“Ask Me Anything” Session # 1

I wanted to have a way of fielding your questions in a way that: a) was easy to do, and b) that allowed everyone to see everyone else’s questions and comment on them, vote them up / down, and perhaps even have some of the more senior students / alumni in our group answer some of the questions directly.

So our tech team came up with a simple approach using Disqus (the discussion platform that we’ll be using throughout the course, as well as on our videos page and throughout the geofflawtononline.com blog posts).

So here’s how you can ask your question / share a comment:

  1. First, be sure that you are logged in to Disqus (you can either get a separate Disqus account for free, OR you can login by using your Facebook, Twitter, or Google credentials). You log in by clicking on the little circle with the “1” on it, or the word, “Login,” (found at the bottom of this post just where the comments section begins). After clicking either of these, you can then choose how you want to login or sign up.
  2. Scroll down to the comments section and scan through the questions / comments others have posted. If you see a comment / question you like, you can vote it up so it gets more visibility and has a greater likelihood of being answered. You can also reply to an existing comment or add something to it if you’d like.
  3. If you don’t see your question there, feel free to add it as a new comment / question.

I will then go through all the questions / comments, select the ones I think will be most helpful to the group, and proceed to answer them. We’ll have the whole thing session recorded, then add it to the Early Bird member section.

So, ask away!




2016-12-13T11:05:40+00:00 Ask Me Anything|394 Comments
  • Mason Reynolds

    Hi, Geoff! Mason here in warm-temperate Missouri, U.S about 39° latitude, nearly 40 inches of rain annually.
    I’m fascinated with hydrology and how we apply it into sensible design.
    I’ve always been curious though, just how close can you install micro-swales to say a house or structure in an urban settlement with a humid landscape?
    A thousand thanks!

    • Your primary concern would be retaining the integrity of built features, such as a freestanding brick wall, or your foundation pile ons. A.) shoot for even soaking, all the way around something. B.) try to create a gentle slope away from the house by at least a meter. C.) observe that trees having an ample new source of water, such as a ditch along the driveway, may increase their root development and crack the asphalt, or lift tiles and pavers.

    • Below a house there is no problem above a house the final earth work feature need to be surface spoon drains taking surface runoff water to the sides of the house.

      • Mason Reynolds

        Excellent answers thank you both!

  • Narelle Mercer

    Hi Geoff

    When looking for land for a Permaculture Community, what legalities and restrictions do we need to be aware of?

    Thanks for caring and sharing❣️
    Narelle from Brisbane, Australia

    • Hi Narelle

      You need to find land that fits into the DA potential of the Rural Land Sharing guidelines and town planners can help you with this.

  • Jill Madigan

    Hi, Geoff. I’m Jill, from Milwaukee – Jack was my father. Thanks for the unfamiliar second verse.

    Will we receive copies of the class videos? Someone else asked this question in the video comments area, but this looks like a good place to ask, since it’s relevant to me and surely to others.

    Thanks for all you do. Together we can heal our lovely planet!

    • Felipe Herrerias

      I was wondering the same thing, specially because I would like to watch while offline sometimes. I live in a rural area and offline videos would be handy…

      • Kelly Economidis

        me too as I’m often away and would like to be able to watch anywhere anytime

    • Michael Mangano

      Agreed – I’m also in an internet-constrained environment so the downloadable vidz are critical

      • Sarah

        I’m in this position as well…without very good internet for videos, and limited data. I’m just going to try to make it work. I understand the predicament with offering downloadable files though for videos of a paid course. Not sure if there’s any way to provide offline access without the possibility of people downloading and sharing files? Perhaps someone with more technical knowledge than myself would know….

      • Tim Ellis

        I am also in this position. I will need to go to an internet cafe in the next town to download all the videos at the start of each week and then watch them back later… Is there any way of offering secure downloads to avoid the abuse of the videos? Perhaps a “Watch Later” feature where the files themselves are not actually downloaded?

        • Kai Lime-leaf

          I have the same problem, my partner and I live out of reach of cellphone reception and we have to travel a long way to get internet, taking the course without secure download videos is impractical.

          • Geoff Lawton

            Hi Kai

            A new notice coming out today has this included.

            Kind Regards Geoff

          • Steph Krunic

            Hi Folks and Geoff
            Have I missed something – like the registration or notice of upcoming course intake??

    • You will receive access to all the videos for the 24 weeks of the course plus an additional 28 weeks, then we will decide how we will offer permanent access.

      • Michael

        Will we also have access via portable devices?

      • TonyPrep

        This is a little disappointing as I understood that there would be a way to download videos for off-line viewing/review before signing up for the course. However, I do realise that there is the possibility of abuse, so I’ll see what’s on offer later on, though those with limited internet access would be at a disadvantage.

  • Jeremy

    Hi Geoff,

    I’m Jeremy from Maryland, USA. Temperate climate. Since this is an “ask me anything”, I hope this one is a little different:

    While I do practice Permaculture at home, my professional background is in human space exploration (i.e. NASA). Two main question that drive our work is whether there is life elsewhere in the universe, and how humans can survive beyond Earth.
    So, how might Permaculture principles be applied to the search for life elsewhere in the universe? Also, how might we adapt Permaculture to human habitation on other non-Earth planets, such as Mars? Curious as to your thoughts. Thanks!

    • Hi Jeremy

      Life started in water without and atmosphere but we are going to need both in good condition.

  • Mesud Sinanovic

    Hi Geoff,

    I have known about permaculture for a relatively short time and have only started recently learning about it officially with this course.

    I am curious as to how permaculture design systems are affected by extreme weather events and how one would design in climates which are prone to monsoons, cyclones etc

    kind regards

    Mesud Sinanovic

    • Hi Mesud

      We design to take advantage of monsoons and volumes of water they provide to hydrate the landscape for the whole year right through the dry season.
      For cyclones and their damaging effects we buffer the winds and reduce potential damage by design earth banks and shelter belts that moderate the damage.

  • Amit

    Hi Geoff,

    I’m Amit from Israel, currently living in Japan.

    I’ve been doing a lot of reading about climate change and my conclusion is that we passed the tipping point and nothing we can do will stop it. I see permaculture as the solution we failed to implement but it’s still the way for us and our loved ones to live our lives in the best possible way until the inevitable ending.
    I would like to know if you think there is still a realistic chance of turning things around on a global level.
    I’m not sure if this is the right place for this question but it’s something I wanted to ask you for some time so I gave it a shot.

    Thanks! Amit

    • Hi Amit

      I think we under estimate the power and speed of nature when we work with the natural system in a cooperative way the natural system move in to assist are actions very quickly.
      We have the ability to turn the climate around very quickly but only if we work in partnership with nature.

  • Bryn Lawrence Roberts-Todd

    Hi Geoff,
    I’m interested in permaculture aid work and bringing permaculture to places and people who are really in need. What does it take to be able to do that kind of work? How much training and experience is needed and what would you recommend doing to be ready and able to interveen in such situations?


    • Hi Bryn

      We have a 3 months paid practical experience for PDC graduates and a1 year scholarship program by interview selection and we can then position you to manage a project.

      • Maude Porchet

        Would like to hear more about the 3 months training. Thank you

    • Michael Mangano

      Hi, Bryn – I manage an aid operation in South Sudan – I hope to bring permaculture into more of our programming – happy to discuss further

      • Bryn Lawrence Roberts-Todd

        Good to hear Michael! What do your programs currently comprise of mainly?

        • Michael Mangano

          to answer this question: we have both programs that work with displaced people who expect to either return home or to be displaced again (less likely to engage in permaculture) along with other groups who have not been displaced, but still fear displacement. This second group is more likely to appreciate permaculture than in traditional agriculture (in my opinion) because of the somewhat self-sustaining nature (like the gap of management in “greening the desert”). We work on Food Security & Livelihoods among other sectors (WASH, Camp Management, Infrastructure, Distribution, and some Protection)

          To the point that you’re asking Geoff about below, the answer I would give is “experience” – whatever it takes to get experience in the international development/relief/aid sector. I personally self-financed 2-3 volunteer trips as my foot in the door and then took a very low-paying job in rural Uganda for a year before I transitioned to a larger NGO.

  • Felipe Herrerias

    Hi Geoff. This is Felipe, from Mexico.
    Very concrete question: How much time do you think we will need to dedicate, say, weekly, to completely, calmly and thoroughly study and understand the upcoming PDC?

    • No more than 2 hours of lessons, and not so necessary 2 hours of Q and A, there will be other extras that you can watch and inter-act with at your leisure if you like.

  • Michael

    Hello Geoff,
    I am Michael in Missouri, USA, and very excited about this opportunity. I am currently working on a project that is much larger than myself. It is for a 501(c)3 Non-Profit Corportation (a senior citizen nutritional & activity center). It is not a property I would have selected if I were to purchase. It’s only nine (9) acres of mostly eroded, rocky, thin top soil (little biology) at the Lake of the Ozarks area. Most of which is sloping ground in every direction except south. To say the least it is most challenging. However, as Bill has said many times, “The problem is the answer”. I am looking forward to learning more answers and having access to many counselors for help with the many problems at hand for best answers. Will the design course cover these type situations and challenges? Most videos, blogs, vlogs, and articles I have encountered, and I have been searching for about four years, have not dealt with all I am experiencing.

    • The course will cover these situations.
      The rocks are all 100% runoff each like a roof, then gain heat and many fertile pockets can be created plus the rocks themselves are very stable and do not change or need maintaining.

  • Anthony Blome

    Hi Geoff,

    I’m Tony from southern Arizona, USA, where the climate is very hot and arid, and there is very little rainfall (Zone 4, ~8-10in rain/year in my area). Where my family lives I would like to design a permaculture food forest, however the soil is very sandy in many places, and in others it can be very hard with caliche (calcium carbonate deposits, like natural cement). We also often have flash-floods and large dust storms, which present certain permaculture-related challenges. My questions to you are the following:

    1. What are the most important tips or strategies you recommend that students follow when practicing permaculture in a hot/arid environment such as mine, where water is a scarce commodity? (Harvesting every available drop of water is a high-priority of mine. I plan to collect rainwater from my roof as well as through swales)

    2. Is it feasible to have a small pond in the desert that supports local wildlife using permaculture practices? What are your thoughts/recommendations?

    3. What order or sequence of steps do you utilize when first implementing a permaculture design project, especially in desert locations (i.e. plant the water, introduce organics to build the soil, plant ground cover and trees (natives vs introduced), etc.)? Is there a specific time frame for application of each step(s)?

    Many thanks to you and your team for putting this online PDC together and for all of your hard work through the years. I am truly looking forward to this course.

    I also am very sad to hear of Bill’s passing. My condolences to you and to all of those that knew him. Although I haven’t met him personally, his work continues to inspire me. He will be missed.


    • Perhaps the most heartwarming permaculture video of all time (after Greening the Desert 1&2) is the one explaining what one guy did in front of his house in Tucson, and was later adopted as a recommended practice for the entire city. The lesson is a few well placed water sinks can make a huge difference! Scour the resources links at the Permaculture Institute.

      After a bit of skimming you may find this link redundant, but it’s title stands out relative to your current basket of concerns: http://www.harvestingrainwater.com/rainwater-harvesting-inforesources/resources/rainwater-harvesting-with-cisterns-resources/

      • Anthony Blome

        Hi Chez. Thank you for the suggestion.

        You must be referring to Brad Lancaster from Tucson. I have read his first book and found it insightful, and have seen many of his videos posted on YouTube. He actually lives 45 min from my family’s home, where he receives almost twice the annual rainfall. He has done a lot of great work in Tucson, which is the same kind of work I too would like to do.

        Currently I live in Texas but will be moving back to Arizona in the next year. I will likely try and reach out to him and his group when I return. It is through some of his work that I first started learning about permaculture, roughly the same time I first saw videos from Geoff on YouTube.

        You sure can learn a lot from YouTube. I love it. It is such a useful tool to share information.

        • Anthony, sounds like you are completely keyed in. Brad is ahead of us both, except I have not personally even considered a return to dry climate living. The challenges one faces, from east LA, over the Sierras to Lake Powell alone are daunting. Crossing the Mojave to Palm Springs, to Phoenix to Flagstaff, it’s more than I can comprehend without mentioning the Grand Canyon. And, Geoff’s right. If we don’t get busy, someday this could all be rendered as rock and dust!

          • Anthony Blome

            Chez. I understand completely that it is going to be an extreme challenge, especially with the lack of available water. However, in my mind, I think that many of the places that need the most care are places that have degraded so significantly that they are essentially deserts, after the vegetation has been stripped away from years of erosion and over grazing and poor management practices. In Arizona, there are many places in the south where desertification will continue to progress unless someone steps in to reverse the process and begin to restore the environment to its former glory and even, perhaps, enhance it. It truly is daunting, but I think, necessary. What places are you considering for your permaculture projects? I once considered Montana, but the growing season is much shorter.

          • “Water, water, everywhere,…” Recently, (much as I love the moss-laden Ozarks and the temperate semi-tropics, like Geoff enjoys,) I have elected to focus on the economically depressed US Delta. “We” the consumers are directly culpable for the ‘blooming’ in the Gulf. Plus, my mission is to create circular economic structures, unlike pyramidal, single-ended bureaucratic entities.

            Geoff’s ‘must-see’ discovery video covering the US Geological survey’s experimental desert oasis is shocking to say the least. Lancaster gets it in a big way, and he should be recruited, his methods used, to assist municipalities throughout the SW USA.

        • Ruby Sheffer

          Hi Anthony,
          Are you between Tucson and Phoenix, or to the west? Unless I’m missing something those would be the two directions where the rainfall would tail off like that. We’re in Chandler and also 16 miles SE of Winslow.
          Brad is pretty approachable. If you ever get the chance to hear him and see his place I highly recommend it.
          One really good group based in Tucson is Watershed Management Group. Their approach is definitely rooted in sound permaculture principles although I don’t recall them referring to themselves in permaculture terms.

          • Anthony Blome

            Hi Ruby. Some of my family live near Florence and are currently incorporating permaculture principles at their home site there. In just over a year though, my spouse and I may move further north into the Arizona mountains, perhaps Prescott, Flagstaff, or Payson to start our own permaculture haven.

            Thank you for your suggestion. I will definitely look into the Watershed Management Group. I hope the other water management offices in Arizona learn from Brad’s example and implement permaculture practices into their own water management strategies.

            Have you designed any permaculture sites where you live? I would love to hear more about how your permaculture journey is going in Arizona.

    • Florie

      Watch Geoff video of greening the desert

      • Anthony Blome

        Thank you Florie. I watched Greening the Desert several months ago, and decided to watch it again after your comment. This time around I caught more information that I didn’t notice prior.

        • Florie

          Hi Anthony thank for getting back to me, after your PDC your head might be buzzing with information don’t know where to start watch it again .
          This is my second PDC and I am very excited to do it all again, because I have had some success this year its like magic and have started my preparation for next years.

    • Hi Tony

      First set up your water harvesting earthworks, and pull in as mach catchment and hard surface runoff as you can, 20:1 is the preferred minimum if you can get it, 20 acres of water harvesting to one acre of production.

      Plant hardy pioneers that grow easily even if you have to choose non natives that are spiky you can always mulch these down later as the soils improve and the general conditions become moderated.

      Plant the time of year when the evaporation over precipitation changes to precipitation over evaporation, this is the same time of year that you start to chop and drop mulch when the system starts to mature.

      The improved conditions will be obvious in drylands when you compare to surrounding country and this will indicate the staging of change.

      Timing is crucial to precipitation over rainfall.

      • Anthony Blome

        Thank you Geoff for your feedback.

        When you are working with extremely degraded soils, like those in the “Greening the Desert” video, how much mulch and organic material do you typically have to add before the soil conditions improve well enough to start seeing them come back to life? Are we talking several inches thick or half a meter? I recall in the video, the ground was nearly as hard as rock with almost no top soil. What types of pioneer plants did you use in Jordan to establish a healthy soil composition?

        Can you please elaborate on your comment “Timing is crucial to precipitation over rainfall”? Are you referring to the point prior to rainfall, when the humidity/precipitation is at its highest? In Arizona, that window can be very short.

  • deemarie

    Denise: NW Pennsylvania, Zone 5B I have two areas with utility right of ways on the property.

    One is an electric line that is on a very steep slope. My first thought would be a forest garden but I am limited by height unless I go bushes and a smaller forest design I need to rethink its use. Its really compacted soil from years of farming and now mowing.

    The second area is a gas line. Its not as restricted but divides the land in half and also has water flow issues that need to be dealt with. The gas company does not like streams or small streams to cross the line but the land has a slight slope and the water wants to head downward or to the creek which is at the bottom of the property.

    What is the best way to try and deal with utility companies?

    • Hi Denise

      You could graze these areas with a cell grazing system or you could plant mulch crops that you harvest for use on the property.

      • Two unforeseen issues may prevail. Pennsylvania has recently built a lot of publicly contentious pipelines. The builders are scared and commonly work in hit-and-run teams. Don’t count on building long term cordial relations with any of them, but do coordinate plans and strategies within your community and neighbors if possible. Don’t let the electric people spray bush killer if possible. Antagonize them and they may chop out an additional 50′ of easement out of spite!

        • Tyrr Vangeel

          don’t know if it works in US, but going for organic certification would make them violate your farming practices and give you loss of crops for several years –> make them pay if they spray

  • Reportedly, much of the area of my immediate concern is contaminated with lead and toxic waste some of which may be residual run off from 50 miles upstream, via the Vertec chemical factory (DDT and Agent Orange,) and the Pine Bluff Arsenal, not to mention the historically odorous local paper mill which closed around 30 years ago. In partnering with our State’s University Agricultural Annex, I have ample access to soil and water testing and a batterie of farm and educational resources to help discern the actual percentages of contaminants at any given site. Tear-downs and lead pipes are likely the largest deterrents to clean food success.

    Like Detroit, here, there are thousands of blighted homes and vacant lots. Another similarity is the relatively flat terrain. Our total grade, from river mean, is 27 feet at best. Monoculture defines the edges of town, weeds define the remainder.

    My question is, an I right to presume that hugelkultur offers the most practical, immediate, and reliable solutions in those areas where contaminants are found, or likely to eventually migrate?
    Overview Ref: https://richsoil.com/hugelkultur/

    • Florie

      Hi chez Kiva you mentioned hugulculture well they are logs piled up to creat a mass of mycelium in the soil now I wonder if that system is going to clean your soil. I thing you need to read a few article by Paul Stamet who used oyster mushroom to remove contaminant from polluted soil check him on utube

      • Stamet’s research is functionally consistent with his Pacific Northwest domain. It’s fun soil to work because it’s moist and light. We asked him all sorts of questions in regard to cleaning up the tailings in Central City, Co., a mega dry and fragile tundra.

        Pine Bluff is flat and crawling with black mold, part of the reason I think we need to bank heavily on building upward. So far, I’ve only heard mention of reeds and grasses in relation to the migratory water issues we face.

      • Geoff’s point is well taken. I’m gathering he means to upend shortened logs, which is explicitly ideal for the outer sections of my concept illustration. It helps shore-up strength, provides guaranteed drainage and allows for modular teamwork in construction.

        • Florie

          Hi Chez Kiva, the logs in hugulculture is used mainly to retain moisture in the soil. In my case I used it to raise my beds to grow vegetables as my garden flood well into the summer, if we have a very wet winter. The point Geoff made is worth considering as the problem one comes across varies his method of teaching is very open minded.

    • Raised beds with good organic matter, plenty of good compost and mulch hold the pH close to neutral and lead and other heavy metals are not water soluble until the pH drops to 4.5 or below. Plants do not eat lead, but they have to drink, if you soil is close to neutral high in organic matter and soil life then even acid rain plumes that dip to 3.5 pH will be buffer. This will be true of your other concerns, laying short logs with there long side down to stimulate fungal action around raise beds.

    • Diogo Ferraz

      Thanks for the question, Tom. I’ve been thinking about contamination issues as potential threats when one decides to buy a piece of land to start permaculture, but didn’t have any practical example to formulate a question. How about water soluble contaminants then, can they be a problem? Should we monitor the water table of our land for contaminants from past activites or actual neighbor sources that we don’t realize? How?

  • gardenwithliz

    When I talk to people about permaculture when they are just beginning learning about it, they tend to focus more on the elements like hugel beds and organics. But to me the best part of permaculture is the patterning, ethics and principles–when I started studying my whole outlook and thought processes started to change! How can we help people understand that permaculture isn’t just a collection of cool techniques, but rather a design process?

    Also, what is the best way to use scientific research in connection with permaculture? Because of the connection and diversity in permaculture, it seems many things are hard to replicate in a scientific study, but I also don’t want to rely on purely anecdotal evidence.

