Thursday, April 6, 2017

Upcoming Events; Permaculture Design Certificate Course Update

Permaculture Design Education at the 
Accokeek Foundation
In March, Permaculture Design  Certificate Course participants studied Natural Building and Passive Solar Energy among other topics.  We built a cold frame and a worm bin, covered a hoop house, planted cover crops at our Persimmon guild and made Biochar, an ancient soil amendment. 

Biochar is a kind of charcoal, which converts agricultural waste, or in our case, tree branches, into a valuable soil enhancer, which sequesters carbon and can remediate contaminated soil. Native peoples of the Amazon River basin used this “Terra Preta” for hundreds of years to produce dark fertile agricultural soil.  It can be made by using a home-made kiln with metal drums, or by lighting a fire to organic material at a garden bed, then burying it with soil to remove the oxygen and hold in the heat.  The baked product is carbon-rich biochar.

Guild Design
Our ongoing course project is an Asian Persimmon Guild.  A plant guild mimics the interdependence of naturally occurring plant communities of plants/trees, insects, and animals, which benefit each other to accumulate nutrients control pests, provide shelter or shade, and reduce root competition.  Many indigenous cultures have farmed sustainably for centuries with agricultural guilds. 

The “3 Sisters” guild of pole beans, corn and squash is a common Native American example.  Corn provides a scaffold for the bean vines. Beans provide nitrogen for the corn. The large squash leaves shade and protect the soil as a living mulch, inhibit weeds, and keep the soil moist and cool.  These mutually beneficial relationships produce higher crop yields, with less water, and no fertilizer, in smaller square footage, than if any of the 3 crops were planted independently.

Following the indigenous model, a Permaculture guild is a highly productive artificial assembly of useful native and non-native plants. It is designed to provide food, herbs, pest control, pollination, and restore soil, while reducing the gardner’s labor and eliminating the need for chemical pesticides, herbicides and other synthetic additives.

In the fall we sheet-mulched our site and planted the self-pollinating Persimmon in the center with a Southern Bayberry wind buffer.  This month we prepared the site further with these functional bulbs and cover crops:
  • Daffodil - at the future drip line as a “fortress plant” to suppress grass and repel rodents
  • Daikon Radish - breaks up compacted soil, edible
  • Fava Bean - fixes nitrogen, edible, poultry forage
  • Dutch White Clover - Ground cover; fixes nitrogen; attracts beneficial insects - lady bug, minute pirate bug, and lacewing
This month we started perennial seedlings to add to the guild when the weather warms in May.  These plants provide food, fiber, medicine, attract beneficial insects, repel pests, fix nitrogen and/or accumulate minerals in the soil:
  • Yarrow - mines copper, potassium and phosphorus; attracts lady bugs, hoverfly, lacewing and parasitic wasp
  • Sorrel - edible; mines calcium, iron, potassium and phosporus
  • Bronze Fennel - culinary herb; attracts lady bug, hoverfly, parasitic wasp and lacewing
  • Flax - fiber for cloth; mines manganese, iron and potassium
  • Lemon Balm - tea; medicinal/culinary herb; repels voles and rabbits; mines phosphorus; attracts tachinid fly, hoverfly and parasitic wasp
  • Salad Burnett - edible salad green; mines sulfur, calcium and magnesium
  • Good King Henry - perennial vegetable (like spinach), standing biomass
Stay tuned for the next phase of our Asian Persimmon Guild and other course projects!
                                                                                                                                     -  Patricia Ceglia

Save the Dates:___________________________
Accokeek Foundation                    3400 Bryon Point Road, Accokeek, MD 20607           

Sunday, April 30, 2017
1:30 to 4:00 PM 

It’s time to plan your garden or take it to the next level!  Bring photos, a site plan/survey, google map, sketch, or measurements of your space/garden, along with your imagination. 

Learn how to maximize the productivity of your site by observing and analyzing your site for natural resources and unique
characteristics.  Design your garden based on Permaculture principles and select appropriate perennial plants. This workshop is suitable for any urban, suburban or rural property, residential, public, or educational situation. If you attended our Winter Garden Planning Workshop, this one will tag onto it. If not, you can start at the beginning.

Held at the Education Center and on-site. Come appropriately attired and prepared for spending time outdoors. Space is limited so register now!!!

