Welcome to MauiPermaculture.org

on Saturday, June 6, 2009

If you are looking for advice or guidance on how to create your own sustainable garden you have come to the right place.

Marian Scott, a permaculture specialist on Maui since 1982, publishes a series of how-to articles to get you started with gardening from the permaculture perspective, she has also written about Maui's natural resources.

Marian's business, Harmonious Earth Research, offers permaculture design consultations on Maui. Many Maui residents have hired Marian to create a custom plan for their sustainable edible landscaping that is tailored to the typography, climate and layout.

Marion Scott also designs full farm plans that satisfy Maui County's requirements for agriculture zoned property in Haiku.

This site is currently under development, please email mariscot@maui.net if you would like to be notified about site updates.

What is Permaculture

on Thursday, November 6, 2008

Permaculture is often referred to as “permanent agriculture.” But permaculture principles have a much wider application. The word, coined by founder Bill Mollison, also means “permanent human culture,” referring to a stable supply of food, water and energy. Care of the Earth, care of people and sharing surplus recourses are basic permaculture ethics.

Permaculture design principles can be applied to a city block, a resort or a farm—and in any climate. The first principle is to work with nature, not against it. For example, if you must build below sea level, you must also plan for eventualities such as flooding. As we witnessed with Hurricane Katrina, nature will more than likely find a way through the levee one day.

Permaculture designer training is extensive and includes information on geological, climatic and natural processes, as well as insights into human needs. When Mollison taught the Maui design training in the early 1980s, we were enthralled by the breadth and depth of his information. His genius applied to teaching common-sense actions that can stabilize our basic needs.

Mollison is a very entertaining speaker. My favorite story demonstrates the principle of finding the solution inside the problem. In Kenya, he said, elephants are a problem for small farmers. A strong fence is expensive, so they built “ha ha” fences, using the elephant’s own intelligence and bulk to stop it from invading farmers’ crops. The “ha ha” fence is simply a ditch too wide for the animal to step across and too narrow for it to turn around in. The smart elephant knows if it gets in and can’t get out, the farmer will stand on the other side laughing “ha ha.”

The goal for a permaculture designer is to create an environmentally sustainable landscape that is economically viable. This is achieved by assembling all the components—plants, animals and buildings—into a complex interactive whole. When working with the principle, think intensively—don’t labor intensively. It is better to design on paper after long thought.

A permaculture design takes into consideration all elements affecting the site—wind, sunlight, electricity and water—and maximizes the productivity of these elements. The outcome is planned to meet human needs: food security, comfortable temperature, a healthy community and maybe urban improvement.

This article originally appeared in the Maui Weekly on 11/06/2008

Maui’s permaculture designers share a common dream—an island organized with all the elements in place. Imagine a valuable hardwood forest on the high slopes and tree crops below renewing the hydrological cycle, sheep and local wool products from Kula, small diverse farms lining the roads from the airport, linen from wet Ha‘iku in hotel shops, handmade chocolates from Kipahulu and olive oil from ‘Ulapalakua. Consider energy harvested from multiple sources, jobs in your neighborhood, less traffic and tourists from all over the world coming to Maui for green vacations.

You don’t need to be a designer to apply permaculture. Everyone can act as a steward of the Earth in their own domain.

How to Outsmart Pests

on Thursday, September 25, 2008

The solution is inside the problem itself...

I learned from an entomologist [a bug expert] and a research chemist that pests find our tasty vegetables by smell! This gives you solutions—knowing your enemy helps. The reason that marigolds, basil, onions and chives all work as “natural pesticides,” is because they confuse the pest’s sense of smell. Garlic spray works for the same reason.

The way you plant also affects your garden’s vulnerability to pests. Planting in rows actually helps pests as they easily chomp along a row, one victim after another lined up for their dining pleasure. But it really confuses pests when, for example, you plant an eggplant next to a lettuce plant, instead of another lettuce plant. The extra time they spend looking for that second lettuce plant makes them more vulnerable to predators. Confusing pests is the main reason to mix plantings, but not the only reason, as I will discuss in another column…

The enemy of my enemy is my friend

A government official once interviewed the famous rice grower because he had the best rice production in Japan. The official said, “Mr. Fukuoka, I see that the spiders are managing your pests.” Fukoka replied, ”Oh, so it’s the spiders this year? Last year it was the frogs.”