    • New reference material is being produced all the time now with a lot of research papers being produced, this is one of the latest changes in the movement.

      • gardenwithliz

        Where is the best place to go to start looking for this type of reference material?

      • Florie

        Yes Geoff they need to hear the whole story like we have and willing to get to know even more.

    • Diogo Ferraz

      I can relate to what you said. Specially when I’m introducing permaculture to someone, going for the functional/material elements you said (hugel beds, swales etc.) seems the easiest gateway to reach them. Recently, I’ve listenned to a very inspiring podcast which interviews someone (Ethan Hughes) who puts the ethics and principles in practice in an unique way. Maybe you can enjoy it too:

      Also, on the scientific research aspect, I’ve been thinking that maybe the Ecosystem Services framework can elucidate some of the permaculture total benefits or value. In the same piece of land you are promoting many desirable services (food, biodiversity, soil regulation, recreation, landscape aesthetics etc.). Each service could be individually reasearched and then aggregated with others, where multiple metrics could be useful.

  • Kani Seifert

    Howdy, Geoff and everyone else.
    We live in high desert in Wyoming, U.S Zone 4 at best, 10″ of precipitation, most of which is in the spring snow melt. The non-stop SWesterly winds are rarely a gentle breeze, and gales are fairly common. In short, very cold, very, very dry, very high (7000 ft.), and a very short, 90-100 day growing season with severely eroded barren land is what we have. On a long slope (100 yards with a 6-8% drop), what should the distance between swales be and what depth/width should they be? Is there a rule-of-thumb/formula for this type of information?

    I am looking forward to re-greening Wyoming!

    • Hi Kani

      You need an underground glasshouse.

      Very basic rules of swale size depends on property size for depth/width, distance between relates in open country is usually the vertical height of the average trees at maturity as the vertical height of next swale. In flat country it has to come to measurement to buffer the average winds.

  • Michael Bocskovits

    Good Day, Geoff and Classmates, I am Michael Bocskovits from Knoxville, Tennessee, USA. This may come with experience, but I tend to spin my wheels when studying a topo and arial map, i.e., what looks good on one does not always look good another (existing features). My question is… “What is the best way to approach reading a property topo and arial map before beginning a design?” Appreciate your perspective. Excited to be a part of the 2016 Online PDC.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/af4ebb648ac9daa7193c0a500dd2f2be4b58edee385dcfd929f44de47c9b52d5.png https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a81e92823f511e0627990a8ee49de725d782764ec41b8f9ed46310b170808f5c.png

    • Try using google earth and press the google earth in the tool bar the preference feature in the drop and the b in 3D view, then in elevation exaggeration increase the number and fly around the exaggerated landscape.

  • Michael

    Regarding measuring contour on relatively flat land
    using Bunyip or A-Frame
    (the land in this case is the dark side of palm oil plantations)

    I have had a little experience working out contour with an a-frame, and then more recently with a bunyip (water) level. The bunyip has about 7m of effective movement.

    When on largely flat land (possibly with mounds/trenches (large and small)), how accurate should one be in measuring level?
    As in, how does one measure general contour?

    The bunyip and a-frame are often so accurate that slightly raised areas (that do not reflect macro contour, but micro contour) can give readings that make it hard to settle on where to peg.

    This sometimes means that I can’t find a place to peg because maybe I’m in a small dip (e.g. maybe only an inch or so lower, but a few meters diameter).

    Sorry for such a messy description – slightly struggling to formulate the question clearly.
    If you have any questions that might help me to clarify, please ask.

    Thanks all

    • A laser level will help you get more distance and average out you irregularities, they are very easy to use.

      • Michael

        Thank you for all of these swift replies – have a feeling this course is going to keep you rather busy…

        A laser level would certainly do the trick; makes sense 🙂

        However, if one is stuck in a location with only an a-level or bunyip –
        Maybe just try to make a longer bunyip?
        Otherwise e.g.
        – work way through/around the “problem”/ambiguous patch
        – then continue onwards
        – afterwards, average out (and/or discard) superfluous reading(s)

        Those are the only choices I can see at the moment.

        Would I be correct in saying that the “pegs on contour” are more of a guideline, that we can smooth out, or tweak a little when working on the ground; and not necessarily how I’ve been viewing them which is that the pegs need to be perfectly on level (also perfectly representing the shape of the final contour), as much as the base of the swale?

        Hope that is clear enough (sorry to drag you back into the same question)

        Many thanks again

        • Felipe Herrerias

          I’ve been doing swales on flat land (about 3% slope) with an A frame (2 meters wide). What I did is eye-ball the contour when a small bump or dip hapens, so that it follows the general shape of the land. I imagine that would be easier with a bunyip, but since the swales I’m digging are relatively small and I already had the A, I just did them with it.
          Because the land is so flat, it’s easy to fix the “problems” afterwards by leveling the bottom of the swale, so that at some points the swale might look deeper or more shallow, but as long as your imperfections are less than the depth of your swale you should be fine. I’ve had a couple of rains and the water distributes evenly along the swales…

  • Kurt Arruda

    Heya Geoff,

    I’ve got a general question pertaining semi-arid/ arid landscapes with soil preparation.

    If there’s a plot of land that’s been untouched for a while (lets say pioneer shrubs are coming out) which of the two scenarios would be more appropriate:

    1 –First year do a soil intervention (plowing) with a hardy arid cover crop, once the second year comes around implement the real design (including swales and other permanent earth movements) to take advantage of the first year biomass and nutrient accumulation to mulch the site or,

    2- First year directly implement the real design and use the plants that are already there to mulch the site (assuming there’s enough for the whole plot of course).

    Since it is a arid landscape, I´m not entirely sure which situation could help establish a proper design especially for the first few years of growth, of course if there’s the possibility to bring outside material for mulching for soil building my question becomes redundant.

    • If you can irrigate or wait for rain then plant hardy pioneer fast growing trees that will become you main mulch supply and alway cutting after evaporation over precipitation ends and precipitation over evaporation starts each year. Always plant your pioneers to suit the conditions required to produce mulch easily, and if you have irrigation plant everything else at the same time.

    • Kurt, where is this place you are working?

      • Kurt Arruda

        In the autonomus comunity of Aragon Spain.
        I’m smack right in the middle between the Monegros desert plain and the Pre-Pirineus hills, since I’m closer to the plains the site I’m working at as more of a semi arid conditions and depeding on the year (this year there was a 4 month drought) it is arid conditions.

  • Rosanne Trottier

    Dear Geoff,
    Rosanne here, from an obscure village in NE Thailand. Looking forward to the new course!
    I did an online PDC with you a few years ago, and have been able to enjoy some results of the wisdom gained, even though we have had three years of scary drought. My farm is now drought-proofed with several ponds, Swales, rainwater collection under every available roof – only a few trees perished. Overall though, it’s not yet sufficiently impressive to convince the village to embrace permaculture – there’s only so much I can do on my own!

    My most vexing issue is about fertility for the vegetable garden – how to build it up so that it doesn’t need to be recreated from nothing (and with decreasing effectiveness) for every planting. Our soils here are really poor, mainly sand plus heavy clay, and the climate is semi arid, desert-like in the hot dry windy season and very wet in a good rainy season. My beautiful compost turns to nothing in just a few days, and what small presence of minerals was there initially got used up in a single growing season. I have added charcoal, wood ash, EM-type potions, zeolite… I have tried growing in straw bales… I am considering growing veggies under trees (these do grow) such as mango, since the mango trees are obviously mining the deeper minerals successfully – but even under trees I find very little topsoil. Should I do some kind of ‘tropical hugel’? And how to go about serious remineralisation, considering that rock dust is not locally available and thus very expensive to buy from abroad?

    • Florie

      Hi Rosanne I am a lone permaculturist like you I took my PDC last year our problems are opposite I have too much water. Have you seen Geoffs recent video of greening the desert they used an over head cover to lessen the glare of the sun

      • Rosanne Trottier

        Hi Florie, thanks for writing! Yes, I have been inspired by the greening of the desert. But then, it seems ‘desert’ is highly variable – in the Middle East they get much less rain, and probably worse sun scorching, than in the semi arid parts of Asia, but I believe their sands are more mineral-rich. In the end though, in all ‘deserts’, it’s all about building soils… With my first PDC i was humbled by the magnitude of what needed to be observed, understood and acted upon, yet it has taken me some more years to get a real sense of the complexity of healthy soils (taking into account also all the other impacts from sun, wind, rain, drought, animals…).
        Too much water? I envy you! Cheers!

        • Sung Kim

          Hi Rosanne,
          I just thought yo might look at this you tube(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzthQyMaQaQ) in case you didn’t, which is about understanding soil organisms and building healthy soil; really interesting!

          • Rosanne Trottier

            Thanks Sung Kim, yes, Elaine Ingham really knows the topic!

    • Hi Rosanne

      Can you use chicken to improve your compost production and tractor the gardens? You can use deep pit gardens like banana circles, papaya circles and use vegetable crops around similar circles, mulch supply can be very fast growing legume trees and bushes cut for mulch at the start of the wet and let grow tall and shady in the dry. Shade is better than mulch in the dry, never cut shay mulch till the wet season starts. Grow vine crops in the dry to partially shade your gardens. High shade over all vegetable gardens papaya being the classic, like the house shade between 9am to 3pm in the tropics.

      • Rosanne Trottier

        Many thanks Geoff – the point about timing mulch is a revelation. Your other recommendations are already all being implemented, from chickens free ranging to high shade. I tend to cut for mulch pretty much year-round, as it never seems to be enough!

  • Florie

    Hi Geof, my problem is different from every one. I live in the uk Surrey, I have too much water my garden floods late winter and spring sometimes up to July.
    My course of action is to build hugulculture mounds so that I can plant as soon as the weather is warm enough. I have also dug up part of the ponds I mentioned in my last PDC to take up the excess water, do you think this is the right course of action? I have grown some lovely beans and pumpkin this year.

    • Florie

      That sounds like the right idea, did you use the excavated soils to raise the garden beds too?

      • Felipe Herrerias

        I have a similar problem in a property I’m working on in central Mexico (Cwb climate), I’ve been monitoring the water table during the rainy season and it is only 40cm below ground level, and most of the land is either flooded or saturated. The difference between the highes and lowest spots on the property is 1m. Question is, can the flooding be prevented with ponds with the water table as it is?

        • Temperate highland climates with dry winters (Cwb, Cwc).

          Swales and ponds will provide directed drainage, reduce the effect of flooding with the swales and pond taking the bulk of the water, and the excavations from the ponds and the swale trenches will raise the soil levels.

        • Matt Zaff

          Have you considered Chinampa gardening? As I understand it, it’s a series of canals, or long ponds, and raised beds. You can even trellis over the ponds for additional grow spaces!

        • Florie

          This is exactly the problem I had, I came to this conclusion because Geoff said observe and pay attention to what is going on then act.
          Months after my last PDC I just walked up and down my property and observed every thing. I mean I seriously looked at all the vegetation and came to a conclusion. The parts that was under controls needed little care and attention, a symbiotic situation existed there. Meanwhile I had moments when I thought ok I have done a permaculture course, I have learned a lot and have done nothing.
          The point I am making is like Geoff said you can do a lot of thinking but when you do act you will achieve your goal the pattern will start to take its form.
          A pond was the solution for my water problem, at the moment it is empty ready to take up all the water in winter. I also remembered what Geoff had said about accumulation of water and nutrients in such soil. I was digging up a bog garden that had silted over 40 years. The amount of worm in the soil was shocking.
          Where I live most people treats me like a nutter gardener. Imagine how I felt when the famous word was uttered WHAt HAVE YOU DONE in amazement. I had mad a mound out of the soil from the pond and planted beans, pumpkin, Dalia, sweet peas, crystal lemon cucumber and beans. The size of my beans leaves could cover ones head like an umbrella with lot of long large beans on the vine. I also have hugulculture beds to raise the beds, mounds up from the water.

      • Florie

        Yes I got 3 very large pumpkin on one vine and masses of runner beans just from the soil mound.

      • Florie

        Hi Geoff, I did use the soil on a raised bed, I grew a Queensland blue pumpkin vine on it, an edible Dalia tuber, a crystal lemon vine and some bean and a sweet pea plant.
        The pumpkin went nuts it smothered every thing and produced 4 large pumpkin, I used a few foot long tips from it to make soups.
        The Delia flowers kept peaking through, the crustal lemon produced some fruit, the sweet pea crawled free and produce lots of flowers the short beans did not do well. Another climbing beans near by did extremely well. Great learning curve for me.

  • Matt Zaff

    Hi Geoff and Classmates!

    Firstly my deepest condolences for the loss of Bill! I hope we can forge ahead and reshape this world in a way that would make him proud!

    I feel like my question requires some context, because I don’t want to sounding too self interested.
    I currently live in New Orleans working (average 60 hrs a week) in the film industry in the art dept. I’ve become disillusioned with the industry finding it hard to break my back for bs entertainment when there is real, meaningful work to be done in the world. Unfortunately this job is the only one I’m qualified for that allows me to pay my burdensome debts.
    Obviously because permaculture is so multi-faceted and aims toward closed systems where the bi-product of one system is another yield, there are literally hundreds of business ventures you could start using a permaculture model.
    This is a bit of a struggle for me because I’m somewhat anti-capitalist, but because we’re all stuck in this system my hope is that a new one can be made through leading by example. (For example inner city urban farming – being a place that employs felons, giving a certain percentage of produce to those in need, making a high quality craft product marketed to trendies – a percentage of profits go back to community in need somehow, to name a few) I for one have too many ideas and don’t know where to begin.

    So I guess that’s my question, upon completion of the PDC where is a good place to start in terms of a business plan, and how do you present something so complex as permaculture to potential lenders?

    Thank you and I’m tremendously excited to be taking this class and to get to know some of my classmates as well!

    • Hi Matt

      By the time you have finished the course you should have formed your business plan around what you realise are passionate about this often happens as the course is a transformative event.

  • Stefanie Nesse

    My question concerns mob grazing. I’m persuaded by the benefits and keen to try it out for my small Highland herd of cattle here in Brittany north west France (38 ha), but I cannot get my head around the water issue: how can a mobile watering system with 300l water butts emptied, moved and refilled every other day not be wasteful? Equally, setting up vast numbers of water butts in every small short term paddock can’t be the responsible answer (just think of the 100 acre/100 paddock example praised by Bill Mollison in an old video somewhere). How do you deal with water in your mob grazing set up in Zaytuna, Geoff? What other possible water set ups does permaculture offer up as potential solutions? I move my cattle once a week more or less but I wouldn’t call it mob grazing and at the end of a very dry summer I wish I’d given it a try to see how it would have helped the ground.

    • Hi Stefanie

      We use a cattle lane way 6m wide and have a cattle night yard every few hundred meters, this is just wider part of the lane way in an appropriately flatter spot. We have the water, mineral block and natural oiled back scratcher there, we keep that section of the lane way open in the day and at night we walk them into it and lock them in. This may seem like a lot of work but there maybe 6 cells connected to that section of lane way so we then get 12 to 18 nights of manure all easy to collect in one place.

  • Mason Reynolds

    What do you wish you knew at the beginning of your journey into permaculture and where do you envision permaculture in the future?

    Much thanks.

  • Mason Reynolds

    Hi, Geoff.

    These questions may seem a bit vague but I’ll give it a go.

    In retrospect is there anything you personally wish you knew or would have done near the beginning of your journey into permaculture? Also, where do you envision permaculture in the future?

    Much thanks – Mason.

    • A year or so ago, he said (loose quote) “At first, I didn’t really understand plant succession.” Today, he’s placing emphasis on this term “time-stacking.” I believe we are about to learn to grasp the fundamentals of this concept.

  • Gregory Wade-Ferrell

    HI Geoff and everyone, Seems like the right time to get acquainted. My wife, Karen Gilhespy and I are both enrolled in this, our second PDC. We are fortunate to live in Northern, North Island of New Zealand (Godzone country) We have a Roadside American style Diner there, set in 8 acres of waterpark/ riverside property (read 5 ft floods) which we are redisigning as a Permaculture, community hub. For the last 6 years, we have lived and worked on the edge of the Loess Plateau in northern China in a small city called Datong; roughly 300kms west of Beijing. We have seen firsthand, some of the worst eroded land on the planet and the staggering efforts made to heal parts of this devastation. Everywhere we travel, along the roads and on the mountain slopes; they have planted billions (yes billions) of trees and shrubs – In Datong alone, the scale of planting defies belief. Unfortunately, we also see a country rapidly emulating the agricultural practices of the West, poorly advised by `experts,’ seduced into using chemical solutions in the name of higher production. Water for irrigation, is being drawn from the aquifers at an ever increasing rate and the river which once ran through the middle of the city, now consists of a shallow dam for an aesthetic look. The Chinese have done some great work with their `Hat and Coat’ approach as documented by John Liu, but knowledge of Permaculture seems to be unknown and little of their planting is for food security. We would love to introduce PC into their thinking and designing for, what happens in China, is going to have a huge impact on the planet; for good or bad. We’ve spent a long time observing; now it’s time for action but we could use some support. My sincere condolences to all for Bill’s passing – although I never met him, I homesteaded up the road from you guys in Stanthorpe in Queensland, just over the border about the same time; and started this journey in the grapefields and orchards of the Granite Belt. Feel like I know you Geoff. Cheers mate.

    • Sounds like a great project and deserving location. By hat and coat approach does this resemble those tea tree forested hillsides you have, but with swales?

  • RAJ

    Meet Bill in 79 in Ipswich. Sad to hear of his passing but he has many able voices to keep his message going, yours among them Geoff. Mine is a very prosaic question. The mister controller in your green house is it a complete unit or do you have plans for it that can be shared.

  • Ross McLaud

    Hi Geoff,

    I’ve been working in the IT field for about 15 years now and don’t plan on doing it for much longer. Permaculture really changed my life for the better and it really has become my passion. I would like to, hopefully in the future, transition into a full time role pursuing permaculture and helping people while still paying the bills. Any insight you could offer would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for all that you do. It has really inspired me to do the same.

  • Thom Illingworth

    Hi Geoff,
    I’m excited about this opportunity to take your online PDC. I was saddened to hear of Bill’s passing. He has left us all such a wonderful legacy to build upon. One question about the course. Will we need to purchase the Designer’s Guide or other text to complete the course?

    • Birgitta Ottestad

      My library helped me out and got me a copy from the university. It arrived today. So now I have a few weeks with the book, But holding this book in my hands I might want to by one anyway) 🙂

  • AL

    Hi Geoff – are you aware of any “plant pallet” resources for specific Koppen analogues that also facilitate creation of guilds and provide guidance redarding allellopathy? Eric Tonsmeier seems to have started a few “plant pallets” here: http://www.perennialsolutions.org/useful-perennial-plant-profiles-hardy-organic-gardening-plants-permaculture-urban-resource-garden.html, and PFAF’s enhanced search capabilities should make it fairly easy to derive plants based on several climactic & soil conditions ( http://www.pfaf.org/user/Default.aspx ), but I haven’t been able to find an easy way to identify guilds nor identify plants that ought not to be co-located. In the audio from Bill’s 1983 PDC there’s some good advice about planting mulberries (?) between nut trees & fruit trees. Where the heck does one find similar information if contemplating mixing Goji Berry plants with Korean Nut Pines etc?

    In a perfect world, there’d be a resource similar to Eric’s “Colorado Plant Palette” that also includes guild creation guidance and compatibility guidance, or the PFAF database would be extended to include Koppen selection, guild creation guidance, & compatibility guidance.

    If such a resource doesn’t exist, 1) could you please steer me towards some of the components (good guild books etc), and 2) would you consider creating/hosting a wiki or some other collaborative tool to build such a resource over time?

    Many thanks,

  • Patrick Cantin

    Hi Geoff,

    “When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground.” With Bill Mollison’s departure, the world has lost both a library and a librarian, as he generously shared book references with his students. The few of those that I managed to read were mind blowing (e.g. “Water for Every Farm” by P.A. Yeomans, “Arctic Dreams” by Barry Lopez, “The Soul of the White Ant” by Eugene Marais). Geoff, I would love to hear about your top book recommendations.

    Many thanks! Patrick DRCongo

    • Michael Mangano

      Based on early bird “Video7 – Apocalypse, or Abundance?”, I’d say Malcom Gladwell’s “Tipping Point” is on that list

  • Patrick Cantin

    Hey Geoff, i am taking advantage of this opportunity to ask another question, thanks a lot for your time!

    I am curious to know if and how you will be touching on the socio-economic aspects of a permaculture project during the course, as they seem key to increase acceptance by a community, and ultimately to ensure the sustainability of the project. Would you have any advice on how to avoid developing “just another” demonstration plot, but instead to have a permaculture project become the event launching the development of a whole neighborhood/village/region?

    • Anthony Blome

      That is a great question Patrick. I once worked a project in a foreign country that involved management of rats in rice fields, that I did in collaboration with the local government there. We had a new method to control explosive rat populations in the fields prior to rice harvest, but our biggest challenge wasn’t that our method didn’t work. It was instead convincing the local populace to accept our proposed method. Education was a considerably important factor in our success, without which many individuals would revert back to using methods that were more familiar to them, although less viable.

    • Hi Patrick

      We will cover how to launch out into community and the extension to broad community again.

  • deemarie

    Denise grant from NE PA Zone 5B. 16 Acres.

    My land is long and quite narrow at the south end. The east side has 1/3 mile creek frontage (creek is 100 foot across and 35 to 50 foot deep). The northern corner has about 3 acres of swamp land that is quite beautiful and rich in unique plants. The west has a paved busy roadway that has 4 culverts from the steep hillside that make three stream beds on property that head to creek. There are 4 mini small drains from the road that empty into the fields. There is a drainage ditch cut along the road but it does not work.

    I will put gabions on the top of the culverts and streams (west side) to help cleanse the water, control erosion and slow it down when there is flash flooding from the hillside.

    I will be putting in quite a few ponds or dams and swales. I have two questions.

    1. When you stop sink and soak water you get more water lower in the property. I want to retain the swamp and make it healthier but I don’t really want more. Will all the ponds dam and swales create more swamp?

    Just up above the swamp is an area I think would make a great chinampa garden.

    2. I have heard that swales can be frost pockets. Is this true? The creek protects me from some frost but I like to create micro climates to extend my growing seasons and wondered if this would affect micro climates.

  • Tom

    Hi Geoff,
    I live in a rural area, have slow internet and also have to pay for my bandwidth by the megabyte. Will there be an option to view the class videos at a lower resolution?

  • Rowdy Miller

    Greetings Jeff!

    Sad to hear about the passing of Permaculture founder Bill Mollison, my condolences on his passing.

    I live on 9.5 acres in southern California near the Mexican border in San Diego county (Latitude = 32.667846, Longitude -116.718876). It is on granite foothills 35 miles from the Pacific Ocean, and 50 miles from the Sonoran Desert. The well water comes from fractured rock, with average rainfall of 12 inches. This is Semi arid chaparral forest, which the state has strict defensible space fire regulations (http://www.readyforwildfire.org/Defensible-Space/). Have you had any experience in proving that these regulations are more damaging than helpful? I think this is where some real creative thinking is needed. I have more description about the property, but will save them for the FDE.

    Thank you,


  • Thomas Jedensjö

    Hi everybody!

    I was wondering, what would be the most recent edition of the book; Permaculture a designer’s manual?

    Also, what would the course material be when it comes to books? Is it all fred online material or are we supposed to buy any?


    Thomas, Stavanger Norway (Swedish)

    • Hi Thomas,

      I’m not sure what the most recent edition is as mine is years old.

      You don’t have to have any other course material other than the videos online. I do recommend the manual but I do not sell it. I sent out an email a couple of weeks ago with the details to a discount I arrange for my students through tagari.com. Please email [email protected] if you do not have those details. Cheers Geoff.

  • sonja

    Hi Geoff
    I have a block of land that I am not going to be able to do much with immediately due to a number of reasons. It has one section that is quite eroded. It looks like soil was excavated to build a wall to create a dam. Would it be best to try and stop the erosion now even before I have any design or plans for setting it up as a sustainable permaculture place to live? Any suggestions on how to do this?

  • Richard Wilber

    Hello Geoff! Rich Wilber from Connecticut, U.S. I’m very excited to be taking this course! I am working with a group of people to develop a cohousing community on 33 acres of a former dairy farm, and we are committed to using permaculture design in our landscape. I firmly believe that permaculture is the best method for restoring our environment and mitigating climate change.

    I have done some reading on permaculture, and I’m fascinated by the use of patterns in creating a design. However, I lack the imagination, experience, whatever to see how patterns can be applied. Other than a few examples I’ve come across (herb spiral, keyhole gardens), can you (or anyone else) please give an example of how a particular pattern influenced your design?

    Thanks, can’t wait to start!

    • Ask an architect, and often they will say sightlines. Eg: Emphasize the picture window that directly faces the valley and stream below, or a long deck that spans the broad panoramic horizon. An interior designer might say, if the room (property) is almost square, emphasize the longer proportion. Such advice is predicated on our human need to grasp and establish firm anchors. Space planners (more akin to what we are doing here) bias such ‘rules of thumb’ by tying time and movement into the equation.

      • Richard Wilber


        I’m not sure that helps me grasp the concept of using patterns in the design process, but maybe I’m making it too complicated. Your mention of sightlines made me think of a wave pattern along an end of a garden to increase edge.


    • Christopher Paulin

      Hello Rich Wilber. I am also from Connecticut, USA, where I grew up. I am now in Manchester, Connecticut, USA. This is my second time taking this online course. I already have my permaculture design certificate from the first online course. I am raw vegan. I would like to visit Rocky Corner in Bethany, Connecticut, which is a 33-acre co-housing community.

      Christopher Paulin

      • Richard Wilber


        We would love to have you come visit, once we build it! We are very close to getting construction financing, but there are no buildings up yet. If you ever want to come by just to see the land, let me know and we can arrange a time.


        • Christopher Paulin


          Yes, let’s meet on your site in Bethany. How can I contact you? Can I contact you through [email protected]? I was in Meriden, Connecticut today on an organic vegan farm that is doing some permaculture.

          Christopher Paulin

          • Richard Wilber

            Contact me through [email protected]. I live about 20 minutes away from the property, so as long as I know ahead of time I can meet you most days.


          • Christopher Paulin


            I sent an email to you yesterday at this time.

            Christopher Paulin

  • Jen Pudney

    Hi Geoff, I am really excited to be registered for your online PDC…..when exactly does it start?

  • Shana Cash

    Hi Geoff and classmates! Thank you for this opportunity. I have two questions: (1) How should we prioritize our design needs with limited financial resources so we maximize our impact and invest wisely? (2) Transitioning from a typical western lifestyle to a sustainable lifestyle entails a great amount of behavior change related to personal daily habits and routines. Can you share your experience as you made this transition and any tips that made it easier?

    • gardenwithliz

      It’s always good to start with water, access and structures. Plants can actually cost a lot, especially trees and such, so if you have the framework started plants are easier to add gradually. I like to get my design done first, than after the water, pathways and structures are figured out and at least started, I next go on to groundcovers. This can be cover crops, mulch, etc. Something to get the soil jump started and no longer have bare soil or weeds everywhere. Really the best investment is a good quality design though!

      When I’ve been trying to do a more sustainable lifestyle, a lot of it is not get overwhelmed by it and just continue to make small and slow changes in the right direction. Eventually, you will get there.

    • Matt Zaff

      There are some really cool technics you can check out on YouTube I love just watching stuff, jotting down notes for future endeavors. One that caught my eye recently was training your fruit tree to have straight horizontal branches. All new growth from these branches grows straight up. After a year or two when it’s time to prune for healthy fruit production, all you’re prunings can be grafted to rootstock and either planted out or sold in your nursery!
      Also saw a cool video from the Urban Farming Guys. He mixed up a slurry of woodchips, woodash, Morel mushroom spore, and water. Divided it into 20 5 gallon buckets that he spread to all the full shady parts of his lawn and a few weeks or months later they were harvesting a $1000 worth of mushrooms in just a few minutes! Some food for thought anyway!

      Good Luck

      • Diogo Ferraz

        Nice! Can you share the links to these videos? Cheers!

        • Matt Zaff

          Hi Diogo!

          Here are a couple links I could find easily:
          1. Train trees so that your prunings make perfect trees to be grafted

          2. Morel Mushroom Slurry

          I’ll post some more if I can think of any… It takes some suffering through bad video or slide shows but there is a lot of info on almost any topic! Can’t wait for our class though!

          • Diogo Ferraz

            Thank you very much!

          • Anna Lee

            I can see that I will have to get me two adorable kids to help me out when I try this method. Thanks for sharing this!

      • Florie

        Hi Matt, the utube video I like was of Rick Larson he was one of Geoff’s previous student, I loved the collection of fruit trees and shrub, wild plants that are often considered as weeds but good as plant nutrient in the soil and his process of composting which is exactly like Geoff suggest on the course. I made notes of his plant collection quite interesting. He produces lovely vegetables.

  • Nick Jennison

    Hey Geoff,

    I was recently hired as a Grounds and Facilities Technician at a center for sustainable living. I’m in charge of a small nursery among other things and I haven’t really had any nursery experience before. I want to use permaculture as a main part of the nursery, including setting up the automatic watering system you have at Zaytuna with the simple water weight switch. I was wondering if there would be nursery management and technical help on installing systems like the auto watering one as part of this course, and if not, where I might access information about that.

    I also just got approved to design a permaculture installation on part of the 21 acre site so I’ll be using this course as my backbone for that!



    • First, visit the high-tunnel expert at your local State University Ag Annex to learn how they are doing things near you, -soil amendments, typical planting seasonal basics.

      Ask them about the best regional suppliers and any who are particularly helpful toward their students on site and/or on the phone. Those who sell drip-feed systems and parts can explain how to build Geoff’s super simple home-made switch contraption. It’s potentially a cottage craft production item for any of us who need to make money from home.

  • I’ll go with a relative “where’s Waldo?” type of question: What’s wrong with this picture? https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a8adeb426b72f0481542b89be8fe44bce8c3baa43420e36bdcc4815a16245086.jpg
    UALR Agricultural Annex, “Oak Forest community garden”

  • Ruby Sheffer

    Hi Geoff. When and how can we register for the 2016 PDC online PDC?

    • Steph Krunic

      Hi Ruby – my question too!!!

  • smith hamel

    Hi Geoff, this is smith from southwestern PA; first I was wondering where can I buy sees, plants, trees, animals that I can be 100% shure have not been genetically modified at all that are truly non-gmo. Second I have some problems with soil erosion and nee to bring new soil to replace what I have lost where can I buy soil that is not poisiond with industrial fertilizers, insecticides, pesticides and biocides.

    • Smith, welcome aboard. Here in Arkansas we’ve been composting for over 35 years. Years ago I held the illusion that OUR soil could benefit people as far away as you are. The reality is our microbes are different. No matter how many loads of rich black soil I might be obliged to deliver, your native conditions are actually more favorable to replenishing this environment than you might currently understand. Look for the book Seed Savers, and Google heritage seeds, Pennsylvania. This is the beginning of a lifelong journey for which we are all equally well prepared.

    • Tyrr Vangeel

      I don’t know for the rest of the world, but EU organic and also US organic does not allow GMO and tests are carried out. However, there is a 0.9% threshold for some reason. But I think that is about the best you can get. If you have “Demeter” (bio dynamic, private label) in you area, they do not allow detectable quantities (<0.1% if I'm correct) of GMO and are very strict on this. Maybe, there are other private labels that have something simular.

  • Kai Lime-leaf

    Hi Geoff, I have a question that is often asked.
    What to do in large nearly dead flat areas, that are deep sand?
    How to collect, channel and most importantly store water?
    How to implement swales and dams into a landscape that seems to make it impossible as everything quickly drains away through the sand.
    I am member in a founding group of a new eco-village. I am co-designing the 85ha piece of land that is as mentioned totally flat and sandy it is currently used for large asparagus mono culture.
    Thank you!

  • Fiona Benson

    Hi Geoff and Everyone, I’m Fiona based in the Netherlands. Geoff, thank you very much for the opportunity to take this course and for this Q&A session. Also, my deepest condolences on the passing of Bill Mollison, one of the world’s authentic heroes.

    My husband and I are looking for land at the moment but don’t have any yet. My first question is about my mum’s garden in Australia. She has 1.5 acres in amongst a green desert of large grazing paddocks. She has some fruit trees, a veggie garden and quite a few other trees plus lawn. The cockatoos, galahs and rosellas decend whenever there is a harvest and enjoy most of it. She could net what she has, but if she were to put in a food forest, she couldn’t net the lot.

    So my first question is, how do you control the birds if there is little of interest for them in the area around your food forest? (I thought maybe diversity would help as they would have many things to choose from, but having seen them at work they’re quite thorough and, as I said, there’s not a lot else around for them).

    My second question is about the roundup that the neighbour sprays next to the boundary fence. The property is dead flat and I’d be surprised if some of it didn’t end up in mum’s garden. Is there any way to guard against this other than raising an earth barrier around the perimeter? (there are some bushes and mature trees at the perimeter but it’s not a continuous barrier).

    My third question is about septic systems. Can you put swales over septic systems? And if not, what do you do when you get to one?

    Many thanks!

    Best wishes,

    • Two years ago or so, Geoff did a video called “small lot abundance,” or something like that. In this vid the property owner reveals that the birds flocked to the crabapple tree in his neighbor’s yard, preferring a high perch to their very tightly trimmed fruit trees. Shockingly, the birds did not light on the trees that were as short as they could reach with an ordinary pair of trimmers. Citrus especially prospers at this scale. Seeing a tree covered with birds these days would be a rare pleasure in the northern hemisphere–post Fukushima.

      • Fiona Benson

        Hi Chez,
        Thanks for the recommendation. There are about 50 native and non-native mature trees in the garden and the birds certainly prefer perching in those, however, they still go after the fruit when it’s ready. However, the fruit trees are taller than you describe, so it might be worth giving that a go.

        • That property was in an inner-city location. Maybe a scarecrow is necessary as well. I once tried hanging foil pie plates in my fig tree which helped considerably. Another trick was placing a sprinkler under the tree and cranking it on when I first noticed they were beginning to light.

  • Pink House

    Hi Geoff – thanks for offering the Ask-me-anything session!
    I have a pacific northwest property in British Columbia Canada, just over an acre, and have some permaculture features in place but have difficulty with integrating everything to maximize use of the space – this is why I am taking your course!

    Top of mind right now is placement of a pond on a mostly flat property (although there is a natural marsh area over-run with blackberries) for the purpose of catchment for summer irrigation of garden/orchard, especially now we experience drought every summer. I am not sure whether to maximize catchment in this low-lying area by digging ditches to channel water into it, and/or whether to put swales in the future orchard area slightly upslope of the pond, with the hope the new trees won’t need irrigation if they are planted on a swale.

    I guess the question comes down to when to use swales and when not to bother? Are swales in a small orchard worth doing when the slope is shallow, and the soil is already good? Does it make sense to dig ditches to collect runoff from the neighbours property and direct it into a pond?

    Many thanks,

    • I did that, stole the neighbor’s free sprinkler run-off for mom’s rose garden. But, when the lady moved, a savvy contractor bought the house and he repaired the leaky sprinklers the first week.

  • Kimberly

    We are living in a time where I feel we will all be faced with trying to exist with the contamination from radiation…like we are seeing in Japan ( which I hear the leaking still hasn’t stopped) Geoff can you explain how Permaculture can be used in such places…if at all? How can we embrace this and deal with such huge catastrophes and turn it into something sustainable?

    • The ice wall failed, and the idea of smothering the pyre with cement is equally absurd. Fukushima continues to present a potentially extinction-level event. As we look to Chernobyl we can draw certain conclusions, most of them bad. So far, no prolific fungal mass has taken an active interest in eating the excess radiation like the nefarious “blob,” -circa 1960’s.

  • Michael Mangano

    Hi, Geoff – a question about snakes….

    We’ve found 3 venomous snakes (so far) as we’re chopping and dropping our grasslands in eastern Uganda for the first time, getting ready to setup a PC project. As I think about cover crops (e.g. Singapore Daisies, Lablab), I wonder how much of a risk they will be for creating a thriving snake habitat and what can be done to mitigate it. Maybe I don’t have a snake problem, but a Mongoose deficiency 🙂

    Thanks in advance.
    Uganda & South Sudan

    • Thomas

      Hi Michael & Geoff, good question, I was wondering about this myself as well, also when seeing Geoff’s footage of Zaytuna farm in Australia. Does having an energetic dog around help?

      • That dog is the co-star of the show, are you kidding?

      • Florie

        Hi Thomas you may be right there, since I have had my little dog the grass snake that ate all my frogs has disappear. I love watching Geoff’s little black and white dog.

    • Mima Beverley

      I would also like an answer to this question. Have the same issue and small kids playing at the food forest all the time,

    • Florie

      Hi Michael Mangano I like what you said about the mongoose
      deficiency you are right you need more of them to deal with the snakes then problem solved your mulch will just keep moisture in the soil.

    • Narelle Mercer

      I have got guinea fowl!

      Which have now nested in the dry creek! and the postie told my neighbour the other day that our street has been one of the worst for snake sightings.

      I am now thinking my guinea’s have chased the snakes out of the creek and keeping them out of my yard – as I haven’t seen any snakes.

      Brisbane Australia

  • Brad Chisholm

    Hey, Geoff and classmates. I’m Brad from Rhode Island, USA.

    I live on the edge of a small piece of swamp land that is land locked between roads and a college campus, URI. About 25 years ago, before my time there was super dump where the college would dump all of its laboratory chemicals and trash just up the road from me so i believe most of the water around me is polluted. I want to work my way into this swamp that is full of maple trees and build living fences and paddock systems maybe for pigs and allow my goat to eat the brush to help me clear it. eventually i would like to use the swamp land for growing veggies or other perennial crops. would

    So i’m interested to know what are some good pig proof / goat proof living hedges that would be realistic to use in a swamp; and also what plants would be the best to use to help clean up some of the chemicals that may be in the swamp itself.

    I have not taken a water sample out of the swamp yet it has been relatively dry this year i am just assuming that the water is not good.

    there is also chlorinated water that gets pumped into the swamp from pools periodically should i try to set up a filtering system to clean that water? Any suggestions on what to use, a reed bed maybe?

    • Meredith Spitalnik

      Glad to meet you, I’m over in Portsmouth! This was an interesting question you posed 🙂

      • Brad Chisholm

        Hey, Thanks Meredith! I met you over at the farmers market i was selling mushrooms for a little while.

  • Christopher Paulin

    I have questions below. Thank you for this updated course. First, I am from Manchester, Connecticut, USA. This is my second time taking this online course. I already have my permaculture certificate from the first online course. I am raw vegan.

    Question 1: Would you be able to provide vegan-alternative examples (plant-based examples) throughout the course when you give examples using animals, such as the chicken tractors to dig up the ground and such as aquaculture to grow fish for eating? I do not use animal products, including fish and dairy. This also applies to non-vegans who do not want to maintain animals.

    Question 2: Besides growing perennials, would you be able to provide examples of growing annual plants like tomatoes in an efficient way? Growing annuals does not allow nature to go to forest.

    Question 3: In general, would you provide many examples of applying permaculture into practice. For example, in 4.2 – Pattern Understanding, we see patterns in nature, but how do we use those patterns for ourselves to grow tomatoes or perennials? For example, a tessellation pattern is an apple-core shape. How can we use that pattern and many other patterns in nature for our designs?

    Christopher Paulin

    • Matt Zaff

      Hi Christopher,

      I was raised vegetarian (am no longer) and half my family is either vegetarian or vegan, so this is something I’ve grappled with as well. Ultimately I’ve concluded that solution is to lead by example of “best practices” while on an individual level you could survive without animal input, but at the societal level and really in order for managed sustainable agriculture animal input is key. The plants and animals form a life cycle through the soil. For the vegan permaculturalist are you trying to avoid all animal inputs? Could you have a pet pig or horse for manure? Could ornamental fish work in your aquaponics system? Aeroponic systems use only dissolved minerals no animal input there.
      For me because I to have homestead one day that my family can come and stay/live I want to create something that they can be comfortable with. Unfortunately we can’t survive on a broad scale without the input of animal manures and because the natural ecosystem is in such disarray there is no real natural predation of domestic animals, the only alternative to overpopulation is human consumption. The key is to lead by a more ethical and sustainable example. Firstly I’d try to choose heritage breeds that are endangered species due to falling out of favor from big ag production. Naturally I’d try to ensure the best quality of life for the animals. Lastly if able I’d love to start a farm to table restaurant that promotes shifting far away from the unstainable meat at every meal practice that has become a western norm.

      • Christopher Paulin


        Question for me: As a vegan permaculturalist, are you trying to avoid all animal inputs? Maintaining an animal like a horse is too much work and time for me, although I like horses and their role in helping people do work. I will focus on plant guilds. In permaculture, we want to see what plant guilds reduce or eliminate weeding, irrigation, and plowing the soil. That leaves us with seeding, transplanting, and harvesting.

        Christopher Paulin

        • Tyrr Vangeel

          Horses, and I suppose therefore all bigger animals that need caretaking on a regular base, will be out. But taken that one day, you’ll find the time, I would prefer a cow over a horse. Because their stomage system compared to the one stomage from the horse, they have ma really different and generally more balanced manure with craploads of interesting stuff for your soil life. Also, generally, an oxen is more relaxed in working, can feed on a wider range of fodder and to rich a grassland will just turn them fat, not as easily sick as a horse.

          • Christopher Paulin


            Thank you for the information. I read that they castrate the oxen, which I would not want to do.

            Christopher Paulin

          • Tyrr Vangeel

            well, an oxen is not a species you can breed, you make them instead 😉
            I have never seen it, but read about people using cows for the same purpose. Less strong etc, but no cutting in painfull places, can still produce a calf and milk every year, …

          • Christopher Paulin


            Oxen is the plural form of one ox. Do you use oxen or an ox?

            Christopher Paulin

          • Tyrr Vangeel

            oops :p
            anyway, except if I missed a translation, it remains a bull with some missing parts so ‘an’ shouldn’t be there I guess.

          • Christopher Paulin


            An ox is correct because ox starts with a vowel sound, the letter o, so it sounds better, an + ox, instead of a + ox, where the vowels fight with each other.

            Have you used oxen?

            Christopher Paulin

      • Sarah Shantz

        Christopher, thank you for asking Geoff those excellent questions. Thanks Matt for your thoughts on that topic as well, and commenting on the need for animals in permaculture at a societal scale. This is a topic that I’d like to hear more about from you both and others here as well…vegan, vegetarian and meat-eater perspectives, respectfully touching on moral views and practicalities of how we can incorporate and interact with animals in a mutually beneficial way. What are some time-layered goals we can reach for? Geoff, can you give us some of your thoughts on veganism, vegetarianism and meat-eating in regards to permaculture at various scales (homesteads, communities, nations…), and/or recommend some good reading sources on that topic?

  • Christopher Paulin


    Are you familiar with a garden-planting pattern whereby the nutritional and cultural needs of the plants involved are met and result in disease-free and pest-free production? Of course, hand weeding is required. A pattern in India near the Nepal border was recently introduced to a friend of mine, and it resulted in her previous insect-troubled and disease-troubled cabbage crop becoming insect free and disease free. This seems to be the pattern. It was said to plant, among your crops, tap-rooted plants like radishes, aromatics like garlic and onions, colors like those with variably-colored leaves, and differing leaf forms. For example, cabbage leaves are broad and smooth, so around the cabbage, plant narrow-leaved or frilly-leaved plants like dill and hairy-leaved plants like radish.

    Christopher Paulin

    • The brilliant thing about chop-and-drop is that insects are generally drawn to the sweeter composted soil beneath the fruit so they often never manifest any interest in the crops themselves (Birds, reptiles and rodents provide a huge variable.)

      • Christopher Paulin


        What do you chop and drop around cabbages and other food crops? Are you familiar with the pattern in my question?

        Christopher Paulin

        • Not explicitly, but the principle is to shred the excess leaves and blend them with a little manure, and place the mulch back in the exact spots after you pick the produce. The same minerals the plant desired on the first go are now even more plentifully available on the second and so-forth.

          *Adding about a tablespoon of food-grade diatomaceous earth per cabbage [in my case potatoes and artichokes]- plant(s) it will almost guarantee no crawling bugs in the vicinity for as much as two years. If you identify which plants are likely to attract crawling bugs early in the season you can prevent infestation by squelching them at the source. Never breathe this particulate dust, and lightly water while standing upwind.

          • Christopher Paulin


            Should the mulch, which you add, be uncomposted or composted, or does it not matter? Chop and drop is uncomposted. Do you grow sacrificial plants near your cabbages, potatoes, artichokes, etc. so that you can chop and drop them for mulch on your crop plants? If so, what plants do you grow for chop and drop?

            I did not know about the food-grade diatomaceous earth, so thank you for that tip.

            Christopher Paulin

          • Definitely composted, but you need to run the compost bin deep and hot. We add everything to ours, including meat. To do so, you have to have a green pile at least 20″ deep (125°ƒ) to burn up the pathogenic elements and the weed seeds. By mid-summer, or after two weeks of hot weather, the microbes can eat as much as 80% of the total potential yield, and you have to spread it out among other grasses to free them for productive work.

            Mostly, I cut the grassy weeds tops off and smother them with straw. We’ve got this one easy to pull wet weed that is very prolific and may add nitro but it steals a lot from the vegetables. I pile it up in the corner of the greenhouse and later bury it in the center of the compost pile.

          • Christopher Paulin


            To make an efficient work routine, do you walk from cutting weeds for compost to adding and turning compost to putting the compost on the garden? I believe that you are enhancing the cells of the plants by providing them with nutrition, and healthy cells resist illness. However, weeds can grow in the compost that you placed on the crops, so do you cover them up again with mulch like straw or a living mulch? That is what I want to do.

            Christopher Paulin

          • I just posted Geoff’s video on composting & soils above. It reminded me of many things I should be doing. The heat kills the weed seeds. What I have is a huge yard and a tiny garden, so there is no tough work involved. Trees have covered almost all of my sunny spots in back. Chickweed (water-laden) and Zoysia grass are the worst of my weed problems. Usually, I just snip the grass and leave it in place and add some (as I just learned) excessively rapidly decomposing-compost to the area before watering.

          • Christopher Paulin


            You mean the movie above, Geoff Lawton — Soils, that is 1 hour 37 minutes. I will watch that.

            Christopher Paulin

          • Just finished watching. Extremely informative!

          • Sarah Shantz

            Hey Tom,
            Do you know whether the D.E. will be harmful to beneficial bugs as well or not, and whether it affects bees? I’ve also always wondered when hearing of people and animals regularly consuming food-grade DE for internal pest detoxing whether that kills off their beneficial microflora as well?

  • smith hamel

    Chez Kiva unfortunately Chez Kiva I have around 100 large trees and there are many areas where roots are showing that are half the size of my wrist so I have conserns that putting compost will rot or burn the roots. I want to build the trees into the permaculture system I want to start and it would take years to build enough soil to cover the roots of the trees. So I how can I protect the trees while still improving the soil. I have done a little bit of sheet mulching to see how that would work, it definitely increased the health of the soil dramatically but I live on three acres and I can’t contemplate sheet mulching three acres. Also I have serious concerns about having the ability to dig Swales as well. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/dac76a454d40f5f4ee0a16c51c12d0efdce3fbd518893867d51feac499b723c5.jpg

    Small hugelkultur on contour with leer litter layer on top, early spring no Buds on Trees yet. Overflown river from this summer huge rain. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/cf7292fa1ec84fcfc04497a5a9b051f46f37b57048e3498905c72a34872849fc.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e2486642f16a5836cbc856cc8b3209b5313c4ca283f47b839eec8ab620be54c7.jpg

    • Smith, this would be the most serious question anyone ever asked of me. I’m probably the least knowledgeable about plants in the bunch. Photographing award-winning architecture for the bulk of my professional life only forced me to consider how to do things wrongheadedly, or something to that effect. What I see in this picture is serious development oversight, -upstream!!

      Civil engineers would simply say, throw all that run-off water away! The USDA recently shared a best practices video illustrating the damage that garden tilling causes in terms of critical absorption. Clearly, your area land planners and dozer operators should have been fired.

      Mollison’s hour long YouTube lectures,”Trees” part one & two, may help you grasp a long range overview solution. I have the same problems on a different scale, and ‘ll share this pair of images that approximately explain the approach I am trying here. (Before, After) https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/030db41955a75adea11c95bdacbc4de6a21308451639797aac5b6b7b8971ef04.jpg

    • Felipe Herrerias

      Hi Smith, based only in the pictures above, I’d say that before putting your effort and resources into sheet mulch or composting you need to sort out the hydrology of your place. You need to slow down and soak in the water starting on the top of your property, and try to take water from the valleys to the ridges, to avoid the erosion that is exposing your roots. Swales and keyline design, in my opinion, are advisable, but only after thorough research and design (calculate runoff, consider rainfall patterns, catchment areas, etc.)

      • smith hamel

        Those photos where taken after a huge summer rain, during what was likely the 50 year flood cycle. Normally the creek stays well within the concrete walls; but with the flood large chunks of the wall have been destroyed. There are problems with soil erosion all through the property, not only along the creek bank. I think this is mostly caused by pour land management practices, but at this point the situation has gotten so bad that I think you can’t use large machines to fix it. Also there is not really a top to my property, there are no ridges and valleys. I have been thinking about swales to only installing the Swales with a large machine would likely damage our large trees and risk killing them, so I figure that I would have to do it by hand. I think that my only option other than Swales is to installs some large earth burms or some large hugelkulture burms.

        • We need pictures that actually reveal the grade, especially the areas above your site which have become so contentiously erosive.

  • Samir Paleja

    Hi, Geoff. I stay in Mumbai and don’t have any land. But post PDC I will help friends who own agricultural land around Mumbai. Our area is moderately hot with high level of humidity. Due to tropical location temperatures won’t fluctuate much.
    The mean average is 27.2 °C and average rain is 242.2 cm (95.35 inches). We have June-September rainy season with July being wettest. Since most permaculture strategies revolve around extreme climatic conditions, my question is how the principals will be applicable in moderate climatic conditions? In other words I want to know how challenging it would be to implement permaculture knowledge in climatic conditions that doesn’t pose much challenge?

  • Diogo Ferraz

    Hello, guys! I have some quick and maybe basic questions, but they could help me clarify some thoughts.

    1) In Geoff’s last newsletter, one of the linked articles praised soil digging even deeper than usual:

    «The need is great because climate change has affected the rain pattern,” she said. “But farmers can get through famines by preparing the soil deeper so it can retain more water.” She is referring to double-digging — the aeration, or loosening, of soil down to 24 inches rather than the 6 inches or so customary on most farms — which makes roots longer, stronger and healthier; quadruples nutrient availability to plants; and permits closer plant spacing.»
    https://www.greenbiz.com/article/how-mini-farms-can-yield-food-security? inf_contact_key=2fcbb883f6b08609f0c4b031474d246e005ab5671e0881ead47e384e35b086cd

    I had the ideia that no-tilling with some hardy roots would be better because it preserved the soil structure, minerals and other life in it. Could digging (and deeper digging) be beneficial in some situations?

    2) This week I was listenning to some protectors of heritage/non-GMO seeds from a portuguese association and they made me aware that cross-polination between species genetical close could result in the disappearence of the most recessive (the offspring would mainly manifest the dominant characteristics). For example some zucchini and pumpkin varieties. Is this something to avoid through permaculture design? How?

    3) I have access to some abandoned land with good potential which was used for agriculture a couple decades but it is 500 km away from my home. Is there any possible design, even if minimal, to make this land productive with a couple annual visits? Each visit could be done by a group of people for intensive periods of work or more regular visits done by fewer people.

    Thanks for the help!

    • Greetings, Diogo, I believe you are going to learn all of these answers in triplicate, but not in the neat little rows and columns you might hope. Mollison does an hour exclusively on soils, which I’m somewhat intimidated to watch. My project(s) involve lots and lots of poor soils. The best resource for us in the midwest US has historically been the University of Kansas. The best soil in North America is that glacial-till found in central Ohio, which contributes to the 4-6 ft deep ‘A’-horizon found throughout the eastern Illinois greenbelt.

      Building soil is actually quite easy, assuming you can control the water sufficiently to keep things moist. This first video may intrigue you considerably:

      Soil health lessons in a minute: benefits of no-till farming

      Organic No-Till Weed Management

      BILL MOLLISON full course 10 16 Soil Conditioning

      • Diogo Ferraz

        Hello, Tom! Thanks for the info and resources, I’ll have a look for sure. Still, even though I’m hoping NOT to understand ecological systems in “columns or rows”, I think the question regarding digging (or not) soils can hope for something more specific: a comparison between both practices with relative pros and cons, examples of situations where one would be more advisable than the other etc. Do you have any thoughts on that? Cheers!

        • Where the soil is hard and rocky, the agronomists say the best you can do is use the disk to break things up in relatively straight parallel furrows. As you introduce organic matter it fills these newly formed cracks and you then simply encourage N-fixing plants like clover to take charge.

          To optimize my garden soil here, I need to add sharp sand and glacial till. The idea is to replicate the growing conditions in Pakistan’s cancer-free fertile Hunza Valley. Ours is high in clay and chirt. I’m very short on microbes and worms except in a few well tended spots.Adding coffee-black compost is not nearly as effective as a combo with straw, grass & sand.

          Can you discern the general mixture(s) you have and are hoping to attain in the near term from this chart? I can’t, and I prefer to experiment https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a92b3b0761f1de6bb8f2f724300bdabc894bf1a59de5de02e53473ddc56fb22c.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e2db50e042d83a0f5b297cdab36509913484e908d801e85e2e5e95fa6b82301c.jpg by sight and feel.

          • Diogo Ferraz

            Interesting! I’ve been interested in Hunza community for some time, but from all their environment (and lifestyle) conditions I’ve never thought of soil. I hope you succeed! 🙂

            This type of chart can only help me to have a mental scheme of soil compositions, I will need sight and feel as well in the near future.

          • Sarah Shantz

            Tom, I just wanted to tell you that I’m really learning a lot from all your comments! Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and experiences! 🙂

    • Diogo Ferraz

      Ok, this article helped me to better relativize the soil digging aspect. Maybe the way how the digging is done is more important. Any further thoughts are welcome.

  • Steph Krunic

    Is there a current intake for the online pdc? Discussion below looks like one is about to start.
    Keep searching for info but havent found reference to one beyond 2014. Can anyone point me in the right direction?

    • Technically, Steph, you just became a member of a very exclusive private club. They call us the early adopters, the movers and shakers, the visionaries, the very future of the planet in many regards. Long, short, the answer is yes! You got a front row seat to the official 2016 enrollment, with one caveat. The journey begins now. Tell us where you want to go…

      • Steph Krunic

        Where we want to go….
        To create the most liveable corner of our little world and hope it keeps spreading – and rapidly! Practically want to minimize what leaves our site and produce as much energy, water and nutrition as we can.
        Where we are now….
        We are in Adelaide, South Australia. Mediterranean climate, 400m2 block with another 250 shared access on the southern boundary of the block and 20m x 0.5m potential planting on the southern driveway boundary.
        We are on clay plains adjacent to the CBD in the leafy Eastern suburbs. Easy walking or bike access to the city, schools and central markets and independent supermarket. There is easy access to 3 public transport routes which makes this a privileged urban/suburban set up.
        The long axis of the block is north facing with a fall of 70cm from the back south eastern boundary to the west at the front. We get reliable westerly Gully Breezes off the gulf as we are adjacent the foothills. There are established street trees and neighborhood verge plantings (ornamental) to about 50% houses in our block. One street over is a reserve with 2 playing fields (welcome green break to the heat in summer) We planted 12 fruit trees (citrus, apples and low chill stonefruit) around the boundary 7 years ago. We have no shortage of pollinators although the hot (usually) brutally dry summers can be heartbreaking.
        A flash storm in January this year severely damaged our existing home. The extent of the internal water damage and fungus left the house uninhabitable. It is now slated for demolition “before christmas” (approvals pending). So now we are renting a heinously positioned poorly performing double brick 1960s house in a dedicated car neighbourhood with urban infill covering 80% of the block with 2 story monstrosities with 85%of the western walls having unshaded glass in a desert of lawn….. its freaking me out.
        Anyway…. culture shock of moving a few suburbs over aside….
        The new build is 2 story with what is considered a small footprint (108m2) for the area and comprises 3 br for our young family, clinic space for my acupuncture practice and workshop for my husbands business. Its been designed to optimize solar passive performance and aside from the (non composting) toilets everything has at least 2 functions! Rainwater collection, greywater diversion, shading pergolas to allow appropriate seasonal shading with productive planting. Will strive to self consume our solar (6.5kw system that includes east and west panels to aid production during shoulder) We compost, have pet guinea pigs, grow annuals, have fruit trees, use wicking bed system to conserve water and reduce plant stress. I’d love 3 hens but need to learn more about poultry keeping particulary during 5 day heatwaves of 43 degrees (think thats over 115F). Heatwaves have killed our freestanding worms 3 times so now do all in bed worm towers.
        Guess the short answer elongated enormously is that i have found it surprisingly straightforward to set in place systems of connection that deliver far more than the input they require. The ideas aren’t hard to grasp and I’d really like the opportunity to explore more, implement a far more effective system for my family moving forward and take ideas into practice beyond our little block.
        Is that what you mean?

        • That’s a fabulous narrative. I too, often ‘freak out’ when I consider certain building norms! Horray! on your new head start. BTW, my actual name is Tom, I’m no expert on plants but I really enjoy thinking about interactive system-thinking. I’m using our family’s 50 yr urban experience as a pilot-plot and hoping to use my new knowledge to assist at poverty alleviation in towns perched along the Mississippi Delta.

          • Steph Krunic

            Hi Tom.
            Thanks for the introduction.
            After reading almost everyone else’s posts *waves* i think instead of the essay above what you meant was “are wicking beds the most sensible option for our zone 1 production in Adelaide?” Coz thats my burning question!!! If so id like to start collecting materials so o can get them set as soon as we have a rebuilt house shell….

          • Geoff emphatically suggests we take pictures. Your property is clearly in transition and in need of a serious big-picture re-think. Your first challenge is documenting the grade of the land, and identifying specific fixed contributory elements, such as a bank of trees, or the sheet-flow of water in a torrential rainstorm. Things you’ve seen.

            Your architect/draftsperson knows much more than their plan-view demands. Pick their brain for ideas about ‘sustainability,’ and you’ll find they usually know very little. Take the plans to the other side of town, or down to Melbourne, and ask the same questions of young and creative designers at the Uni.

            Look at magazines, but condition your thinking not around ‘wants,’ but around baseline premise, such as white pavers to reflect light upward, and partial coverings like a trellis to provide morning shade. Using them like puzzle-parts, see if they fit the experience you hope to convey on this property.

  • eric vocke

    Hi Geoff – Thanks so much to you and your team for this opportunity and all your hard work.

    I have two technical questions that i haven’t been able to find a definite answer to:

    First is there a equation for figuring out how much grey water reed bed area I need to clean an amount of water over a period of time? For example if I want to clean 1000 gallons of grey water per week how many cubic feet of reed bed is required? And to what quality. Is the quality of water coming out a result of reed bed size or rate of flow through the system?

    Second I have read that each nitrogen fixing plant has its own corresponding inoculant bacteria. If planting non native nitrogen fixing plants and inoculant is not available or a inoculant for a different nitrogen fixer is available is planting that nitrogen fixer affective at building N in soil? An example to clarify is if I have Inga Edulis seed and no inoculant or an inoculant for cow peas, is the Inga still affective at fixing nitrogen. If not how do you handle getting these inoculants when working in remote places. Sorry if this is not a very clearly worded question.

    Thanks for the help.

  • Nirmala Nair

    Hello Geoff and other classmates from this online PDC. I thought of taking advantage of Geoff’s “Ask me Anything” forum to share this. Thank you Geoff for the offer.
    This is a bit of sharing and whining, rather than a question..

    I am 60 this year. Live like a nomad travelling between Bhutan and Cape Town 2, 3 times a year. Primarily a teacher – teaching local, resilient adaptive sustainability wherever I am called, invited.

    I dont have any intention to own a farm, run a farm etc. Been always my dream, but I think it is too late to start on that project when one is 60. Sometimes, better to leave dreams as dreams…But I do live off my tiny suburban garden in Cape Town-growing most of my roots and veggies and fruits, no grains.

    So my question actually is how best do I use my PDC. Love to do some further internships, farm based work etc when the online course is over. But it is all about resources, PD teacher training probably is going to be very expensive. Love to visit Zaytuna farm, that will be a real dream. Not sure at my age if I can be of much use on a farm, also NSW feels very far away from Cape Town…Are there any ideas how to get more hands on teaching training for oldies like myself – Do you offer internships for grey-sliver -strand folks like myself ?

    I started off as a sociologist, moved into the field of gender, realised it is too disconnected, then moved into Development Studies etc, realised Sustainable Development is simply industry of a different kind. Studied biomimicry, ZERI (zero emission research and initiatives) etc, soon to realise yet another “industry” in the making…finally my last port of call has been climate change and local sustainability. It is obvious there is a lot we can do at the very local micro-level.

