Make a Basemap + a Wishlist

My wish for you is an abundant, easy to work vegie patch!

Creating this relies entirely on you getting to know your land first.

Push pause on the planning + building + planting, and take the time! Understanding your land and your climate first is key to you making sound placement choices. Bill Mollison (co founder of permaculture) wisely advises “protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labour”

Consider the first 4 seasons on your land as a time to connect to your place. You’ll be rewarded in spades – for when you do come to planting + building, everything races away happily, because its well chosen. And best of all, your garden will be a joy to work and easily fertile – hard labour and expensive inputs be gone!

The permaculture design process is the best and simplest way to gather this info together. It begins with a basemap.

Make a basemap

Kathand Matts Basemap

Get a big A3 bit of card or paper and make a pencil sketch of your place on it. Using a survey map is helpful if you have one to hand.

Draw in

  • all the existing infrastructure – houses, sheds, fences, driveway, underground and overhead wires, water tank, septic tank or drainage field and trees.
  • north
  • any contours, steepness or dips and hollows

Over the next 12 months, learn the following, and record it on your map:

  • Wind. Learn the seasonal winds and the prevailing winds. Get outside in all the different winds and get to know them. A nor’wester may not come due nor’west – wind is fluid and it responds to bush, hills, buildings – get to know where each wind is strongest and where it tails off. Describe them as intimately as you can – its amazing how different they all are. Which winds bring rain and which winds are cold? Which winds are strong? Are any of your winds dangerous? Find existing sheltered spots when each of the winds visit your place and draw them on your map. If your place is windy, every bit of existing shelter is valuable!
  • Sun. Get to know the path of the sun through all four seasons. Identify shady spots and sunny spots. Sun is the driving energy of nature – you need to orient your food growing ventures to the light! Winter sun is key knowledge for locating greenhouse, citrus and subtropicals.
  • Frost. Does frost hang out at yours, and if it does, where does it sit? When is the first frost and when is the last?
  • Rainfall. What’s the rainfall? What month is it driest? wettest? What weather systems bring the rain?
  • Water. Where does your water come from and where does it go to? Most of us have forgotten to consider where it goes after us, but we can have a positive impact on our local waterways when we pay attention and take responsibility for our part.
  • Drainage. Where does the ground go soggy and at what time of year? Do a drainage test. Does any area flood? Are you in a floodzone?
  • Temperatures: The low + high temperatures and when they occur. Research a years worth of average temps.
  • Soil. Get to know your soils. Do DIY soil tests in all the different zones – high, low, flat etc. Look up your soil type on an NZ soil map. Talk to local gardeners – they’re gold! If you are on ex farm/ horticulture or industrial land, test the soil to check it is safe. Free tests are available at Soil Safe NZ
  • Weeds. Learn your weeds and natural groundcovers, note them on your basemap. This will help you later.

Get outside and experience all the weather first hand, then draw the info on your map. Use pencil – there will be changes! Leave your Basemap out – tack it to the wall or on the coffee table, so that its easy to add + subtract things – keep it alive in your mind!

Note well: This first phase is an information gathering phase – not a designing phase. Its fun to dream of what you will put where, but until you have the intel from all 4 seasons on your basemap/ in your mind – you cannot make good design calls. Don’t clutter your basemap with design – do that on a separate bit of paper.

Make a wishlist

Make a wishlist of all you want to produce, your fav plants, the buildings and the animals you want to share your lives with – there’s no commitment here, put it all down. Include on it your likes and dislikes, the vibe you want to create, and the way you wish to live your life – your garden can reflect all these things!

Leave a big sheet of paper out for the family to doodle, colour and jot wishes down on. This is a living list for adding to and subtracting from.

Start with the crops that are important to your family – this is especially wise if you are new to gardening or working the land. Base your list on what you actually eat. It’s tempting to want to grow everything! but keep it basic – leafy greens, herbs and a lemon (if it suits your climate), are a strong beginning. Dont get too tricky.

As part of your research, explore your neighbourhood to discover what organic produce you can trade or buy – fruit/ vegies/ meat/ honey/ grains/ eggs – such a nourishing network to be part of and is way more fun than slaving away on your own! Check out local veggie swaps and community gardens too.

Tree research

The other key bit of research is to discover the shelter, fruit + nut trees, and fruiting vines + berries too, that thrive in your particular environment. Getting the right varieties is how you’ll achieve easy abundance. The better the varieties match your soil and weather, the less problems you’ll have. Tap into your community knowledge base and reference the observations on your basemap. List all the trees you learn about.