I often hear, 'I don't know where to begin' ! This is when observation is key. Take stock of all that is already available to work with, (usually more than you realize) and pair it with goals for the site.
My joy matched my challenges as I launched into a new landscape in 2019. Compacted slope, erosion, precious water running off into the ditch. In typical Permaculture language , the problem became the solution! I set out to transform the dry scrabbling driveway into productive garden beds.
Did I mention compacted? While working almost full time at IAT nursery, my days were limited when I could really make progress on the Gambier garden site. What I did have access to whenever I was there, was a lot of forest debris. At the time I did not have a chipper, so layering plenty of cardboard, decomposing branches, wood chips, seaweed and later leaves, the first berm began. The following spring we were rewarded with Morels, springing up all along the edge of the berm. The fun had begun with natural fungal activity and the first step in retaining moisture in the system.
I love plants, all kinds, and I like to consider just the right space to accommodate the needs of each plant. While developing a new landscape, it becomes apparent that seasonal changes in light affect the growing conditions and will create various micro climates in different areas. In my Gambier garden restoration project, after water flow, my focus has been to add as much organic matter to the overall site as is available. That means collecting leaves, cardboard and seaweed. It means keeping bio mass in the zone. The entire area is showing so much more vitality now that there is organic matter for water retention and microbial activity. The worms abundant and the birds are active. The system is growing.
Other challenges of this naturally wild environment arise though, by the presence of slugs and deer. This has lead to my strategy of container planting until each area is fully prepared for a permanent installation. I am propagating native plants that are best suited to thrive in this particular habitat and will support the native pollinators and insects. Sometimes this can mean plants will be eaten or damaged.
This bright and sunny Eriophyllum lanatum is thriving on a dry fully exposed slope. My initial application of mulch layered into the original compacted soil is sufficient moisture holding, but free draining material. Annually, I chop and drop the volunteer grass surrounding my planting areas. This gradually tips the balance from unwanted growth to planned planting and the transition is picking up momentum.