REGISTRATION: $30;  $25 Accokeek Foundation members 

2016 Permaculture Design Certificate Course graduate, Olivia Canfield  presents her suburban homestead design.

Certificate Course

Sunday, May 21, 2017

11am - 3:00pm

Come see our students' innovative designs. Each has created a Permaculture plan for a real site, applying the principles and strategies learned in our current certificate course. There will be a variety of urban, suburban & rural sites, residential & farms.

Drop in any time. We will break for a 50-mile Potluck lunch at 1:00pm! Please bring a dish with ingredients sourced within 50 miles of your home. This exercise not only supports local agriculture, but also demonstrates how we can all get involved in local food security.

Held at the Education Center.


"Accokeek" is Algonquin for "Land of the Wild Fruit." Hike the trails by the river, tour the heritage livestock and the National Colonial and Ecosystem Farms, before or after your event.  

Friday, September 16, 2016

Permaculture Design Offers Solutions

The term, Permaculture, was coined by Bill Mollison, Australian scientist, research professor, and author, who borrowed the concept from the book title, Tree Crops, a Permanent Agriculture, written in 1929 by Virginian, J. Russell Smith, geographer, conservationist, Wharton School of Business economics professor.  

Permaculture Design by Wilson College student for rural homestead.

A culture can not survive without a permanent, or sustaining, form of agriculture.  

We can all become producers as well as consumers. Permaculture Design is a methodology for creating human habitats, which produce more of our daily needs for food, medicine, water, energy, shelter, waste cycling and fiber.  Permaculture design is a process for managing your land and dwelling to be highly productive in an ecological manner.  By making relationships between design components, we expand efficiency and create a living system that regenerates itself, rather than depletes itself.  The result is increased security.

I first discovered Permaculture in 1990, after a year a searching for a more ethical design approach than that which I was practicing as a young architect.  My boss had just asked me to design a gigantic strip shopping center with a parking lot as large as a football field (not the glamorous type of building I was used to designing as a college student).  I attended Mollison’s workshop at San Xavier Indian Reservation near Tucson, AZ and was hooked.  

Mollison was inspired by his childhood experience growing up in Tasmania, where he lived next door to aboriginal people. He had the unique opportunity to observe their life-style, and later compare it to that of his western culture.  He noticed that natives did not live in a true wilderness, but rather cultivated their forest ecosystem.  If they observed an animal or fish dwindling in numbers, they stopped hunting it until it recovered.  If a tree species started dying off, they collected its seeds & planted them.  Mollison’s experience eventually led him to direct his life path to collecting and sharing universal indigenous knowledge as applied ecology.  

What do all native cultures have in common?  They practice a behavior code of ethics, making decisions that insure their own survival, and that of all species.  We are all descendant of indigenous peoples.  We can learn how to become native to place, wherever we are, by adopting life-supporting ethics, by becoming intimately familiar with our land and natural resources, by evaluating our daily needs, planning for the long term, and thinking creatively. 

Permaculture Design students plant a pear guild with a swale and berm.

With his graduate student, David Holmgren, Mollison developed the current 2-week Permaculture Design Certificate curriculum so that it could be taught to anyone, anywhere, with no prerequisites for college education or specialized experience.  The methodology contains a set of guiding ethics, a set of planning principles, mimicking those found in nature, and a tool-kit of strategies for optimizing production.  Permaculture Design is site-specific.  A design for one site cannot be replicated elsewhere because it is a response to its particular climatic and geographic conditions and built structures.

A recent Permaculture Design Course graduate presents her design.

The Accokeek Foundation is offering this 72 hour course over the span of 9 months this fall 2016 and next spring 2017.  This time-frame enables participants to digest the comprehensive course content in between classes and produce a design of their own.  Many students design their own properties.  Others have designed more public habitats such as schools and neighborhoods.  Here are a few:
  • Multi-functional residential “Green Alley,” Baltimore, MD
  • Colorado vineyard
  • Low-income housing project, Pretoria, South Africa
  • Multi-family townhouse complex, Annapolis, MD
  • Organic CSA farm, Eastern Shore, MD
  • Historic family vacation compound, southern France
  • Public & private schoolyards in Hershey, PA, Baltimore & Rockville, MD, & Washington DC
  • Suburban house, Accra, Ghana
  • “McMansion,” Washington DC suburb
  • Adjacent empty lots converted to a farm/park/school garden, Baltimore, MD
  • Rural Montana mountain homestead
  • Rural cohousing community, Libertytown, MD

For more information about the upcoming Permaculture DesignCertificate course, see 

More on Bill Mollison: