House and garden: an integrated approach
Often gardens play second fiddle to house design–a deck and a vegie patch tacked on once the build is accounted for and if any budget remains. Free Range Food Gardens permaculture landscape gardener Gordon Williams makes the case for an integrated approach.
Let’s consider the ways we can minimise energy and resource use by integrating the outdoors and the built environment. There is the obvious role that plants can play in providing shade. We all know the difference the shade of a tree can make on hot and sunny days. But there are many less obvious ways they can benefit our indoor spaces.
On those sunny days when plants are photosynthesising their food from sunlight, they also transpire water from their leaf surfaces. Kind of like sweating, it keeps the plants cool and has the added benefit of cooling the surrounding air. Leaves also provide a perfect surface for water vapour in the air to condense upon, warming the leaf surface and surrounding air. Simply put, this means that plants have the effect of moderating the temperature and the humidity of their surroundings. For more comfortable and stable temperatures year round, and a reduced reliance on electricity or gas for heating and cooling it makes sense to make use of plants around the home.
Not only can the landscape benefit the home, but the building itself can be of great use to the landscape. Consider how physical and energy resources like the wind and sunlight move through your site. The shading and wind buffering effects created by the building can allow for ecological niches and a greater diversity of plant life.
The home is also a source of resources that can help a garden thrive. Rainwater harvesting and grey-water recycling systems can provide an additional supply of water through the dry times. We all know water wants to run downhill so why not design to use gravity to move water to where it is needed instead of pumps. Planning for the redirection and use of grey-water and stormwater for your garden early on, around your plumbing system, will avoid difficult or costly infrastructure changes later.
A large volume of organic material from the kitchen can be directed to compost, worm farms or even to the humble chicken where the nutrients will be conditioned to improve soil and plants. And if you play your cards right, you could even be rewarded with fresh fruit, vegies and eggs.
Gordon Williams is a permaculture landscape gardener and principal of Free Range Food Gardens in Sydney.
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