A story of mounds, mulch and Mother Na­ture

Alberta Gardener Magazine - - Local Dirt -

Lessons from the 2015 Holzer per­ma­cul­ture tour in Aus­tria

In late Au­gust of 2015, 35 peo­ple from around the world met at the Vi­enna air­port in Aus­tria to be­gin what would be­come a hum­bling and en­light­en­ing learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Or­ga­nized by Ju­dith Anger from Per­mav­i­tae in Aus­tria and Zach Weiss from Per­ma­cul­ture.us in the United States, par­tic­i­pants were given a two week ed­u­ca­tional tour at two per­ma­cul­ture demon­stra­tion sites.

What is Per­ma­cul­ture?

Per­ma­cul­ture is per­ma­nent cul­ture – or per­ma­nent agri­cul­ture and hor­ti­cul­ture. The phi­los­o­phy be­hind per­ma­cul­ture was de­vel­oped in the mid 1970s in Aus­tralia by Bill Mol­li­son and David Holm­gren, who de­scribed it as fol­lows.

"The aim is to cre­ate sys­tems that are eco­log­i­cally-sound and eco­nom­i­cally vi­able, which pro­vide for their own needs, do not ex­ploit or pol­lute, and are there­fore sus­tain­able in the long term."

"Per­ma­cul­ture uses the in­her­ent qualities of plants and an­i­mals com­bined with the nat­u­ral char­ac­ter­is­tics of land­scapes and struc­tures to pro­duce a life­sup­port­ing sys­tem for city and coun­try, us­ing the small­est prac­ti­cal area."

In other words, it is about work­ing with Mother Na­ture to de­velop sus­tain­able hor­ti­cul­ture in our own back yards.

How do we put this into prac­tice? Mounds.

With stops at Kram­e­ter­hof, owned by Josef Holzer, in the moun­tains of eastern Aus­tria and Holz­er­hof, owned by Sepp Holzer in south-eastern Aus­tria, par­tic­i­pants were able to see many per­ma­cul­ture tech­niques in prac­tice. The group learned about hügelkul­tur, the ul­ti­mate raised gar­den bed. The mounds are made up of logs and branches in the bot­tom and cov­ered with lay­ers of com­post, leaves, soil and fi­nally plants. The mois­ture is wicked up the mound by the wood, greatly re­duc­ing any need to wa­ter. This can be done in any back­yard and is a great way to use up those tree trim­mings, leaves and other gar­den de­bris. All the gar­dens were planted in mounds, and the beds on these prop­er­ties were very lush and pro­duc­tive.

Mulch and Com­post.

No weed­ing! No till­ing! Weeds are sim­ply cut off be­fore they go to seed and left as mulch on the ground. The mulched veg­etable mounds were very healthy

Raised beds are di­vided; com­post is col­lected on one half and plant­ing is done on the other. The sides are re­versed the fol­low­ing year.

An aerial view of Kram­e­ter­hof in Aus­tria.

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