Thursday, June 30, 2011

Permaculture in the tropics

I believe that the permaculture design makes best use of the space you have and the available raw materials.  Here in the tropics we have different raw materials to use, and a lot of it can come from coconut trees.     I was fascinated to see this video on the Care2 website.
The video was recorded at the Lung Mee Permaculture Garden in the Surat Thani province in Southern Thailand.
coconut permaculture

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It is totally amazing what they have done with beach sand and the available raw materials.  I am going to see if I can incorporate some of these ideas into my garden.  The other day I was collecting coconut husks and used them around the ground orchids to support them.  I see that idea is here in the video.
Before the wet season I think I am going to create a swale as there is an area that continuously holds water at the corner of the house.  I have been building up the grassy area so that it slopes down away from the house, and now just need to lead the water into an area where I think I will move the cannas as they love wet feet.  Has anyone else created a swale?  As I understand it you use an area where water naturally collects and then provide a way for it to stay in that area and slowly seep into the surrounding area instead of running off.  Soon the wet season will start and I need to have it in place by then.


  1. Great topic and a lot of food for thought. I really enjoyed the video. We have three Palm Trees here now (we've lost 2 over the years) and I'm now looking at their discarded fronds and coconuts very differently. I was so impressed with the way these people used these things to create garden beds.

    As for creating a swale ... it's just too dry here most of the year. There's no spot at my place that stay damp most of the year, but I can see the advantages in not letting rainwater just become run-off.

  2. That is a nice video, and we almost have the same setting although ours is not sandy but upland loam. So we also have run-off. Our coconuts are very useful for us too, i have also ways for using their midribs, husks and stone 'bao'. The problem if you're not in sandy areas is that they decompose so fast.

  3. Yes, it is indeed true that the coconut tree is a multipurpose tree in Asia. From the fruit, we drink the juice and eat the flesh. We also make 'toddy', a palm wine from young coconut flowers. The fronds can be used to make brooms and satay sticks, the trunk as a bridge to cross a small river. Some people use coconut husks to attach orchids to trees. Empty coconut shells can be made into bowls, bracelets, rings and bikinis!

  4. I found this very inspiring! Thank you for sharing the link.

    In our own garden we have areas where the rain runs to, but have not ever thought of creating anything as formal as a swale...I have just used river stones to line the passage so the water doesn't strip away all the topsoil. We have all our bath and shower water running into an area outside the bathrooms. It seeps away naturally and we planted wetland-type plants there which do very well (papyrus reeds, elephant ears, miniature bamboo, arum, prayer plants and peace lilies). I also have plenty of river stones and bark in that area.

    I'll be very interested to hear what you end up doing in your garden, so please keep us posted :)

  5. In Malaysia, we are taught since young at school that all parts of coconut tree can be used for so many things:)in the textbook. Bamboo and banana trees were also a popular object in school on how to use them.

  6. Bernie,
    Gosh I didn't realize you were dry year round, I thought you still had a wet season. I liked the way they used so much of the coconut, very permaculture idea. I would like to see that garden as it matures.
    Everything decomposes fast around here... Maybe you can do a post of different ways of using coconut produce?
    Autumn Belle, Yes I have tried that toddy - it tastes like cordial but is pretty potent! Mmm I like the satay sticks idea.
    It sounds as though you already have a swale. I have a small area, but in the wet season it can get pretty boggy there. I really want to create some way the water can drain off slowly. I will be sure to do a post on it.
    Malay Kadazan,
    Oh I am sure you have some great advice for us then.

  7. I loved the video, so many neat ideas. There is a use for everything, we just have to think creatively!

  8. Karen,
    Yes that is what I love about blogging, I learn something every day.

  9. I did a bit of reading/research a while back on harvesting rain water. The idea of building swales to make the most of 'seeping collected rainwater' was something I found very interesting. My garden doesn't have an overly wet or boggy situation. But from my reading it morphed into a thought to create a swale of sorts in the veggie garden. Instead of hilling up in open-ended rows I now hill up my beds in a continuous oblong or oval shape which creates a center 'well'. When I water I can fill up the center 'well' and it 'seeps' into the roots of the edibles. Hope that description made sense. It has worked well for me. I really like all that talk of water 'seeping'. :-)

  10. Almost all parts of the coconut palm can be used in so many ways. The video you linked is just one proof of the versatility of this plant.

    Its also a wonder that this plant grows on any types of soil in the tropics, from sandy sea shores to the inland and upland.

  11. Meems,
    that sounds like a great idea you have designed for your vegetable garden. Especially when the water gets straight to the roots I think it makes for stronger root systems.
    Solitude Rising,
    I am becoming more and more enamored with coconuts...


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