Case Study: California Permaculture Design

The site is in Livermore, California, on the eastern edge of San Francisco Bay Area. It is a two acre plot, which is planned to house and provide for a family of four. The surrounding land is to be leased to a vineyard, so the surrounding area will ultimately be surrounded by vines. The design above is designed to enhance the ecology of the site, while also meeting the needs of the family. It will be diversely planted with plants suited to the climate and conditions of the area.

Livermore has a Mediterranean climate, though is close to semi-arid due to relatively low annual precipitation. Summers are hot and dry, and winters are cool with occasional rainfall. June to September are particularly dry, which means that water collection and retention of water within the landscape are top priorities. 

Rainwater must be collected between September and May when it does fall. In my design, I suggest collecting rainwater from all built structures, which can then be directed through drip irrigation to planting areas. Rainwater harvesting (and ideally grey water collection) should be build into architectural design. 

A key strategy for rainwater retention is increasing vegetative cover as much as possible, including trees for canopy cover, underplanted with shrubs, herbaceous layer plants etc. in a diverse forest garden scheme. As you can see from the design above, there are four forest garden areas, each with somewhat different goals. 

I have also suggested hugelkultur as a strategy for annual production. Though most of the food on site will be generated perennially, I do suggest two areas for annual production. Further perennial growing areas also implement this approach. In hugelkultur, wood and organic debris and piles up to create mounded no dig/no till growing areas. The wood within the structure retains water and reduces irrigation requirements. In addition to aiding with water shortage, hugelkultur is also a good strategy for areas like this where the soil is hard and somewhat degraded. 

As well as taking into account the climate and conditions, this design also takes into account the needs of the family. The two young children are catered for with wide paths which allow for running and cycling, a play lawn with wildflowers, for ball games and physical play, (which I suggest should be irrigated with grey water from the home), a wooden play area, and a woodland den. In my design, I have taken care to think about how the needs of the children will be met as they grow. This design, both in its creation and enjoyment, should help them forge a close connection with the natural world. 

Layout and planting is designed to provide as much food as possible, and to allow for the keeping of chickens and goats. As you can see from the design, I have suggested a silvo-pasture system, with a fenced pasture through which I recommend that goats and chickens are moved in moveable pens (tractor system). The livestock can also be allowed periodic access to other areas once the site is established. 

Further details for this concept plan were of course included along with this big picture view and delivered to the client.

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