Working with the land in permaculture
RAINFALL IN THE SANTA FE AREA BETWEEN MARCH 1 AND APRIL 30WAS JUST 0.31 INCH. That’s 60 percent less than the previous 10-year average for the period. As the skies becomes less generous, it is reasonable to try to make our gardens more self-sustaining. Permacultural thinking can help. Among its 12 principles are observation, valuing natural resources and diversity, obtaining a yield, and integrating rather than segregating.
“Some of the examples of permaculture are to have soil that’s alive and that will support plants and beneficial microbes and worms,” said Jeremiah Kidd, “then give it moisture to support fruiting, productive plants: nut trees and shrubs, fruit trees, fruit shrubs, and edible flowers like daylilies, nasturtiums, and tulips; and then make it all look beautiful.” Kidd is owner/director of San Isidro Permaculture in Santa Fe. “You try to design guilds, and that can include planting daffodils around apple trees to keep gophers away from the roots; planting mints and salvias to attract bees for pollination; and planting what we call dynamic accumulators like comfrey and yarrow that can synthesize certain minerals in the soil.”
San Isidro Permaculture is dedicated to designing, building and maintaining beautiful, productive and regenerative landscapes. The company’s work includes landscape design, rainwater harvesting, water re-use, irrigation systems, edible landscapes, native landscapes, hydroseeding and re-vegetation, and erosion control.
When rain is scarce, we should maximize what does fall, by designing the landscape to capture it and release it into planted areas and by directing runoff to storage tanks. “We want to amend the soil and push water into the soil as much as possible using swales or even just depressions, ponding areas— moving water away fromwhere it’s a problem close to the house and into depressions where we can put plants,” Kidd said. “Building the soil is huge, to be able to actually soak up the water, and with microbes to help clean the water in case it’s coming off the street.”
What if our “soil” seems more like a parking lot? “Organic matter is the solution to most of the problems, whether it’s better drainage or holding the water. If you have caliche, you might need a machine in there once to loosen up the soil. A low labor-intensive method is sheet mulching. If you can afford it, put compost down and also mulch, but otherwise the mulch will slowly turn into compost. You want