Zone 1 Garden
Development of a Permaculture Designed Veggie Garden next to my residence (Zone 0) that provides healthy food, medicine and spices to complement the yields from the Food Forest while lowering costs in food. Serve as a beautiful demonstration element which could be used as an example element if workshops and Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) Courses are provided.
Current site elements
As it can be seen on the Site Analysis and on the diagram above, the main building on this 0.5acre lot is a 35’ by 35’ concrete structure to the north-west of the lot. This building was divided into four apartments for short term rentals. A detached building is an 8’x20’ residential building to the south-west of the lot. Both of these buildings are located 7 to 12 feet away from the western fence.
The space between the two buildings is the most transited by me as it can be seen on the Overall Site Survey and on the two diagrams below. On the Desire Line diagram below, we see a representation of the most common paths walked by me and my guests.
The following diagram specifically shows the most frequent walking path in the garden area for me. I normally walk in and out more than 25 times per day.
The gathered information on the whole site’s use helped us decide on the designation of the different Zones as it can be seen on the Zone diagram below.
Zone 1 is exposed to full sun all day and is covered from the winds by the main house. Please see: Prevailing Winds, Sun Path and Micro Climate diagrams on the Site Survey page.
Needs and wants related to this design
From the Client Interview, we can discern that the main goal of this design is to generate savings in food, spices and medicine, and to increase our access to healthy food. Healthy food is extremely expensive and only sold on dedicated health food stores. These stores always inflate their prices. Regular supermarkets rarely offer organic options unless they are products sold by big corporations. Local food is only available in small twice-a-month farmers’ markets whose options are normally quite limited.
We can also see that there is a need for example elements that can serve as demonstration elements and as examples on PDCs and workshops.
Plants systems and soil
Please see the Site Survey for a “DAFOR” list of the main native plants growing on site.
Soil: Sandy Clay Loam, compacted but drains properly.
Zone 1 is mainly a lawn with a small Lemon tree and a small Acerola tree. This area has been used to park the family cars for years, so it is extremely compacted. It also has debris buried around 8 inches down from a large concrete fence that fell in a storm. This debris spreads around large areas of Zone 1’s available space, making it, too shallow for large trees.
Because of the shallow nature of the soil in this area, all planting has to be made on raised beds. This means that new soil will have to be brought to the site.
Lifelong building skills in iron and galvalume structures and average experience in concrete and wood working.
There is minimal distance between the space available for the gardens and the location where the Gray Water Harvester would be installed. Also, the compost heap and the vermi-compost basin are quite close. (Integrate Rather Than Segregate)
There is space available for this design right in front of the tiny house which would help in keeping an eye on it. This space is walked several times a day (see Desire Lines diagram above).
Since this is our house, there are no time limitations for this design.
Permaculture ethics- Guidelines within which this design should be completed
Earth Care- Increase fertility and diversity by planting in an eco-regenerative way. Keep the soil healthy through the increase of biomass, healthy watering and mulching. Lower pollution by limiting our trips to health food stores and the long travels these foods make, from farmer to market. Planting flowering crops to attract pollinators.
People Care- Provide healthy food and medicine to my family, my guests and me. Serve as a key attraction for our lodging business, helping us generate an extra income and promoting the idea of regenerative gardening.
Fair Share- A design that guests and visitors can learn and consume from which they can emulate in their homes. Serve as one of my example designs which can be used on PDCs and workshops. Increase the amount of flowering plants to make it available for bees and other insects.
Out of the Survey process, we can discern some Key Functions related to this design from which our Goal was set:
This design should provide our home with healthy food, spices and medicine
It should generate savings on healthy food, spices and medicine and by lowering our trips to the market.
Secondary functions (functions that are not directly associated with a particular need, but that can support the system, therefore, solutions to the client’s needs and wants are successfully achieved) are:
Serve as an example element on PDCs and workshops
It should serve as one of my ten designs for the Permaculture diploma.
Options and decisions
Two options were considered for this design:
Building several raised beds next to each other as shown below. This would cover most of the Zone 1 area by filing the area with equally sized beds (around 4’ by 8’) allowing space in between, for a wheel barrel. The beds would be around 4 feet wide to facilitate harvesting and at least 1 feet high to allow for plants with longer root systems and root crops. This may also require the removal of the raised bed (garden #3) which I built years ago based on local organic gardening books.
