So far… 24th April 2018

Luckily, the storm hasn’t set us back too much and we were blessed to receive fine weather to restore things. The ponds have a little water and the crops are receiving plenty of sun. We were very concerned last post about our peanut seeds, but they were resown and are now going strong. Even the banana’s are showing some hopeful signs, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed!

We are growing a variety of things at the moment, in different zones that are slowly taking shape. Zones?…
Zones are not just areas of the farm land we have designated to a certain crop/activity, but actually a practical application of permaculture. To find out more about permaculture, have a look at our post from last year. At the core of permaculture, which is both an approach to agriculture and lifestyle, there are core ethics and principles that guide a grower on their management practises, labour, design and ways to shape their lifestyle and environment into beneficial synergies and systems.

Permaculture is based around ‘systems thinking’ and looking at the whole picture of smaller systems integrating into larger systems, of a more permanent nature. Permaculture, evolving from ‘permanent agriculture’ and then expanding to ‘permanent culture’, is one of the most sustainable alternative agriculture systems practised by organic growers. It was created by the wonderful minds of David Holgrem and Bill Mollison in the late seventy’s and has evolved through the decades, adapting to modern lifestyles, new management practises and changes within natural and managed environments.

Within the very principles of permaculture is the promotion of slow and careful solutions to problems, rather than fast changes, making it easier to manage and control. This principle has definitely helped us to design and create connected ‘zones’ on the farm. From the very beginning, permaculture was a fundamental part of Raja’s vision, but it has taken some five years to become even a semi-permaculture operation.

The idea of zones is to help manage labour, resources and time, as well as the feedbacks between the ecosystems. Each border to each new bed, raised container or zone, is an area of opportunity for strengthening crops through their neighbouring plant friends. Just like humans and other animals, plants have their ‘companion’s’, they get along well with, such as bananas and sweet potatoes and ones that don’t get along with, such as… …

Many who practise permaculture integrate multiple crops into one area of a zone and grow flowers in and amongst their food crops to attract pollinators. Permaculture practises are influenced by your lifestyle, requirements and preferences and can be as by-the-book or adapted as seems appropriate.

So back to the zones. 

new zone diagram


Zones are based on many things, including the crops you plan to grow, the lifestyle you want to lead and the size of your operations. At Aranya our zones are underpinned by a requirement for a diversity of food crops to be grown. The key is to place crops with the shortest growing seasons and those that require the most care, closest to the centre of activity, minimising labour, time and resource input.

Zone 0 is where the home, farmhouse or centre of activity is based. We, personally, have tried our best to make the buildings on Aranya integrate into the farm ecosystem through the use of natural building (using a rammed mud technique). If you’re dropping into this post, visit one of our first posts which runs through more about the farmhouse. The idea of permaculture is to integrate everyday life into ecologically conscious and beneficial lifestyles, making sure your habits and practises do not disturb the on-farm ecosystem, whilst fulfilling all of your personal and professional needs. Our farmhouse is surrounded by the kitchen garden for easy access. And the Tamarind tree overhangs the kitchen patio affording shade and cooler temperatures for day-to-day activities. The farmhouse, in time, will be collecting roof water to be used for watering crops. The rammed mud technique minimises the use of synthetic and potentially toxic substances, therefore minimising the possibility of these substances entering the on-farm ecosystem. These are a few examples of ways in which we are integrating our lifestyles and facilities into the farm ecosystem.

Zone 1 is where all of the most fragile, demanding and short seasoned crops are grown. When we say crops, in our case, they are small crops of fruits and vegetables, alongside some herbs and spices. We like to sow lots of flower seeds in the kitchen garden that are tailored to the needs of the crops at that time.

Zone 2in practise, is where all the long growing season crops and bush/tree crops are grown. Because our larger crops, due to the mixed cropping rotation, require more maintenance than our fruit forest, we have designated them as zone 2.  We’ve drifted from the book in some ways more than others. Masanobu Fukuoka is a quiet inspiration for the wild, untamed nature of Aranya, so unlike traditional permaculture, hand weeding is not always necessary. Traditionally in permaculture, people grow fruit bushes, canes with low-lying companions and larger crops, such as grains and oils, in zone 3.

Zone 3 is where we’ve placed our fruit forest of low maintenance perennials, bushes and fruit trees (the typical zone 2). At present it is a very small and fragmented fruit forest but it will fill out gradually and evolve into a bustling ecosystem.
Through developing a canopy, which we are trying to perfect, you can farm more food per square metre. You can go with a couple or a lot of layers, just make sure you observe the light throughout the day and level of slope.

Canopy development is typically:

Canopy layer: consisting of the original mature fruit trees.

Lower tree layer: similar nut and fruit trees on dwarfing root stocks.

Shrub layer: fruit bushes such as currants, lemon, and berries.

Herbaceous layer: perennial vegetables and herbs.

Rhizosphere or underground dimension: plants producing roots and tubers.

Ground cover layer: edible plants that spread horizontally.

Vertical layer: vines and climbers.

Zone 4the area of transitioning into the wild…

Aranya’s take on this can become very wild at certain times in the year, as the long bushy cow-fodder grass shoots up above our heads. Some bushes and trees grow amongst the jungle but many smaller plants cannot survive the shadier conditions. Throughout the zones, the idea is to gradually allow for nature to take greater and greater control over operations, so that trees can begin to establish naturally on the peripheries into an untamed ecosystem. Theoretically zone four is used as a transition zone for wild foraging, timber production and pastures for grazing animal, but at Aranya we need to use this zone to grow cow fodder.

Zone 5 is  our ‘sunshine spot’ where you can watch the sun set at the end of a long day’s work. We leave the peripheries of this zone to establish into natural forest and occasionally graze the cows here. The size of Aranya doesn’t allow for much ecology to be completely wild, but we try and make up for that in all the ways we can.

…So, those are the zones on Aranya, we hope it made sense and you could follow the concept and practise of permaculture. Zones go on further and are demonstrated in greater detail in literature surrounding permaculture, so it’s worth having a look for yourself. All work by David Holgrem and Bill Mollison will provide both beginner and comprehensive information on the design and practise of permaculture zones.


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