    All my previous trainings and lessons learnt are now focusing totally on micro-level. I intuitively feel that is the way we need to go. But we all know most of the policy work at the top level does not think it is cool enough. So my fight now is how to convince the climate cow-boys controlling climate change funds to take permaculture seriously. For a start, I am recommending PDC training for the agriculture and forestry extension as well as local government officials in Bhutan.

    I just finished designing a local training manual on dealing with climate change with a resilient adaptive soil, water and farming systems for local rural development . My recommendation is for Bhutan to really focus on permaculture training as the next phase and way forward. Thank you all, look forward to connecting and building a new community through this forum.

    • As long as monoculture exists in this world your future value to all is literally priceless.

      • Thank you Chez. You do know the power of the soil to adapt, transmute, transcend. My belief is that one day, soil organisms will takeover our monoculture and a true re-volution is already underway- not by us, but the natural organisms.

        • Florie

          Nirmala Nair we have to assist the re-volution

          • Well, I think, Florie we, humans NEED the assistance, as we have Lost the intelligence that the organisms continually learn to co-evolve and adapt. The last few hundred years of so-called development and conditioning of our minds by mono-culture thinking has taken a toll on our innate intelligence. Perhaps, the current global crisis is an opportunity. So we will be forced to adapt and re-member and hopefully re-evolve. This is where I believe, permaculture is playing a critical role.

          • Florie

            Nimala Nair, consider yourself in the right place doing this course, this is my second time round. The first time round I felt wow so much clever information. I felt over whelmed. I made note all the way. Then I carried on researching and watching more of Geoff’s video, some of his past student made some good video.
            I started to apply what I had learned after a lot of observation of my own land I slowly realised the pattern he was talking about.
            The little progress I did this year in my garden made me realise I need to do this course again and the early bird info has proved to be even more informative I am really looking forward to what Geoff has in store.

    • Sung

      Hi Nirmala,
      Wanted to let you know that In my country Korea, we have an expression: life truly begins at 60.

      • Thank you. I do very much go with that saying. Feel the sixth decade is something- life really becomes very special – perspectives change, the power of life takes over.

        • Sung

          That’s awesome! I am looking to get there;)
          And thank you so much for sharing your insight!

    • Anne Klaering

      Hi Nirmala, so nice to see someone else from SA on this course. I used to live in Cape Town until last year. We finally found our piece of land in the Baviaans Mountainrange and are now living in George. We are in full swing of getting our Permaculture Dream Farm going and may I encourage you, my in laws are part of this project and they are both in their 60’s 😉

      Reading your training journey, you are on the pulse of time, very fascinating. Would like to hear more about your work, maybe we can meet up when I am next in CT…

      • Thank you Anne. Baviaans area is wonderful. I wish you all success with the dream farm. In my case, I have not really had much success in finding like-minded connections in SA especially around land-based communities. I came to SA 25 years ago, from South of India Kerala. Working on the land and eating off the land is a no brainer for us, we just do it… no need for any training.

        In Cape Town, my ex husband freaked out when I installed a grey water system. We fought over the swimming pool, chemicals and the clipped English lawns. I now live in a small townhouse in Kenilworth. Lawn ripped off. In 8 years the micro climate in this little tiny suburban garden has changed drastically. I want to prove there is NO Such thing as Poor Soil… we have only poor minds ): I like to believe that we can grow food anywhere, no matter where we are…even with water restrictions level 3, my lucern mulch, worms and cowdung couriered from a bio-dynamic farm keeps my garden lush, green and abundant. My battle is to send the message especially to the climate-cowboys of SA to put money in improving local micro-climate…love to meet you when you are in Cape Town next. I have just returned from Bhutan, so will be around for a bit.
        My email is nirmalanair53 at gmail dot com

  • Steph Krunic

    Hi Folks!
    As we have the invitation to ask…. I’d like your feedback on this please.

    Suitability of wicking beds vs inground planting for zone 1 production.

    We are (re)building on a 400m2 lot in established suburban Adelaide Australia so we don’t have a lot of room.
    Clay plains with mediterranean climate (adjacent to rolling hills. Clearing and heat islands have certainly left us evaporation dominant even if we weren’t always).
    The clay can get SO HARD and resist water so I’ve always used raised beds but found they took a LOT of water when we usually dont get much beyond October until march or even may. With warming climate we get 5 days of 40-43 in a row which scorches everything. One year our tomatoes partially cooked on the vine. Thats why i moved to wicking system. Better shading helps as well.
    So what do you recon?
    Build soil? Build hugelculture mini mounds? Wicking beds?
    Let me know why you think that suits our set up best.
    Looking forward to the learning good folks!!

  • Thomas

    Hi Geoff & team,

    Many thanks for giving us the opportunity to post questions. At this stage of the course I have three questions, which I will post separately. So here is my question number 1, which has to do with being productive/efficient as a person:

    How do you keep up with running courses, running a farm, consultancy work, learning about the latest and having a family? My learning goal here is to understand how to combine so many different roles and to be successful at them. What are some tips and tricks and strategies that help you stay on top? I believe this question is relevant as many people engaging in permaculture designed living will transition from a busy starting point in their personal and professional lives (like myself) and will have to redesign their habits, routines, areas of focus, etc.

    Any others that have some strategies worth sharing, please shout! Thanks heaps.

    • At age 63, I’m essentially re-engaged in my first career–as a kitchen hand. Remarkably, I was raised in a family of gourmets. As a child, my grandmother ran a four-star Inn and credited her success to the family’s organic gardens. Dad wrote a book about composting, back in 1966, or so. He turned heads with our softball sized ripe red tomatoes.

      Over the past three decades, “family farmers” here have practically given away historically productive farmland. Some have even abandoned towns bearing their family’s name. Poverty is endemic, enough so, I personally quit dealing in dollars and went into bartering years ago. I hadn’t planned to take this course, because I didn’t think I could afford it. Suddenly, my luck changed and I was able to make full tuition in just under two weeks, through manual work.

      Your notion of externalizing expertise is certainly integral to my proposed endeavors. Just a month ago, I asked a permaculture instructor to back me on the basic technical issues that my prospective city-wide development pitch entails. By coincidence, Nicholas Burtner, eagerly responded to the challenge, once he understood the demographic quotient my plan addressed.

      To me permaculture means helping those who haven’t the wherewithal to empower themselves. It’s a full-circle endeavor which each of us usually must eventually address.

      Welcome aboard, mate!

  • Thomas

    Hi Geoff & team,

    My question number 2 has to do with increasing the ease of implementation, by using external experts and technology as opposed to training up and becoming an expert on everything ourselves:

    • Do you see, with all the developments globally, possibilities to have a permaculture crowd funding scheme for businesses that could supply key technical solutions that fit a permaculture design rather well?

    • In line with this thought, perhaps it is a good idea to create a list/database with suitable permaculture suppliers per geographic region at the end of the course, by accumulating all the supplier information found by the students from their design exercises? By doing so, the design exercise also becomes a way to gather a wealth of information on the latest suppliers (be it eco-tech, eco-builders, earth movers, nurseries, seed banks, etc.).

  • Thomas

    Hi Geoff & team,

    My question number 3 are actually two questions related to the effects of swales:
    • In a wetter climate (think wetter parts of UK), could putting in swales in a property which is higher than the neighbouring property, in time, waterlog the fields downhill, upsetting their aim of draining a pasture for instance?
    • In hotter climates with bushfire risk (think various parts of Australia), have you or anyone seen properties being protected from the fires due to using swales and having less dry vegetation? And if so, what has contributed to this success?

    Obviously, anyone with experience/insight in the above is welcome to reply. Thanks again 🙂

    • Tyrr Vangeel

      For the first part, I would say: it could, if the question was ‘will it’, I would answer with ‘it might’. I think it will depend on (sub)soil conditions, water table levels, rivers and some other stuff, but putting in swales may also feed the water table instead of giving run off and ending up in you neighbours field so therefore be easier on his draining efforts however I would not expect the latter to be the case 😉

      • Thomas

        Hi Tyrr, Many thanks for thinking along here. By the looks of the existing water run-off infrastructure, most water is captured on the higher fields into purposefully made streams backed by sort of hedgerows (all off-contour and also functioning as natural borders), eventually draining the land into a single stream passing the neighbour’s property. So if putting in swales, it may be wise to let them sit slightly off contour eventually joining the draining streams in case of excess rainfall as not to swamp the mountain? Or at least creating the spillways towards the existing streams? Anyway, this is probably a case of trial and error and finding some local experts to advise on the matter. The land is currently used for sheep grazing.

  • Malinda du Preez

    Morning Geoff. We are jumping out of our skins with excitement again as it has finally started to rain here in South Africa. Bill mentioned in some of his permaculture notes back in 2006 I think , about a chap called Barry Slowgrove. Following health issues, Barry developed a fruit tree planting ‘kit’ (before he discovered about permaculture), that allowed year round uncooked tree food production. He created a company called Trees unlimited. Bill mentioned that he took his plan to Australia as well. Do you have any information about this chap or know anything about his methods. ? He treated each hole differently based on tree he choose to plant , soil it was going to use etc. I’ve been searching the net but can find nothing except that he died back in 2013.

  • Carolin Le

    Dear Mr. Lawton!

    I have three questions; (^+^)

    First, at our local compost faciity, we are able to buy compost for a reasonable price. However,I am quite concerned, about whether it is safe to eat food grown using biosolids – not sewage sludge ( biosolids=solid organic byproduct of purification systems that treat wastewater from U.S. homes and industry).

    Second, most nursery plants are fertilized with conventional OSMOCOTE, controlled release fertilizer.
    Personally, I don’t want to do that, and may have to substitute with organic fertilizer. For example, Lady bugs fertilizers (that meet the National Organic Standards and some of them are registered with OMRI). However, I am wondering if you could provide alternative (natural) choices instead. Side note, when I attended my first Permablitz a few weeks ago, I saw the use of MIX of MINERALS to revitalize (fertility) the top soil. Is that ok at the beginning? How do you fertilize for Greening the desert project?

    Lastly, how do you keep the mosquito population down? (Naturally without spraying, not even organic). I love my 19 ducks and I don’t mind being stung but I am concerned for my family’s well being.

    Thank you very much for this opportunity! I would be greatly appreciative of your opinions. 😉

    • Matt Zaff

      Hi Carolin,

      Regarding some of your questions, I believe it was in Geoff’s documentary on Soils, that I saw him make an 18 day compost pile that included humunure from a dry compost toilet. The trick here I think is that it sits for 6 or more months to allow pathogens to die off?
      Secondly I’ve seen people make a potting mix of worm castings and peat moss. They grew their own worms. A really cool set up its Rabbit Hutch on top of Worm Farm. Also in the Soils documentary Geoff shows how mineralized cocktail to feed the chickens or cows. The cocktail includes rock dust, and kelp meal and a bunch of other goodies for the animals. The result is a manure that can be composed that has like 70 trace minerals and is biologically available for plants. Then when u eat the plants you get all those minerals too! Brilliant!
      Lastly have you considered building bat houses? Mosquitos breed where there is undisturbed water even in less than a cup. If you can mitigate their ability to breed hopefully the bats and dragonfly will do the rest!

      Good Luck!

      • Carolin Le

        Hi Matt!
        Thank you for taking the time to comment and suggest.
        I do have a bat house, dragonflies, toads and frogs in my garden. However I realize I have a FISH Deficiency. Should get a few fishes and release them into the ponds soon. 😉
        Happy Gardening !

  • Ruby Sheffer

    Hi Geoff,
    Is they’re going to be reading homework from Bill Mollison permaculture design manual? If so I’ll need to get a replacement copy. Mine walked away. I wonder if it will ever be available as an e-book.

    • Here’s what I found when searching for PDF -downloads some years back. (Google:-)

      Pamphlet I in the Permaculture Design Course Series
      Barking Frogs Permaculture Center
      Publisher and Distributor of Permaculture Publications
      POB 69, Sparr FL 32192-0069 USA.
      Email: [email protected]

  • Nick Arnold

    Hey Geoff.. Nick from Colorado. So excited for this years new format, looks amazing!

    medium and large scale dam construction.. What would be the minimum size (type) of equipment you would recommend for proper dam construction? More specifically in relation to achieving proper compaction?

    • Yesterday, Andy showed me a dry pond his neighbor had built. Their conclusive analysis is that the previous creek bed had a fissure in the rock which he neglected to dig out before lining it with clay. Two years later he points out; “it’s usually all too easy to see what went wrong.”

  • Hello Goeff. I often see people describe their climate zone by the ASHRAE standard. Two questions about this:

    1. Is this valid information for permaculture thoughts, like cultivation choices or building type?

    2: How would I find as precise climate data as possible for the region of i.e. Sintra, Portugal (with a rather small micro climate of about 100km2), or Europe in special, as I really can not find clear, consistent data, when there are very different information published on different sites in the internet.

    Any advice on where to find reliable informations (precipitation, wind, sun hours, temperatures, and so on) about the climate of a projects location would be very helpful.

    All the best. And very excited about being on board!


    • Diogo Ferraz

      Hello, Mortiz! Maybe I can help you with a information source for Portugal. In the following website, you can find some climate variables. For example, you just click on “Redes”, select “Metereológica”, then you have to “Aplicar filtro”, then in “Bacias Hidrográficas” you choose the one(s) where your area of concern is located, then “Aplicar filtro” again. Now you can choose the “Parâmateros” you want or exit the menu and choose the specific stations and explore. If you chose Meteorológica in Redes you will find precipitation (daily, monthly, annual), temperature and wind parameters at least. This data is from the portuguese Environment Agency, it should be reliable. But they depend on available monitor stations, have some temporal gaps and could not cover smaller microclimates.
      This is the website: http://snirh.apambiente.pt/index.php?idMain=2&idItem=1

      Other way to find help could be to ask the people who are having success with permaculture in the area of concern. If your case is Sintra, maybe you know Terra Alta and Ecoaldeia de Janas projects. Actually I’m planning to visit them somewhere soon. Cheers!

      • Hello Diogo.

        Nice to meet you and thank you for your help. I know the projects Eco aldeja de Janas and Terra Alta. And will crteinly interview them on the climate. Thanks for the hint. Things can be so easy.
        I am very much connected to the project Quinte do 7 Nomes, which is a fabulus place. You should defently check it out, when your around.
        And about your link: I will digg into it, trying to find some good data, as I love graphs and numbers ;)..

        All the best.

        • Diogo Ferraz

          Hello, again! Nice to meet you too! 🙂

          Ah, yes! I’ve also seen Quinta dos 7 Nomes. I’ve been following more the other two, but I’ll check this one better. Are you collaborating with this project?

          About the link you shared, I didn’t know it. It seems very compacted indeed and updated too. Thanks! Have fun exploring the SNIRH one (any doubt, we’ll keep in touch). All the best!

          • Yes I am collaborating with Quinta dos 7 Nomes. Well. personally, and emotionally ;). But it will increase on the permaculture side as I take this course now. Maybe see you there one day.

          • Diogo Ferraz

            Haha, nice. Maybe we can meet there one day, yes. Good luck!

          • Isabel, the head of the quinta and the whole team around her are like a family to me, my wive and kids. It is simply a great place, filled with love, joy and friendlyness. Everyone is welcome and the doors are always open.

          • Diogo Ferraz

            Sounds lovely. Maybe I’ll go knock on one of these days. 🙂

      • Did you ever check this?


        Its so nicely compact..

      • Soryy. too quick: here is where this data comes from:

        All of our climate data comes from a climate model. The model has more
        than 220 million data points and a resolution of 30 arc seconds. The
        model uses weather data from thousands of weather stations from all over
        the world. This weather data was collected between 1982 and 2012. This
        data will also be refreshed from time to time.

    • Ok now Csb by Köppen and Geiger popped up. Seems more reliable…

  • Mikko Salonen

    Hi Geoff!!
    My question is about compacted clay soil,I read you answer earlier about using a broadfork,gypsum and mulching on top of that before the winter,that was very interesting and good advise,but I can’t seem to find gypsum for soil anywhere.What kind of gypsum can I use or is there anything else that would help to break up the compacted clay?I live in Finland,where we get plenty of rain normally,but this fall has been very dry and windy,normally it would rain a lot.Also last winter killed a lot of perennials,since there was no snow,and -30c temperatures after a lot of rain,Is there good ways to protect plants from these extremes?Some heavily mulched plants survived,and this year I have been using all the fallen leaves to mulch perennials and trees.Just starting my first PDC and I have lot to learn about everything,but I am a sponge when talking about permaculture 🙂
    Thank you and Have A great day!

    • Mikko; Here’s a unique find, perhaps especially suited to your current need-to-know permaculture arsenal. I found it critically important since I keep overstocking my piles with Nitro, and “loosing ground” in the process, despite the best of intentions!

      • Mikko Salonen

        Thank you very much for your answer,great video that I Have seen before and this year made nice 18day compost that I learned from this video.This video was very good to watch again,a Little reminder,thanks to Geoff for making this valuable material.I am still interested how can I assist nature to speed up decompaction as much as possible.so I am interested to learn as much as I can about decompacting soil.I don’t have very big areas but the soil is very hard to dig(And I would not want to dig more than I have) and does not absorb water very well.I’ve made raised beds,and hugelbeds that work great,adding more material than I Take out,trying to build diverse soil life as much as possible.My biggest consern is the winter,we used to have snow before the cold weathers,these days we get rain(that used to be snow).last fall it rained for weeks,and then it got really cold,all over the country it was a bad winter,so many plants died that have been thriving for years,even for more than a decade.I observed that few places that I covered with maple leaves,some perennials survived.Now I have been mulching with all the fallen leaves,hoping it will be an insulating layer for the winter.

  • Diogo Ferraz

    Hello, everybody! This question is to Geoff and anyone who wants to jump in of course. It’s about how to grow as a permaculturist. Some particular questions could be: What skills and characteristics would be the most important? What path of actions would help the learning, development and experience process (including those important skills and characteristics)? Which opportunities are available out there that we should consider to attend (learning, mentors, resources, field work, volunteering, community development, teaching etc.)? How to promote an income from permaculture in order to keep practising and maximize experience and not waste energy on futile jobs?

    I’ll describe a little my story and the path I would imagine for me today, so feel free to give me any feedback. I’m a young guy, living in Portugal, freshly out of college with difficulty to find interest in most jobs. I’ve always enjoyed learning what benefits our well-being and our home planet, but never really had a goal. In this time of decisions in my life, permaculture rises as an amazing way for me to lead my life and help others who share the same view. I’ve known a little about it for some years ago, but it was only some months ago when I got more time that I took it serious, started learning and saw the potential. I’m infected. And I’m inoculating some friends too, because it also amazes me the whole human and community potential, how people can complement and empower each other and the joy of good company in our lifes. With this said, my mid/long-term goal is turning to be the construction of a beautiful permaculture landscape and residence and developing other crafts with them. If it becomes viable, I want to take it further and promote/teach permaculture around, starting in my neighborhood, and try consultancy or research. All good, no rushing and enjoying the work that adds value to our lifes. So, for that, my current step is to sponge all this course and other stuff while I’m still working and trying to develop at it (environmental research). I’ll start experimenting in small spaces when I’m able, and then I hope to go for a wwoofing, bioconstrucion and voluntary year(s) learning from best, observing, touching, smelling… to compensate my lack of field knowledge. After, it’s hard to imagine…

    Did anybody went a similar path or just wants to share some advice? What experiences helped you grow the most as permaculturists? Cheers!

    • I have concluded that Geoff is simply lurking, testing us in zen and the art of inquiry. Oh well, all good things come in time. Portugal? That’s about as far from my experience as you can get. I can say that Lisbon was among my father’s favorite travel destinations following a corporate meeting he attended there in the mid-70’s.

      WWOOFing in France would seem quite appropriate because you could transpose much from traveling a set of relatively short distances. Personally, I found an intimate connection with the Mediterranean and almost zero affection for the mountainous areas to the west and far eastern boundaries. Ten years of traversing in the wintery Rockies did me in. Regardless, the flavor-experiences you’ll discover from the Provençale soils are worth the cost of admission. Naturally, you must plan to travel light, and back up your data by sending DVD’s home and duplicating access on the cloud.

      “Throwing caution to the wind” is literally the story of my life. I’ve lived on the very edge of plausibility. Does this make for an ideal ‘mentor figure,’ or a maligned, self-serving fool? One thing is certain, eventually you must set aside a nest-egg and the surest way I know for doing that is to engage in teamwork, focused on systemic long-range planning in the end.

      • Diogo Ferraz

        Haha, fortunately we are able to carry on talking in the meantime. Yes, I’m not a city person, but Lisbon is one of a kind. Tourism there is going through a massive bloom in last years… My experience in France is shortly rich in its way, as I crossed the south by hitchhiking 3 days. Maybe it was one of those “throwing caution to the wind” period, not that numerous for me yet. Plausability is very twisted these days. I hope to reach some other distant realities, but I’ll check about it there. Thanks for advice! But you left me with one question. For what type of data would I need the DVDs?

