Winnipeg couple creates a backyard bounty with permaculture
Winnipeg couple Michael Thys and his partner Monika have transformed their garden into a lush and sustainable personal paradise, filled with fragrant flowers, a wide variety of fruits and fresh vegetables.
“It’s been a lot of time, but it’s just paid back, you know, 10-fold,” Thys said.
The changes to their yard are also filling their kitchen — and Thys said the investment has improved their outlook and pocketbooks.
“We’ve become healthier and happier, and the amount of food that we harvest from the property is just unreal, like thousands of dollars’ worth of food off of our 50-foot by 100-foot urban lot.”
The couple is using a method called permaculture, which Shirley Thompson, associate professor environment, earth and resources at the University of Manitoba, says is a self-sustaining design.
“The focus is on designing ecosystems to fulfill human needs like food, biomass, shelter, while also taking care of nature,” she said, adding that the process involves looking a factors , such as nutrient cycles, to try to make them sustainable. “Ecosystem integrity is a large part of permanent, permanent agriculture or permaculture.”
Thys compares his experience with permaculture to refreshing outdoor activities. “There’s a reason that everybody likes to go to the lake for the weekend because we all feel more relaxed and comfortable and happy in that kind of environment. Why not have that kind of a feel in your backyard?”
Thys said he and Monika have stretched the financial benefits of their from savings on groceries to include their water bill by digging “swales,” low-lying areas to that captures rainwater and stores it in the soil on the property. The Thys also have 6,500-litres of rain barrel capacity to capture run off from roofs.
“I think that’s a really big solution for many things that we have to use way less city water, which costs us less,” Thys said.
According to Thompson, permaculture is a way to create a more balanced interaction between humans and nature. “We’re really wanting to create environments (that are) not just nurturing humans but also wildlife and seeing our interaction with nature, with plants but also wildlife as beneficial,” she said
“It’s enjoying nature, it’s being outside, it’s getting exercise, it’s certainly creating, instead of food deserts, food plenty.”
Thys also has advice has for anyone thinking about making the shift towards a more sustainable lifestyle: Start small, and start conversations.
“That little two-foot space in the back lane, instead of trying to keep the weeds off there, put raspberries there instead. You can turn it from a problem — and something you don’t enjoy — into a solution and something you do enjoy.”
— With files from Global’s Drew Stremick
by Global News