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Permaculture Principles and Other Random Thoughts on Designs for Living

     
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[diagram from We Are All Farmers - represents full spectrum of applicability for permaculture]

Permaculture is a system of agricultural and social design principles centered around simulating or directly using the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems.

Membership in Loving Garland Green for most of us includes following the 12 principles of permaculture.   You can find them on our website at http://lovinggarlandgreen.org/index.php/sustainable/permaculture-design-principles

The eleventh principle is one that is not always readily understood and more than once I’ve explained it to people because it is an important principle to observe in nature.  We can learn from our observations and then to use this knowledge as leverage to bring changes that conserve energy and maximize existing potential.  

Permaculture Principle 11:  Use Edges and Value the Marginal

As a culture we rarely use or even think of edges as any more than boundaries that separate different parts or areas.  As for “valuing the marginal”—more often than not, we view marginal as unstable and dangerous and run from it at full throttle.

David Holmgren, one of the co-founders of permaculture as a discipline is often quoted as saying:  “Don’t think you are on the right path just because you have plenty of company.”  That statement is a good principle in and of itself (even if it is not specifically one of the 12 permaculture principles).  And yes, almost the entire world can be wrong and historically have been more than once.  We all need to remember that. Ignorance can often manifest and spread like weeds to the far corners of the earth. The number does not increase the value of the weed.  If anything, it only makes it more noxious.

In nature, the place where two eco-systems or habitats meet (e.g. woodland and meadow) is generally more productive and richer in the variety of species present than either habitat on its own. In ecology this space is called 'ecotone'.

This observation of nature is central to the idea of using edges as a design method. The logic is simple. If the most productive bit of woodland is the edge, then design it to have a bigger edge.  Makerspaces that I've written about lately can be considered as putting permaculture principle 11 into action.  The makerspace is a way to widen the narrow edge occupied by skilled workers through the creation of spaces that make their tools and expertise available for teaching others.  The unskilled workers bring their own life experiences to this edge or space and thus new ways to use the tools and new possibilities for creation of new objects emerge from the merging of these two different worlds of the teacher and the student.

Intuitively, at least, we show some propensity to use edges and value the marginal.  For example, many people in the world desire to live near or on the edge where the water meets the land—lakefront properties, beach properties, and riverfront properties.  That we value such edges is reflected in the prices that we are willing to pay for these edge properties.

But it is peculiar how we can have such an understanding at one level that indicates a deeper understanding of the underlying principle and then turn around and totally disregard the principle in other applications. 

No better example of this than the way we have laid out our streets—particularly in residential areas.  If anything, the grid pattern which most residential developments follow totally ignores the edge and how it could be used to enhance the quality of any residential development and the lives of the people who live there. 

If you want to learn more about this particular example of how to waste the potential of edge, please watch this video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=560&v=trC-HrVgJ38 

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Jane Stroud, officer of Loving Garland Green Board of Directors multitasking in the garden:  watering and vacuuming bugs.

At the Crossroads of Sustainable and Practical with Loving Garland Green

This morning I got an interesting email from Jane Stroud, an officer on the Board of Directors for Loving Garland Green:

New idea!
I'm invaded with cucumber beetles. I saw on Internet you could vacuum with cordless vac and dump them in soapy water. I tried it this afternoon and you can suck them out of the air in flight. Done!  Gonna try this tomorrow morning when I water with Marie. Should work! Bringing a bucket of soapy water to test it in.  
Jane

This morning I went down to the garden to see Jane in action with her cordless vacuum and container of soapy water.  Yes, she was successfully vacuuming up squash bugs.  The process definitely works.

But is vacuuming squash bugs sustainable?  Strictly speaking, the answer is likely "no."

Environmental sustainability refers to the rates of renewable resource harvest, pollution creation, and non-renewable resource depletion that can be continued indefinitely. If they cannot be continued indefinitely then they are not sustainable.  Unless the vacuum is solar-powered, its use to suck up the bugs is not sustainable.

 

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MORE ON THE BATTLE AGAINST THE SQUASH BUG

I’ve done considerable research and I can find no information on any beneficial aspect of the squash bug.  If you know of any, please educate me.  Generally speaking all creatures have a reason for being--even humans.

DAMAGE

Injury is limited to squash, pumpkin, melon, and other plants in the cucurbit family. Adults and nymphs cause damage by sucking plant juices. Leaves lose nutrients and water and become speckled, later turning yellow to brown. Small plants can be killed completely, while larger cucurbits begin to lose runners. The wilting resembles bacterial wilt, which is a disease spread by another pest of squash, the cucumber beetle. The wilting caused by squash bugs is not a true disease. Squash bugs may feed on developing fruits, causing scarring and death of young fruit.

MANAGEMENT

In spring, search for squash bugs hidden under debris, near buildings and in perennial plants in the garden. Inspect young plants daily for signs of egg masses, mating adults, or wilting. Place wooden boards throughout the garden and check under them every morning.  Then destroy any squash bugs found.

Cultural Practices

The best method for control is prevention through sanitation. Remove old cucurbit plants after harvest. Keep the garden free from rubbish and debris that can provide overwintering sites for squash bugs.

At the end of the gardening season, compost all vegetation or thoroughly till it under. Handpick or vacuum any bugs found under wooden boards. During the growing season, pick off and destroy egg masses as soon as you see them. Use protective covers such as plant cages or row covers in gardens where squash bugs have been a problem in the past and remove covers at bloom to allow for pollination.

Trellising

Using a trellis for vining types of squash and melons can make them less vulnerable to squash bug infestation. [We are definitely going to 1) plant squash in new places next year and 2) trellis them  [at the least they will be easier to vacuum than vines on the ground].

Resistant Varieties

Some squash varieties, including Butternut, Royal Acorn, and Sweet Cheese, are more resistant to squash bugs.  [We may decide to go this route as well as we did get a few butternut squash this year.]

   

 

Biological Control

The parasitic tachinid fly Trichopodna pennipes, which lays its eggs on squash bugs, may be found in some gardens. Look for the eggs of this parasite on undersides of squash bugs.   [I'm very leery of introducing non-native insects into our local environment.  In fact, I don't do it.  Often this ends up drastically upsetting the balance of nature in the environment and you end up trading one problem for another.  We've seen this in many places in the USA with the introduction of various non-native species of dragonflies as mosquito controllers.]

Chemical Control has been found to be ineffective in the management and control of the squash bug.

[Information and photo on squash bug courtesy University of California Agriculture Department.]

Wednesday, August 5, 2015