The spread of the garden around the edges of the zone 1 area as shown below. This would require the division of the garden into several sections to allow walking or wheel barrel paths to different areas of the house. This would allow easy access to each garden. A good outcome of doing this, would be to make use of the existing walls to hold sides of each garden bed. It would also allow for different microclimates due to shade or wall reflection. This could make use of an old bed I built before 2015, following a local book on organic farming (El Huerto Casero. Manual De Agricultura Organica by Nelson Alvarez Febles).
By designing from Patters to Details and using the Sector analysis, I eliminated the first option because of the extreme exposure to the sun, it would lack a diversity of micro-climates when compared to the second option.
The second option would take advantage of a few micro-climate areas, e.g., dry sunny spots, shaded, etc. It would also allow for a play area on its center as well as access for all types of material to be carried in near, the residence or a wheel chair in the case we end up in one someday (Creatively Use and Respond to Change).
Another convenience is that an old garden bed is already built in a section of the chosen area for this garden design. This bed was built using cinder blocks. This section of the garden could easily be extended by purchasing additional blocks.
Element or system and its Function
Soil- Because all the Zone 1 planting will be made on raised beds, most of the soil would have to be purchased.
Soil Amendments- A big part of our soil amendments will be generated on-site on our Vermicompost Farm and the Compost pile. (Use Onsite Resources- Mollison) There is also a 4 square meters pile of horse manure on site purchased from a site nearby.
Gray Water harvest system- Automation of de-chlorination and irrigation on a fixed point on the western side of the tiny house.
Raised beds- Proper drainage and space for root system. A raised bed would also allow for the preparation of a lighter soil for the planting of root crops like cassava, yautia, turmeric and ginger. Current condition of the native soil (shallowness and compaction) limit its use. Raised beds can also serve as a beautiful element to be used as demonstration, attracting guests to the lodge.
Plants- Vegetable, herbs, medicinal and root crops used for our own consumption and to be shared with our guests.
People- Owners, students and guests should have easy access to the gardens for demonstration purposes and for workshops and PDCs.
Tap Water source- A source of water is located near the gardens area. This could be used if the Gray water system fails.
Nursery- Source of new plants near the garden. Placed in between the Gray water harvester and the compost system for easy access to those resources.
Green Ground cover- Protect the soil from the sun and winds retaining humidity for longer.
Deep mulch- Protect the soil by adding deep layers of cardboard, paper, woodchips and straw.
Pollinators- Essential for fruiting of most plants. Plants need to be chosen and integrated in a symbiotic way so it attracts pollinators and beneficial predators.
Web of connections
This tool is used to show which elements have the most connections and how well your elements integrate.
Waste Management Designs refers to the Compost and Vermi-Compost designs combined.
PNI- Positives, Negatives, Interesting
Even though most of the elements have quite enough connections and relevance to make of this, a resilient design, I considered the use of one type of ground cover instead of two. To learn on which cover is more convenient I used the PNI tool on each:
P- Self composting ground cover, attracts pollinators
N- It would need maintenance which I may not be on site to give.
I- A green ground cover would add beauty to the garden
P- Mulch material like cardboard and straw are widely available. Barely any maintenance needed. Cardboard and paper turns into compost.
N- Does not attract pollinators
I- It would not affect the look of the garden if planted densely and combined with straw.
For the moment I decided to only use deep mulch with the hopes of using green ground cover in the future when I’m more available at the site (Creatively Use and Respond to Change). Due to my time constraints, I need to keep low maintenance as a priority for this design.
This Permaculture Veggie Garden is to be located between the tiny house and the lodge (Zone 1- see zoning diagram above) because it will mostly be planted with annuals and plants that tend to be more susceptible or need more attention and this is an area that we walk through constantly.
Because of the compaction of the soil and its shallowness, all planting should be done on raised beds. To save on materials for the raised beds I could use some of the existing structures as part of the bed’s wall. These can be an outer wall from the tiny-house, the concrete fence and a small 1’ high concrete fence that borders the southern hallway next to the main building.
