A story of mounds, mulch and Mother Nature
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.