Photo credit: Hi dear readers,

I have been devouring information lately on a gardening method called Permaculture. For a year or two I have heard this word floating around and had no idea how cool it was. I thought it had something to do with mosses growing in the tundra. You know, perma-frost? Like the study of moss or something.  Moss is beautiful and all, but no thanks.  So I never checked it out. And then recently I heard this one line:

Permaculture is a gardening method that provides maximum results for minimum work.

Picture Tom Cruise and Renee Zellweger in the "You had me at hello" scene of Jerry Maguire. Permaculture, you had me at "minimum work".

I'm not lazy, but I also don't have a zillion and a half hours every day and when only 0.05% of that time can be used to garden (my truest form of stress relief, other than thrift store shopping - it's a treasure hunt!!), then I need to have the maximum output for the least amount of work!

Basically, permaculture is a closed loop system where the plants all take care of each other, provide lots of food for humans and animals, retain and distribute water and minerals, build the health of the soil and mimic nature's setup as closely as possible. All we mere mortals need to do once a permaculture garden is established is a few hours of maintenance every month, and harvest what's in season. Done. Finuto. Arrivederci.

That sounds AWESOME!

Not only is it massively productive for growing food year round, it can also take over lawn space, or in most cases dandelion farming space. Here's what I figure...we live in a beautiful, park-filled part of the city where I can take my kids on a walk and we can land at 15 different outdoor playgrounds/forest/beaches/parks in a matter of minutes. I (meaning Dusty) don't need to fertilize, mow, water, weed, and cry over my dandelion patch all year for the few minutes we spend outside playing on it before it's scorched, brown and brittle halfway through summer. I'd rather my yard be a place of productivity, exploration, discovery and a habitat that lots of animals (and kids) are happy to live in (and that provides shade during said scorching sunlight). Particularly one that requires very little work and watering, and no soil tilling. Permaculture can do that for you.

"It sounds complicated. How can I do this in my backyard?" Great question Katie.

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First, we are going to build a pretend food forest together to show you how this works. Start with fruit and nut trees for our top layer - the canopy (remember school lessons on rainforests?). Apples, peaches, pears, figs, hazelnuts, cherries. Then add an understory of bushes - blueberry, elderberry, raspberries, blackberries (varieties that don't take over). Then add herbs underneath that. Rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, mint (in containers so it doesn't spread), chives and whatever else you regularly cook with. Also plant low growing or vining food and flowers that come back year after year - grapes, kiwis, strawberries, artichoke, asparagus, potatoes (if you leave some in the ground), sunchokes, and loads of flowers that attract bees and butterflies. The last open spaces are reserved for plants you need to start new every year - veggies like leafy greens, carrots, squash, cucumbers, sunflowers, tomatoes, peppers.

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Do you see a theme in this garden? Plant things once and they continue to grow year after year. These are the perennial plants. They continue to add value to your garden with little work on your part and do so organically without extra fertilizing, lots of watering or weeding.  And it's not too good to be true!  It's just good!!

Mulch the area with 5-6 inches of free wood chips dumped from a tree-trimming company.  When the plants are done producing for the year, the leaves drop and provide a natural mulch for the ground, one that worms eat up and turn into fertilizer right in it's place, and all those wood chips and leaves soak up rainfall and hold it in place for when it's most needed - the dry and hot days of summer. Very few weeds can grow through that thick layer of mulch either, and the ones that do can be pulled out really easily. Add rain barrels to capture roof runoff and watering is done.  Thank you Mother Nature.  Goodbye gigantic water bills spent on your brown lawn.

I bet I have your interest now right?!  Whenever we buy our own home, I guarantee the first thing I do is start planting trees and building our own food forest.

More on permaculture to come.  I promise!!


Want to learn more? Get this awesome book  "Gaia's Garden" - I am learning so much from it right now and it's written specifically for designing your own backyard permaculture garden. And you don't need to have a ton of gardening knowledge to follow along and understand!


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