Near this area, on Zone 2, I plan to implement a Gray Water Harvest System which will be located next the drain pipe. The Gray Water Harvest System’s elements will have a reservoir for dichlorination. From it, I could extend an irrigation pipe for automatic watering of the Zone 1 gardens.
Next to the eastern side of the tiny house, on Zone 2, the compost heaps and the vermi-compost basin are to be located. Zone 2 will also hold space for a small nursery.
Main Permaculture Principles to be applied
Observe and interact- Observe and understand the different microclimates present on the area, to designate places for plants based on their specific needs. Make use of the shade under the lemon and acerola trees for shade loving plants like ginger and turmeric. Plant the hardiest plants like yautia, taro and hibiscus on the sunniest western spots.
Obtain a Yield- Make use of the yields of this garden on our kitchen and share with guests, family and friends. This design could also be used as an example element on PDCs and workshops and my diploma.
Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback- Stop myself from over-designing. Hold plans on further development of a mandala garden and an herb spiral until my gardening techniques further develops.
Produce no Waste- Compost and vermi-compost every leftover from this garden and bring it back to this garden as natural and local fertilizer. Integrate this design with our Gray Water Harvester to avoid water waste.
Design from Patterns to Details- Take the sun path and all the information collected on the Site Survey into consideration to plant in an intelligent way and to take advantage of the natural energies passing through the site. Plant shade loving plants (Pineapple, Yautia, Ginger and Turmeric) to the north of sun loving plants. (Hibiscus and Pigeon Pea) in the sunny spots.
Integrate Rather than Segregate- Integrate this Permaculture Veggie Garden with my Compost/ Vermicompost system and with the Gray Water Harvester, to make of this, a holistic project. Use this design as an important educational element in workshops and Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) Courses.
Use and Value Diversity- Use from, and provide to, the next linked design or element. Use the widest selection of vegetable crops, herbs, medicinal and root crops to establish a symbiotic effect, e.g., Basil with Tomato or Pigeon Pea with everything else, in an attempt to increase resilience and/or to attract beneficial fauna.
The following illustrations show the outcomes of the survey and analysis process and helps in structuring its implementation.
The system above shows the Zone 1 Garden, separated into three sections, to allow for a clear walking path to the back of the tiny-house and to the back of the main building. It also allows space for play in the center or for the building of key-hole gardens and a herb spiral in the future.
Each of the separate garden sections was named and its characteristics explained below.
Garden 1- This garden will use part of the northern wall of the tiny-house as part of the raised bed structure. It will have a triangular shape and two of the sides will use river rocks (average of 0’ 11” diameter each). These rocks are already on the site and are not being used. The area saved for this garden, is the only one that is a bit deeper because it doesn’t have the fence debris I mentioned before, buried underneath. To the south of this garden, close to the tiny-house’s outer wall, taller plants could be planted like plantain and Pigeon Pea to block the sun from this wall cooling the air inside. (Principle of multifunctionality- Mollison)
Garden 2- Uses the western concrete fence as part of its raised bed structure. The other 3 faces are built using sheet metal which was purchased for this purpose. The main reason for using metal sheet was that it was an attractive material that was quite affordable. Keeping this garden attractive helps to attract additional guests (Obtain a yield).
Garden 3- This raised bed will be a simple extension of an old bed I built following local farming books before embarking on the permaculture diploma. It was built using decorative cinder blocks for a higher cost than anticipated. This garden will remain but will be expended around 2’ towards the west to minimize rebuilding labor. (Make the least change for the greatest possible effect- Mollison). This garden already has 2 small 6’.0” high trees as it can be seen in the diagram (Acerola and Tahiti Lemon). These trees create 3 different micro climates:
To its west, it is covered from the Easter sun but it is fully exposed to the west
To the east, we have full eastern exposure but it is shaded from the west.
To the north of these two trees, we have an area that is shaded for most of the day. The whole northern edge, around the last 2’ 0”, is partially covered by the eaves, creating an area that has no access to rain. This area could be used by plants that tolerate drought like Aloe, Ginger, Sugarloaf Pineapple and Turmeric.
