We hope you will enjoy exploring the many gardens and spaces at Rak Tamachat as much as we enjoy living in them. We welcome anyone that would like to learn more about our lifestyle or courses to feel free to visit anytime. Our gate is never closed to our global community of brothers and sisters in Permaculture. Feel free to contact us to discuss anytime to find out more at [email protected].
Swale and Food Forest Establishment with Toni Robinson
Swale: Water harvesting ditch dug on contour
Food Forest: Productive, designed, multi story forest, managed for yield and harvest
Rak Tamachat has more than two kilometers of Swales and Klongs and six large ponds. We are blessed to be able to harvest huge amounts of water passivly durring the wet monsoon season to be able to keep our soils moist in the dry season. Toni Robinson below explains the concept and development of a swale and fruit forest wonderfully, many thanks Toni 🙂
We dug 5 seperate swales, total length coming to approximately one a kilometer. Each around 1.5m deep and 3m wide swales with large bunds on the lower side.
AIM OF OUR SWALES:
Provide a place for productive food forest, shelter belts, fodder harvest, fire protection and wildlife corridors throughout land.
STAGES OF IMPLEMENTATION:
BROADCAST NITROGEN FIXING LEGUMES
The first rain after the swale digging, we ran out into the storm and squished in the mud spreading mung beans, sunhemp and other bean seeds over every inch of all 5 swales, bunds and ditches (as well as the banks of the dams we had dug at the same time). This grew very nicely and had produced a lovely cover of the bare soil within 2 weeks
CHOP AND DROP
Around 3 weeks later, at the site of the first flowers on the tall sun hemp, we went along with our sickles/rice knives and chopped it down, leaving only one or two leaves at the base of the plant. We laid the chopped plant down to cover the soil. This releases the rhizomes attached to the roots of the plant and helps to fix nitrogen in the soil to be accessed by the next plants growing there. Laying down the chopped plants covers the soil, and also contains nitrogen in which the roots can then help to fix once decomposed into soil.
We let the plants grow again, and chopped and dropped twice more
FOOD FOREST PLANTINGS on the bund – working on 10m at a time (slow and small solutions)
- Chop/drop/clear weeds, dig out clumping flowering grasses
- Planted 1 fruit tree every 10m, add compost to hole for nutrients
- Planted 10 nitrogen fixing legume TREES per every 1 fruit tree – varying species (see below), no need to add compost, it is the role of legume trees to create nutrients, adding extra is unnecessary and possibly counter-productive
- Planted bank stabilising plants along the edges of the bund – lemongrass, comfrey, vetiver grass, citronella
- Planted herbaceous species, companion plants and larger ground covers and vines – pumpkins, watermelons, sweet potato, pineapples, gourds, cucumbers, marigolds, dill, fennel around 1-2m apart randomly throughout for diversity and providing food yields
- Broadcasted mung beans and sun hemp very thickly, to prevent grasses/weedy vines returning
- Thin layer of straw mulch to protect soil and provide cover for ground cover to grow
Much has been done but still so much more to do, Permaculture is a nerver ending process to create the world we want and need so much. The swales will including fish integration in the wet season to minimize mosquitoes, more observation and research into proper plant species to introduce, loads more legumes, groundcover, and mulching. Also designing pathways, beautification, and possible animal integration (fodder systems).
Beau’s Perennial Edible Trees
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Beau is a fanatic when it comes to planting Perennial Edible Trees, it is his favorite form of gardening. Rak Tamachat has a large food forest but also there are thousands of trees in various locations around the farm. Beau has planted over six thousand by the rainy season of 2013 and plans to plant another 4,000 more by 2015 to complete the Master Plan. The heavily planted fruit bearing trees can be seen in different areas where we can derive multiple benefits through systems integration. A good example is our Jamaican cherry trees that are planted adjacent to the chicken house. The tree produces fruit year round so it is a good stable, delicious crop. When the cherries fall on the ground the chickens are right there for an easy meal. In addition, the cherries are excellent for making a sweet wine. The mulberry trees, another example, are planted along the rice field canal and produce a great tasting fruit many of which fall into the canal providing an excellent, high protein food item for the juvenile fish to eat. We also have papaya trees, banana trees, two species of coconut trees – the smaller of the two, produces coconuts that are harvested when they are young. The coconut water is considered to be a natural electrolyte. The other is used for it’s meat and milk in our delicious coconut based curries. These are just a few of the many examples of the year round bounty produced by our Perennials here at Rak Tamachat. We have over 60 different species of edible Perennials to keep us sustained, true sustainability!