        • Photograph everything and keep a journal as you go. Twenty years from now you will want to rendezvous with friends you meet along the road. Keep their family address. Pictures are the fabric of my life and I’ve studied well over a million for sure. In France, I enjoyed painting the streetscapes with wild features like giant yucca plants poised along the cliffs in places like Cannes and Nice. Everything looked different rendered in real time in watercolor, and even with a plethora of web-resources, you can’t go back and record these emotions again.

  • Lela Khan

    Hello Everyone, My name is Lela, and I’m in the center of the photo. I live near Dallas, Texas, and I am very excited about taking the PDC. Geoff, has an official start date been established for the course?

    • Ostensibly, sometime around the 1st of October he plans to release a broad public announcement with all the formal criteria in place. For now, it’s kinda fun to be part of this beta-test pool. I’ve opted to play the role of a devil’s advocate, coaxing the crew to open up a bit in light of our relatively disparate location and awareness issues.

      Dallas is a bit of an unusual place. My sister is in Duncanville and I did some time there wiring new schools with distance learning systems. What’s it like where you are, Lela? Are they still fracking away their own neighborhoods?

  • erwin

    Hi Geoff, great opportunity to ask questions as some things happen in real life quicker then anticipated; We have a piece of land which lies now idle for about 1.5years. We will start develop it soon. Crops such as sugarcane and pineapple were grown on it. After grasses and trees started to pop up, we’ve cut it short twice. As I have studied some permaculture from books and videos, one of the 1st things to do is make a topographic model of the land, so it becomes clear where to place swales etc. From pure looking at the land you would think it is flat, but if you walk on it, it is full of ditches, probably still from the pineapple growing, which is common here to dig. Now to the question, do I have to level all this 1st, thereby destroying the topsoil which has now build up over 1.5 – 2 years, so I can measure the land accurate, or are there other options? It’s 30x280mtr (very small) so 8400m2.

    • Matt Zaff

      What ever earth works you do, Geoff always recommends peeling away the top soil and setting it aside to dress on top when finished!

  • Anthony Briggs

    Hi Geoff,

    I was wondering if you’d seen Dan Palmer’s critique of
    assembly/element-based Permaculture design, and his preference for
    something along the lines of Christopher Alexander’s “A Pattern Language”
    (different from regular PC patterns):


    And if you had any thoughts on it? (I had some, and can link you to it, but didn’t want to influence you ahead of time)



  • Chad Weeks

    First off, let me state how excited I am for this! I stumbled across permaculture a little over a year ago and it has been a game changer! Geoff, thank you for all you do and taking the torch so to speak from Bill.
    My question is:
    How do you balance property evaluation for permaculture water catchment and retention and evaluation for a home site as well. I live in Florida where the water table is very high and a property I have available to me for free is slightly down slope from a large pond, which is great for drought proofing, but it seems the property is always wet and boggy and may make a home site difficult. What can be done in design to utilize this property for permaculture water catchment and great home site design? This is huge for me.

    • Pole architecture, with one caveat. Let’s look beyond the conventional examples you might see in flood-prone Louisiana or along the shores on Padre Island. Experience suggests that you need a commercial telephone-pole contractor to place the main vertical stays, not all of which fall on a rectilinear grid. The triangulation results in dramatic spaces, great for stairwells and prominent living room windows. The entire affair reads (and literally functions) like a ship.

      • Chad Weeks

        It’s not in a flood zone, but it does get very wet seasonally. Im interested in how to use design in the landscape to possably keep the homesite more dry (zone 1) and keep everything else hydrated with swales and make use of dams and ponds on the rest of the property. Aquaculture is going to be a big part of what I want to do on my property.

        • Lifting the home on stilts results in three direct benefits which conventional Florida building types and styles generally do not consider, embrace or permit. Assuming your are locked into conventional weighty, Spanish-style covenants, there is little you can do but observe the standard trade-offs specified in common use and code. To that end, I strongly endorse the straw-bale method Geoff illustrates in his personal farm tour video. But, this ain’t northern NSW, or Queensland. You’ll probably never sufficiently divert all of the water away from the foundation. However, by lifting the ground floor deck on poles you can treat nature on its own terms, lavishing in its diversity while your socks and rugs remain clean and dry.

  • Nathalie Sequeira

    Hello Geoff,

    in terms of useful toolboxes for the design process, I keep coming back to the idea of having a sort of “functional plant repertoire” that I can source from when planning a site, but then end up despairing when I try to establish adequate categories.
    So I’d be curious whether you think in functional categories when adding plants to a design – as in ground covers, or windshields? And what those categories would be?


    • Matt Zaff

      Great question! I ponder the same thing sometimes. It would be great if there was a plant catalog broken down by function(s), by temperature zone, and how they work together to form guilds. If we’re talking about a succession food forest, It would be useful to see how each plant functions change through time. Even though permaculture has been practiced for decades it’s still ground breaking and there is a ton of information that has yet to been gathered. I guess I’d like to add the question, when we start our permaculture practices, what data should we be collecting from our sites, and how can we standardize the methodology so it’s more useful information?

      • Yes such a plant catalogue would be simply amazing, but I guess things are to complex to be catalogued in such a way..

        This was a great article on guilds [http://permaculturenews.org/2016/08/22/guilds-small-scale-home-garden/?inf_contact_key=55b21388b42c3405f67f1f04d3318492502de1fa7ac477788f9f6077dbea97cd] and there was also a link to this table:


        • Matt Zaff

          I just figure that our numbers are growing, if someone came up with a system to collect useful data, and Geoff spread it through his networks we could gather a massive amount of information! Food for thought anyways

          Thanks for the links

          • Two intrinsic issues follow this dilemma. In some places a plant like Vetch, or Mimosa may sequester N, and check erosion, yet in another place it may choke-out everything in sight. Speaking of windbreaks, people have gone to great lengths to explore every possible use for Bamboo. Here, it’s an invasive species and you must be very careful or you will never dislodge it’s pernicious roots.

  • Victoria Schexnailder

    Hi Geoff!

    I’ll begin by saying: I don’t know what I don’t know, so forgive me if this question will answer itself during the course.

    What should residents of the Colorado USA Rocky Mountain Front Range (in my case – Colorado Springs) focus on in terms of chapters/topics during the course? We would like to buy land in the next 5 years or less, and have many diverse options nearby, in terms of elevation and climates. We will use the knowledge of this course to plan.

    We are borderline high desert, with an elevation from around 5000-7000 ft. north/south 30 miles or so. Since we’re on the edge of the Rocky Mountains, we get as low as -10 F/-23 C. Summers can get to 100 F/37 C or more. Overall rocky, sandy soil. It’s a very diverse area with plains 30 miles east that can get heavy winds with literal sideways snows in the winter due to severe winds (very cheap land). To the west 30 miles, the elevation is 9000 ft and up with mostly pines and aspens (also cheaper land). Little rain (with a possible rainy season March-June, with risk of large, devastating fires (we had thousands of acres burn in our county in the past 5 years).

    Currently, however, we live in a canyon with a creek nearby, so we have more moisture, less sun, and even apple & peach trees in our little neighborhood. But land is expensive and the most we can find in the canyon is 1/2 acre.

    As you can see, It’s hard to box us into one of the PDM chapters, so I was wondering where to focus with our location so we can make an educated choice on where to purchase (if we need to save and buy close by and spend more money, or buy cheaper land and how to proceed with a design.

    Thank you! We send you our love and gratitude for your life and lessons! Victoria & Family

    • Mikko Salonen

      Hi Victoria!Do you know Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute?I think that would be great for you to go visit there and see what they have done.I have only seen pictures and I was in a course held my Jerome Osentowski,he told a lot about his place and I would definately visit him if I had the chance 🙂

      This is not answering your question,but I thought this could help you find what you need,and definately get some ideas. 🙂

      • Victoria Schexnailder

        Thanks Mikko! I will have to check them out. Is it true that they have a tropical greenhouse? That’s one of my plans in the future.

        • Kani Seifert

          Hello fellow Rocky Mountain-ites! We are in similar surrounding in Wyoming. It’ll be interesting to see everyone’s designs for this type of environment.

        • Mikko Salonen

          Yes it is true!Jerome is an expert on greenhouses!His way of building the greenhouse is the way to go for sure!He wrote a book “The Forest garden greenhouse” that is worth checking out.

    • Greetings, Victoria! -Mikko is right to suggest you pair up with others living along the front range. I spent ten years shooting photos all over Colorado for Rocky Mtn. Magazine, CH&L, Denver Business, etc. This is an exciting and challenging area that bears few similarities to my roots and challenges here in Arkansas, albeit the Arkansas River headwater originates in your front yard.

      High altitude Tundra and Xeriscaping. To function there, these are two common terms you will need to fully grasp, yet only occasionally plan to use. “Careful where you step, It takes 50 years to rebuild the buffalo grasses.” -It’s a formidable consideration as you march across the hillsides before this comprehensive journey begins. “How to select land for permaculture” is Geoff’s best YouTube primer on this topic for you. Even at the height of those horrific fires you describe, you could feel fairly confident about your property choices by simply following the key points he makes in this flick.

  • Ahmid Ale

    Hi Geoff, thanks a lot for this opportunity!

    More than a question, I need an advice. I am from Guatemala. My dream is to start a urban permaculture movement in the city, but I would love to know a bit how you started, how you managed to push forward permaculture in your surroundings, etc. I would really love to see this place transforming!! and probably a foundation, consultancy services, social enterprise, citizen movement, etc., would work?? thanks 🙂

  • Jane Foley

    Hi Geoff, my question is; What systems could I put in place for harvesting and storing rainwater for year round use that are protected and reliable in my area? Annual rainfall is 680mm. I live at 500m altitude in an alpine zone near Mt Cook in New Zealand. Our summers are hot, windy, dry and dusty with an average temperature of 24℃ to 45℃ . Severe water restrictions are the norm from November onwards and often still in place in April. Our winters are hard, permafrost in limited sun areas and vicious freeze/thaw cycles, death to plants often stressed already from the drought like summer conditions. Winter temperatures are mostly below 0℃ with a range of 10℃ to -22℃. Snow is normal in winter, anything from 2cm to 1m. We also have many days of freezing fog and hoar frost and may not see sun for 15 days at a time. Thanks for your time!
    Fellow classmates please feel free to comment, especially if your climate is like mine! Id like to compare notes with others.

    • Very interesting question. I am also interested into longterm (up to 7 months) water saving. In my case even for drinking and chooking.

  • Simon

    Hi Geoff,
    Simon from Belgium here, I have been watching a pdc with you and bill on YouTube.
    In chapter 6 he talks about radon, people all over the world building granite houses and they will all die from cancer…
    Is he joking here or death serious? Somethimes hard to tell.
    I just bought a small granite house with a nice piece of land in Portugal to start a permaculture project.
    I did a lot of research in the meantime, but I am very interested in your opinion about this?
    Is this really a problem or do governments use this to blame Mother Nature for the fact that people are getting cancer?
    Best regards,


    • Granite countertops emit sufficient radiation to be a poor surface choice for processing food. Perhaps 6%? of these LEED architects bother to check the specs. I like Corian II, because you can cut on every surface in a pinch. Newer, self-healing rubber like surfaces from the EU are gaining importance too. But your question relates first, to endocrine system health. Step one is the imperative to protect one’s thyroid and the easiest solution to that is to ingest a couple of drops of nascent iodine everyday. Seaweed provides the highest concentration of plant derived, INGESTABLE iodine. Fukushima radiation eliminates any possibility of getting ‘clean’ seaweed from the eastern or northern Pacific. Never drink ordinary ‘topical’ iodine, although it will suffice to protect your glands if you rub it on your pulse points, like your inner-wrist and forearm.

      • Simon

        Hi chez,

        I am not talking about countertops here, but a granite house with 1/2 m thick walls… From what I found in scientific studies on the subject the average granite stone emits about twice as much radon as a normal brick or other conventional building material… And fare worse is the radon coming from the earth, build your little stone house on a giant mountain, is this a problem or not, people have been living in stone caves for millions of years.

        They claim that radon is the second after smoking to cause long cancer.
        But what about all the human made toxins and pollution…
        Isn’t it fare worse to drive on a highway or in a big city inhaling toxic fumes from the cars in front of you?

        All the things you can do ( except from ventilate your house ) are quite expensive. In Belgium 10% of the houses seems to have a concentration that is to high! That is big business…

        And I don’t believe countertops are a problem, unless they are made from a so called hot stone…
        Granite countertops being dangerous seems to me like a rumour that is spread by people that are trying to sell alternative materials…

        Anyway, thank you fore your answer.


        • Since your health concerns are foremost in importance, here are two things I think would be helpful for you. First, METER the actual conditions in your house and compare the numbers to others relatively like it. If it reads over 50-60cpm (historical background, Denver to Pike’s Peak) you will want to address the cause and try to deflect it. Perhaps metalized paints would help? Second, here’s what the Russians used to superb effect after Chernobyl: http://bioage.com/Protect/

          None of this is comforting in the least. Fortunately, earthen materials do not emit the more dangerous types of radiation. But, let’s look at the effect of excessive radiation on human health across the entire spectrum: https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/34bc4c0b13a6f0220e62eb8061dcf04b648f838901d8a6342d9bc1308eedfd0c.jpg
          (click to enlarge)

          • Simon

            I ordered a testkit a month ago.
            Not interested in taking anything to protect myself, if It seems to test negatieve I will not use It to live in…

          • Dig that. Whenever I push the START button on a microwave oven, I stand back four feet.

          • Simon

            The test takes 3 months + 1 month the analyse…
            I will let you know how this ends.

            Thank you for your answers.

  • Wes

    Hi Geoff,

    Isaiah 41:19 says “I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together.” Would these tree pairing make sense for their respective climates from a Permaculture perspective?


  • Luke Holdstock

    Hi Geoff, I have a question for you, but if you don’t mind me giving a quick background on WHY I ask this question, it may make it seem more relevant.

    I come from a long line of conventional dairy farmers, where the modern practice of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and monocultural practices are used to create the highest yield over the shortest time, regardless of environmental and financial consequences. I have always felt a passion for the land and agriculture, but I saw the devastating impact that “high pressure, high debt” farming and disregard for nature has had on the person themselves, their loved ones and the community at large. The thought of trying to navigate myself through this supposed “dead end” had me confused and frustrated at idea of there only being “one correct way” to farm, and that it meant sacrificing your life to one of drudgery and little security. My family has since sold our family farm a number of years ago due to, I believe, a combination of these factors. It has been a revelation for me to discover Bio-Dynamic Agriculture and Permaculture as being an answer to the current climate of modern day agriculture, but upon discussing my new found knowledge with my family and friends, I am mostly met with criticism, confusion and a complete lack of desire to want to understand a different viewpoint. I have also found any mention of “organic” agriculture within conventional circles as being met with laughter or disdain. (Perhaps people may view me as smug or obnoxious, but I am always conscious not to portray this in any way, as I don’t want that at all)

    My question (sorry for the long intro!) is essentially this: In your opinion, why do you think that many people reject the idea of “organic” agriculture (in the form of Permaculture, Bio-Dynamics, Organics, etc.) when modern day industrial, monocultural agriculture causes so many problems on so many levels?

    In my experience, many conventional farmers are aware of the situation, but refuse to try anything outside their immediate scope of knowledge, and I have always found it interesting that when presented with new ideas outside their experience, it is met with mostly apathy, but sometimes scorn or laughter.

    I would like to caveat this by saying that I in no way intend to look down upon such people for holding these views, and that everyone is entitled to their opinion, and that I in no way wish any ill upon any of these people, I just find it fascinating that for me, (and I’m sure other people here too!), finding Permaculture and Organic farming has been nothing but a life enriching and positive experience, one I wish to share with everybody, and that for other people, new knowledge can feel like an attack on their way of life.

    Thank you so much for your time!

    • Great intro, Luke. Your compassion and exposure really comes through. I sense you will get heaps of ideas in this course, and you will instinctively leapfrog your way into a few special areas of interest and profits to boot!

    • Diogo Ferraz

      Hey, Luke! I get the similar reactions from friends sometimes, and some of them even studied environmental engineering with me. Why? Well, difficult to address it all properly, but my ideias are that we humans are machines of habits (biologically and psychologically), many times unconsciously governed by ego fears, following trends because familiar and conventional seems the way to get that needed security to end the fear and live a “normal life”. Afterall, that’s how it has always been done and all those people smilling in the TV, movies, magazines etc. seem pretty happy, they should have the answers. Luckily, these answers are right inside us, but on the other hand each day we have less time to be relaxed in our sole company and listen. If we start to observe all these patterns in others and us, we start to laugh from this and just be happy knowing that being the change we want to see in the world is the best way to go. We are all learning and diversity will always be good. It’s one reason for making a priority of disseminating the permaculture potential in any area or scale. Cheers!

      “The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” (Friedrich Nietzsche)

      • Sarah Shantz

        Well said Diogo! 🙂

      • Luke Holdstock

        Thank you so much for your replies! It is fantastic to be in contact with people who are supportive and understanding. It can be difficult at times to navigate through the world and find your place in it when sometimes you feel overwhelmed from negative influences. I am so happy to be a part of this course, it is something I feel I have been looking for all my life. What I love about Permaculture is that it involves all aspects of life, not just agriculture, although that is what drew me to it in the first place. I feel I have been able to recently “see through” the allure of the “TV, movies, magazines, companies etc.” that you mention, and am discovering for me what living and contributing really means. I suppose the biggest frustration is that I can see loved ones (and others also) making poor health decisions and short sighted environmental and financial decisions that will affect our future generations, and I feel I could offer help. I liked your advice about “being the change we want to see in the world” and that is the best way to influence others. I love the Nietzsche quote also, he has some brilliant ideas on living according to one’s true self, regardless of the circumstances.

        Thanks so much for your support guys, I hope everyone enjoys the course!

        • Diogo Ferraz

          Finding permaculture has been great and very transformative for me too. We are in the same train! 🙂 My gateway fot it was different though, I guess the life aspects, sustainability and fair share were what attracted me at first. Keep your loved ones close to your permaculture path, maybe they can see some value in it through time.

          Thanks, I’m sure we will be in contact during the course. Big hug!

  • Megan Grant

    Hi Geoff,
    Will we be looking at moving water around the land, and how to create swales? Also will we learn how to make hot compost?

  • Bee Garden

    I feel privileged to be here. I’m a complete newbie with no land to work on yet. I just believe that permaculture is the way forward for humanity.

    My difficulty is grasping concepts when there’s no land to apply them to. Theories get stuck in my head, like reading how to drive without getting in a car.

    Any tips around that? Do I find pretend-land from Google Earth? Can the theories for acres of land somehow be miniaturized to a balcony?

    Thanks, and really excited to be here!

    • Matt Zaff

      Hi Bee!

      Welcome, and we’re privileged to have you here!
      I completely know how you feel, it’s hard to visualize what’s not there. I’ve probably spent hours imagining landscapes of various complexity. Because I’m try to transition to this as a new field I’m now turning my focus very locally. For me that’s looking for vacant or blighted property, with likely poor and possibly contaminated soils. Now with those limitations I’m looking to apply permaculture technics to raised beds and/or aquaponics.
      I have a balcony garden and even though it was NW facing (for northern hemisphere that’s no direct light till the hottest part of the day) I mix planted basil and marigold, herb baskets above those, peppers and eggplant hogged the sun and gave some shade. Hanging flower baskets were both beautiful and brought a few bees. I even have a pair of tree frogs that like to hang out in one of my little planters! It’s remarkably how much life can be present even in a suburban apt complex!
      There still might be an old chalkboard PDC with Bill Mollison feat. Geoff Lawton on YouTube. There are like 40 some 1.5 hr lectures on various topics including all the land profiles.
      It all depends on where u want to start, but I’m certain things will become clear during the course!


      • Bee Garden

        Wow, thanks for the inspirational ideas, Matt! Healing the land is something I hope to be able to do too. A friend apparently has vacant land right next to a textile factory. It’d be cool to go to them and say, Hey, we can grow food on that!

        I’m scouring YT for those vids. And good luck with your plans!

        • Matt and I share the same essential perspective, whereas the ultimate expression of joy comes from helping others, even if just to increase their grasp. Great vegetables, and relative ecological permanence can ‘bee’ seen as a currency, much like music.