I follow a vegan diet and Ms. Ortiz is a vegetarian so our main source of food can be harvested from our garden and our Food Forest in the future. We typically make meals with Yautia, Pigeon Pea and leafy greens.
I initially wanted to plant enough to cover all our food, medicine and spices needs but I had to limit the options due to my availability at the site.
Initial planting plan:
Yautia- (Xanthosoma Sagittifolium) Root crop/ perennial/ Needs partial sunlight and well-drained soils
Cassava- (Manihot esculenta ) Root crop/ Grows in most conditions as long as soil is warm and deep
Hibiscus- (Hibiscus sabdariffa) Used for tea and salads/ Can withstand extreme heat and full sun/ Planted from seed, direct sow.
Ginger- (Zingiber officinale) Needs a shaded spot/ Grown from root sections/ Grows well in shallow soil.
Turmeric- (Curcuma longa) Needs a shaded spot/ Grown from rhizomes/ Grows well in shallow soil.
Cuban Oregano (Plectranthus amboinicus)- Quite invasive but easy to eliminate/ Grows from small 6” cuttings with at least one leaf/ Tolerates almost every weather and soil condition.
Pigeon Pea- (Cajanus cajan) Legume shrub/ Grown from seed/ Attracts pollinators/ Nitrogen fixer/ Tolerates almost every weather and soil condition
Tomatoes- Bought several variety seed packs/ Grown from seed
Basil- (Ocimum basilicum) Full sun but handles partial shade well / Needs a well-drained soil / Grown from seed
Mint / Yerbabuena- (Mentha spicata) Partial sun / Plants purchased at the farmers market / Well drained moist soil
Sugarloaf Pineapple- (Ananas comosus 'Sugarloaf' ) Partial sun / Light watering
Parsley- (Petroselinum crispum) Full to partial sun/ Needs rich moist soil
2014: Built a raised bed based on local gardening books. (Garden #3 on the diagram). Used decorative blocks on 3 sides and part of the hallway wall as back wall. No manure or mulching was added. This one garden was plagued by constant failures from loss of seeds and soil drying up. I initially planted buckwheat repeatedly as a cover crop but it barely sprouted. I learned later that it was common for birds and insects to steal the seeds. Those buckwheat plants that sprouted were never enough to keep the sun from the soil.
2015: Dec- Due to constant failures on Garden # 3 on delicate plants like Rosemary, Basil and tomatoes, I Planted Taro, Yautia, Ginger and Turmeric in shaded areas. I selected “Sugarloaf Pineapple” for the areas covered by the eaves due to its capacity to tolerate drought. I started integrating horse manure into the soil and adding compost and cardboard sheets as mulch to protect the soil before planting.
2016: Feb- Took measurement of the site and completed a preliminary version of Ficus Temple Demonstration site diagram. (Diagram includes the Zone 1 Garden)
2016: Feb (Late)- Finished Garden #1 (see diagram) raised bed in a triangular shape, using river rocks I already had on site on 2 of its sides. Part of the tiny house’s north wall was used as the back wall for this raised bed. Started integrating horse manure into the soil and adding compost and cardboard sheets as mulch to protect the soil before planting.
2016: March 12- Built a raised bed for Garden #2. Started integrating horse manure into the soil and adding compost and cardboard sheets as mulch to protect the soil before planting and to control weeds.
2016: June 10- Extended an irrigation pipeline to garden #2 from the newly installed Gray water system’s reservoir using one low-pressure hose-end timer. (Gray water harvest system- Integrated system)
2016: June- Planted additional tall shrubs (2 Plantains and 1 Papaya) near the northern wall of garden #1 to lower the walls exposure to the sun on the tiny house.
2016: June 20- Started working on the irrigation pipes that go to garden #1. (Gray water harvest system- Integrated system)
2017: Summer-Because of the Louisiana flooding disaster, I only spent one month out of 2017 at the site. I noticed that work is becoming more frequent and I may continue only spending short periods of time at the site. By the time I returned on the summer, only Yautia, Plantain, Pigeon Pea and Hibiscus were alive and well, in all 3 garden sections. I decided to only plant these 3 crops for the moment to keep maintenance low for Ms. Ortiz.
