Permaculture Systems BHT201

Learn to prepare plans for permaculture systems

Permaculture is a unique type of landscape contrived and built so  plants and animals live balanced in a self sustaining ecosystem. Permaculture commonly involves developing a garden or farm where the plants and animals are put together in such a way that they support each others growth and development. The garden or farm may change over years, but always remains productive, requires little input onceestablished, and is environmentally sound.

This is an "intensive" foundation course. If you are only going to do "one" permaculture course do this! If you do this course, you will not need to take Permaculture I, Permaculture Plants, Permaculture Animals, or Permaculture IV.

Course Duration: 100 hours

Course Structure

The course is eight lessons.

  1. Permaculture Principles
    • Nature and scope
    • Principles of permaculture
    • Location
    • Functions
    • Elements
    • Elevation planning
    • Biological resources
    • Recycling energy
    • Diversity
    • Natural succession
    • Maximising edges
    • Other concepts and systems that have been incorperated into permaculture
    • Sustainability
    • Organics
    • No dig gardening (from Esther Deans)
    • No till planting
    • Crop rotation
    • Green manure cropping
    • Composting
    • Companion planting
    • Pest and disease prevention and management
  2. Natural Systems
    • Ecosystems
    • Abiotic components of an ecosystem
    • Biotic components of an ecosystem
    • Ecological concepts and terms
    • Biomass
    • Understanding climate
    • Microclimates
    • Degree days
    • Water in permaculture systems
    • Minimising water needs
    • Arid landscapes
    • Irrigation
    • Using swales
    • Reed beds for waste water treatment
    • Reed bed plant species
    • Hydrological cycle
    • Water: Direct fall onto land surface, intercepted fall, fall onto water bodies
    • Rainfall, Evapouration, Infiltration
    • Effective rainfall
    • Soil Environments: micro organisms, organic matter
    • Types of soil degradation
    • Types of erosion & control
    • Salinity and its control
    • Soil acidification and management of pH
    • Wildlife in a Permaculture system
    • Structure of a Permaculture system
    • Plants and their function in permaculture
    • Guilds and stacking
    • Successions
  3. Zone & Sector Planning 
    • Scope and nature
    • Five standard zones
    • Sectors
    • Landscape profile
    • Site selection
    • Pre planning information; what is needed and how to find it
    • Procedure for concept design,step-by-step
    • Recording site and locality details
  4. Permaculture Techniques
    • Forests and trees
    • Trees as energy transducers
    • Types of forests; fuel, food, forage, shelter, barrier, structural, conservation
    • Forest establishment
    • Designing fire or wind break
    • Fire resistant plants
    • Mandala gardens & their construction
    • Keyhole beds
    • Water bodies in a permaculture system
    • Water body design
    • Water containment options
    • Water plants (Three types)
    • Managing water bodies
  5. Animals in Permaculture
    • Location for animals
    • Functions for animals in a permaculture system
    • Bees, poultry, pigs, cattle
    • Grazing animals
    • Types of fencing (post and rail, hedge, wire, barbed wire, electric, banks and rises, gates
    • Animal water supply
    • Shelter for animals - trees, a valley, purpose built shelter
    • Birds
    • Earthworms
    • Aquaculture scope and nature
    • Aquaculture production systems (EP and IP)
    • Aquaculture species
    • Aquaculture management
    • Harvesting fish
  6. Plants in Permaculture
    • Scope and nature of plants for use in permaculture
    • Growing vegetables organically
    • Physical characteristics of a soil
    • How to test and name a soil
    • Chemical characteristics of a soil
    • Soil nutrition
    • Fertilisers
    • Animal manures
    • Liquid plant feeds
    • Rock dusts
    • Nitrogen fixation
    • Mycorrhyzae
    • Identifying plant nutrient deficiencies
    • Using mulches
    • Types of mulch
    • Weed management
    • Preventative weed control
    • Other methods of weed control
    • Culture of selected permaculture plants: asparagus, black locust, cassava, chicory, danelion, endive, fennel, garlic, ginger, horseradish, leek, mint, okra, pigface, rhubarb, sweet potato, tarowarrigul greens, water cress, water spinic, yams
    • Culture of selected fruits: apple, apricot, cherry, citrus, fig, loquat, nasi pear, olive, peach, pear, plum, quince
    • Culture of selected tropical fruits: avocado, banana, carambola, coconut, custard apple, guava, mango, paw paw, pepino, pineapple
    • Culture of selected vines: grape, passionfruit, kiwifruit
    • Culture of selected berries
    • Culture of selected nuts
    • Culture of rarer nuts
    • Crop plants which grow in shade
    • Fodder plants
    • Plant pest and disease management for permaculture
    • Plants with insecticidal properties
  7. Appropriate Technologies
    • Scope and nature of appropriate technology
    • Solar energy
    • Wind energy
    • Methane
    • Biofuel power
    • Composting toilets
    • Energy efficient housing
    • Living fences (hedges, hedgerows etc)
    • Water recycling
    • Domestic needs: climate control, space heating, washing and drying clothes, cooking and cook stoves, refrigeration and cooling, hot water supplies, water conservation, electricity and lighting
    • Alternative energy and management
    • Waste disposal: kitchen waste, non composting waste, recycling
    • Biological filtration system
    • Conservation and recycling
    • Types of waste water (liquid waste, grey water, black water)
    • Energy conservation
    • Solar energy
    • Solar greenhouses
  8. Preparing a Plan
    • Scope, nature and methods
    • Designing for natural disasters
    • Drawing a plan
    • Developing the final design

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How to Create Harmony in an Environment

Permaculture designers work with all different sized properties, from small gardens to large farms.Understanding how to create a harmonised permaculture ecosystem on a larger property may be easier; but the truth is the same principles apply on any sized property. Small gardens will be influenced heavily by what is nearby; but sections of large properties also contain transition zones with the same complicated interactions between different segments.

