Permaculture (permanent agriculture) is a revolutionary way to grow food. It strives to maintain sustainable food production by mimicking natures perfect rhythms. While nature is peaceful and wild, there is also a chaotic way that the plants interact and grow across a landscape. You will never find perfectly manicured rows of a single crop in nature. Plants thrive in a wild, natural environment which keep pests in check and promotes biodiversity. Do you want to turn your garden into the most abundant eco-oasis in your neighborhood? Try these 3 easy steps.
1. Plant comfrey! Comfrey is a famous medicinal herb and a permaculture superstar because it is a dynamic nutrient accumulator. It multiplies quickly and can thrive in most environments (just not a cow paddock, because cows eat them). Comfrey has an impressively long tap root that allows the plant to suck up deep, lost, and locked out nutrients and minerals. It also attracts hard to access elements including, nitrogen, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, and silicon. The leaves of the comfrey plant grow quickly and are soft so they break down easily and activate compost piles. The leaves are also perfect for mulching. When comfrey blooms in the summer, the bees go crazy for it. Plants like comfrey that have long tap roots are great for compacted soil. The root is determined to break through the tight soil and allows for fresh oxygen to flow through the soil with ease.
2. Plant a fruit tree guild! Having fruit trees in the garden may seem strange but having perennials is what makes permaculture permanent agriculture. It’s also a bonus in the Fall when they drop their leaves to offer instant mulch. When planting a guild, fruit trees are simply the center piece. Directly below the tree and all around the trunk is where the plant allies belong. In my specific region, I’ve had luck with planting lemon balm, penny royal, goumi berries, rhubarb, and comfrey. These plants create the dynamic relationship that wild plant communities embody. Each plant offers a different benefit to the fruit tree allowing it to flourish and thrive naturally. Plus, you get extra edibles within the same amount of space!
Lemon balm & penny royal: both are part of the mint family and are well known for attracting beneficial insects like the parasitic wasp. Beneficial insects prey on pests like the cabbage worm or aphids.
Rhubarb & comfrey: both offer large nutrient dense leaves that once cut, create instant mulch. These plants offer shade, habitat, build soil, and nurture insects.
Goumi berry: a delicious plant ally that is also a nitrogen fixer. One of the few perennial nitrogen fixers around in fact. This plant offers beauty, delicious rare berries, and nutrients.
3. Don’t use a rototiller! Maintaining healthy, porous soil is extremely important to the longevity of your garden. Building the soil up each year will keep your garden productive for years. Rototillers destroy the natural layers of soil and kill worms, slugs, bugs, and reptiles. These critters are responsible for keeping the soil moist, porous, and oxygenated. Rototilling also encourages compaction and erosion. If you have a bigger garden, invest in a broad fork. Using a broad fork maintains the natural soil layers, digs deep enough to uproot weeds, and is a nice little work out for your abs. Anyone can use a broad fork, it just takes practice.
Anyone else overly joyed that Spring is right around the corner? Which permaculture principals are you using in your garden?