Our Interns designed a Zone 2 system in their design week and we implemented it over three weeks.
To speed up the implementation, we hired a small TLB (digger/loader) in to cut off the first layer of Kweek or couch grass over an area of about 200 m2. That in itself was a challenge as sand is very hard to manage with large machines as it gives way really easily – so we had to monitor every move of the driver very closely. It was an opportunity for some of the students to interact with small earthmoving equipment. If you are going to work on broad scale Permaculture implementations, earthmoving equipment becomes a vital part of the earth surgery we do to heal and rehydrate landscapes.
As we had brought a machine on site and assumed that it would not only clear grass, but also trench, we ran into a design snag. Interns had designed a beautifully contoured and patterned implementation and the TLB was really limited to straight line work. Luckily, we ran out of contracted time, so the machine could not trench.
We then returned to good old hand work on the second day with a more appropriate design which radiated out from a Berry cage tucked into a small Food Forest.
We dug trenches in the radiating beds to a depth of about 70cm.
We filled them with resources we could acquire: 10cm of horse stable manure, sprinkled with Bokashi. Roughly chopped Kelp and garden weeds followed as a light layer. A dash of food waste from the kitchen was added, and then we started to layer the sand and Master Organics compost in about 5 cm layers. This will eventually be topped with sifted earthworm castings and all inoculated with home-made Indigenous Micro-organism cultures (an aerobic Bokashi).
We also had to break for a day of Zone 2 pioneering and design feedback so that we were all on the same page in terms of the design and ecological processes we were going to activate.
A key concept we work with is accelerating successional process both above and below ground. This means that our shelter belts around the production space are tightly stacked combinations of pioneering and climax species, with many support plants, especially legumes to speed up biodiversity and windbreak establishment.
At the same time, we need to accelerate soil biology processes, so the addition of different micro-organisms and organisms in the trench bed is vital to a rapid soil succession. The challenge in the Cape Flats is that we have deep sands which literally swallow compost, so our solution has been to add organic matter as well as the organisms that will activate them. As the fungi, bacteria and earthworms get to work they create a more colloidal soil. And importantly if we keep mulching and practising chop and drop we can increase the soil’s capacity to hold moisture and nutrient sources.
Our second week took us back to the trenches, and we dug as many as were feasible as well as back filling them. However we had excess sand left and did not want to waste time moving it. So we paused and planted up 38 running metres of densely planted windbreaks which incorporated and celebrated indigenous groundcovers, shrubs and medium trees. A smattering of Mediterranean and Vietnamese plants like Vetiver grass came into the mix.
Once we had planted the raised berm, we had to tackle the kweek with cardboard mulch. Calvin’s family is able to supply us with unending amounts of cardboard and we are very grateful for this resource. The excess sand was then used to hold the cardboard down in the winds! Decomposing prunings were also applied on top of the cardboard. We sowed a thick cover crop into the mulch – a mix of Lucerne, Crimson Clover, Fenugreek, Black Mustard and Buckwheat seeds were broadcast. This will be the beginning of the mulch bank for the garden. Trench beds were also treated similarly, with annual cover crops partnering the staple crops that will still be planted. And finally mulched.
Our last implementation for the third week was planting up our fruiting species. We planted a subtropical corner which hosts Bananas, Paw Paws, Madumbi, Grenadilla and Lemongrass. They are planted around a trench which will take kitchen waste and has been inoculated with worms and microorganisms.
We are using fruit trees from a master fruit grower – Anton Roux, who set out the fruit systems at Babylonstoren. So we were able to plant Feijoa, Ruby grapefruit, a special Purple fig, and an unusual Pomegranate. Understorey plantings of Strawberry, Pepino Melon, Cape Gooseberry and Rhubarb with a green manure mix completed the first stacking in the Food Forest. We will update you as we acquire more fruit to experiment with in this climate.
Once we have built the Berry Cage and tweaked the Homestead garden, we are sure to introduce more interesting species to trial.
All in all an intense three weeks – and we can all feel how much this new system wants to spring into being!
Written by Alex Kruger and Calvin Dias: Lead facilitators of the Accredited Permaculture Training and Internship Programme.
Photographs by Joana Marques.