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Guy’s Kitchen Garden
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Our kitchen garden was designed and solely built by a pioneer member of our community named Guy Walker. The kitchen garden lies directly next to our Sala and has a red sand stone walkway leading to a long curve that is covered by a bamboo trellis. Creeping vines like wing bean, long bean, and cucumber grow up and along the trellis while pumpkin, watermelon, eggplant, and tomato plants can be found on the ground. Colorful flowers and lemongrass are inter-planted to keep the mosquitoes and pests at bay. Drip line irrigation was later added, as well as, chicken fencing with a gate at either end. Many thanks go out to Guy as his time and effort has produced a plethora of food!
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Mare’s (Thai for Mom, Lin’s Mom) Wild Thai Garden
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Mare’s Wild Thai Garden is a Thai kitchen garden that is maintained by the Thai family on site in a traditional Thai fashion. It is a great garden to use as a point of reference when comparing local gardening techniques that have been passed down for centuries to Permaculture gardening practices. We have found that there is not much difference other than that the Thais seem less concerned with planning the garden and it seems to organically shift through succession as time passes. It is a wonderful example of how a beautiful garden can be had complete with wild flowers with a little diligent work each day.
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Benny was one of the founding pioneer members of the community. He designed and led the construction of the mandala garden as the main entrance to our Sala. He used an innovative slip-form techniques with a compressed-earth retaining wall for a raised bed. Benny experimented with different percentages of cement to determine the minimal amount required to hold the wall together as the monsoonal rains can be quite destructive to adobe structures. He used stucco to finish the wall with a mix of different color iron oxides. The mandala garden is a good example of raised bed gardening using keyhole design. There is a center water feature with benches that makes a tranquil place to sit and chat at the end of a day. The mandala was completed in May, 2013. As the area where the mandala gardens are located is quite large, 1,000 m², the project will be ongoing over 2013/2014. Many thanks to Benny for his creative design, innovative building techniques and beautiful creation, it has already produced a huge amount of food for the community and will continue to do so for many years to come.
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Pon’s Circle- Pon, a Thai member of the pioneer crew of Rak Tamachat took it upon himself to create a garden next to the compost toilets. It is half a native wildflower garden and half a Thai vegetable garden with banana and papaya trees interspersed. The area Pon chose to build the Circle Garden is lower than the surrounding land so it tends to get a little boggy during the rainy season. For this reason, Pon chose to make raised mounds with drainage channels dug at the bases of each bed. He looked at the predominant slope and observed a heavy rain. He saw where the water ran and constructed his channels to direct the water away from the raised mounds and towards the lowest point of elevation. First, Pon sheet mulched with cardboard to prevent the weeds from growing into the beds. He followed up with compost and hay to reduce surface evaporation. The garden receives rain in the summer from a large sprinkler in the center. He placed red sand stone pavers in strategic places to walk which helps reduce soil compaction in the garden.
Butterfly- From a lofty vantage point you understand how the Butterfly Garden got its name. The wings, abdomen and thorax of a butterfly are clearly formed and constructed from adobe bricks. The central region of the garden has a bamboo trellis with a multitude of Thai basil shrubs flanking it. There is also a lovely reclining adobe bench that was created during an Earth Art and Natural Building class.
Ally Cropping- The Ally Cropping is a productive, row cropping system that is planted in our food forest. The taller trees provide ample shade and it is watered by drip line irrigation. In the ally cropping you can find trellis of various sizes and designs for climbers and vines, as well as, raised beds for shrubs, and surface crops.
Dtun’s Rows- Dtun is a member of the Thai family that lives here at the farm. He is a young, energetic man who has a passion for gardening. In January, 2013, Dtun embarked of the task of creating a full scale garden using Thai gardening techniques that would feed ten people. His garden comprises a raised bed area, a trellis for beans and a separate trellis for gourds, an area for shrubs, a space for corn and another large area for Thai sweet potatoes, a section for delicate vegetables, and of course, papaya trees. Dtun has had 100% success with everything he has grown. Even his green bell peppers taste great. Although they are a little small.
Lin’s Secret- Lin’s Secret Garden is a 10m² kitchen garden off of the main house. It is maintained by Lin and her mother and it is intensely planted for use in Thai cooking.