Perennial Monthly To-Dos Hill Country Water Gardens & Nursery

Perm. Plants
Canary Plants
Goji Berry
Paw Paw Tree
Sea Kale
Silk Tree


Analogue Climates
Bird Damage
Canary Weeds
Chop and Drop
Circle Garden
Companion Planting
Desert Climate
Edible Food Forests
Gaia's Garden
Identifying Plants
Keyline System
Lasagna Bed Prep
Links to Perm. Sites
Mollison quotes
Morag Bed Prep
Morag on Permaculture
Morag videos
Permmie Humor
Planting Time Ref
SATx Perm.
Sector Planning
Suburban Perm.
Temperate Climate
Tree Guilds
Verticle Gardening
Water Harvesting
Water Retention Landscapes
Why Garden

Permaculture Homestead channel

Permaculture Movement Community Facebook page SAT

SATx Perm. Group

SA Permaculture Facebook page

SA Permaculture Regenerative living in SA

Tenth Acre Farm a suburaban permaculture micro-farm in Cincinnati. Excellent articles!

Tenth Acre Farm facebook page

Morag channel site

Blogspot: Morag Gamble: Our Permaculture Life

CTG San Antonio Wonderland garden in San Antonio|Ragna & Bob Hersey|Central Texas Gardener

Sustainable SA Leslie Provence is a founding member and VP of the Food Policy Council of San Antonio. whose vision is "Fresh, healthy, affordable food available to all in a vibrant local food economy." On January 1, 2016, the City Council adopted Food Policy Council amendments for the Unified Development Code. Leslie will explain what the amendments cover and how folks can take advantage of them. They include the ability to grow and sell fruits, veggies, and cottage foods from your home garden or greenhouse, and the ability to farm on property other than your home. The topic of water use in sustainable versus conventional agriculture is also part of the discussion.

Permaculture Goofballs

Desert Permaculture Research Institute

SA Permaculture in Practice meeting monthly


Austin Permaculture Guild

Financial Independence and Permaculture My favorite definition: permaculture is the opposite of disposable culture.

Edible Flowers arugula, borage, broccoli, calendula, white mallow, nasturtium, oregano, oxalia, chamomile, chives, comfrey, dill, ox-eye-daisy, sugar snap pea, evening primrose, elderberry, gladiolas, hens and chicks, black hollyhock, black rose, white rose, sage bergamot, squash, St. john's wort, white hollyhock, lavender, pink mallow, purple mallow, sweet rocket, thistle, violet, day lily

Bullock Brothers Homestead – A 25-Year Permaculture Project “A kind of a common premise in ecology certainly, and in permaculture as well, is that the edge, where two different distinct environments meet, is the richest interface, whether it’s between forest and field, whether it’s between land and sea, an estuary, and most major cities of the United States exist in such places. Port towns. Humans basically lived in wetland edges.”

Video: Orcas Island. Didn't like controlled environments like schools.

Paradise Lot: Food Forest Farm sell plants; but located in NE. Holyoke, MA.

ANTHROPOGEN of, relating to, or resulting from the influence of human beings on nature

My name is Spencer Woodard, a northern California native, thirty-three years old. This weblog follows my global travels focusing on plants, ethnobotany, agroforestry, agroecology, traditional agriculture & land management systems, general photography, and related news and current events.


Pawpaw Seedling 'improved' 14.95. Medium native tree, suckering to form colonies. Large, delicious fruit, sweet and custardlike with a tropical flavor. Delicious in cream pies and fruit desserts or out of hand. Fruit ripens late Septemer into October in Massachusetts. Very pest resistant. Need two for pollination. The seedings are from hardy, delicious, large fruiting stock. Light: Sun to Shade; Soil Composition: Loamy, well-drained; Soil Moisture: Prefers cool moist


Pawpaw Asinina [Asminia?] triloba spp. Rappahannock, Shenandoah, et al. Zones 5 thru 9

edible fruit; native

Suburban Permaculture

Suburban Permaculture in Oregon

Permaculture and suburbia are a timely fit.

