The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Changing house temperatures with plants

Trellis for coolingOf course, the tips from Mollison's book that I'm most likely to put into action pertain to plants and ecosystems.  I especially enjoyed the way Mollison suggested alternative uses for features I'd already considered.  For example, I tend to deal with my boggy ground by building up so I can plant there, but perhaps I should instead dig out some areas to create open water.  (The swamp downhill from the East Wing might be a good location for bog-to-shallow-pond experimentation.)  And Mollison suggests considering hedges to be mulch sources and weed barriers as well as animal barriers and producers of food.

Meanwhile, Mollison goes into depth about using plants to mitigate heating and cooling Trellis on south windowsissues around your home.  While deciduous shade trees are great, we just don't have room for such a large plant on the south side of our trailer --- a maple would take up half the garden (and would impact the powerline).  But I've been planning to trellis vines against the south side of the porch and trailer instead, and Mollison heartily approves of the idea.  My first attempt this spring with annual vines failed because it turns out that the soil there is very wet and clayey, so I'm dumping masses of weeds in the spot this summer to raise the soil up and increase the organic matter content in preparation for fall planting of some kind of perennial vine (probably home-propagated grapes).

On a related note, did you know that hanging plants are supposed to cool the surrounding area?  I'd always thought the pots of dangling ferns I notice in southern homes and porches are just for aesthetics, but I can see how the plants might do their part in keeping conditions comfortable nearby.  Similarly, all those fountains in Mediterranean countries are meant to add humidity (and thus coolness) to the air, while ivy growing over buildings is reputed to reduce heat Permaculture trailergain in the summer by 70% and heat loss in the winter by 30% --- homegrown insulation!  Finally, a courtyard pond can buffer heat both during the summer and the winter.

While I'm unlikely to put all of these ideas into action right away (or maybe ever), I couldn't help mocking up a design for the truly integrated permaculture trailer.  With the help of a few plants, we might make our singlewide even more livable over time.

Homegrown Humus provides easy tips for increasing organic matter leve;s in a no-till garden using cover crops.

This post is part of our Mollison's Introduction to Permaculture lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Anna, one year I grew green beans against the south(ish) side of my house. I hung twine from the eaves of my roof (held in place with a small nail), and trained green and purple snap beans up the twine. It worked beautifully... until the bean vines climbed past my 12' roof. Everyone thought it was hilarious, especially when I had to climb the 10' ladder with a bucket to harvest beans twice a week
I did a similar experiment with a lower roof and Christmas limas - worked better because instead of having to pick beans frequently, I just let them mature and dry in place. Then at the end of the summer when they started looking ratty, I pulled down the bean vine and harvested the now-dried beans. Course, this is dry CA, not sure if that would work in your area.

Comment by Rena Wed Jul 10 23:53:55 2013
We planted trumpet vine along our south/west exposure that took a terrible beating from the summer sun. They grow like weeds from cuttings or bare roots and spread easily, growing thick and even grow over the roof in only two yrs. They lowered the inside temps by at east 10deg.
Comment by doc Fri Jul 12 18:24:54 2013

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