Backyard permaculture

Benefits of green beans grown in a compost heap

Backyard permaculture is about designing a productive ecosystem that is diverse and sustainable. It's not an exaggeration to say it concerns saving the planet. Call it an attempt to make sure your grandchildren inherit a habitable world if you will.

But in your home it's about providing food, water and energy for the family in a way that is compatible with nature.




So much of agriculture, energy generation and water collection and reticulation today can only be described as toxic. They are destroying the planet, bringing about dramatic climate change and making us sick.

Until each of us in our own small way starts to take responsibility for our lives, this destruction of the environment, and our bodies will continue unabated. Cancer and the multitude of autoimmune diseases are just one small consequence of the gross neglect by human beings of our planet.

Will you join me, Bernard Preston, in trying to make a difference in your own backyard?

It will take time and energy; it comes at a cost, and I want you to know that up front. But the alternative is too ghastly to contemplate; a dying planet. And it's already happening.

There's perhaps no better way than to start recycling your garbage. It's relatively simple, may take you five minutes a day and if we all did it, we would see profound changes. Many of the important things in life have simplicity at heart. Simply separating out the paper, glass, cans and plastic from the other junk would make a huge difference.

Is that too much to ask? Well, accept then that your grandchildren may one day curse you for destroying their home; the late, once great, planet Earth. I don't think that's an exaggeration either. Did you know that within a few short years there'll be more plastic in the sea than fish?

Australian family Eliades has an altogether different concept; I love what they have written at deep green permaculture. Enjoying what others have done will inspire you to make your start.


Backyard permaculture

Backyard permaculture is a colossal subject. You may end up going the whole nine yards but it will probably have tiny beginnings. Plan big but start small is a good way to think about it. Nowhere is this more true than when building a solar generator; otherwise you have to upgrade your inverter at great and unnecessary expense.

The place to start is where your heart is. It could be something as small as deciding to iron your clothes only for high and holy days.





That alone would reduce the world's energy consumption significantly, if we all did it, and produce less greenhouse gases.

As a chiropractor, I'd point out it would also stress your back a good deal less too.

Or perhaps you might decide on making a compost pile, instead of sending all your garden refuse to the dump.

But this backyard permaculture page at Bernard Preston's site isn't primarily about sorting garbage and reducing your energy consumption; it's rather more than that, but had small beginnings. I'll tell you about my vision for a sustainable future; yours will probably look very different.

At the heart of any backyard garden is the need for a plentiful supply of water. To contribute to sustaining your own natural ecosystem, you need to look beyond using your local utility. In the first place distant dams are very expensive; they are wasteful with huge losses from evaporation and in the reticulation, and unnecessarily chlorinated for your vegetables and fruit trees.

But onto your roof, depending on where you live, there is probably a plentiful supply of relatively clean water falling for much of the year. All that's needed is to collect and store it in a tank or reservoir and find a way to get it into your home and garden.


Rainwater harvesting model

This rainwater harvesting model provides the foundation on which Bernard Preston's backyard permaculture is built.

Without water, gardening is impossible.


Rainwater reticulation plans

In our home, water is collected from five downpipes, transferred via 110 UG sewerage conduit to a silt trap which then overflows into a underground 25,000 litre reservoir; it must have a roof.

A pump is used to bring that rainfall to the home and garden. It provides for our total needs; we drink it too.

You might say that was no small beginning. No, it wasn't but in all fairness we already had a large garden, which was the real start of our backyard permaculture but it was dying of thirst. We now have an unlimited supply of lovely, soft, unchlorinated water for all of our needs.




From there we could extend our backyard permaculture to building compost piles and growing a multitude of vegetables, salads and fruit trees.

Lettuce, spinach, beets and beans, corn and potatoes, and squash abound, and I could go on at length; we could feed an army but much is given away to friends, chiropractic patients and at our church. But everything is dependent on that stored rainwater.

From there we moved into keeping bees, building a chicken tractor and a worm farm; it's all about pollination of our veggies, providing nitrogen rich manure for the plants, and the surplus creepy crawlies to feed the chooks.

You could start your backyard permaculture with any of these projects, or others that you may be passionate about. Planting a lemon or lime tree would be a great beginning for anybody wanting to improve both their health and the environment.

Solar generator

The solar generator is certainly the largest and most complex of our backyard permaculture projects. It took a lot of planning, it's a work in progress with three more large west facing PV panels going up this week to provide an extra 930 watts of sunshine energy to our home; here they are.

It was an expensive project but we have plentiful electrical energy when the utility has load shedding which is frequent in South Africa; yesterday the power went off three times.

And we now use almost no mains electricity, so our solar generator is paying for itself by providing a steady supply of clean power, and protecting our electronica from surges.

It also drives the pump that supplies water to our home and garden. Currently it is supplying the swimming pool pump and chlorinator and I can hear the good wife vacuuming. As soon as she's done, I'll put on the hot water kettle for tea, and take a hot shower, all supplied and heated by nature.

Our philosophy to work with rather than against nature. Collect the sunshine and rainwater falling on your roof. Use them to supply your home and garden.


