Florida's premier permaculture designer, Koreen Brennan
transforms local Clearwater home into a permaculture oasis.
Clearwater, Florida is mostly known for it's sunny beaches, but in recent years, a new form of landscape that incorporates natural design approaches known as 'Permaculture' has attracted many residents to transform their yards into edible food forests.
May 2014 - July 2016
Hibiscus House transforms from an empty yard
into a permaculture oasis.
"The design tools of permaculture are powerful and inspirational, they can and they are changing society for the better." says, Koreen Brennan of Grow Permaculture, the principle designer for Hibiscus House.
Final Site Plan
Final Site Plan
Pull everything together thus far in the design process
to illustrate the final site plan.
General Description of Site and Analysis
Hibiscus House, Clearwater, Fl, began it's transformation in 2014. Koreen started reaching out to prospective roommates interested in living at a space intended to cultivate the mind and provide food for it's residents.
The main house was divided into 3 rooms for rent. The detached structure was converted into a garage, apartment space and shared laundry room.
At that time, the 100' x 164' property had little to no landscaping design, but with the help from neighbors and students from Koreen's permaculture school, she was able to gather the resources to incubate what we see today. Hibiscus House is now a template for urban permaculture in Southwest Florida.
Hibiscus House Plan
1.) Observe - Protracted and thoughtful observation rather than prolonged and thoughtless action. Observe a site and its changes over time. Design specifically for the site.
2.) Catch and store energy and materials - Inputs and outputs. What is coming in and going out of the system? Find and capture useful energies. Re-invest resources to create more resources.
3.) Create a yield - Small scale, intensive systems are capable of high yields.
4.) Use and value renewable resources - This action will increase prosperity long term. A renewable resource must regenerate faster than it is used.
5.) Produce no waste - Nature uses everything. Waste is food for something in the system.
6.) Design from pattern to detail - Look at macro systems and relationships first, then micro. Look for context and trends. And remember, energy flows the pattern.
7.) Connect and integrate - Think with relationships, make them useful and efficient. The number of beneficial connections, not the number of elements, is what makes a sustainable, stable and productive system.
8.) Use small and slow solutions - Make the least change for the greatest effect. Find leverage points in the system and intervene there. Trial new things before commitment.
9.) Accept self-regulation and feedback - Start small, get feedback, tweak and redesign. Welcome mistakes as a tools for learning!
10.) Use and value diversity - Diverse elements create many niches & more system resilience.
11.) Optimize edge - The edge of things is where energy or materials accumulate or transform. Increase or decrease edge as appropriate. An edge is time in succession - use the natural energies of succession to advantage.
12.) Creatively use and respond to change - "We are surrounded by insurmountable opportunities." -Bill Mollison
Ethics and Design graphic by:
David Holmgren and Richard Telford
"Learn permaculture to the point where you can use it well, apply what you are studying, to life."
Year 1 - Secure live-in collaborators interested in food production and prepare passive systems for design implementation.
Increase on-site water retention, install rain catchment systems and establish guilds.
Enhance local awareness and maintain aesthetics.
Year 2 - Maintain an annual garden and experiment with sheet mulching, mushroom beds and seed collection.
Develop soil regeneration techniques with bio-mass and compost.
Construct community recreation areas.
Year 3 - Plant wind breaks. alley crop trees/shrubs and utilize edges of the property.
Implement design and sell harvested materials for market.
Continue to observe and interact!
"Zones are a tool you can use to determine where to place elements in the system for efficiency and flow, according to frequency and intensity of use and interaction."
- Koreen Brennan
Zone 0 - The person himself, or his house. (Some designers do not use this concept, they feel it separates the person from nature too much. We include this because the design stems from the client and you).
Zone 1 - Person, household, immediate surroundings that are used or cared for every day. Herbs, greens, eggs, household water, etc.
Zone 2 - Used or cared for less often but still needs regular care, veggies, fruit trees, some animals (milk animals, rabbits, etc).
Zone 3 - Seasonal one-time harvest agriculture, pasture. Orchards, grains, pasture animals.
Zone 4 - Semi-wild area that is sustainably harvested. Woodlots, wild-crafting.
Zone 5 - Completely wild; The Classroom - where you observe and learn.
Zones 0-5 Begin the design process by creating a zone map.
All zones can be utilized on an urban site.
"A design is never fixed, you are working with living energies that continue to evolve"
Sectors are the areas and elements of the property that are influenced and affected by external factors.
Use knowledge of sectors to place design components and manage incoming energy accordingly.