2017: September- Hurricane Maria killed the Acerola tree but did not affect the Lemon tree. This significantly decrease the available shade.
2018: August 3- Due to the location of garden #3 I could not extend a gravity fed irrigation line. This section was always extremely arid and weed proliferated too quickly in between, and under the cinder blocks making it hard to maintain. Garden 3 was completely removed with plans to rebuild it later using sheet metal.
2019: March- Due to the increase of deployments I had a hard time maintaining the Zone 1 garden beds while the Food Forest showed no need for maintenance after deep mulching. I decided to increase the size of the Food Forest allowing the planting of 4 additional trees on what used to be a Zone 2 section and will not reinstall garden 3 and this area will be planted with smaller trees by breaking through any buried debris with a chipping hammer. (Creatively Use and Respond to Change). Another reason is that herbs live Chives, Mint and Basil were planted under some of the Food Forest trees successfully thanks to the shade and the mulch. Zone 1 Garden will be kept but Garden 1 will be only used for Bananas and Papayas for shade of the tiny house wall and Garden 2 will be used for herbs and demonstration purposes.
Soil- $120 for 3sq. meters
Sheet metal for raised bed 1- $30
Cinder blocks for raised bed 2- $250
Horse Manure (Mainly purchased for the worm-bin)- $70
The maintenance task for this garden involves:
Provide care of the plants according to their specific needs and based on the specific micro-climate they are planted under.
Keep an eye on weeds and plant densely on empty spots to cover the soil from the sun.
Make sure that there are no areas of soil exposed to the sun. These spots can be covered with cardboard or thick newspaper and straw.
Watering should be monitored and graduated based on the rain conditions.
Replanting- The crops will be limited to Yautia, Hibiscus, Ginger, Turmeric, Basil, Cuban Oregano and Pigeon Pea until my availability increases and I can diversify to more susceptible crops. Root crops will be planted in spots where no grey water would reach. Some of the drain spouts were adjusted to avoid watering these sections.
Soil amendments- Spread a handful of compost every week and water with compost tea once every 2 weeks. A recommended recipe would include Compost, Oat flour, Worm Castings, Kelp, Alfalfa Meal and Molasses.
What went well:
After many failures there was a moment in which there was significant yields. I was able to harvest a lot of Basil, Tomatoes, Yautia, Hibiscus flowers and Pigeon Pea.
I learned to cook based on just these crops proving to myself that with a bigger garden and more maintenance time, we could feed ourselves from the yields of the garden.
The integration of the Gray Water and irrigation system lowered maintenance labor significantly. Hand watering was only needed for garden #3. The Gray Water system was also helpful in making compost tea easily available. (See Gray water harvest system for details)
Experience with Specific plants:
Yautia- Survived well on the dry spots of garden#3 but growth was faster when it was well watered.
Hibiscus- This was one of my most successful plants. After an 11 month deployment, I returned and they had regrown.
Ginger- Survived well on the driest spot on garden #3
Turmeric- Survived well on the driest spot on garden #3
Cuban Oregano- This Oregano appeared on the garden on its own and I learned to use it on our foods. It appears to tolerate any soil and weather conditions.
Pigeon Pea- It barely needed any maintenance.
What I would have done differently:
I wasted many seeds by spreading them by hand on my initial trials. I thought that there was something bad with the seeds because barely anything sprouted, so I repeated the process after purchasing new seeds a few times. Watching Permaculture videos I learned that it was common for birds or insects to steal the seeds. I should have planted in pots or seed-bombs instead. I could have also used seed trays.
I spent a significant amount of money on cinder blocks to raise my first bed (Garden#3). It would have been more economically efficient to build a sheet metal raised bed. There was also a high amount of labor involved on weeding around and under each cider block. ”Use Small and Slow Solutions”.
I should have taken time to properly train Ms. Ortiz on the maintenance of the site so she could have kept enjoying its yields.
Plants I had trouble with, due to my unavailability for their maintenance:
Cassava- Really easy to grow but eliminated it because it takes too long to cook wasting energy for the same type of food I could get from Yautia
Tomatoes- Tomatoes were successful for the time I kept a constant eye on them. The area that needed hand watering (garden #3) was the least successful since I was not at the site all day and the plants would dry out.
