Backyard permaculture is about designing a productive ecosystem that is diverse and sustainable. It is not an exaggeration to say it concerns saving the planet. Call it your small contribution to make sure that your grandchildren inherit a habitable world if you will.
But at our green home it is about providing food, water and energy for the family in a way that is compatible with nature.
Backyard permaculture was last updated by Bernard Preston on 3rd May, 2021.
So much of agriculture, energy generation and water reticulation today can only be described as toxic. They are destroying the planet, bringing about dramatic climate-change and making us sick. It is no coincidence that the pandemic, really a lung infection, initially thrived in those parts of the world where air pollution was at its very worst.
Until each of us in his or her small way starts to take responsibility for our own lives, this destruction of the environment, and our bodies, will continue unabated.
Malignancies and the multitude of autoimmune diseases are just the tip of the iceberg; they are the small consequences of the gross neglect by human-beings of our planet.
Will you join me in trying to make a difference in your own backyard?
It will take time and energy; it comes at a cost, mainly the sweat from your brow, and I want you to know that up front. But the alternative is too ghastly to contemplate; a dying planet. And it is already happening.
There is perhaps no better way than to start recycling your garbage. It is a relatively simple task, which may take you five minutes a day but, if we all did it, it would make a profound difference.
Many of the important things in life have simplicity at heart. Just separating out the paper, cans and plastic from the other junk would make a huge difference; add to that the glass bottles.
Is that too much to ask? Well, accept then that your grandchildren may one day curse our generation for destroying their home; the late, once great, planet Earth.
I do not think that is an exaggeration either. Did you know that within a few short years there will be more plastic in the sea than fish? And then we eat it. It is even in our salt.
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 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 will 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 DC, I would point out it would also stress your back a great deal less too; standing in one place for a prolonged period is not easy for the body.
Or perhaps you might decide on making a compost pile, instead of sending all your garden and kitchen refuse to the dump.
But this backyard permaculture page at Bernard Preston's site is not primarily about sorting garbage and reducing your energy consumption; it is rather more than that, but had small beginnings. I will 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. Is the irrigation of your vegetables and fruit trees needlessly and perhaps detrimentally chlorinated?
Worse, they are in any case reaching the end of their life and very few new ones are being planned. Read more at alternative types of water storage.
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 is needed is to collect and store it in a tank or reservoir, and find a way to get it into your home and garden.
Urban agriculture is what we are promoting, and it needs water to be a success for a greener planet and something more than just fresh, unsprayed food from your garden; free from chlorine too but that is a ticklish subject which we cover elsewhere.
It will also be free of micro-plastic particles. Do you know that we all consume about 5g per week from both reticulated and bottled water? That is the size of a credit card.
Harvesting rainwater provides the foundation on which Bernard Preston's backyard permaculture is built.
Without water, gardening is impossible.
In our home, water is collected from five down-pipes, transferred via 110 UG sewerage conduit to a silt trap which then overflows into an underground 27,000 litre reservoir; it must have a roof.
A pump is used to bring that rainwater to the home and garden. It provides for all of our needs; we drink it too.
You might say that was no small beginning. No, it was not 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.
It has no microplastic particles and many other toxic chemicals either; they are too small to be filtered out by the utility. Just the sugar-free sweeteners that are peed out are now in your reticulated water, causing havoc with the friendly bacteria in the gut.
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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. I could go on at length; we could feed an army but much is given away to friends, 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 is 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.
Water scarcity in the world is set to increase, and the quality drop, but it is up to the individual now to become more resourceful and resilient.
The solar generator is certainly the largest and most complex of our backyard permaculture projects. It took a lot of planning, it is 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 is load-shedding which is frequent in South Africa; yesterday the power went off three times.
And we now use 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. We remain connected to the grid, should the need arise but have not used a kWh in over a year.
It also drives the pump that supplies water to our home and garden. Currently it is energising the swimming pool chlorinator and I can hear the good wife vacuuming. As soon as she is done, I will put on the kettle for tea, and take a hot shower, all supplied and heated by nature. We even have an E-car totally charged from the sun.
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.
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.
Interestingly getting your garden soil ready with plenty of compost captures carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, reducing greenhouse gases. Using kitchen waste in your compost bins gardening is so important. Do not send it to the dump; it is a valuable resource.
Few soil nutrients are more important than that from nitrogen fixation bacteria. The cling to the roots of legumes, enriching the soil.
there is a massive amount of fruit, vegetables and salads to grace our
home, all unsprayed with toxic pesticides; little or no inorganic fertilizers. What is potting in the garden is a favourite page. Is the best place to get as many of the top 7 functional foods as possible.