          In Denver, they have this massive botanical garden. It’s daunting in some respects, but much more fun to visit with friends and family than an art museum. Perhaps there’s a similar place nearby where you can get your fingers in the compost, so to speak, allowing you to get focused on the many things that permaculture is about. http://www.botanicgardens.org/

          • Bee Garden

            Fantastic idea! I shall Google for local areas and beeline there lol

            Thanks, Tom, for sharing so much of your wisdom in this forum.

          • Thank you, Bee! Mom often says I sound like a ‘know it all.’ But, all I really know much about is the built environment and America’s general demographic conditions. Please steer me back on course if I sound remotely preachy. This comes from living in a van and traveling solo, coast-to-coast, shooting freshly finished buildings for interesting people for over a decade.

  • TonyPrep

    Are there resources for helping to determine whether and how permaculture design can be used to earn a living in New Zealand? I’m thinking more in a practical way than in teaching, though that would certainly be an avenue. I just can’t gauge whether there is much demand for the skills, though there definitely should be!

    • Matt Zaff

      Hi Tony,

      Do u have land access? I’ve thought a decent plan after finishing the course would be to take an urban site and turn it into a permacultural design example/plant nursery and/or community garden. You’d have your design example from which the seeds, cuttings, and prunings could be the basis of your nursery. These could be sold to the public or used by you when your consultations lead to implementation. The produce coming from your zone one gardens could go to restaurants or to market. One other thing I’ve considered is that since Permaculture set-ups lend themselves for a large variety of crops vs monoculture, taking what ever smaller amount of product and turning it into a higher value product. Don’t think fresh fruit, think cobblers. Gourmet cheeses not milk. You get the idea.
      I also firmly believe that the more good you do in the world the more possibilities they become. By building community through helping feed those in need, by employing and training the disadvantaged, you stand to get noticed and be in demand for your services!
      Best of luck!

      • TonyPrep

        Thanks for the reply, Matt. Although that kind of idea, or part of it, is something I’ve been mulling over, I was thinking, in this question, of design work. To be honest, I wouldn’t have a clue of how to reach potential clients. I’m doing this course for my own edification but would like to think I could apply those skills more widely and stop working for the consumer culture!

        By the way, I don’t have much land here (3/4 acre section, including house) but there are possibilities in the near future.

        • Matt’s right to suggest you investigate a ‘cottage craft,’ aka: the world of value added products. Some small landholders do quite well simply by harvesting honey. Trading in cash at market is a mainstay in your part of the world. If you offer to assist you might quickly find yourself (or your spouse) managing a booth for an enterprising vendor. In time, your personal interests will become quite clear. The process can be dramatically accelerated by seeking a mentor in your region. Need I mention the opportunity to visit Geoff’s place in NSW,- for what, a few hundred bucks?

    • Part of the problem is that conventional landscaping remains quite profitable for so many, monoculture becomes a hard habit to kick. Tony, my prediction is that you will soon find yourself leading by example, safe in knowing that the rest of the pack are coming out of tech schools a year or more behind you!

  • Ross Humphreys

    Hi Geoff, I am in almost opposite situation to Tony.

    My wife has purchased a farm on the Southern island of the Philippines, Mindanao a couple of hours south of Davao. The property is ~5 hectare mango/coconut farm with a small river running along the boundary. I am reluctant to use water from the river due to the high usage of fertiliser/ pesticides in the area upstream.
    The family has built a simple house right on top of the ridge which is about 30 metres or so above the river, so pumping would be a challenge anyway.
    When we first visited in August there was no electricity connected (has been now), no road access due to heavy erosion, and no water (apart from the river) on the property.
    We have since installed a 500l drinking water tank fed from the roof and built our first swale just down from the house and planting banana and Neem trees to discourage pests, and installed some terracing for paths around the house.
    We are currently having a shed built and planning a nursery.

    Any tips on other types of plants for ground cover and stabilisation of the berms for use in a tropical environment.

    I’m an aussie, living in Brisbane, Queensland and am thinking about how to turn our farm into a teaching/ education centre. Doing this PDC is the first step towards that dream.

    Looking forward to getting into the course and hoping there is others here to share ideas about practising permaculture in tropical climes.

    Thanks in advance

    • In one video Geoff shares a segment on an incredibly effective dual-stage gray water filtration system at an important private mountainside farm in China. He’ll probably cover the charcoal bit as a stand-alone solution, but in practice they are running the water through a channel that supports forage grasses before dispersing it widely across the terraced mountainside. At the bottom of the hill the fish are literally wagging their tails in delight.

      Brizzy’s a diverse community. What’s it like at your place when the river overflows?

  • Lela Khan

    Chez, I love Texas. We are feeling the effects of global warming as the temperatures have been in the upper 80s. Fall crops are struggling, but I still have watermelons in my garden, so I can’t complain. Fracking has slowed a bit, but not enough, and we have started having small earthquakes that have been directly linked to drilling.

    • Josh Fox opened my eyes to the destruction of our farmland throughout Arkansas, so when I saw signs of fracking in the watershed between Duncanville, on I-20, and Ft. Worth, I was incredulous to say the least. Still, I can easily see why so many people are magnetically attracted to this area and the State overall. Your soils are markedly diverse and resilient, where time and sound gardening practices are understood. I eagerly await seeing photos of the areas of special interest to you.

  • Anthony Blome

    Hi Geoff,

    A couple of brief questions – I was watching the “How to optimize energy through design” video, and was wondering if it is at all possible to over-hydrate a landscape, especially on sloped or steep terrain? Have you ever encountered any situation in which a landscape became so saturated with water from water-harvesting earthworks on a particular site, that the weight of the soil caused erosion such as landslides? If so, what do you typically do to mitigate occurrences such as that? Have you ever had to remove earthworks for any particular reason or utilize any particular erosion countermeasures?

    I image if you plant a site abundantly, after thoughtful observation and planning, the plants will help maintain the stability of the soil, however, have you ever known that to happen?

    Thank you Geoff. I really enjoy your videos. Many kudos to you and your media team for developing them with such excellent quality.

    Anthony from Arizona

  • Pani

    Hi Geoff and to be permaculturist,

    I am Pani and excited to be part of this journey. !!!

    Most of the vacant lands in my country (especially in drought areas) are occupied by the plant “prosopis juliflora”. Which was not native to our land and it got imported in early 20th century.

    Because of uncontrolled proliferation of this plant, the bio diversity of the environment is very much affected. Even though their is lot of effort from institutions to eradicates this issue, still not found a natural method to resolve it. So looking for a sustainable solution, which can help lot of small farmers in our society to change their affected lands to food production one.


    • Introducing an invasive species is a hugely important concern to each of us interested in large scale property augmentation. Eradication in Africa and South America is deemed vitally important across a host of scientific and governmental bodies. The short answer is that a lot of money and research has gone into using beetles and moths to kill the seeds of these plants within their pods.

      I’m wondering if it would be more practical to cover sections of land with huge black tarps, allowing heat to burn them and creating a different soil mantle in the exchange?

      I took a picture of a similar plant which is common in our ravines, thinking it might be very useful as a fast growing cover crop to sequester N. Your point is well taken, and I will ask questions at the botany department of our State AG-Annex before assuming just any plant is safe to use!

      • The whole topic of importing plants from other eco-systems into your eco-system is the one that I am most conflicted about. Is it O.K. Or not? What if things go out of control on vacant neighbouring plots, because I did not pay enough attention. What is an invasive plant and what is a not invasive plant? I would love to hear Geoffs view on this topic.

  • Sarah Shantz

    Hi Geoff,
    Thanks for looking at all these questions! I have a few regarding toxins, especially from conventional agriculture runoff and spray:
    1. In my area we are surrounded by conventional agriculture fields that spray and even crop-dust, which can land on our front lawn and hit our house, especially when we’re downwind of their spraying. Because of this our “zone 1” food gardens have to be located a bit further away from our house (in our zone 2), which is buffered from this spray by buildings and trees. I’m hoping to eventually create buffers (maybe mounds with vegetation on top?) around our whole 5-acre property, but wondering what the best way to do that is time- and cost-effectively?
    2. I was fascinated in one of your youtube videos (maybe it was the Soils one?) when you described the components of the compost and how toxin particles do attach but then become inert (and no longer a problem?). How much volume of toxins can it covert to becoming inert? Does soil do this as well or is that only during the process of composting? I’m wondering if this toxic spray will sit in our soils and just keep building up with every spray, becoming more and more toxic every year? We have grazing pastures as well, so I’m hoping to buffer them and somehow detox them as well.
    3.When you detox the soil from the toxins using plants, how do you afterwards use those now toxic plants on site instead of exporting them to a dump?
    4. When you collect runoff water from roads and neighbours, wouldn’t all those toxic chemicals, etc then be deposited on your site when you slow them down to soak in?

  • Ben Schmehe

    Dear Geoff,

    I watched “The Broad Humid Landscape Profile” animation video and I would like how this animation would look like in a densely populated area where is simply not enough space so that everybody can build the house in a mid slope position.

    • Ideally, architects are keenly aware of the prevailing soil conditions and your entire foundation will have been engineered, and built to rest on bedrock. Dream on. Presuming the foundation is carefully built and suitably engineered it really doesn’t matter anyway. The kids will be grown before anyone is the wiser.

      Urban homebuilding essentially just involves grating and compacting a flat area in an effort to do precisely that, create a keyline condition, providing access on a level plane. Beyond which, the remaining land-planning issues usually involve throwing water away. Of course, this is not true in areas where people and municipalities have discerned of a significant need to erect rain barrel systems.

      We often ‘fake’ the keyline conditions as we address the functionality of pretty much 80% of the remaining property. This is notably apparent in places where each homesite has a concrete retaining wall to isolate it from the neighbors.

  • Mima Beverley

    Hi Geoff, could you please clarify the use and effectiveness of keyline plowing? And when it would be better to use it instead of digging swales? Also how do I find out the gradient slope of my land? Many Thanks

    • Hi Mima

      Keyline plowing is very effective and we do cover it in the course. Swales and key line plowing can be used together with the key line plowing in the inter swale area.
      Swales are a tree planting system with large amounts of water continuously re-hydrating the landscape along contoured earthworks, key line is over a broad area usually used for pasture and re-applied if compaction re-occurs, or can be used once then mass tree planted.
      The gradient can be measure using the google earth app and the height is indicated by the cursor arrow at the bottom of the screen and the measuring tool on the tool bar, so height over distance gives you a rise to run ratio gradient.

      • Mima Beverley

        Thank you!! Truly helpful answer.

  • Joshua D Reynolds

    When will you be offering your new online PDC? I have been anxiously awaiting your announcement all year!! LOL. Seriously, I’m guessing it was pushed out to 2017. Do you have info on that yet? Thanks for all you do!

    • Joshua, you should have received Geoff’s most recent e’mails, one of which was presented as his regular Friday Five. His ‘launch’ announcement is coming up, very soon. (Check your spam folder.) Most of us reading here are pre-enrolled and have been studying important preliminary videos.

      • Joshua D Reynolds

        Yes, I’d like very much to pre-enroll. I have watched his videos on youtube on vimeo, which were on his former page, geofflawton.com … but any other links would be greatly appreciated.


      • Joshua D Reynolds

        Yes, would you mind? Thanks!

      • Joshua D Reynolds

        Yes, please! If you don’t mind!

        • If you scroll down this page http://www.geofflawtononline.com/ there is a link to the 9 key videos you need to watch for a head start. There’s also a link to his Friday Five about politics and permaculture. Beyond that, we all just have to wait. I think the old site is dead because everything on the web is being handled through secure servers where possible, via the use of ” https:// ”

          Check my site and email me if you want links, I’ve got lots of great bookmarks to vital PDF’s and super handy permaculture reads. Here’s one on climate change mitigation, a vital arena we all need to know! http://infoagro.net/programas/ambiente/pages/mitigacion/casos/4.pdf

    • Joshua D Reynolds

      Yes, please. If you don’t mind. I don’t know why, but this site keeps deleting my replies to you.

      • Look at the upper right corner where you see the very first blog post. Disgus enables you to choose how data is sorted on each unique website. “Sort by latest” is the easiest to use.

  • When applying soil amendments, which natural materials do you consider astringent or volatile enough to merit wearing a respirator-type mask?

    Chicken manure, for example, is termed ‘hot.’ Seemingly benign stuff, like cottonseed meal and bone meal, may be of greater health concern than the average gardener is aware.

  • Emma Manhart

    Hi Geoff, I am interested in advice on farm dams, small or large in Loess soils (highly erosive, fine like icing sugar and prone to slipping around areas of seeps), and if recharging groundwater in these soils is a good idea. I have a sloping site with many gullies on volcanic land in Banks Peninsula, NZ and will be following your advice on dams and swales to see what I can apply without causing slips.

  • Luke Holdstock

    Hi Geoff, I have another question, also putting it out to anyone else out there.

    My goal is to one day run a self sufficient farm, proving for the needs of myself and my family, but also growing some sort of crop or other commodity that I can sell to make a profit. In theory I feel this sounds like a great idea, but I am apprehensive about the financial side of the business. I see that most farms today are run like businesses, where farmers employ accountants, financial advisers, bank advisers etc. to help them run their often massive enterprises, and in my experience it seems like you can waste a lot of time and money to these things, without seeing a major benefit. The first thing many people say to me when I tell them of this idea is “How will you make enough money to survive?”, as they see all the big industrial farmers struggling or going broke, and think it foolhardy that a smaller operation could work. To me, as long as your incomings are more than your outgoings, you are doing ok, although in reality I know that it is much more complicated than that.

    My question is: do you (or should you in my situation) run your property like a business i.e. do you run profit/loss sheets, return on investment calculations, budget analysis, future income projections etc.? Or do you let things take their course and keep your operation small enough to be run on your own accord without any outside financial intervention?

    In many young farmers meetings I have been to, it is strongly advised that the only way to make true profit in farming is to “balance the debt tower” and “bite off more than you can chew, and chew like crazy” as I heard one farmer put it. It seems to me that there must be a better way to get into farming and owning property than going into mountains of debt and hoping that hard work, commodity prices and weather, (not to mention many other factors!) will pay off in the end.

    My fear is that I will get too bogged down in the details, and be frightened by the confusion of the finance side of things, and never make a start. I like to make sure I do all my homework and research before making a decision, but knowing what to look for insofar as financial indicators for an operation would be a help to clear the confusion.

    • Luke Holdstock

      Forgot to add – Thank you all for reading this, and your fantastic encouragement!

      • Fortunately. Luke, we all have different paths and different spiritual roles to play. One day you’re up, the next day tragedy may strike and you’ll feel you’re finished for good.
        (Suggested blog soundtrack:) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mimUOoWqkoU

        Eg: “Each is given a set of tools, a shapeless mask, and a book of rules…”

        I mention this in the context of our design class because the variables you are currently focused on are simply too broad to encapsulate at this juncture. For me, the world is at an impasse due to monoculture. It’s the “I-me-mine” consumerist mentality, (and perhaps the underpinnings of the financial challenges you anticipate having to face,) that dissuade most people from ever really finding out what their real path needs to be. At age 63, I can’t say I’ve ever spent more than 6 months dealing with a real job. I deliberately function under the proverbial radar and I’ve launched over a dozen {underfunded} trial careers. Catering was the most up and down, but provided the best bennies & ‘write-offs,’ logo design & sign painting was the most challenging, and after two decades, commercial photography the most boring and least fulfilling. All up, every aspect of developing a client-base came down to two factors; how much effort you can afford to invest in getting established, and how deeply convinced you can remain in yourself. “Magnetizing” financial resources seems directly related to one’s ability to reinvest in, or reinvent ourselves.

        Today, as we graciously consider the various ‘tools’ and resources available in this deluxe permaculture-kit, it really does come down to a ‘one-straw’ revolution, if you get my drift.

        • Luke Holdstock

          Hi Chez, thanks for your reply! It is often difficult in our “I-me-mine” society to envisage anything outside the “norm” of being able to be carried out. We are educated to believe that anything outside the normal “consume,work and debt” system is difficult to achieve and not worth pursuing. It is great to hear from someone like yourself who has operated outside this system and has life experience to pass on to others.

          Money is not something that is important to me as far as having a big bank balance or material wealth, but I believe that it is important to bring into the equation as it is a means of interacting with the world around us and bringing a means to pursue goals. As we live in a society where everything costs money, starting a permaculture venture is going to have costs, both initially and ongoing, as there are certain expenses that cannot be avoided (e.g. Purchasing land, Building Permits, Building Materials, Council Rates, etc.) I do believe there is a better way to do things and talking to people like yourself makes me hopeful that my dream is not as far away as I think.

          Thank you for the advice, it is encouraging to hear from you!

          • Yesterday, I was offered two shuttered school buildings on the county’s side of the Arkansas River. The day before the prison warden gave me sufficient materials to build 18 raised beds. The children I work for only had 5, 4×4′ beds to begin with. (The teacher had them paint them with latex paint.) Point is, the money to get this revolution started needn’t belong to me or you.

  • Mike Tullius

    Hi Geoff,
    I remember hearing your discussion with Matt Powers on his Permaculture Tonight podcast last year where you were talking about a book you were working on and and also a new idea for financing/structuring farms so that permaculture principles can be applied more readily on that scale. I would be very interested to hear an update on either or both of those two topics. Thanks!

  • Mima Beverley

    So… will our questions be answered at all? Is there a timeline for them to be answered? I could really use some help/orientation here.

    • Hi Mima

      I have just recorded the first 20 most popular questions and sorry to say your question on keyline plowing was not one of them. So I will answering in text now as it seems like you would like me to.

  • Sue Jones

    HI Geoff and classmates.

  • Jonathan Hallewell

    Hi Geoff, I’m really looking forward to the course. I just spent the day building a new hot compost pile with mulched leaves, grass, food waste, urine etc. A year ago I hadn’t heard of permaculture and the idea of a compost recipe would probably have grossed me out. Thanks for everything so far! My question is about the potential for permaculture ‘healing’ severely contaminated environments like Chernobyl or Fukushima. I’ve never been much of a survivalist, although was tickled by the story of Y2K Dave. My main goal for permaculture in my life is the establishment of a new normal from the ground up. Yet with these tradegies already in the planet, and nuclear strutting ramping back up to Cold War levels, do you have any thoughts about how to practice permaculture in the kind of environments we hope never to personally encounter?

  • My question is where do we stand on burning?

    Eg: My best friend Andy has done a fantastic job of reclaiming this 80 acre farm after a decade of neglect. Clearing the once active grazing fields was easily done with a small tractor and a brush hog. But, at the end of each week we’ve engaged in a regular bonfire. Controlled burns like this are especially effective for removing stubborn spiked and poisonous vines in snake-laden rocky areas. (Obviously, he’ll use a full chemical respirator when burning poison ivy!)

    • Matt Zaff

      Native Americans both North and South have used controlled burns in various methods to their benefit and to the benefit of the forest!

      • ..Err, but two wrongs doesn’t necessarily make a right.

        Just kidding! We know that re-greening the desert was old hat to Aussie Aboriginal Indians, up until some stupid ‘white guys’ made them stop their controlled burning.

  • Turon S

    Hi Everyone and Geoff,
    So glad to be back and I am going to jump ahead.
    I am looking for recommendations or ways to explain orientation or slope or contour or drainage for vegetable gardens?
    JM Fortier says water drainage, slope the rows away for water run off. I have seen you say contour the rows.
    The way I have always understand gardens is you want to keep water in or near the plants but not too much to cause root rot, which I am still trying to understand. Especially for raised beds, isn’t this mini swales?
    I wish to design a friends property in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada who is on a major slope but the garden available area is flat with retaining walls above and below in a residential area. Rainfall is in the big big numbers, being a coastal mountain rainforest, around 1500mm average a year. Beyond my own situation, in what directions can the garden be oriented, sloped, contoured or drained for raised beds in different kinds of situations, like high annual precipitation, residential runoff, mountainside slope, preventing crop fail but keeping the water on the land, or as much information you wish to share about this subject. Thanks.

    • Matt Zaff

      This is just an educated guess but sloped land will drain quickly so in theory you shouldn’t have to worry about root rot. You’d want to have your veggies grown in such away to allow the water to drain quickly into a down hill swale or pond. If the slope is steep enough you could terrace and grow cold climate rice!

      • We have a clay-based soil. If you run against the contour soil fertility drains downhill rather quickly, so you are constantly dragging compost back up, run 100% with the contour and you can get puddles that never drain. Small cut-outs are required to pass the bulk of the water downhill, (like the way you lay bricks.)

