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It begins to be clearer to me, Joan. But I'm still working out how to realize that on the 4th  floor...

Oh my! That means a lot of work! Do you have that much energy? At this stage of my life, I do not have that kind of energy, in fact, I am just enjoying my garden now, after 38 years of planning, planting and pulling. Are there others in your building who would like to share i the project? Preferably, strong and young. This age thing has some benefits, but energy isn't one of them. At least for me. I will be interested to learn what you come up with.

Maybe a subscription to a garden magazine. Oh dear, my age is showing. 

I think I'm on my own, at least until the cars have rusted away in the parking places, then I expect my neighbours to help me break up the parking lot ;-).  I haven't got much energy, and I've got a bad back, but I can handle a lot in a slow way. One by one I attack my garden crates: fertilize and weed out things I won't need, and make a planning for sowing. I can move the crates with a handtruck if necessary. I often do ´ten minute jobs´ or I work until my back hurts - not long - but I always get more work done than expected.

The permaculture idea is to disturb the earth as little as possible: it really sounds promising to me! 

Permaculture is a laudible intent.  It's hard for me to live by it but the thought is always there.  I like the idea of multi-function plants and think about that a lot.  

As time passes I'm hoping for my garden to mature into a more self-sustainable form.  I have to plan now for the future when I can't do as much - raised beds are easier to maintain than regular garden plots, for example.  Once mature, fruit trees should be easily maintainable for a long time.  I keep them pruned compact, so no ladder is needed.  So far.   The prunings immediately become mulch, to hold in water and keep down weeds.

I think when I get enough raised beds in place, I can grow "green manure" in them in a rotation, so I don't need to bring in as much compost.  Green manure is a cover crop that adds nitrogen, complex carbohydrate, and improves fertility.  Examples are buckwheat, fava beans, and clover.

I've been reading about soil structure and the effects of tilling.  It seems to me that sometimes tilling is needed.  For example, to work in compost and aerate a compacted, mistreated soil that is not fertile and does not drain.  But overdoing it damages the architecture and microbial flora, and results in loss of soil carbon compounds and nitrogen, to the atmosphere.  Therefore excessive tilling should be avoided.  That's a balance I have not achieved.  I do use a shovel, not a tiller.  I'm a bit addicted to digging.

This was one article I've been reading - about large scale farm, not gardening.  But some lessons can be learned.  It shows the negative effect of tilling, as far as soil structure is concerned.  There is a lot of debate out there as to whether fungal (mycorrhizal) and bacterial (rhizobium) inoculants are needed. Maintaining those populations would have a role in permaculture.  What seems to be clear is that as the fungal population increases in the root zone, trees shrubs and smaller plants all benefit,.  Severe tilling (rototilling) can cause long term damage to the fungal structures - so not a permaculture method.

Still a lot to learn, and interesting topic!  Here is the permaculture forum on gardenweb.

I like your response, and indeed, permaculture has its place in gardening. I agree to prepare for those days when energy is gone ... I am at that place now and love it. I just sit in my garden and let it grow over me. I doubt if anyone will be able to find my body because I have so many lovely beneficial things growing, they will just decompose me in place, leaving behind my shoes and teeth. I like that image. I didn't like tilling because I didn't like to work that hard, and hand turning was not my favorite thing either. But growing soil isn't about humans turning the soil, that is the responsibility of the worms and all their friends. 

Thanks for the permaculture forum link and The Biology of Soil Compaction. My neighbor kids know there is one rule they cannot violate: DON'T STEP ON THE SOIL! When the younger ones come over and stepping stones are too far apart, we all work to put in the necessary extra places to step. The kids seem to love the rule and help make it work. 

Thanks for the link to the article Joan.

I like this topic.  It's becoming more common, I think.  Or I'm becoming more aware.  My gardening is not "permaculture" yet, but I try to guide my thoughts and actions in that direction.

-More mulching, which retains moisture, builds the soil, reduces weeds, reduces labor.  It would be nice if I could produce my own mulching materials, but so far I get a lot from other places.  Still, I do collect leaves, pine needles, and grass clippings on my property.

-Recycle everything I can via compost, when I use the woodstove, the ashes go back into the soil around trees, using cardboard packaging and newspaper as a bottom layer for mulch in areas where weeds or grass become a problem.

-If something looks like it needs pesticides to survive, I don't grow it.  Example is peach leaf curl.  That disease devastates most peach varieties here, is treatable with sprays, but Im planting leaf-curl-resistant varieties instead.  Similar, growing disease resistant apples and pears, to avoid sprays.

Random thoughts.  This is a great topic for people who want to live in harmony with nature.


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