Permaculture forum: Lawn to Food Forest/Permaculture - where to start?

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Melbourne, Australia [AU zone
whoatemylettuce
Jan 15, 2018 6:15 AM CST
Hi All,

I just started gardening for 6 months. got 3 vegetable beds and 4 tomatoes plant so far.
I'm living on a 1000m2 land of grass, gently sloped down South East.

I really like permaculture philosophy and on my way to convert this lawn to a food forest for myself and hopefully, the locals.
I read few books, watch few videos about where to start and it does vary from person to person.

But I want to know more so would really appreciate if anyone here has been through the same scenario like me and can share with me what are the essential steps?
In particular where you got a big lawn.

So far I think would be:
- get chicken first so they work the lawn for me, then cover with wood chips thickly then plant trees
- or do no dig beds with newspaper, then compost etc. and sow green manure to break up and build the soil
- or do swale drains then mound on side with similar method to 2nd item above

Thumb of 2018-01-15/whoatemylettuce/1760b2

Thank you for your time & look forward to hearing from you Hurray!
Name: Sam
Massachusetts (Zone 5b)
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gradient
Jan 15, 2018 8:35 AM CST
Here is my experience, which may or not be relevant to yours. I have a property that has a few acres of lawn. I have no idea why they sell so many products to maintain lawns since I had to discover the hard way that it can very difficult to get rid of it. Even when we had a drought a few years ago the effect was negligible. Worse, it is a very narrow bladed grass that animals won't eat. I suppose it is fine for a suburban lawn, but it has no place in the country surrounded by woods and wildlife. In places where I scraped up the sod, the lawn would still return much more quickly than anything I could plant.

I suppose I could cage chickens or pigs over chunks of it and feed them until they turned it into a moonscape, but most of it is in full sun and during the summer it is really hot. I am not yet to the point where I am ready for lots of animals.

Luckily, I had large amounts of rotting wood laying around. I made one large hugel bed with plans for another. I still have to keep up with weeding, but plants have a chance of growing before lawn takes over. I have also built raised beds. I will be building more of these, composting in them and getting them ready for the following growing season.

In places where I want to grow field crops I have been forced to lay down cardboard, usually at least two layers thick.

I finally have chunks of field ready for planting because I put down cardboard and then about six inches of leaves and compost and then grew two successive plantings of fast growing cover crops right on top of that. To my great relief, by the end of last season there was no lawn in those areas. I just have to quickly expand around those areas this year, so that lawn does not creep back in.

I finally had to realize that this was going to be a long term project, pick smaller sections and concentrate on them, and just expand outward as I had time and resources.

I was able to plant fruit trees, but I had to thickly mulch twice a season to keep the grass from taking over. I think I am finally ready to plant those areas with mints and comfrey.

You might want to decide what you want most for a quick return. Pick a section and put most of your time and energy in that section to grow what is most important to you, develop that and expand outward steadily. Getting rid of lawn can be a long term process, unless you have plenty of resources to ship in dump trucks of compost, or can intensively graze animals over it. Or so I think.











Melbourne, Australia [AU zone
whoatemylettuce
Jan 16, 2018 5:53 AM CST
Starting from one section and expand later on sounds great. I'll do that! Thank you
Name: Sam
Massachusetts (Zone 5b)
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Jan 16, 2018 9:47 AM CST
I love hearing about other people's projects!

Starting off relatively small and expanding steadily gives you time and opportunity to observe the landscape and weather patterns which may alter your plans. If your new to gardening, you will learn a lot in one season. At least for me, much of what I read about gardening and permaculture really didn't sink in until I dove in and got my hands dirty.

Also, the areas that I haven't really worked on benefited from all the disturbance I caused working on other projects. For example, wild asters started blooming where I hadn't seen them before. I had disturbed the ground from leaving mounds of dirt or wood chips or compost or lumber while working. These are late blooming flowers and they were mobbed by bees since there wasn't much else available. I realized that I had better adapt my plans to include more late blooming plants, which sounds obvious to me now, but I hadn't thought it through before. Also, medicinal and edible weeds for humans and animals started to pop up more abundantly in areas I had disturbed. This season, I am going to time my mowing on areas that I am not working directly on to give these time to pop up. I was able to get a whole new harvest for myself, what animals I do have and the wild creatures. Your situation my not be as wild as mine, but I am just offering that as an example.