  • Matt Zaff

    Hi Everyone,

    I was recently having a discussion with an old friend and he mentioned enjoying my posts on Permaculture. As an avid hunter and wilderness conservationist living in Louisiana he mentioned wishing to see more farmers grow rice (and crawfish and ducks) because their farm doubles great hunting grounds too. I thought it was an interesting perspective and wondered how that fit into permaculture practices? In theory if rural farmers could be convinced to more productively use their land through permaculture and then they’d be able to convert a portion of their land to wilderness and or hunting grounds. While permaculture seems like a no-brainer to us, it can be infuriating to see how stubborn some people can be about doing things the “wrong” way. Might hunter/conservationists be a bridge between permies and stubborn rural farmers? I’ve never been hunting and so don’t offer much insight but I’d love to hear what people think

    • Yesterday, my AG Department Chief explained to our class of high school kids how important it is for us to install rain barrels to prevent excessive storm run-off from polluting our great Bayou Bartholomew, a ‘protected’ wetland which collects all of the street and yard pollutants from the City. Once you reckon with the sheer volume of RoundUp which collects up in Helena’s roadside ditches, you’ll understand why we don’t have a billion healthy ducks throughout Arkansas.

      Rice farming on terraced land throughout the clean part of the planet will need suffice.

      • Update: Watching Sepp’s videos made me really mad about loosing so much of our duck habitat throughout the Mississippi alluvial plains. Even if we can only impact the problem on a pond-by-pond scale, its something every property owner opposed to Gulf-blooming should attempt to do.

  • Charles

    I live on an island in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains between Vancouver, BC, and Seattle, WA. We get very little rain most of the year, but a lot all winter. Discussing swales with local practitioners such as the Bullocks, they have expressed concern about swales being too full in the winter and needing to drain. I’ve also seen some quite negative views of swales from Darren Doherty (very specifically noting a failed project with swales in Morocco). Are there environments where swales don’t make sense and keyline plowing is better? We have low sloped thin soils and clay underneath: great for ponds, but hard as rock in summer and a bog in the winter.

    • The secret to mitigating excess soaking is to increase the angle of fall to each swale. Earlier GL videos showed this solution in detail. The jist is that you create mini-dams with plastic dykes and flags to remind you when they are left up or down. When it pours, you just allow the water to pass through more quickly.

      I’ve never been north of Yakima Washington, but the growing conditions there astounded me. It seemed to mimic Fayetteville, AR, about 600 miles? or so more southerly in inclination. What I read is that you guys have a huge belt of boreal forest conditions. The essence of these soils in the ‘A-horizon’ is that of peat moss, very high in drainage, albeit robbed of certain minerals over the millennia.

      One can only imagine the soil & slope conditions each of our classmates face until we see pictures. Here, for example, are 5 soil samples I collected at our local (county appropriated) community center. It occurs to me that the first sample from the main garden is almost entirely devoid of life, while the last one is full of air and mycelium yet in need of sand and rock-crushings, (presuming we expect to get the maximum vitamin-density out of our corn, squash tubers & greens!)


      • Charles

        Thanks. I’ve watched many GL videos, but haven’t come across the swale dyke one.

        • IMHO, some of those earlier ‘how to’ videos were deliberately removed for the permaculture community’s overall good. Two years ago, I had assimilated a superficial understanding of certain processes (your issue among them) because I felt the information in Geoff’s “Earthworks” was complete enough for me to stand entirely on its own. But, the fact is in some soils a 1-foot drop per thousand running feet may produce a veritable gusher at the far end of your yard, while it’s not likely to carry a drop in certain other conditions, such as a karst region, or say the dry mountain tundra on the western slope of the Rockies.

  • Hi Geoff and all you great community members. My name is Joseph and I live in Puerto Rico. I’m 19 and I want to learn and earn my PDC through this program because I have muscular dystrophy and I want to start a movement of inclusive permaculture for teens like me who need livelihoods. We need better ways to be self-reliant, we care about the planet, we are deeply affected by industrial food and lack of reliable and renewable energy (electricity goes out, so do the ventilators, etc.), and we need solutions that provide plenty of yield with less effort, close to home. Can you share any examples of permaculture people with disabilities? Ways in which you think permaculture is a good fit for my tribe? I’m always looking for mentors. Thanks Geoff. If this course wasn’t online, it would not be accessible to people like me. That’s one appropriate use of technology I’m glad you embraced.

    • Joseph, sounds like you’ve embraced life in an especially healthy way. This is a big community that won’t abandon you as you evolve and chart your own way. Nursery skills are an especially under populated arena here in the States. Grafting fruit varieties, inoculating seeds, propagating heritage species, such as REAL MANGOES, and such could keep you gainfully employed and draw in many fun loving community partners eager to work with you. Topical soil too, it’s a tenuous balance to keep it lively because the microbes can consume its structure and all of the goodness leaches out in a gentle rain.

      • Thanks, Chez Kiva for responding. I like your ideas about developing nursery skills, grafting (a skill I would like to develop), inoculating seeds (don’t know anything about that) and heritage species. We have many varieties of REAL (non gmo) mangoes here in Puerto Rico. Your bio is really cool. Thanks for reaching out. See you in class!

  • Landa Roon

    Hi Geoff and classmates! I’m from Northern California, USDA zone 7a, Mediterranean climate. This past spring we were gifted with about 50 cu yds of wood chips, which we distributed throughout our developing food forest. We’d applied wood chips the previous summer & fall in the area of our winter/early spring garden, which is where we had garlic, onions, chard, beets, carrots, peas and other goodies. By summer, the soil life improvement (worms, mycorrhizae, etc.) was amazing – yay! Then came the gophers, who had a royal party in the area and feasted on everything – garlic, onions, beets, chard – all of it. Other areas of the garden/food forest that had not yet seen the increase in soil biology were spared. So my question is, do you have suggestions for dealing with – or deterring – gophers who move in as a result of soil biology improvement?

  • Shane Inwood

    Hi Geoff,
    First off thank you for opening up your property for the farm tour on saturday my partner and i had great day and observed so much so thank you again.
    What i would like to ask is if 80% of the perception on the land is from condensation and most of this is produced from a cloud seeding bacteria from trees, then what land area should be covered to affect/change the local perception levels? Eg what would the affect be for my property, surrounding properties if I covered 70% of my 80 acres in some sort of productive forest?
    Kind regards
    Shane Inwood

    • Shane, I believe you have to take more sectors into account. Are you going to use these trees in such a way they block wind, or form a warm enclosure around zone one?

      Your main ability to harvest would most likely depend on the catchments below. Cloud seeding effects are subject to wind speed, velocity, (or gusts + frequency) and dissipation. Gathering actual rain would depend on your proximity to the junction of natural planes, such as the warm alluvial Gulf of Mexico and the great plains.

      • Shane Inwood

        Hi Chez,
        Being located on the tropic of capricorn about 50 klm from the ocean in Australia. We are subtopical climate with long dry winters and about 80% of our 850mm of rain comes around February. My property is hilly located on the edge of a valley (great views but lots of strong winds) and great sun orintation . So i am planning on wind breaks to lift the wind, dams and swales planted as food forests, areas to steep will be completely forested (bees forest and natural forest) and i will have cells for cattle. I am aiming to create micro climates, due to the extent of the dry season extra moisture from condensation would be a great help and if i position wind breaks and the after noon westly sun blocks i am hoping to gain some form of extra precipitation from this and was curious to know if it was possible?

        • Shane Inwood

          Hi Geoff,
          That is it and where i am located (as stated above) we can get long dry periods and once spring starts it gets hot and dry with no real reasonable rain until January but i have observed areas of green even while everything else is dead and dry and these were mainly located around various treed areas. So i am planning but wish to know if the location of and amount of trees systems and water systems on my property will help with or do nothing with a condensation drip.

    • Hi Shane
      In drylands that are still in natural dryland forest or are re-forested an equivalent of 80% addition to rainfall can be the increase to the total precipitation figure through the condensation drip off the trees, is what you would have heard me say.

  • Megan Grant

    Geoff, I’ve been reading a few books… Natural Farming by Pat Coleby, Yeomans work on Keyline and also Fertility Pasture by Turner Newman. But in my area (Victoria, Australia), I have a weed—Chilean Needle Grass—that the local council is advising me to poison. Now I’m trying to hold out against the tide, but is there, in Permaculture, a time and a place where poisons are to be advised, or is there an alternative way to push out an aggressive, invasive species?

  • Samir Paleja

    Hi Geoff,
    My question – After a year or so exposure to permaculture in terms of videos, talks and basic level local seminars I have excitedly joined this PDC, but I fear that other organic farming techniques (which I am exposed to) might prompt me to depend on one or two particular techniques more than the planning & designing part. Is my fear valid? If yes, how to guard against it?

  • Bryn Lawrence Roberts-Todd

    Hi Geoff,

    I dont know if it’s too late to ask questions on here but I thought I’d give it a go and if not I’ll ask again another time : I live In Normandy, France with my family and a small community of people with various project on 5.5 hectars of land. My sister and mother run a flower business from home where my mother grows flowers and my sister does flower arrangements for weddings. My mum has been getting more and more into permaculture but is feeling a little discouraged becasue she sees that the way she has set up the flower growing plot (900 square meters of flattish land) is not really in line with permaculture principles. It is arranged in rows of raised beds and annual flowers are the dominant feature and all get taken out over the wedding season which seems to be weakening the soil over time. She would like to transition to a more regenerative way of doing this but also has to bear in mind that a certain volume of production is needed to keep up with the business. Another aspect is that as she gets older she has less energy for the high maintenance model. Do you have any tips or pointers on how to go about this? What would be the first things to look at.

    Thank you!

  • Bryn Lawrence Roberts-Todd

    One more question if possible… 🙂
    There is great enthusiasm in my community for bread making and a large group of us us gather every tuesday evening by an outdoor bread oven made by one of our neighboors and bake bread and pizzas together. There is a desire to to grow our own wheat or grains to be able to make our own bread entirely from the ground to the plate. Is it possible to grow grain or wheat the permaculture way without heavy machinery and how would you go about doing that?

    Thanks alot!

    • In the Sepp Holzer video labeled raised beds (and terraces, I think)… it shows wheat growing plentifully in the Austrian mountains at something like 5,400 ft. He’s using it like a cover crop in a freshly minted swale. Most of the time he just loads these terraces with mixed seeds to get a dense community started, pronto. There’s no watering or fertilizer involved.

    • Matt Zaff

      I’ve wondered the same thing! I have seen some examples of growing grains in long narrow strips. I believe it’s Sepp Holzier’s farm where I’ve seen this. On either side of this long strip of grains is food forest. The idea is that with the food forest in place all around you get the beneficial aspects of forest ecology to help protect the strip of monoculture. He’s got steep slopes and again the strips of wheat aren’t very wide so I believe he harvest mostly by hand. I have no idea the yield and if it’d be enough to do regular pizzas and breads

  • Is it true that Santa has just been spotted surfing near Byron Bay, and that soon he/she’s promised to bring the joy of permaculture to all the good boys and girls awaiting patiently for St. Nick’s return?

  • Shane Inwood

    Hi Geoff, first off thank you for opening up your property for a farm tour on December 3rd my partner and I had a great inspirational day so thank you again.

    What I am interested in knowing is that we know that 80% of precipitation comes from condensation and most of this is produced by the way of trees producing a cloud seeding bacteria. How many acres need to be converted to a tree system to affect the local perception and if I cover 70% of my 80 acres in functional tree systems, then what would be the affect of the surrounding properties?
    Shane Inwood

  • Joseph Rahman

    hello Geoff , joseph from PA my question is a personal one… i would completely understand if its not answered i understand that permaculture does not associate itself with a belief system which i compeletly agree witth although the more i understand energies, patterns , water , natural systems the more i find conviction and certainty that there must be a creator so I’m curious asto what you believe ,and why?

  • Matt Zaff

    Another question for Geoff and Classmates,

    I’ve been looking into doing urban aquaponics and would love to fill a niche by raising freshwater eels. One issue that seems to be involved with Farming eels is that they’ve not been bred successfully in captivity. Sustainable eel farming then means releasing a percentage into the wild. Am curious if anyone as any info or advice they can offer about where to begin and potential solutions


  • Meredith Spitalnik

    I’m slow on the questions, but I’m loving watching all the answers. They finally sparked a question of my own:

    I’m looking at a property in coastal RI, USA. The house site is on a steep slope (ranging from 35-45% and steeper) that drops right into a permanent stream about 1/2 a mile before it drains into the ocean. The house location is grandfathered in within the 200′ boundary you’re not normally allowed to build in (the road is closer to the stream than 200′). The septic design was also approved, but I’m concerned about swales and septic systems, particularly on a steep slope and so close to a lovely waterway. The only nearly-flat area of the property is above the driveway along the road. A swale from the lowest point of the highest border would be perfectly placed in the middle of this area (25-35% grade, I believe), but would also cut through the septic system. I’m thinking we should probably attempt to place the septic system as close to the road and far from the stream as possible, and have one swale below it. The rest of the property will need to be terraced or left in trees. It’s currently mostly second-growth forest, with some brambles and the flatter “garden” area is carpeted with poison hemlock, so I’m planning on using deep mulch to smother that, hopefully without disturbing the wineberry patch 🙂

    Can you talk about the interactions of swales and septic systems?

  • Mikko Salonen

    Hi!I found some gypsum and the question is how much should be applied to one m2 of heavy clay soil to help brake it down?I will be applying compost and mulch also!
    Thank you

  • HI Geoff, I don’t know if you’re taking any more questions for the time being, but I thought I’d post mine here, just in case. I will ask in another appropriate forum if applicable. I have so enjoyed your generosity and time spent answering so many questions to date. Here’s my question about working with successon: I found your succession-evolution video to be quite profound. I watched it 3 times so far because it challenges concepts of time, energy, and value. Thanks for that! I have a question about using succession in planting large acreages—as we are doing here on our farm in Vermont, in northeastern USA. We’re SLOWLY converting 200 acres of old hill pasture (surrounded by woods) to on-contour tree plantings, marked using a laser level with paths mown above and below the 15-foot wide tree swaths, interspersed with about 60-80 feet of pollinator pasture, on a 2-year alternate mowing regime (mowing half the pasture one year, and the other half then next to maintain multi-age habitat and flowering species and pollinators). I have watched our upland pastures as they move through succession from grasses to goldenrod, ferns, milkweed, dogbane, meadowsweet, blackberries, elderberry, willow, and I want those elements to out-compete the grasses, to both enable mycelial communities in soil naturally, and to provide for a better environment for introducing chosen perennials AT JUST THE RIGHT MOMENT—ie before all of the early successional tree species like birch, beech, poplar etc take over. When we cut the areas between the tree strips/swales with a drum mower, we plan to put pasture mowings onto tree strips, and we would also put pole-wood/small branches/wood chips on these strips as well. As part of our wildlife management practices, we cut pole-wood along field edges on a 5 year rotation, leave the cuttings piled on the ground for deer and moose browse (and poop, eventually near shallow ponds connecting to swales) over the winter, then distribute those cuttings on the contour strips—perhaps chipping or shredding them first. Our plan is to introduce support species into the tree strips/swales, like black locust, clumping willow, (they provide great wind protection on our very windy site), alder in wet areas, basswood (leaves are good salad greens), sea buckthorn, some siberian peashrub—and then add in our chosen crops like crabapples, elderberry, black raspberry, viburnums, oak, hazelnuts, pear, etc as we go along. So in short, we want to work WITH natural succession in gradually planting out the entire open lands into wild-cultivated swales and food forest tree strips. What do you think of this plan? I imagine using a tree auger on the end of our excavator to plant our chosen nursery stock when the time is right, and otherwise thickly planting bare root whips of other support species like black locust (which thrives here) simply using a spade. I am finding that NOT mowing the strips where trees will go creates a natural thatch/mulch that seems to out-compete grasses and offer good soil protection for introducing trees. This is a different practice that I witness others do, which is to till or dig within existing grass pasture to plant trees—which I see as just begging for grasses to invade the new tree plantings.

  • Hari Krishna

    Hi Geoff, We have got a farm near Hyderabad(India) and are waiting to finish you course and get started:). I have following 2 questions:

    1. There is a small stream that flows through the farm which gets a lot of water during the monsoon season between June-October. We would like to store as much water as possible for the dry season that follows from Nov-May. Our farm is at a higher elevation from the stream. Digging a pond around the stream seems difficult as we hit hard black rock at 3-4 feet depth itself. Is there a way where we can store the water or redirect it into the major part of the farm that is at higher elevation.
    2. We are planning for a food forest with fruit trees like Mango/Guava. Do you have any suggestions on where do we start for the first year (soil preparation/Much crops).

    • Hi Hari

      You can use a ram pump to lift water without energy, this water can store in tanks or lined dams and in the soil through swales and keyline ripping. Your food forest preparation will need to grow your own mulch as a permanent perrenial supply and inter-active support species particularly tree legumes.
      It will depend how degraded the soil fertility, soil depth, and slope is as to how you approach this and we will cover all this in the course. Regards Geoff

      • Hello Geoff. Do you have any experience with ram pumps? How do they behave in quite fluctuating conditions of water flow intensities? We have a creek at the bottom boarder of our piece of land, that carries quite different amounts of water from mid of December until mid of May, as we are located in the mediterranean climate of coastal mid Portugal.

        • A ram pump functions in relation to the incoming water pressure, so the greater the fall, the greater the volume of water it can lift. In a situation where you can gain 16 feet of fall, (or a similar psi of back-pressure,) a small pump will send water 650′ up hill! It won’t work at all in our creek which usually has just 6 inches of water at the lowest point on our lot.

          • Hey Chez. Thanks for the info. Impressive numbers your juggling there. Our creek runs horizontal to the lower, shorter, downhill side of our rectangle piece of land. I guess. If I am very optimistic, I would install a small wooden dam around 100m upstream to flunch in the feed tube, but I would have a maximum fall of 2m (about 6 feet) until the water would hit the pump at the low end of our land. Would you say NO WAY? Any hints for good literature / deep (calculation included) web info ob this?

            All the best.

          • I do know a solution for you, it’s awesome, but it’s not a cure all, just a great support mechanism. It’s an in stream power generator you tether to the shore and she puts out around 650 or 900w. It’s like a submarine functioning in reverse, whereas the prop remains in the rear and the nose cone deflects branches and such. I’ll search for the link.

            Assuming you can effectively access that upstream supply you probably could get some use out of a small Ram. Most likely the return would be no greater than simply using the water to irrigate crops or feed animals away from the edge, aka. shoreline.

          • Hey Chez.

            The power unit will not work here, as our stream only carries water for 4-5 month a year and there is no house yet that would use electrical power. but still interested in the link though.
            i really want to make use of this water for the dry season and irregation / leting animals drink. Geoff posted this in an other thread: http://www.glockemannwaterpumps.com/ and i inquired for the prize. its 1900 $AUD and it will pump for about a decade or half of a decade, before replacing the membrane, which can be done via an old traktor tyre.. I am seriously thinking about this.

          • Love the specs and attributes of this pump. Scores big for techno improvements.

            Active PV solar panel Mfg’s have suffered a market beating over the past several years. One must research lots of options and find guys, like Jerry Landrum in Eureka Springs who share group-buy pricing on panel & component parcels with anyone who wants them.

            Me, I’m fully convinced we’re still seeing things all wrong. Lower voltage, 12/24v appliances and transformer laden goods should all be powered by a backbone not unlike USB + Gigabit Ethernet, as was postulated by industry thinkers a generation ago. The benefits of NOT jumping up to 110v -AC, only to step back down to wall warts are many. LED fixtures ended this discussion on arrival.

          • I found the link I was searching for. RIfe Pumps, flow of stream is our category, where head-pressure is relatively unattainable.

  • Hi Geoff and everyone. I just got the notice that we are about to start and I can’t wait! I was wondering if Geoff responds to all of the ask me anything questions. I know we will be working with teaching assistants and that is great. I still would like to know if Geoff or anyone in the community can share examples of permaculture people with disabilities. It would be helpful. Also interested in any ideas about how permaculture could relate to accessibility and universal design. Thanks!

  • Geoff, ~ If, typically it takes three full years for hugelkultur mounds to reach a significant yield, how might one most effectively accelerate this process, assuming we are doing this on a fairly large farm or civic scale? Is this best done in specific stages?

    Depth and scale may be among the most important factors, as is true of various composting processes. Perhaps it would it be especially prudent for me to visit Sepp’s project in Montana in person, since this is the essential template for the proposal I’m making to the City of Pine Bluff. One significant feature there is that his mounds are massive, most around 7 feet tall.

    So far, I’m going from a recipe that reads like mama’s vegetable soup. Invariably, specific factors relating to permeability and pH apply. (If need be I’ll await an answer when we get to that point in the course.)

    I hope you’ve enjoyed a relaxing holiday and are just as excited as we are to begin! 🙂