NOTE: Make sure you read the first three posts (in order!) before tackling the rest, or it could be confusing: Post 1 is Designing the future, Post 2 is Setting up the problem, and Post 3 is Estimating basic requirements.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Engineering beauty

On the last post, DJEB commented that his aesthetic garden designs may not fit very well with the concept of modularity. I agree that engineering does have the tendency to suck the beauty out of designs or appears at odds with permaculture principles, but this is only when applied in isolation.

In my view, modular gardening techniques such as square foot gardening do not necessarily imply rigid lines and boxes. The key principles behind such methods are to break up the garden into manageable chunks and to identify clear paths for foot traffic.

I see no reason why something like a spiral-shaped (or von Karman trail-shaped) garden wouldn’t meet the requirements for modular gardening. In some ways, such a shape is a better design choice: a spiral shape provides clearly identifiable walking areas and puts plants within easy reach from multiple points.

One of my own gardens is pie-shaped, and it easily meets the goals of modular design. With one board down the center (for walking) and walking paths on the edges, the garden is aesthetically pleasing and functional. So please, don’t let the seemingly rigid nature of engineering ruin your ideas for beautiful designs.


At 6:00 PM, Anonymous rich said...

The new issue of the Permaculture Activist (
has as it's issue theme Art and Permaculture. I've just started working through it, but there's some interesting and inspiring designs in there so far

At 9:36 PM, Blogger PeakEngineer said...

Neat magazine, Rich. I'll be sure to check that out more thoroughly.

At 11:06 PM, Blogger DJEB said...

Sorry if I gave the impression that I was after aesthetics. It is the least of my concerns. While I do abhor straight lines aesthetically, there is a more practical reason than this. More plants and more productive edge can be packed into one space if straght lines are avoided. Even if one sticks to having rows in a field or garden, more plants can be placed into those rows if they are made into curved waves rather than straight lines.

That out of the way, I have seen modular community gardens in which each bed is sort of a tear shade. Another option which can be easily tesselated is an hourglass shape like one piece of a baseball covering. Beds for different individuals can be laid out in a connecting grid in this manner.

The spiral shape idea you have is regularly employed in permaculture for growing herbs. It can provide a large growing area in a small place while having different microclimates which are suitable for different plants. These spirals quickly get out of hand if they are too big, however.

At 7:29 AM, Blogger PeakEngineer said...

I think I did misunderstand, but we seem to have similar conclusions about the efficiency of non-standard shapes. I have got to read some permaculture books! There are some impressive ideas there...

At 12:07 PM, Anonymous Jeff said...

While boxy gardens may be ideally suited for engineering, aesthetics are healthy to human existence and should not be undervalued. Polyculture, if employed, would to some degree lend itself to specific garden shapes. Also, land available for growing food may dictate box-iness if it is in short supply, unfortunately.

At 1:33 AM, Blogger bytestyle12 said...

The game is played by matching the randomly drawn numbers to the ones that appear on the bingo cards.
Geo Prizm Air Conditioner Compressor


Post a Comment

<< Home