Soil nutrients

Improving the soil nutrients is a central part of backyard permaculture; without the nitrogen, inorganic minerals and mulch we cannot expect to enjoy healthy vegetables. Just look at these green beans growing in what was once a compost pile.

Then there is the wonder of worm farms, making a compost pile and the use of a chicken tractor design to provide organic fertiliser for the garden.

Finally, there is a massive amount of fruit, vegetables and salads to grace our home, all unsprayed with toxic pesticides and inorganic fertilizers. What's potting in the garden is a favourite page. Is the best place to get as many of the top 7 functional foods for your health as possible.

It's all part of what I call the green journey; in essence it's a spiritual voyage into the inner self, beginning with a healthy disgust of how we are destroying Creation, with the nagging feeling that, no matter how hard we try, we are leaving behind a broken planet for our children's children; will they curse our very graves? Can we make a difference? Yes, we can.


Healthy choice foods

Growing your own healthy choice foods is the bedrock of the backyard permaculture philosophy. If you want to avoid getting cancer and one of the many autoimmune diseases, start to think about food rich in vitamins and minerals, phytochemicals and natural fibre; like orange juice bioflavonoids, for example.

One small example is that most Western diets have at best 50% of the recommended choline; a deficiency causes a multitude of serious diseases, including birth defects. Our backyard permaculture solution is to grow plenty of greens and keep our own hens.

It's almost impossible to purchase unheated, unprocessed honey today; keeping ten beehives in our garden is our solution to the adulteration of one of nature's best foods.

Runny and set honey.

Why does honey crystallise is a question that fascinates many, and what is the difference really?


Corn and beans

Corn and beans provides balanced amino acids in the diet; this quick succotash recipe is one of my favourites.


Food waste

Food waste is an enormous problem adding substantially to greenhouse gas emissions and contributing to climate change; how does backyard permaculture contribute?

It's staggering that between 30-40 percent of all the food produced around the world is never actually eaten. The race to end waste is a whole new initiative that is challenging the world.

Some of that is because it might be slightly blemished and not considered suitable for markets; other because it is spoiled in some way during harvest and transportation to the markets. Yet more is thrown away by supermarkets because it's past its sell by date, and of course that which has gone off in our own kitchens.

There's no easy solution but if we are cognizant of the problem we can each do our bit to save the world from human excesses. Our stale bread goes to the hens, and the worms just love rotten fruit and veg. The dogs get left over food. That's all part of backyard permaculture.

Add to food waste the plastic that it comes wrapped in and we have double trouble. That stuff is not biodegradable; it's clogging our land fills and oceans.

It's time to wean off plastic before it chokes the very life out of our planet; refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle.

This definition of cutworm might contribute to another conundrum facing the backyard permaculturist who refuses to use toxic sprays in the home. There is a surprising synergy of green living; free range hens will deal very effectively with this and other pests in the garden. But they themselves can be a nuisance; enter the chicken tractor. It's all part of natural pest management.

This nontoxic product from white oil manufacturers can easily be made at home; it's the solution to aphids and white fly on your citrus and roses. 


Biodiversity

The huge variety of life on the planet, and the natural interactions that occur between creatures and plants, form a fundamental part of our lives on which we are utterly dependent.

Just take honeybees for example; they are disappearing from the planet at an alarming rate. It's not just the honey they produce but the pollination of our flowers. One third of every mouthful we enjoy it directly dependent on pollination by bees. No bees means the human race will starve.

It's not just honeybees, but bats, frogs, rhinos and a million only creepy crawlies; the decline in biodiversity we are seeing comes largely from human activity, and is now a serious threat to our own survival.

We said at the beginning of this page that permaculture is about diversity and sustainability; this biodiversity is absolutely central to our own development.

Tropical forest destruction, an ever shrinking fishing industry, planting of monocultures, rise in CO2 to previously unprecedented levels and melting of the polar ice or speak of the destruction of our own environment, and our own future as a specie, due entirely to human activity.

Weaning off plastic would be a great start to saving our biodiversity.

Bernard Preston

Bernard Preston is a semi-retired chiropractor with a passion for healthy living and ensuring we leave a legacy for our grandchildren that we can be proud of; backyard permaculture is for him what each of us can and should do; it can only begin as each of us starts to take responsibility for our own lives. 

He is a writer of note, having published six books, and working on the seventh.

Backyard permaculture is just one of his many hobby horses. Soaring in gliders, keeping bees, playing chess and wood turning are other interests.


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What's this site about?

Bernard Preston books

A family affair by Bernard Preston

Consulting a chiropractor

Femoral nerve AP Xray

Bernie's healthy choice foods

Cooking green beans Bernard Preston passion

Bernie's bread

Bread machine loaf by Bernard Preston

Bernie's garden

green beans and granadillas Bernard Preston

Bernie's bees

Bees workforce in Bernard Preston's garden

Bernie's solar

Residential solar panels at Bernard Preston's home

Bernie's glider

View from Bernard Preston's glider