Geoff Lawton

All About Weeds

Weeds are a symptom, not the cause, of a problem. We can observe weeds to read the landscape, deduce what reparative steps need to be taken, and speed up the natural sequence of recovery. Weeds can actually be great friends to gardeners. In any square meter of ground, there can be thousands of seeds waiting to germinate, but the condition of the ground determines what grows. For example, compacted ground will spur decompacting weeds to grow, and nature, in no hurry, waits for the process of decompaction to occur. On the other hand, when the soil is too loose, the weeds will have soil stabilizing characteristics, such as hairnet root systems. Once the soil has stabilized, it’ll go on to the next cycle plants. Weeds also indicate soil minerals. The bracken fern, common after fires, are known for harvesting potassium, most of which burns off in fires. The plants after fires are those which can harvest potassium when it’s in low supply. The ferns can be cut and mulched to the ground to reduce the number of ferns growing. However, if they are burned, the ground is only further depleted of potassium, so more ferns will come back. A classic function of weeds throughout the world is to restore fertility in the landscape, replenishing nitrogen, and this is done largely by the peas and beans families. This goes all the way into legume trees. These plants have special relationships with bacteria in the soil that trade nitrogen deposits for starch. This is a great way to fertilize the ground. It’s how nature does it, and we can use the same technique by partnering with nitrogen-fixing plants. In crop gardens, we sometimes get into a spatial race with weeds, and the solution is to replace the weeds with “designed weeds” to take up the space. This can be done with green manure mulches to fertilize the gardens and supply quality mulch. This is an example of how understanding the inner workings of weeds allows us to harmonize with natural systems to both repair the earth and create production for ourselves. Key Takeaways: • Weeds are a symptom of a problem, not the cause, so we can use weeds to read the landscape. • Thousands of seeds are in the ground waiting to germinate, and the ground conditions will determine which ones do. • Compacted soils will encourage decompacting weeds, such as dandelions, to grow; loose soils will encourage stabilizing weeds with hairnet roots to grow. • Areas that have been burned will encourage potassium-harvesting plants, like bracken ferns, to grow in order the recover the landscape. • Weeds, especially leguminous plants, are often restoring the fertility of the land be replenishing nitrogen in the soil. • We can use our knowledge of weeds to select “designed weeds” to take up the space that volunteer weeds would normally try to occupy, thus harmonizing with nature.

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Worm Tower

How to build a worm farm.

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Zaytuna Farm

Take a sweeping 20-minute tour of our 66-acre Zaytuna Farm property. Throughout, I explain specific features of the farm, how these things came together, and why the farm was designed as you see it. If some terms aren’t familiar, we have included a detailed explanation below and to learn, even more, check out my Permaculture Masterclass series, HERE: https://www.discoverpermaculture.com/... Zaytuna Farm went into development in 2001 with earthworks for the mainframe water system. The tour starts along the oldest, largest swale on the property, and it supports a well-established food forest, which includes jackfruit, mango, custard apples, Brazil cherries, pecans, and more. The productive forest is designed to mimic a natural forest, and the swale helps to hydrate the property. With systems like these, the farm is continually improving into a drought-proof, flood-proof, and extremely stable landscape. Swale: A swale is a water-harvesting and tree-growing system that resembles a ditch, only it sits level and holds water until it soaks into the landscape rather than draining water away. Swales are on slopes, and the lower side of swales are bordered with berms (mounds of soil) into which trees are planted. Food Forest: A food forest is a designed forest meant to replicate what happens in natural forests but with a diverse collection, a polyculture, of productive (and supportive) trees and plants operating from the root level to the overstory. Chop-and-Drop: Support trees and plants, particularly grown for their nitrogen-fixing and biomass-producing abilities, are regularly cut (“chopped”), and the prunings are left on the forest floor (“dropped”) to decompose, creating fertile soil and fostering fungal networks. Chinampa: Chinampas are an ancient agricultural method that combines shallow water systems for raising fish and aquatic crops with artificial islands and/or peninsulas for growing land crops. This method is considered one of the most successful and sustainable in history. The main gardens on Zaytuna farm have been in continuous production for over 12 years. They grow the main volume of vegetables on the farm, and their soils are constantly revitalized with compost provided by two chicken tractor systems. The two chicken tractors yield one cubic meter of compost each every week, so it’s no wonder the fertility of the soil continual improves. Geoff walks us through double-reach row upon row of crops: potatoes, daikon, snow peas, bak choy, cabbages, field peas, onions, garlic, carrots, beetroots, Romanesque, broad beans, etc. On the outside of the rows and occasionally betwixt them are alley crops of leucaena, a nitrogen-fixing legume, which are being groomed as high pollards. This is where the big, bulky crops are produced, and the system could be replicated for sustainable market production. Chicken tractor: A chicken coop that, beyond just raising chickens/eggs, is used to process waste materials and produce compost. They are typically movable and often relocated to also aid in weed and pest control via the chickens feeding on them. Bathtub worm farm: Worms make fantastic fertilizer via their castings (poop) and the juice, and bathtubs make great homes for worms, as well as easily harvesting these castings and this worm juice. The bottom of tubs are lined so that juice drip through the drain, and they are filled with manure and organic materials for the worms to eat. Zaytuna also has special waste systems: composting toilets and reed beds. All of the toilets onsite are composting. They are flushed with sawdust or shredded organic matter, and when they are full, they are emptied into wire baskets in the forest to sit for 9-10 months. The processed compost is spread around trees, and it is completely safe to handle and looks like typical forest mulch. Geoff grabs a handful and sniffs it to demonstrate. There is a large reed bed system made with two concrete bays. Water comes from the kitchen through a grease trap then a septic tank then reed roots before emptying into a leach field that soaks towards productive systems. There is also polypropylene reed bed suitable for one household that functions the same way as the commercial one. Cell-grazing: Animals are fenced in and allowed to graze small sections (cells) of the land for a set amount of time, often a day or a few days, before being moved on. This maintains the land and feeds the livestock without degrading the landscape. Wilderness: an integral part of permaculture design and a place which nourishes us and the planet.

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Greening the Desert

This video shows how Geoff Lawton went to the Jordanian desert in 2001 and turned a ten acre bit of desert and turned it into a orchard. if this can be done in the Jordanian desert imagine what can be achieved not just there but everywhere.

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Zaytuna Farm - Perennial Paradise (video)

All around the world people are asking what they can do to help to heal the earth. The permaculture movement is showing what individuals can do to bring health and happiness into their lives and at the same time restore the Earth's natural ecosystem function. In "Perennial Paradise" Geoff Lawton shows some of the many simple but practical work being used and taught at the Permaculture Research Institute's Zaytuna Farm in Australia. "What if we Change" is very happy that through this collaboration with the Permaculture Research Institute we can share this film online and in the broadcast series in Africa, China, the U.S.A. and beyond.

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Introduction to Urban Permaculture Design

Introductory principles behind the permacultural design by Geoff Lawton.

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