My plans also altered as I discovered micro climates. Just by accident, I discovered spots that were naturally protected from early frosts. Which then made me want to research on deliberately building micro climates. I also paid attention to where the sun hit the property during the main growing season which altered some of my initial plans.

Getting an early return is a permaculture principle and helps keep it fun, and not so overwhelming. Lots of observation is another.
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Jan 16, 2018 10:43 AM CST
Sam - how are you developing microclimates?
Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we can't eat money. Cree proverb
Name: Sam
Massachusetts (Zone 5b)
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gradient
Jan 16, 2018 11:00 AM CST
I happen to have this ugly, metal shed that I use to store tools in. I realized that it stores and radiates heat. This year I am planting heat loving plants right up next to it, and hope to extend the season slightly for an experiment in growing some plants that usually don't work in zone 5b.

Also using piles of stones as wind breaks and to absorb heat and radiate it at night.
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Jan 16, 2018 12:21 PM CST
Sam - like the idea of using your shed as a heat-generating source. Are you planting on the south side of the shed? Wow - how high do you have to stack the rocks for a wind break? Neat ideas for smaller projects for creating the microclimate.
Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we can't eat money. Cree proverb
Name: Sam
Massachusetts (Zone 5b)
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gradient
Jan 16, 2018 1:13 PM CST
Yes, on the south side. I will be installing a trellis and growing vines right next to shed and the next layer out will be cayenne peppers.

You don't have to stack high, if all you want to do is give something like watermelon seedlings a slight boost early in the season. I do have rather large boulders to work with, but for the most part, those plans are for further off in the future. Ponds are good for retaining and releasing heat slowly. That is not going to happen this season.

Last season before this one I was able to grow mixed greens until early December right in the ground without covering.
I use black trash cans to store water. Which I will keep around late growing areas. There was a nearby tree canopy, which created some shelter. (Close enough for some protection, far enough away to allow light) Didn't happen this year since we had a cold snap that broke a 116 year record in early November. That ended the season, except for some arugula in a cold frame.
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Jan 16, 2018 1:20 PM CST
Lucky you to have boulders. Just odds and ends of field stone here. Our oak trees do offer some frost protection in the late fall. I grow a few things - mostly ornamentals - on the south side of my heated garage but I can probably tuck in some kale in there for late season stuff. Lots of ideas but not a lot of time recently. I have grown greens in pots in my tall cold frame (with thermo-controlled light bulb to keep it above freezing) but have issues with white flies and aphids even over the winter.
Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we can't eat money. Cree proverb
Name: Sam
Massachusetts (Zone 5b)
Image
gradient
Jan 16, 2018 1:32 PM CST
I am not sure if this would work, but maybe growing a pot or two of Pacific Beauty calendula in there before you really start using the cold frame might help. I mention that variety since it lasts here right until the ground freezes.
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Jan 16, 2018 2:49 PM CST
Sam - I don't use my cold frame year-round - only during the winter. And it doesn't have a soil bottom due to it's location. It's been used primarily for overwintering potted cuttings and divisions of perennial shrubs.
Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we can't eat money. Cree proverb
Oklahoma (Zone 7b)
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armyvet2013
May 8, 2018 2:37 PM CST
I'm slowly converting my lawn into a food forest.

I'm not trying to get rid of all the grass though, as I can use it to make my own hay to feed my animals.

Right now I've just started building what I like to call the wall of pain. I'm slowly but surely growing a hedge/fence made up of mostly thorny plants like Roses and blackberries, and hoping to add in some thorny gooseberry plants. I'm also considering adding in some black locust trees, cut back to make them bushy, and prickly pear cactus in the right locations.

The intent is to have an edible, beautiful, and functional barrier that will keep out human beings, dogs, and coyotes while keeping chickens in.

I've started trying to propagate the roses and blackberry plants I'll need, and I'm working on getting the gooseberry. Shade where necessary will be provided by trees already existing on the property, with some catalpa trees added in where needed.
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
May 8, 2018 4:44 PM CST
Hmm - will the chickens go after the gooseberries? DD's chickens love raspberries.
Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we can't eat money. Cree proverb
Oklahoma (Zone 7b)
Image
armyvet2013
May 10, 2018 11:03 AM CST
Shadegardener said:Hmm - will the chickens go after the gooseberries? DD's chickens love raspberries.


I wouldn't mind at all. That would mean I wouldn't have to feed them as much. So long as they wouldn't tear up the plant itself.

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