Tropical Permaculture Backyard Tour | April 2020

Join Nick for a Tropical Permaculture Backyard Tour:

In this video, I’ll take you on a tour of my backyard while discussing the key elements of the permaculture design being implemented on the property. Located in the foothills of El Yunque in Luquillo, Puerto Rico, this site is 400 feet above sea level and the yard is only about 1500 sq. ft. (150 sq m) in size.

Despite the small area, this backyard is home to 3 chickens who are essential to the fertility of the landscape. Their manure is high in phosphorous (usually lacking in the tropics) and nitrogen and makes a great addition to our composting program. The chicken run and coop can comfortably fit up to 8 hens and measures 6′ (2m) x 18′ (6m).

At the base of their run, a gate allows access to a small grassy area that we use as a pasture to supplement the chicken’s diet. They also have access to a large dust bath underneath the house through this pasture, and it is one of their favorite areas to relax in. The chickens are fed rooster feed, but they are more interested in the food scraps, weeds from the garden, and compost piles built within their chicken run.

Tropical Permaculture Backyard Tour: Chicken System
A view from the bottom of the chicken run. They love their compost pile!

The inspiration for this system is a combination of methods used by Geoff Lawton and Justin Rhodes. The location of the chickens next to the garden allows easy disposal of weeds right over the fence. Building compost piles within the chicken run gives the chickens plenty of bugs and organisms to forage for, and they love scratching through the most mature piles.

I’ll also go into some basics of permaculture design, discussing how the water flows on site were taken into account while designing the access and garden bed layout. Also mentioned are the three ethics of permaculture: Earth Care, People Care, and Return of the Surplus.

In the tropics, it’s often a benefit to have high shade over the garden to shield young plants from the intense midday sun. Here, we use papaya as a high shade tree that produces fruit while having no bulky branches to work around.

The design also includes a long clothesline in the middle of the gardens. This is a conscious design choice to reduce our carbon footprint by relying on the sun for drying instead of an electric dryer powered by burning fossil fuels.

Also heavily featured is our cat, Otto, who serves as our mice and rat deterrent/hunter while also being extremely adorable, despite causing a few problems in the garden itself.

Hopefully this tropical permaculture backyard tour gives you some inspiration and ideas for your own backyard, especially in the tropics. If you have any questions about anything within the video or general comments, please feel free to leave them here or on the contact page.

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