Permaculture is defined, in short, as a method of landscaping and gardening that is self sustaining, low input / low work — high out put / high return on labor. Follow this link to an interesting and resourceful site on the topic.
In my mind, this idea of permaculture is applicable to the small farm or family garden, or as part of an overall landscaping scheme. I see it as a way of being less intrusive with your gardening. To blend in with the natural way of the land. The addition of asparagus is perhaps the most notable contribution to permaculture on my property. Think about it. When planting asparagus you are investing in that space for up to 20 years of return. Berries and fruit trees would rank very high as well. These are relatively low input and high return crops. Over time, I intend to plant more berries on my property. If given proper thought these types of crops can also work into your landscaping scheme for privacy, border fences and barriers. With the addition of 3 different varieties of grafts added to my existing apple tree, I have increased the diversity of my fruit production. Of course, there is the labor output of pruning and cultivating but the return is substantial.
Indigenous plants like dandelions are an excellent example of abundant, fresh and healthy food. Most folks consider dandelions a weed and wish to rid their property of them, but I let them grow and eat them as salad and as a cooked green. There are so many ways to use dandelion for food and medicine — it is an amazing plant!
In terms of landscaping, lilies and other wildflowers will find their way. Another positive long term project is the planting of trees! In the past 6 years I have planted about 100 trees. I would estimate the attrition rate at about 50%. About half of the trees I have planted died from a mix of problems. Deer chewing the tops down to nothing is at the top of the list. Poor soil is another reason and beetles do take a certain number of the oaks. By contrast, the trees that have survived the first 10 years are doing exceptionally well! I have a half dozen White oak trees that I’ve been protected from deer attack. The white oak is known to live for up to 600 years. I also have 3 more cedar trees to plant as a privacy barrier. I plant trees so that many years from now, someone else may enjoy the shade they provide.
Mulch in the form of sawdust, wood chips and other organic matter is available locally. Russian comfrey that Diane planted a couple of years ago is looking very strong, now that I have kept the deer from eating it. I will take a second cutting this weekend and use it for mulch on the newly planted, leeks, spinach and peas. Grass clippings are abundant and they degrade rapidly adding nitrogen to the soil.
Planting more crops that are conducive to attracting beneficial insects like bees and butterflies is also an important part of developing a sustainable landscaping plan. These insect are essential for proper pollination of fruits and veggies.
As I continue to develop my permanent landscaping system, I also intend to use the “lay of the land” to access as much of the natural run of water as it passes down the hill. My Plan is to continue to build islands of trees and shrubs with a heavy layer of sawdust mulch. The sawdust acts like a sponge to absorb water and hold it for the trees to use. Placing these islands along the path where water naturally runs during a heavy downpour, allows the tress to drink in the water rather than letting the water run past the property. Planting fewer annual crops and more perennials is a big part of the plan. Permaculture takes time and developing a plan for your property is worthwhile. All of this contributes to a garden system that will be less work as it matures. This garden system will be more in tune with the location. This low maintenance method of gardening can be especially nice if I plan to travel or go away for an extended stay.
Texts on permaculture — THE PERMACULTURE HANDBOOK BY Peter Bane
also, EDIBLE LANDSCAPE by Michael Judd