GeneralPermaculture Projects

Permaculture design for Stephan Schrotter at Cairo Montenotte, Italy – Part 3


Overview of the property

In this map all the coloured areas are the subject of this design field n.1,2,3,4.

For the total surface of 2 hectares circa.


In this map we can observe the running off of water on the land when it rains.

We can observe, where the circles are, the accumulation of rain water, specifically where the letter K is are the keypoints (a keypoint is the highest point in the valley where there is an important change of the slope and it is where all the water from the ridges pass by) this land subject of this design has got two keypoints and three minor accumulation areas marked with circles without the letter K.

The arrows represent the pathways of rain water. Where the arrows are going to diverge it means distribution of water away from the area of the arrow. Where the arrows converge it means a convergence of water.

Water Design with Dam

The above map proposes the solution to the water management of the land for this project.

We can observe a valley dam to harvest the water from the valley with an overflow linked to a swale on the ridge that it has an overflow in the valley toward south. And a diversion channel harvesting water from the north side of the valley. The other channels are swales (channel on the contour line) to infiltrate water in the soil of the ridge. So, we have more water on the ridge keeping more humidity on the dry ridge, where we are going to plant fruit trees, and less humidity in the valley where there is already too much water.

The above map is an additional map where there are two more valley dams positioned to manage the rain water and the spring water more efficiently.

In the map below we can observe the drier and most humid areas of the property. The most sunshine and the most shadowy areas. The frost pocket which will become visible could during the colder periods and also the area of the property with the most fire risk.

This map will be useful to determine where to position the cultivations.

Syntropic Permaculture

Trees Planted

Syntropic permaculture is a high density sustainable food production system for commercial purposes which is based on agroforestry farming. The outcomes are:

  • Diversified polyculture systems and sustained cash flow throughout the year
  • Regeneration of land and increased land value
  • Biomass as a natural fertiliser
  • Natural bio-stimulants
  • Educational value
  • Carbon credits and other additional ecosystem credits (eventually)
  • Forage production (in animal settings)
  • Organic food

Permaculture is a design process leading to the integration of all the dimensions that ensures real sustainability of a farm. Planning of water resource management, erosion control, agroforestry layers, maximising water infiltration, regeneration of soil, definition of the farmer’s holistic goals and identification of the markets for the products to be produced are just some of the key elements that we need to taken into consideration when planning a farm through the permaculture principles.

Syntropic agriculture differs from the permaculture “food forest”
This introduction is far from being a detailed and accurate description of what syntropic agriculture is.  Interested readers should consider reading much more detailed publications on this technique like those officially written by Ernst Götsch himself (the founder of syntropic agriculture) and by other universally recognised researchers and practitioners that adopted successfully his technique. On the contrary, this analysis gives a basic introduction of the difference from a permaculture food forest.

It is important to make some technical considerations on the different levels of the different lines (forestry line, fruit line, etc). Syntropic agriculture always starts from the establishment of a placenta and we should create a placenta for all these lines as well, considering an emergent layer in each individual line. For example, we can use the vegetable succession in between the line that have 1 year cycle and that has corn as the “emergent layer”. And we can do the same with the fruit line where the fruit trees are the emergent layer.

Syntropic agriculture starts always from an observation of the local conditions and the response of the plants locally, so basic experimenting is always necessary before scaling up a successful system that applies some of the syntropic concepts. The experimenting goes trough some basic steps that differ substantially from a conventional food forest, which are mostly the creation of a placenta and the system management.



What is the Placenta?

Placenta. The species are chosen as if they were to form the gene of a new organism. We can consider a ration of about 1:100, meaning 100 seeds are introduced for each tree that remains in the system. The quantity is high in order to facilitate a natural process between them and the species most appropriate to the place, forming the embryo of a new forest. This process is not seen as a competition; all inter and intra species relations are based on unconditional love and cooperation. All these seeds are planted together to form a placenta. The seeds are selected depending on the current degradation level of the soil and planted as placental formers. So a basic analysis of the soil life and quality is necessary to determine the quality and type of placenta to be created. This term is used because they create the first nursery for all the rest. Beans that are nitrogen fixers usually form the first part of the placenta. The constitution of a placenta is one of the key innovations of syntropic farming. Placenta is created by digging a 60 cm deep line or pit, using animal dung (1 kg/liner meter) and mixing it with soil and then covering it with thick mulch (for example 5 cm woodchips) after sowing and planting seedlings. The occupation of the largest possible amount of space through desired vegetation cover is a basic principle to maximise photosynthetic and microbiological activity while triggering forest succession. Planting different types of plants and species all together in the same line/area (placenta), very densely spaced (5 to 10 cm) is required to mimic the forestry succession. This mixture fosters soil microbiology and gives clear signals of plant growth to the neighbouring plants, boosting their growth. Plant density: about 18 seedling and additional seeds, 10 varieties or more, in a radius of 80 cm. Depending on the local conditions, it is important to include always what the soil needs the most to be recovered.  However, it is always recommended to include some nitrogen fixing plant and some tubers to unzip the soil

    • Including vegetables, tuberous and/or specific weeds in between the lines to occupy space and foster even more microbiological activity and used the biomass as fertiliser and mulching for the lines
    • Using thick mulching (i.e. 5 cm with larger woodchip – finer woodchip increase N sequestration) to prevent water evaporation, increase soil carbon, increase water absorption and soil microbiology. The mulching should not come from outside the system but from within the system through selected pruning and mowing of planted weeds in between lines.
    • Decrease water use and consumption by speeding up the growth process. The pruning does not have a fix rule as it depends on the way in which the system grows and need to be customised to the local condition. However, it is always important to prune according to the most appropriate season, plant growth and system development.