Edge Effects

In the discipline of permaculture, experts often talk of "edge effects" referring to the transition zone from one environment to another. At the edge of a forest, where forest changes to grassland; there will be a section of grassland sleltered to some degree by the forest, and a section of forest where light, rain and ind will penetrate a little. In that transition zone the soil and water conditions are unlike what is found deep inside the forest or out in the open grassland. Because conditions are differnt, the plants and animals in that "edge" are also different.

To understand edge effects and the interplay between the components of any permaculture system.

You need to study soils, water, climatic conditions, plants and animals, and how all of these things interact with each other. This course lays the foundation for understanding such interactions.

Consider Water

It is easy to understand the importance of water to our lives so it can be an interesting exercise to see how water is cycled through our environment.

Facts about the water cycle:
  • The bulk of the rainfall falls onto the land surface.
  • Some of the rain is intercepted (i.e. something stops the rain from directly hitting the land surface, such as vegetation. 
  • Some of the rain falls directly into water bodies (e.g. creeks, rivers, lakes, oceans).

Direct fall onto the land surface

Water falling directly to the land surface can do one of four things:

  • Infiltrate (move into) the underlying soil.
  • Be evaporated back into the atmosphere.
  • Sit in depressions on the soil surface (from where it is later evaporated or slowly infiltrates into the underlying soil).
  • Run off to lower lying areas (known as overland flow). If rain is heavy or the soil is hard to infiltrate, then there will be greater runoff. If rain is of low intensity or for only short periods, or the soil has good infiltration characteristics (e.g. sandy soils) then there will be little surface runoff. Heavy surface runoff that is a major cause of soil erosion of unprotected land surfaces. Therefore, reducing the effect of this runoff or protecting soil surfaces is a major need for effective permaculture systems. If possible capturing this runoff in some way (e.g. dams) for later use, will make much more effective use of natural rainfall.

                                                                    Intercepted rainfall

Three things can happen at this stage:
  • Some of the water is evaporated back into the atmosphere before it even reaches the land surface.
  • Some of the water will slowly drip to the land surface (e.g. off vegetation).
  • Some of the water will flow down the surface of the intercepting body (e.g. tree trunks and branches) until it reaches the land surface (this is known as Stem flow). This has two major effects, firstly slowing down the rate at which some of the rainfall reaches the earth's surface, and secondly concentrating what rainfall does flow down the branches and trunk, at the base of the trunk.

Water falling directly into water bodies

This will generally not have much effect on water use in your permaculture system. The amount that falls directly into such bodies is usually small in comparison to what falls onto the land (much bigger area) except in the larger water bodies (e.g. oceans) where it will have little effect (directly) on your permaculture system. If you have a dam there may be a small but significant increase in water volume from direct rainfall, but most will come from surface runoff.

Infiltration

Infiltration into the soil surface will depend on a number of factors, including:

  • The type of soil: Well-structured and sandy soils will have much higher infiltration rates than heavy, poorly structured soils (e.g. clays).
  • The intensity of the rainfall: If rainfall is heavy then the amount of water reaching the surface may be greater than the amount of water that can be infiltrated. This means that the water either sits on the surface until it can infiltrate into the soil later once rainfall has stopped or has reduced in intensity, or be evaporated back into the atmosphere, or it will runoff (overland flow).
  • The water that passes into the soil can also do several things:
  • It can be held in the soil (as "Soil Moisture Storage") where it can be utilised by plants and animals (with some being transpired back into the atmosphere via the plants. 
  • It can pass through passages in the soil (e.g. cracks, animal burrows, cavities created by decomposing plant roots) and pass out into lower areas as surface runoff. This is known as "Through flow". Passage of water in this way can be very rapid, and it can be a powerful cause of erosion in soils that are easily dispersed (e.g. tunnel erosion).
  • It can seep deeper into the underlying soil to an area known as the "Aeration Zone Storage". The water here can be utilised by plants during very dry seasons. Water from this zone can also pass out to the surface down slope (into lower lying areas). This is known as "Interflow". Some water will also percolate down deeper into "Ground Water Storage". In areas where ground water levels meet the soil surface then water flows out (e.g. springs) reaching creeks, rivers, etc. It is this generally slow, regular flow of water from groundwater areas that keeps permanent streams flowing in dry seasons. This is known as "Base flow". Base flow is one of two components to a streams flow, the other being "Storm flow", which is the water after rain from Overland Flow, Through flow and Interflow (see diagram). It is the often sudden surge of water after heavy rain that gives this component of stream flow its name. These components of Storm flow can often be diverted or slowed down and used for providing water at a later date (e.g. heavy vegetation or mulching reducing the runoff rate, increasing the water holding capacity of the soil that more moisture is retained there, terracing, banking or in some other way forming slopes to catch the runoff or slow it down).
  • It can percolate even deeper into deep storage (e.g. aquifers, major artesian basins). Water from here can flow out to the surface in much lower lying areas (e.g. saline affected areas). This water can also be utilised through bores.

Praise for this Course:

"Thank you for your support and help with this course. I have really enjoyed the assignments and I have learned a lot about the principles of permaculture."
Ned

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