyone who has studied nature, perhaps one description would be a sort of “ordered chaos”. The path was a curved line that ran through the patch in an s-shape leaving no further than 3’ for one’s arm to reach for harvesting, while maximizing the amount of space to grow in. She made a couple of keyhole beds that were connected by the two ends of the path. A keyhole bed is a space where the gardener can walk into the circle for harvesting. This creates a microclimate where the sun comes in from the south at the beginning of our path and saturates the circle where we have some of our more heat loving plants.
We then began to plant the starts and seeds that we had available to us. We planted lettuce, kale, cabbage, chard, collards, leeks, chives, onion sets, strawberries, carrots, parsnips, rosemary, thyme, lavender and cilantro.
We placed a bean teepee in the SE corner of the plot with a cabbage in the middle so that as the heat comes on us the cabbage will be protected inside the bean teepee. This structure will be ready for us to plant beans next month. Also we placed a structure for our indeterminate tomatoes to climb on when the time is right for planting. This should prove to be an amazing site when the summer is in full swing.
Permaculture comes from joining the ideas of permanence and agriculture or permanence and culture. As Laura stated, what we are doing at a P-Patch is really about permanent culture. We are building connections with our community to create resilience within our culture, within our city.
This plot is on display as our Permaculture garden plot. So, if you are in the area, stop by and take a look at what we have done to this plot. Up at the farm you will find that there are beautiful things growing, people laughing and making connections. Come and join us. We do have a waiting list for plots coming at the beginning of May, however, there is no need to have a garden plot to come by and hang out for a while. If no one is there, you will be amazed at the peacefulness available. If someone is there you can introduce yourself and make a friend. Bring your lunch, have a picnic with your family. There is a play structure and a sand box for the kids.