There are many reasons why big changes are called for in suburbia. One of the most basic is that suburbia is just too resource intensive. It takes too much energy, land, raw materials to keep it going in terms of physical inputs. In a cultural, social, even spiritual sense, suburbia is a poor choice for taking care of human needs and not a good companion for the downsized future we are moving into. Its very design and premise creates barriers to building social capital.

212 Benjamin from the street. The sidewalk is the remains of a 5 car driveway. ~ Front yard water feature and vegetable tunnel.

We can't rebuild green for 150 million Americans. What we can do, for many occasions, is to make much more creative use of what is already here. Greening suburbia could become an epoch of American History as remarkable as discovery, exploration, Reconstruction or the rise of the automobile. There are a growing number of real life examples of this potential epoch emerging all over the country.

Food tunnel. 2 by 4s and wire pro- vide support to shape trees, grapes and blackberries. ~ Backyard and corner of sun room to the left. Green house and out door work area in the distance.

Cultural and Economic Mythologies

Most societies create mythologies. At entry level, the purpose of these mythologies is to explain how the society came to be. In more modern times, mythologies are used to persuade the members of a society that the social and economic conditions they live in are the best possible and the nation they live in is special.

Several well known mythologies for the United States, historic and current, include Manifest Destiny, American Exceptionalism, we live in a democracy and market capitalism is the best possible economic system. Mythologies are intended to make people feel good about themselves, their country and their leaders.

These familiar mythologies function at an intellectual level similar to a high school pep rally.

Coldframe along the south facing sunroom wall. Covers go on for cooler weather. ~ Hoop house green house. Measures 20 by 20 feet. Extends growing season 3 wks fall and spring.

Where do these mythologies come from? They come from the entities and interests that have the most to gain by perpetuating a set of cultural and economic conditions they personally benefit from, power and wealth. As long as the System can keep the majority of people entertained and distracted, those in power stay in power and they tend to want more power over time.

Economic, social and environmental trends such as increasing concentration of wealth and power, climate change, sharply increasing levels of social conflict, resource uncertainties and environmental degradation are saying - the culture and economic system celebrated by our familiar national mythologies is at odds for a peaceful and healthy world.

A closer look at the underside of global market capitalism reveals an economic system that is fundamentally dishonest. It is the nursery of the greatest social, environmental, economic and spiritual problems of our time.

Path through food forest at Dharmalaya ~ Sandra's garden area. Very nice raised beds, gravel paths, fruit trees.

In the briefest words, mainstream economics defines economic value as creating goods and services that generate the most money value. What those products are made out of, how and who produces them, how they are used, the consequences of using them and how they are disposed of are secondary concerns at best. What is most important is creating value, not satisfying a reasonable need in a reasonable way. The more money value created the better.

Here are a few familiar examples.

Transportation - A car has more value than a bike or train. Shelter - A large suburban house has more value than a modest flat. Health Care - A sick person has more value than a healthy person. Food - Highly processed junk food has more value than simple healthy food.

Economic efficiency is a partner to economic value. The ideal of economic efficiency is to optimize economic value. That means minimize costs of production or services to maximize profit. Social, public health and environmental well being are marginalized as needed.

Springtime. I had cut down the cherry tree and installed these 4 by 4s to create trellises to support elevated landscaping. Having food grow above concrete, a shed roof and places to walk. Many of the grapes I juiced came from this trellising. ~ Same view as the foto above, several months later.

Globalization - Moving jobs to places of cheaper labor that also have lesser work place and environmental standards. Economy of Scale - Resource intensive and environmentally destructive industrial agriculture. Clearcutting old growth forests. All kinds of automation to replace human labor to cut costs.

Enormous amounts of undervalued energy and resources - essentially a wasteful practice and immense subsidy - have allowed this economic system to function as we know it.

