Well, not really a skycam. But I’ve been wanting to take an aerial view of the whole garden for ages, so today I dragged the ladder out of the barn, climbed up with my iPad, and did it. Heaven knows what the neighbors thought!

My thought was to use Skitch to draw an overlay of Permaculture zones onto the photo; hence the arrows for sunlight, prevailing wind, and slope (down which water will flow). Like a master plan! From PermaWiki:

Zones are numbered from 0 to 5, and can be thought of as a series of concentric rings moving out from a centre point, where human activity and need for attention is most concentrated, to where there is no need for intervention at all…

  • ZONE 0 — The house, or home centre. Here permaculture principles would be applied in terms of aiming to reduce energy and water needs, harnessing natural resources such as sunlight, and generally creating a harmonious, sustainable environment in which to live, work and relax
  • ZONE 1 — Is the zone nearest to the house, the location for those elements in the system that require frequent attention, or that need to be visited often, e.g., salad crops, herb plants, soft fruit like strawberries or raspberries, greenhouse and cold frames, propagation area, worm compost bin for kitchen waste, etc.
  • ZONE 2 — This area is used for siting perennial plants that require less frequent maintenance, such as occasional weed control (preferably through natural methods such as spot-mulching) or pruning, including currant bushes and orchards. This would also be a good place for beehives, larger scale compost bins, etc.
  • ZONE 3 — Is the area where maincrops are grown, both for domestic use and for trade purposes. After establishment, care and maintenance required is fairly minimal provided mulches, etc. are used, e.g., watering or weed control once a week or so.
  • ZONE 4 — Is semi-wild. This zone is mainly used for forage and collecting wild food as well as timber production. An example might be coppice managed woodland.
  • ZONE 5 — The wilderness. There is no human intervention in zone 5 apart from the observation of natural eco-systems and cycles. Here is where we learn the most important lessons of the first permaculture principle of working with nature, not against.

Nice theory! But Zone 0, the house or hearth, is over to the left past and out of the picture. And Zone 1? I have to put the beds where the plants will be happiest, not where it’s most convenient for me. The squash need to be where they are because that’s where they get the most light, and people like my squash, so I can give a lot away, which I like to do. Similarly with the tomatoes: They need their light too, and yet my ambition is to let vines be vines, and, Zone 5 fashion, to touch them as little as possible, since touching spreads sap, and sap spreads TMV. And I’m not going to be foraging for wild food any time soon; so there is no Zone 4. Not concentric!

One principle, though, taken from the Zones idea: In your garden, leverage your “shrew paths” (“To them, the shortest line is always the accustomed path”*). For example, put the compost bin at the end of the driveway, so people can take their kitchen scraps to it as they leave the house for work or school — one of their “shrew paths.”

And I love greens; a salad of greens with olive oil, a little cheese, a little sausage as a condiment, some pepper… A wonderful meal in the summer, and good for weight, too. But last summer, I only picked the greens four or five times, and in the end the greens bolted. (Into the compost, since no organic matter leaves the property, but still.) The greens — which I had planted in the bed marked “???” — weren’t on my shrew path! So this year, I’m going to plant the greens next to the front door over by the cantaloupes, along with some herbs.

So rather than draw concentric circles, or even rough outlines, I decided to label the beds with what will go in them, and then label a few of the companion plants: Marigolds for the tomatoes, Sunflowers for birds, Bee balm for pollinators, Clover for pollinators and nitrogen fixing (and to crowd out switch-grass at the borders).

Oh, and one thing the aerial view shows quite clearly: The dark, leave-mulched beds absorb sunlight and melt the snow pack; but the stone dust paths, being light colored, reflect sunlight and stay icy.

Maybe next time I’ll take a shot in sunlight, and show how the shadows of the buildings that surround the property determine where the beds go. My zones aren’t concentric circles, but a patchwork!

NOTE * From King Solomon’s Ring by the naturalist Konrad Lorenz, which I read as a child and loved, without knowing the author’s equivocal past.

UPDATE Why the recliner? Because just sitting in the garden in high summer and listening and smelling and watching is one of the great pleasures. Last year I saw a hummingbird at the Bee Balm. Up here in Maine!

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