[permaculture] deep mulch in Mediterannean climates. don't forget Jean Pain

Michael Pilarski friendsofthetrees at yahoo.com
Thu Dec 10 02:06:43 EST 2009

A small gripe.  would people not put "US Permaculture National Conference" in the subject line of a post when they are talking about something totally different. 

On the topic of appropriateness of deep mulch in Mediterannean climates.  Some people may have had bad experience with this for one reason or another, but the decades long work of Jean Pain in a hot  Mediterannean bioregion in France included successfully growing gardens without irrigation with the use of deep mulch (in combination with other strategies).  

His most in-depth description is in his book "Another Kind of Garden". I highly recommend his work for many reasons.  Including the use of woody biomass, conversion of biomass into energy, hot composting with biomass and fire reduction in chapparal ecosystems.  

If you google it you will find various sources including an article in the pc activist.  Also it looks like it can be downloaded from http://thepiratebay.org/torrent/4774652/THE_METHODS_OF_JEAN_PAIN_Another_Kind_of_Garden

I don't think we should make dogmatic statements like "deep mulch doesn't work in Mediterannean climates"  Too many factors are at play and things like this should be on a site by site basis.  


Michael Pilarski

--- On Wed, 12/9/09, gavinraders at gmail.com <gavinraders at gmail.com> wrote:

From: gavinraders at gmail.com <gavinraders at gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [permaculture] US National Permaculture Conference
To: "permaculture" <permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org>
Date: Wednesday, December 9, 2009, 4:57 PM

Agree on the whole premise. The PDC is important, and just the tip of the iceberg. The real work starts when it is integrated into every aspect of your life and practiced daily.
 But care to say why you think applying deep mulch is a "mistake" in mediterranean climates? I live and practice permaculture in california and I have watched deep mulches do wonders for buidling soil and productivity. Especially when partnered with urine fertilizers, compost teas, and comfrey/nettle extracts.  And especially with high clay soils. Our long, hot summers will crack and suck dry the topsoil without a living or dead mulch.
>From what I've seen, there's just no comparison to unmulched gardens. Am I missing something?

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

-----Original Message-----
From: Toby Hemenway <toby at patternliteracy.com>
Date: Wed, 09 Dec 2009 16:18:43 
To: permaculture<permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org>
Subject: Re: [permaculture] US National Permaculture Conference

I get what Tripp is saying, and sympathize, but  . . .

My experience has been that, with some notable exceptions, PDC grads on 
average grasp permaculture better than people who have not taken one (it 
sure helped me!). I've seen that most people without a PDC are more 
likely to believe that permaculture is a set of gardening techniques, or 
at best, land use techniques with some elegant strategic ideas guiding 
them. (I repeat, there are exceptions.) I've seen people make errors 
like applying deep mulches in a Mediterranean climate because "mulching 
is an essential permaculture technique," or placing keyhole beds on 
steep slopes where they are much harder to use than linear raised beds, 
because that's a permaculture technique. And then they gripe that 
"permaculture doesn't work here." Grrr! Even the super-gardener that 
Tripp describes, coming from an academic ag and gardening background, 
could easily miss that Pc is far more than a land-use program. They've 
got a set of ag tools broadened by their ecology courses, but it's still 
totally land-use oriented. They need a systems piece, and invisible 
structures, and energy and building and . . . . The PDC tells you you 
need to learn all that. It does not make you an expert in it, but it 
points you to the path better than anything I've seen, and shows you how 
highly branched that path is.

It's genius-level pedagogy. And the most innovative applications of Pc 
to the non-garden world seem to have come from PDC grads. I see few 
non-PDC people applying Pc to economics, education, or even energy 
systems. That seems to be the hardest part for anyone, even PDC grads, 
to get: Permaculture is a design approach applicable to everything, and 
the land use part is only the most obvious and rudimentary element. As a 
student once said to me, "So the garden is just a metaphor for 
understanding what Pc is really about. Permaculture isn't about growing 
food." That's right. When people limit it to the garden (as the guy who 
wrote "Gaia's Garden" may have done), it makes me grind my teeth.