1. Block the unwanted incoming energy (too much wind, flood waters or neighboring fertilizers)
2. Channel the existing on-site energy where you want it
3. Open the areas you want incoming energy to come in (wind tunnels, swales and pathways/edges)
Examples of sectors:
Seasonal - sun angles, fire, shade, rainfall patterns or freezes.
Wind - hot, drying, salty, cold, dusty conditions.
Pollution - air, water pollution from runoff or other toxicity coming onto the site (utilities, sewer), noise, traffic, neighbors garbage.
Existing - running water, swamp, or flooding, wildlife (corridors, access), pollen.
Incorporate - views and reflection from ponds (natural or designed).
Sectors Map Develop a simple representation of external influences
to create a sectors map, pointing out the flow of energies.
"Keeping a journal is very useful to the process of absorbing the material".
Diagrams layout the contextual placement of general spacial features influenced by zones, sectors and patterns.
From this point, observation and interaction are only tools, now use them and make the call.
1. Locate larger areas first such as the house and kitchen garden then work each area more in depth.
2. Define existing structures and supplementary buildings. Also, make recommendations for trellising, raised beds, pathways, water features.
3. Describe the functions of various locations on site using general notes, which will assist in knowing where to place elements within the landscape.
Diagram Map .
"The design process itself will then become your teacher, to the degree that you pursue it."
- Koreen Brennan
A road-map or a strategic approach to achieve a specific expectation. The design process is the core of permaculture, after careful observation and thought have taken precedence.
Bridge the gap between theoretical concepts to physical design implementation.
A Design Process graphic by:
Jono Neiger and Ethan Roland
1. Generate efficiency and determine if the design is "good" or not.
2. List specific locations based on jobs or tasks, hardware, tools and technology, etc.
3. Prioritize what you ultimately want to accomplish and speed things up with stacking and succession plants.
"First, install elements that regenerate and create energy. Second, install elements that conserve energy. Lastly, install elements that use energy"
Elements of a food forest
Keeping in mind, time, grow with the plants and have patience. Sometimes staging can be non-linear, but with a strategy in place we are prepared for any obstacle.
Scale is key, allow the site to drive the design.
1. Use of succession
start with pioneer weeds
allow larger weeds and berry bushes to grow
plant small trees with diversity, this shades out weeds
bring in larger trees, more shade loving plants allowing for dynamic and evolving, productive and fertile systems
climax forest with mature trees forms a stable, self maintaining ecosystem
2. Eight layers of a food forest
vines (vertical layer)
3. Plant in guilds
living mulch/ground cover
4. Integrated pest management
create predator habitats: toad castles, lizard towers, brush, pollinator corridor
create predator food and water: bird baths, pollen for wasps
mixed crops confuse pests
chickens break life cycle of pest larvae
incorporate other animals like turkeys, ducks, guinea hens (eat grasshoppers, insects)
rotate annual crops to break disease cycle
plant disease resistant heirloom varieties
inter-plant aromatic plants
create healthy living soils
use worm or compost tea
in irrigation, water the roots, not the leaves
remove diseased plants from the system
if pests are persistent spray coffee-essential (neem) oil water
direct/trap pests to the edges
5. Self renewing soils
chop and drop crops
beneficial soil life- fungi, microbes, bugs
6. Perennial plants
extend harvest season
create ecosystem stability
multi-functioned- perform landscape and food functions
7. Mixed or poly-cropping advantages
plants mature at different times
each plant have different rot zones that do not compete
create benefits for one another (protection, food, etc.)
conserves soil and maintains fertility
increases food security
fosters economic resilience
promotes biodiversity and protects fragile ecosystems
"Natural systems are always in dynamic balance with the whole. They serve to keep us connected, reminding us what is natural. Regular visits to more pristine wilderness deepens and broadens this connection, and anchors our souls against currents of cultural madness"
The design of Hibiscus House
has been a collaborative effort.
Most notably recognizing Koreen Brennan
and her team of students and consultants.
With special contributions to
Jeremy Aurswald (yin/yang pattern),
Rei Falvo, Cathy Bersier and JP Bersier.
The 'Intro to Permaculture'
information provided in this article
was presented to Grow Permaculture
students on the first day of class.
Koreen Brennan prepared and presented
this material at Moccasin Lake Park,
72-hour permaculture design course certificate
presented by Koreen Brennan.
Course dates: 1 weekend a month from September 2015-March 2016.
Kendrick T. Henry also holds a Master's in Architecture
from the University of South Florida
School of Architecture + Community Design.
Grow Permaculture (formerly Permaculture Guild)
is a permaculture and sustainability
consultant and teaching organization
dedicated to forwarding the practice of
consciously designing human systems
to increase quality of life,
while healing the environment.
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