Saturday 6 October 2012

Sustainable Garden

All my posts up until now have concentrated on aspects of designing a sustainable house for the off-grid plot of land I purchased in Southern Crete. Whilst still awaiting clearance from the Archaeology Department prior to completing the planning process (see earlier posts) I have turned my thoughts to how best to utilise the plot to aid our aim to making our lives simpler and more eco friendly.

As has been the case with all the subjects I have dealt with in my posts I set out initially by researching from books and the internet. This particular direction of reading quickly confirmed a lot of my own feelings and ideas and, most importantly, led me into the world of permaculture. (See later posts).

I have concluded that the aim of my sustainable garden is to:

- protect the existing habitats and where possible provide new natural habitats

- sustain biodiversity with existing wildlife alongside new human occupation

- connect into and integrate with the wider ecology of the area

- be productive and provide for recreation and sensory delight

Our first apple crop!
As I have previously commented there are:

- a number of apple trees with small very sharp fruit

- a few pomegranate trees

- a number of fig trees

- a couple of dying walnut trees

- some prickly pear cactus and a couple of struggling almond trees

- a few free ranging vines.
Retaining walls

There are also a large number of small random stone terraces designed to slow the water flow around the 50 -100 olive trees of varying ages with the oldest estimated to be 200 - 300 years old.  Many of  the stone terraces have been damaged over the years by the wandering mountain sheep and goat herds.

I will be putting together a programme of work of restoration and preservation maximising the use of on site resources as well as planting programme following a full scale permaculture design (see later post) which I will be completing over the coming winter months once, hopefully, the house build is under way.

In this design I will:

- Avoid importing topsoil unless the earth sheltering of the house is most suitably undertaken using local soil from which large boulders, that would damage the insulation or waterproofing, have been removed.

- Minimise hard landscaping surfaces by keeping drives and paths natural

Destruction squad!
- Retain and use spring water and rainwater on-site (see Water Management post).

- Use native species and plant stock from locality and choose plants most suited to native wildlife and insects

- Preserve existing mature trees (house has been sited to minimise tree loss (2))

- Provide protection to established trees during construction work and relocate any existing vegetation (eg. fig tree) that is at risk.

- Have a tree planting programme and consider starting this whilst house is under construction.

- If possible create a pond and plant with species that thrive in a wet environment. (This may not be possible due to long, hot, dry summers - see Water Management post)

- Plan earth roof planting to reflect that of adjacent mountainside and include large concentrations of native drought resistant herbs (thyme, sage etc).

Looks like a good fig crop this year
- Use best permaculture practice (see later posts) including mulching, avoid sprays and pesticides, encourage natural pest control through companion planting and by the nature of the plot and its climate minimise the use of water.

Free range vines!
Later posts will reflect my adventure into the world of permaculture and the design and subsequent practice of what evolves on this challenging piece of Southern Crete.