I think Fukuoka would probably have said that the PDC is not formal 
education. It's as different from my "schooling" as anything I've ever done.

That said, taking a PDC doesn't make you a permaculturist; it just means 
you share a body of introductory knowledge with tens of thousands of 
others. And you have earned the right to use the word in a business, 
since Mollison wants it that way. But really you get to be a 
permaculturist after years of work. And although I share some chagrin 
about Ellen Page, her mentioning the word on daytime TV is a huge gift 
to us. No small accomplishment there. She's thinking permaculturally as 
a celebrity, not as a gardener, and it was a deliberate, strategic move. 
Her teacher, Jude Hobbs, tells me she's way, way smart.

There are no real barriers to taking a PDC, not if you want one. I've 
seen honorary certificates, and all the instructors I know offer 
scholarships and trades, and are willing to travel anywhere in the world 
to where people want a course. Want a certificate? I might answer, with 
a sorta snarky but friendly smile, then think permaculturally about the 
problem (it's not about land use).  Organize a course in your area. 
Bring in different teachers on the weekends. Help out at a PDC. Show an 
instructor that your work is cool and ask if it qualifies. There's no 
caste system except in the mind.

Sometimes my posts remind that Voltaire (I think) wrote, "sorry this 
letter is so long but I didn't have time to write a shorter one." 
Apologies for verbosity. And thanks to Tripp for his stimulating, 
thoughtful posts.


Tripp Tibbetts wrote:
> >From a devil's advocate perspective, what's the difference between a newbie with a PDC, and someone who has relentlessly studied and implemented permaculture theory and on-the-ground practice for a couple of seasons?  Sort of like a qualifications requirement of a Masters or 3 years of appropriate experience in the field.  
> For argument's sake, let's say you have a degree in biology from a major land-grant university, 5 years of experience in watershed and estuarine ecology, botany, and soil science, 4 years of organic gardening experience, and a year of intense permaculture study and practice under your belt.  (You know, for argument's sake;)  Would that make you less of a permie than say, a movie star like Ellen Page who has a PDC from last summer?
> As much as I respect the time, effort, and expense it takes to earn a PDC, I can't help but feel a potentially inappropriate caste system evolving from some of the discussion I've heard here.  Fukuoka believed that formal education was only necessary because of a culture that made it so.  In line with his idea of a fire, a pinch of salt, and real ingredients being all that was required for a healthy, world-class meal, I think that a humble spirit before Nature, an open and investigating mind, and time, is what makes one a true asset to the world that permaculture is trying to create.
> If that means I can't call myself a "permaculturist," then so be it.  But that's what I do, what I study, what I dream about, and what I am.  I'm not trying to certify students or instructors, or call my garden a Permaculture University, but I bet I can heal a landscape as effectively as a lot of certificate holders out there.  
> I have a feeling that the permaculture plot is on the verge of a mass immigration.  Will the world hold its breath while the waves of newcomers all save up their not-insignificant tuition from the smoldering embers of a dying economy, and locate an agreeable course to satisfy accreditation?  I can't go to the Orcas Island PDC next year because our baby is due just then.  Should I fly to Hawaii or Georgia, spend a month away from my family who needs me, to study in a bioregion unrelated to my own?  Would that be a more appropriate use of my time than watching the shadows move across my garden, teaching my daughter about the world, and studying the resident soil biota under the microscope?
> If an advanced permaculture discussion/presentation group is a desirable thing, and I agree that it would be, could we come up with a less enculturated way to delineate the groups?  Or would a better way to conduct such a convergence be to have the most experienced practitioners teaching us all?  
> I certainly don't need Ellen Page to teach me about fertilizing with urine...hell, I don't need the NRCS to teach me about capillary fringe behavior..
> Tear down the wall.
> Tripp out.
> The best fertilizer is the gardener's shadow.
> -Chinese proverb
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