PERMACULTURE ** Design Principle #7 – Start small, figure out what works, then repeat with necessary modifications

hugelkultur bed, broccoli

Broccoli currently growing in hugelkultur bed

Following this principle:

  • Reduces gardener overwhelm
  • Saves time, energy and money in the long run
  • Gives a feeling of accomplishment as one section at a time of the garden and/or orchard becomes functional rather than having a huge unfinished project that may or may not work when it’s done

Following this principle requires: PATIENCE!

I believe I have mentioned that patience is not one of my gardening virtues so the application of this principle was a challenge for me! I wanted to do it all, vegetable and native plant gardens, food forest, edible landscaping, berms and swales, a pond, livestock, solar panels …  All of this I wanted done in my first year at Green Owl Gardens!

sheet mulch

I really wish I had used 1/2 inch aviary wire under all the lovely sheet mulch!

Here are a couple of examples of when I have and have not practiced this principle starting at the very beginning when I started work on the vegetable garden. We moved to Julian on December 1st, 2009. I felt like I was already a month behind in getting the vegetable garden prepped for spring planting so instead of gathering data and talking to neighbors I jumped right in and laid down 500 feet of chicken wire over the grass lawn. I then laid down flattened cardboard boxes to smother the lawn, some green clippings, a six inch “layer of straw, an inch or two of compost and another thick layer of straw. THEN I met my neighbor who gently informed me that the land I live on is heavily populated with gophers who will squeeze right through the regular one inch mesh chicken wire I had used.  I did not tear it all up and start over; I went into denial and hoped for the best and consequently my first year vegetable garden was overrun by gophers.

Since then I’ve been digging out the original chicken wire and experimenting with raised, sunken

sunken beds

My friend Alden helping to dig sunken beds in the vegetable garden

and hugelkultur garden beds diligently lining each of the new beds with ½ inch wire hardware cloth or ½ mesh aviary wire (which looks like chicken wire but with a ½ inch mesh).  What I’ve learned from redoing my beds I will now apply this spring when I work on expanding my developing food forest down in the orchard.

Remember -“Use small scale, intensive systems. Start at your doorstep with the smallest system that will do the job … then repeat it with variations” Toby Hemenway – Gaia’s Garden

One Thought on “PERMACULTURE ** Design Principle #7 – Start small, figure out what works, then repeat with necessary modifications

  1. Like Mary I decided I would try putting a layer of chicken wire down to prevent gophers from destroying plants (in my case trees) I tried two different ways and thank goodness I didn’t go whole hog and do a lot because I really doubt I will ever do it again.

    What wire mesh does is protect the gophers. They’ve got a safe area that they can burrow under to their hearts content. Nothing can dig down and get them. Coyotes, other predators that might dig, can only reach the wire .

    The chicken wire will not last more than 2 or 3 years . Gopher tunnels leading up to it allow oxygen and moisture to cause rust and deterioration even if its galvanized . Then they go right through it even if it is half inch. But they’re still very much protected from any larger predator above.

    Gopher baits are designed to fail in the long run because all the tunnels are still there. A new juvenile gopher moves in and has the run of the entire network which can be quite extensive. So you have to go out and use more bait, which is probably gone bad, so you have to buy some more, and the chemical companies profit.

    This is the same problem with chicken wire it protects all the tunnels under the area it covers and if a gopher moves in – even after 5 years they have the entire nest/tunnel system. And digging it out! Oh my lord! What a freaking pain! It took me all morning to get it out of about a 10 foot by 10 foot patch!

    Chicken wire just encourages you to use poison out of desperation. And think about a snake that eats a poisoned gopher this is a huge percentage meal for a snake I will bet you a lot that the gopher baits have not been tested at this level on reptiles. And why should it be? The chemical companies would love to kill the Gopher predators as well. It is not a long term solution.

    The best thing I have done is to destroy many of the existing gopher runs. I was amazed at how networked such a small area was. I then added compost to my excavations and kaboom – fruit. It is a long term solution.


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