To Save Time, Get in the Zone

There is a Permaculture design principle called zones. It basically says this; things you access most frequently such as annuals and herb gardens, get planted close to your house (Zone 1 or 2), and those that need less care including perennials and your food forest get planted further away (Zones 3 or 4).

This is practical time saving advice you can transfer from the garden to other areas of your life such as the kitchen, office, and storage spaces in your house.

Kitchen

In the kitchen begin your zone thinking by storing your everyday use items, including food, pots and pans, and utensils toward the front of your pantry, drawers, and cabinets. Eye level shelves are places to put your family favorite meal ingredients and snacks. Every day plates and cups, your favorite coffee mug, the containers for packing lunches; these all go up front. Rarely used baking items (you really have time to bake?), fancy gadgets you got as gifts, and the holiday dishes go up high and in the back. Pretty obvious, but how do we tend to arrange our cupboards? Grouping by type, rather than frequency of use. Keep the easily accessible areas for what you use most and you’ll save time both retrieving and putting these things away.

Office

Dealing with bills and paperwork is never fun, so why not minimize the time it takes to perform these mundane but essential tasks? In the home office keep your desk, shelves, and file draw similar sorted by frequency. Not type, not alphabetical, not size or color. Write a lot of checks? Check book stays on your desk. Big on thank you notes? Keep the cards, envelopes and favorite pen close at hand.

Reference materials go on the far or low shelf, current work stays on the top. Here is another tip on filing; keep all your tabs for hanging files and folders in-line. I don’t care if it’s left, center, or right, but all the same. Don’t stagger them. It only took me 30 years to figure this out but here are the 3 advantages, which I’ll give to you in 30 seconds.

  1. If you want to add, remove, or re-order folders, you don’t have to play around with moving a bunch of tabs to keep them alternated. Left-cent-right, left-center-right, left-center-right. What a pain.
  2. You will find things faster, and not over-look folders, if you only need to scan strait back. No more moving your eyes back and forth across your files like you are watching a tennis match.
  3. You only need purchase and keep on hand one type of folder for new files, which saves money and space.

One exception to the zone rule in the office; even if you print frequently, place your printer across the room. It forces you to get up when you print, giving your body needed breaks from sitting. The health benefit is worth the time.

Storage

You probably already have this one covered, but I had to include it for completeness. Your hard to reach, out of the way storage spots are the place to keep seasonal items and memorabilia. Front hall closets are for everyday coats, umbrellas, shoes, back-packs and other items your family needs to take with them, well, every day. In-between spots are where you keep things needed once a week or less like spare light bulbs, batteries, cleaning supplies, etc. In between means somewhere between the attic and front door. Where that is exactly will vary from home to home.

The biggest trap with storage is of course storing to much. To cure this I recommend the book everyone recommends for this problem, “The Life Changing Magic of Tiding Up” by Marie Kondo. Yes the author comes across a bit OCD, but the approach works even if you don’t believe your stuff has feelings as Kondo does. My favorite tip, after how to get rid of stuff, is not to stack things. Place items vertically and you can see everything you have, and retrieve what you want, without having to move anything else out of the way.

 

If you’ve done this zone separation throughout your house properly, you’ll find daily tasks flow easier, you’ll misplace things less often, and you’ll save time doing the things you do every day.

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The Secret to Soil Fertility

Want to boost your plant growth and vegetable production without a log of work? Want to grow bitter and healthier vegetables next spring? then use this farmers secret this fall to replenish and add to your soil fertility.

No I’m not talking about some mysterious chemicals or rare substances. I’m talking about planting cover crops. What is a cover crop you ask? It’s simply a specially chosen annual plant, or mix of plants, which germinate in the Fall, hold and cover your soil in the Winter, and get cub back in the Spring.

Typically from the legume or grass families, cover crops return nitrogen from the atmosphere, and trace minerals from deep in the ground, to your top-soil. They also generate healthy bio-mass and mulch. My favorite site for learning about and selecting the proper cover crop for your application is Peaceful Valley Farms at GrowOrganic.com.

Sowing cover crops is easy. Here is what you do:

  • Rake – Gently rake a thin layer of soil, just deep enough to plant the cover crop seeds. Don’t till!
  • Scatter – Scatter your seeds by hand or with a spreader.
  • Cover – Cover your seeds with a thin layer of soil using your rake, or you can spread fresh top-soil or compost over them. Then lightly mulch; just enough to protect the seeds from birds and retain moisture.
  • Water – Water well after mulching, then every couple days until the crop is well established.

In about a week’s time your see your crop emerge. Many cover crops such as clover will flower as well adding fall and/or spring color to your garden.

Come planting time next spring, cut down your crop using a scythe or mower. Depending on the height of the crop you chose, you may have to cut it in stages. You want fairly small cuttings in the end, because this will serve as mulch for your spring garden. A double bonus because you got nutrient replenishment in the off-season, and you don’t need to bring in another mulch in the planing season.

Remember, here at Dirt Simple we practice Permaculture, so you are not going to disturb your soil biome by tilling in your cover crop. We are just “chopping and dropping”. Dig only as much as required to put in any plants you are transferring to the ground from pots, or to bury seeds. Your cover crop was an annual so it is not going to regenerate and compete with your vegetables. If a few plants do re-qrow, no problem. You can cut them again and keep adding them back to the soil to nourish your growing produce.

Use the cover crop secret this Fall to increase your harvest and save time, money, and effort in your garden next spring.