Basil- Most of the basil plants were successful while I kept a constant eye on them. The area that needed hand watering was the least successful since I was not at the site all day. Basil was a bit more resilient than tomatoes.
Mint- I barely had any success with mint, it seems that due to watering needs. Only garden #3 has shaded areas but depends on hand watering and they only survived with constant watering.
Sugarloaf Pineapple- I barely had any success with this tye of Pineapple, it seems that due to watering needs. Only garden #3 has shaded areas but depends on hand watering and they only survived with constant watering.
Parsley- I barely had any success with Parsley, it seems that due to watering needs. Only garden #3 has shaded areas but depends on hand watering and they only survived with constant watering.
Due to the nature of my work, there are long periods of time in which I’m not at the site. This prevented me from providing proper care to the new plants. Trying to adapt to this situation, I switched my plants options twice:
Before 2016- I had to stop planting Rosemary, Fennel, Mint, and Parsley because most of them did not even survived soon after sprouting. I switched to planting Tomatoes, Basil, Pigeon Pea, Hibiscus, Cuban Oregano and root crops like Yautia and Taro.
2016/17- I spent most of the year working on the United States and most of the crops died due to a lack of maintenance, I did not have the chance to train Ms. Ortiz on the garden’s maintenance before leaving. I decided to plant, exclusively, the few successful crops we had (Creatively Use and Respond to Change): Yautia, Hibiscus, Ginger, Turmeric, Cuban Oregano and Pigeon Pea until I leave my job and dedicate myself fully.
2017: Summer- I only spent one month out of 2017 on the site because of a Louisiana flooding disaster. I noticed that work is becoming more frequent and I may continue only spending short periods of time on site. By the time I returned on the summer, only Yautia, Pigeon Pea and Hibiscus was alive and well, in all 3 garden sections. I decided to only plant these 3 crops. For root crops on garden 2 (See diagram above), I adjusted the drain spout so gray water would not irrigate near them.
On garden #3 I started avoiding any areas under the eaves because nobody would be able to water by hand. I may be extending an irrigation line in the future into this garden. This would involve a new design process because of its distance. For the moment I will keep only planting the few successful crops for that garden.
2018- Do to the high level of work involved on ridding the areas under the cinder blocks from weeds, I decided to remove garden 3 with plans to build a raised bed made out of sheet metal at a later time. This bed would be heavily mulched on its outer edges to avoid weeds.
Learning Pathway Reflections:
Learned a lot about gardening, plant specifics and techniques from research and books which will be an invaluable tool in future projects. I also tested, failed and tested again until I started seeing glimpses of success and significant yields. Every failure sent me back to the research process and helped me learn and adapt.
Learned to work around certain limitations like pre-existent structures and making use of them to avoid unnecessary expenses (walls for the raised beds).
Learned to research plants using the DAFOR tool and to take into consideration their specific needs so I would take advantage of the micro-climates in our gardens. Learned to adapt to my changing availability at the site by changing the plant options.
How this design helps me apply permaculture in my life:
Thanks to the observed natural feedback, I feel that I can make a regenerative impact on the local biota and that with a bit of effort I can grow my own food in a regenerative way. The failures I encountered were amazing opportunities to learn by research, trial and error. This makes me feel confident that with information and experience almost any problem can be mitigated through design.
How this design helps me apply permaculture in my works and projects:
Design Consultancy- System designed for a client. Gained experience in the design and implementation of a gardening system that integrates with other pre-existent designs and elements. I was able to translate this data into a design through software like AutoCad and Illustrator. Created the first version of the questionnaire I will provide to future clients.
Site Development- Gained experience in the design and implementation of a garden system and learned techniques from local books and the internet. Research about herbs, vegetable crops, root crops and medicinal plants, should serve as an invaluable tool for future designs.
Education- Most of the lots in Puerto Rico are small and most of it is occupied by the house. In such limited spaces, clients would not be able to implement large designs so I think that students would be more interested in small veggie gardens. This design would serve as a good example.
Principle 8: Integrate rather than segregate
By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between them and they support each other.From: " https://permacultureprinciples.com/principles/_8/ "