A frog will eat its own weight in garden pests every night. That’s a lot if you consider the size of our bufos! A small shallow pond or a wet shady spot will attract them. But they are very sensitive to , and will die or leave if you use them.

If you encourage birds by giving them a safe place to drink, they will eat lots of bugs. Chickens will eat fallen fruit that can breed fruit flies. The praying mantis is also a welcome ally, and can manage pests in my garden.

Integrated pest management

Organic gardeners and farmers speak of management, not eradication. Even farmers who use pesticides expect to lose 7 percent of their crop to pests. But if your plants are seriously infested and you are losing too much food, you need to identify what kind of pest is doing the damage. Turn over leaves and look for eggs, nests of mites or fat caterpillars. Wash off the eggs and mites, and pick off the caterpillars. I feed them to the fish in my small garden pond.

You should also grab a flashlight and collect up whatever is eating your veggies at night. You will, no doubt, find snails and slugs. These pests don’t like to make contact with gravel or broken eggshell, so making a barrier out of this type of material is effective. And barriers work for some pests. Our big local snails can even be fenced out with chicken wire.

But the most difficult pests to manage are those that fly. Chinese beetles and fruit flies are two common culprits. I control fruit flies with ducks, which eat fallen fruit. And if my tomatoes are getting stung, I pick them early and let them ripen indoors. You must carefully dispose of any fruits that have maggots.

You can also put paper bags over melons and cucumbers to keep fruit flies away after the fruit has formed. Many fruiting veggies need pollination, so you can grow them under a net instead of bagging them.

Chinese beetles can be controlled with tobacco. A few cigarette butts in the soil around their target will lower their numbers next year.

By understanding pests, you can devise ways to outwit these competitors for your veggies.

Working With Nature In Your Organic Garden

on Thursday, July 17, 2008

You may be thinking of turning part of your yard into a vegetable garden, and for several good reasons; Maui’s year-round growing season is attractive; recent increases in food prices; fresh food is more nutritious; and the convenience and cost savings of not having to drive to the store.

Maybe you recall your grandmother’s garden and how much pleasure and pride she took in providing her family with homegrown fruit and vegetables. Not many generations ago, most people grew fresh food for their families. Everything was grown organically and for more than 5,000 years we got a good return on our labor.

A conventional farmer expects to lose about 7 percent of the crop to pests, even when using pesticides. An organic farmer can expect to lose 12 percent of his crop to the same pests. The cost of what the pesticides save is high: the actual price off the shelf for starters. The costs to the environment and our health are just being reckoned as news of synthetic estrogens in our food chain is reported.

Organic fruit, herbs, vegetables and even small meats are not hard to produce if you have a bit of land around your home. And when you choose to garden organically, you are working with nature, not against it. Climate and geology should teach us the wisdom of respecting the natural forces that rule our lives. Growing in soil that has worms and all the tiny biota that make up healthy soil is cooperating with nature. It takes centuries of decayed plants and animals to create fertile humus. When this precious stuff is damaged with chemical additives, there is no life in the soil.

You can work with nature by patiently waiting for your allies, predators like the toad and praying mantis, to show up and eat the bugs eating your veggies. Using a pesticide is a quick fix that will poison both the pest and its predators. Then you have lost that natural cycle, the birds go hungry and the chemical will wash into the ground water appearing in our food chain as a natural course. Just as we have realized there is no “away” for garbage, there is no way to keep the pesticide just on your pests; it flows with the water into the wider environment.

The tomatoes I pick just before the fruit flies sting will ripen in my kitchen basket and taste good. I have saved seed from them and replanted with it for 15 years. Organic gardeners are cooperative, sharing seeds and produce in the spirit of healthy competition.

I eat several items every day from my garden and I am neither industrious nor young. But gardening is good exercise, always a mental challenge and there’s always a rewarding emotional bond, even before you take your young beans into the kitchen. And the natural garden that attracts bees, birds and other small but important lives, becomes a place of peace and harmony, providing food for your table as well as your soul.