Our friend Paul is moving out of his house and doesn't want to leave some of his plants behind. Thinking that I could use some hands-on practice, I offered to build him some beds here at the land into which he could transplant in a week or so. Taking a walking tour around our house and the common house, I thought a spot on a the south-facing hill next to the laundry and the path would be good, and my dad pointed out that there were raspberries already right above that site, so we could integrate gardens. He also showed me how the water runs down the hill, so in my eventual design, though it is not neatly parallel to the path, the garden lies right above a swale. I suppose normally, a garden might benefit from being right below a swale, because all the water would have soaked down into the ground following gravity, but in this case there was not room. I believe the site will be saturated well enough even so.
Using my permaculture mindset, I was looking at Climate, Landform, Water, and Access and Circulation and considering Bill Mollison's Five Attitudinal Principles:
1. The problem is the solution: take the obstacle and turn it to productive opportunity
2. Everything gardens: everything has its effect on the environment (ask not what I can take or extract, ask what can I cooperate with)
3. Unlimited yield: theoretically, the yield of any system is infinite.
4. Make the least change for the greatest possible effect. (How can I do the greatest good for the largest number of beings for the longest time, with the least amount of work: leverage points.)
5. Work with nature not against. (We are nature working)
and then designed, making a rough sketch (below) to share:
My only experience making a garden on a slope was in southern Costa Rica, and the top soil was thick and rich. There, I was also making terraces , which I am not doing here. This soil is rocky (but not too bad) which made for a totally different digging experience. I decided I'd just mound the beds and sheet mulch it. I wouldn't do that if it were going to be an annual vegetable garden, but this garden is going to hold perennial flowers.
I was so excited, I wanted to start sheet mulching as soon as I had delineated the beds. I took my brand new shovel and headed for the cart full of manure that's been hanging out in the yard. It was frozen solid. Though the sunshine had me in short-sleeves, we are still in that weird limbo season where the air is warm and the breeze is sweet, but ice and snow still cling where they can. My dad laughingly pointed out, nothing keeps ice better than straw, sawdust, and manure. Not to be deterred, I scraped out about three buckets worth and spread it out on my new beds. I did the same today, and will tomorrow, until they have a good coat. I'll then cover them with all the cardboard in our basement, wet it down, and top it all off with leaves.