It is all a part of what I call the green journey; in essence it is 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; will they curse our very graves? Can we make a difference? Yes, we can.
In actual fact we prefer pole beans to the bush variety above; they are far more prolific and are much easier to reap. Building a vegetable garden trellis at zero cost is a piece of cake. When you cannot get rid of invasive aliens that are a bother, instead make use of them. Our bamboo patch has come in useful.
Growing your own healthy choice foods is the bedrock of the backyard permaculture philosophy. If you want to avoid getting nasty tumours 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.
You will find that these functional foods taste so good too; and they promote health and prevent disease. Could you make half an hour once a month to make the probiotic in this homemade sauerkraut recipe?
Homemade probiotics cured my fifteen year bellyache from a heliobacter infection that refused to respond to antibiotics. Even better is that a happy colon means far less likelihood of getting one of the nasty neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's.
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.
Free range eggs are the richest of the choline food sources.
It is almost impossible to purchase unheated, unprocessed honey today; keeping ten beehives in our garden is our solution to the adulteration of nature's best sweetener. Even so we limit it to about three teaspoons a day. It has helped us overcome our sugar addiction; we take almost zero.
Why does honey crystallise is a question that fascinates many, and what is the difference really?
Corn and beans provides balanced amino acids in the diet; this quick succotash recipe is one of my favourites.
Traditionally succotash is made with limas, but how to plant broad beans is another option; the growing season is not quite so long.
Corn and beans for dinner has become controversial in an obese world with many diets like banting and paleo banning all starches and legumes in an attempt to force ketosis; that means there is no place for either of these foods containing carbohydrate.
However both have a low glycemic index, and pass through the small intestine largely unscathed, forming rather the very important short chain fatty acids in the colon than glucose. The microbes in the large intestine are so valuable that they themselves are now described as another organ supplying essential substances to the body. Kefir benefits include a steady supply of probiotics to the gut.
It is Bernard Preston's belief that it is refined carbohydrate rather than all starches that are the problem. Is there a difference between that in a cola and that in a bean? Read more on this difficult subject at about resistant starch.
However, if you are morbidly obese, you will have to eschew all starch for a period, even the good carbohydrates; less than 50g per day. Then the pounds fall off very quickly.
With thanks to the Nutrition Network for this slide.
Another controversial subject that you may be faced with is the phytates bound up in dried corn and beans; it is part of the reason we prefer them young and tender straight from the garden as far as possible. Chickpeas are the exception; you simply cannot grow them in a summer rainfall area; repeated rinsing helps.
Food waste is an enormous problem adding substantially to greenhouse gas emissions and contributing to climate change; how does backyard permaculture measure up?
It is staggering that between 30 to 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 planet.
Some of that is because it might be slightly blemished and not considered suitable for greengrocers; other because it is spoiled in some way during harvest and transportation. Yet more is thrown away by supermarkets because it is past its sell by date, and of course that which has gone off in our own kitchens.
There is 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 veggies. The dogs get left over food. That is 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 is clogging our landfills and oceans.
It is 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 is all part of natural pest management.
This nontoxic product from white oil manufacturers can easily be made at home; it is the solution to aphids and white fly on your citrus and roses.
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 is 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 insects.
Backyard permaculture means the human race will not starve. Plant indigenous trees for bees wherever possible; in Southern Africa the Halleria Lucida for example.
One of the problems is that many insecticides used on fruit and nut trees are highly toxic for your bees; think of this white oil instead, especially for citrus and your broad beans.
It is not just honeybees, but bats, frogs, rhinos and a million other creepy crawlies; the decline in biodiversity we are seeing comes largely from human activity, and is now a serious threat to our own survival. In this domain there is much discussion on the place of invasive alien species, many of which bring significant economic and environmental benefits.
We said at the beginning of this page that backyard permaculture is about sustainability; this biodiversity is absolutely central to our own development. It is pivotal when discussing the ten commandments of food security.
Tropical forest destruction, an ever shrinking fishing industry, planting of monocultures, rise in CO2 to previously unprecedented levels and melting of the polar ice all speak of the destruction of our own environment, and our own future as a specie, due almost entirely to human activity.
Spraying poisons on our food is at the very heart of modern agriculture; whether it is weedicides or even more toxic Roundup that it absorbed into the very plants we eat, there is absolutely no doubt that they cause many of the tumours that we suffer from. We and the planet are dying.
Weaning off plastic would be a great start to saving our biodiversity.
Bernard Preston is a semi-retired DC 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. One of the greatest mistakes is to think you can do so little, so you do nothing.
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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