Orto Foresta (vegetable forest)

It is a system which marries together a vegetable garden and a food forest.

We have raised beds with one fruit tree and some perennial bushes (raspberry, blackberries, strawberries, rosemary, sage, thyme, lavander etc.) to provide humidity for the plants. The maintenance will be done by mulching with hay, produced on the accesses of the veg forest. The swales are maintained by chips bark mulching produced from light pruning of the adjacent woodland.



Zones Map

The following map is to determinate the permaculture zones where the elements are positioned.

I choose in which zone I place the elements in relation to how often I need to visit that elements and in relation to how often each element needs to be visited.

Zone 1: House ,playground, swimming pond, agricultural buildings, chicken coup.

Zone 2: Family’s Syntropic food forest

Zone 3: Syntropic permaculture for B&B production, lake, swales.

Zone 4: Managed woodland for firewood and wood chipping for mulching.

Zone 5: Is the zone left to the wild where no human intervention will happen.

Zone Map

Planting Plan

Plants succession (in space)

A= 8 Cherries (Bigarreau Burlat var.) + 8 Pears (Trinca var.) + 14 Asimina Triloba

B= 4 Cherries + 4 Pears + 2 Dwarf Apples (Ciapelletta var.) 4 Kaki (Chocolate var.) + 3 Apples + 1 Asimina triloba + 15 Red Ribes

C= 8 Apricots (Vescovo var.) + 1 Dwarf Apple + 1 Kaki + 5 Plums (Regina Claudia var.) + 1 Crab Apple + 2 Wild Pears

Top= 11 Chestnut trees (Bouche De Betizac variety) + 11 Fraxinus spp.

L1= 5 Chestnut trees (Bouche De Betizac) + 3 Plums + Raspberries + Blackberries

L2= 16 Hazelnuts ( Tonda Gentile variety) + Raspberries

L3= 4 Chestnut trees (Bouche De Betizac) + 4 Hazelnuts ( Tonda Gentile variety) + 5 plums + 3 walnuts trees + Raspberries

L4= 4 Walnuts trees + 2 Plums

L5= 11 Walnuts + 6 Plums (Ramassin variety) + 6 Hazelnuts ( Tonda Gentile variety)

L6= 30 Hazelnuts ( Tonda Gentile variety) + Fraxinus spp.

L7= 5 walnuts + Plums + lime trees (Tilia cordata)

L8= Figs + Lime trees (Tilia cordata)

L9= Kaki + Lime trees (Tilia cordata)

L10= Crab Apples + Wild Pears + Black Locust ( Robinia Pseudoacacia) + potatoes

L11= Apples + potatoes

L12= Apples + potatoes

L13= Pears

L14= Pears

L15= Cherries

L16= Strawberry Trees + potatoes

L17= Almonds + potatoes

L18= Peaches + potatoes

L19= Peaches + Pomegranates + Olive bush

L20= Apricots (Valleggia variety) + Pomegranates

L21= 25 Vines + Peaches + Almonds + 1 Plum

L22= 25 Vines + Peaches + Pomegranates + 1 Plum

L23= 25 Vines + Almonds + Pomegranates + 1 Plum

L24= 25 Vines + Pomegranates + 1 Plum

In every line of plants in the whole project there are aromatic plants like: Rosemary, Lavender, Thyme & Sage.


Master Plan

Master Plan


Implementation of the project

Below: Aerial photos of the implementation of the project

Ariel Photo



Maintenance plan


January February March April May June
Pruning Pruning Planting potatoes Planting annual vegetables Harvesting veg. and legumes Hay to be use as mulch

Seeding garlic

Start mulching

Starting pruning of the biomass trees

Starting watering annual plants if necessary Watering vegetables
Tree planting Tree planting Tree and shrubs planting Harvesting salads Harvesting fruit berries Harvesting fruit berries

Starting seeding legumes and first annuals

Mulching Mulching Mulching

Spray microbes

Spray microbes

Spray microbes

Spray microbes

Walnuts pruning
Pruning grapes in green
July August September October November December
Fruits harvesting Seeding and planting winter vegetables Harvesting fruits.nuts and veg. Chestnuts harvest Planting trees, shrubs and pruning Planting trees, shrubs and pruning
Spray microbes Spray microbes Hazelnuts harvest Grapes harvest Winter veg. Harvest Winter veg. Harvest
Veg. harvest Veg. harvest Veg. harvest Winter Veg. harvest
Walnuts pruning Spray microbes Spray microbes
Cherry trees pruning ciliegi Grapes harvesting Grapes harvesting Grapes harvesting

Vineyard Pruning

Walnuts pruning
Vineyard pruning

Maintenance costs in hours spread along the year are 50 hours circa

One Comment

  1. Thank you for sharing your planification – very useful as reference! In the fruit tree list for the different places are you planning to use the ‘trio’ set technique, i.e., 2 different fruti trees plus 1 nitrogen fixer tree (for instance a robinia pseud.)?
    Whish you all the best! João (Portugal)

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