Closely related to economic value and efficiency above is external cost. Simply, an external cost is a negative consequence of products and services that are not paid for when the product or service is bought. They can be impacts on social, environmental, public health, even spiritual well being.

View of my place from across the street. ~ Friend Stan. He has turned his front yard into a really nice garden.

Examples - Health problems from eating junk food. Traffic deaths, injuries and property damage from car wrecks. Diminished value of antibiotics because they are fed to cattle in feed lots. Time lost by unproductive entertainment that could have been volunteer time in the community. A hapless political system. Consumers instead of citizens. The most obese military in the world. To name only a few.

Consider many sectors of the economy - manufacturing, retail, health care, safety and security, extraction, construction, environmental remediation. Tens of millions of jobs exist to repair the damage caused by tens of millions of other jobs. To the mainstream economy, this is economic value and economic efficiency at work.

Visit to friend Oliver in the neighborhood. He was showing me his closed in south facing patio. A really nice passive solar space. The enclosure was seasonal but he is thinking of keeping it full time now. Free heat for the house and a nice place to be both in and out. ~ The island. Its been so dry the swales are dry, too.

A core economic mythology is, give people the information to decide what to buy and they will make the smartest choice - let the market decide. A smart choice assumes people have the information to make a smart choice. That information is absent. Even worse, the culture of consuming renders most people disinterested, [another external cost] in knowing the history of a product or service. What we have overwhelmingly instead, is choice determined by whatever costs the least. ''t ask, ''t tell, ''t care.

Our familiar mainstream economic system is dishonest and it is not accountable. It ignores its own mythology.

Downsizing material, energy and resource needs; upsizing civic involvement, greening where we live and our own lives is the point of departure for replacing the mainstream economy and culture with an economy and culture that is friendly to people and planet and a credit to what humans are capable of.



Sea Kale $12.95 Clumping perennial vegetable, suckers if roots are broken by digging. Beautiful honey-scented flowers, fantastic edible broccolis. Ours are more than 10 years old. Tender tasty leaves can be harvested in fall without weakening plant.

Plants for Food Forest

Welsh Onion $8.95 This perennial scallion forms clumps, which can be thinned for harvest once or twice a year. Mild flavor with just the right amount of oniony zing. Lovely flowers too!

Korean Celery $11.95 Self-sowing perennial herb, attracts beneficial insects. Native to Korea. Celery-flavored leaves and stalk are tasty in soups, good for animal fodder too. Much more mild then it's cousin lovage.

Sunchoke $8.95 Very large native herb, running to form colonies. Produces sweet, nutty-flavored tubers, highly productive. Flowers attract beneficial insects. Cultivated by Native Americans for centuries. Soil Composition: Suitable for all soil types

Sweet Cicely $9.95 Medium-size perennial vegetable with beneficial insect-attracting flowers. Tender green seed pods taste like licorice jellybeans. Great for snacking. Roots traditionally used as sweetener. Leaves used as sweet potherb. Seeds disperse widely, deadhead seeds before ripening. Looks like a fern.

Turkish Rocket $9.95 Light: Full sun to partial shade; Soil Composition: Suitable for all soil types; Moisture: From moist to very dry, takes drought well. Robust, long-lived plant. Spreads by seed, roots will sprout when damaged. Beautiful yellow flowers, young broccolis are much like broccoli raab - nutty and mustardy.

Wild Leek (Ramp) $9.95 Native woodland wildflower, emerges in spring and then dies back for the summer. Leaves have a fantastic onion flavor and bulbs are strong like an onion-garlic mix. Great perennial vegetable for full shade. Popular vegetable for omelets, pastas - the sky's the limit! Light: Full shade to part shade; Taste: Sweet leek; Years to bear: 3 to 5

Goji Berry, Goumi

Temperate Climate Permaculture: Goumi goji berry

General insect (especially bees) nectar plant

Food source for wildlife... fruit may stay on the plant through the winter if not harvested.

Nitrogen fixing (i.e. it puts nitrogen back into the soil)

Hedges - leaves seem to shimmer in the breeze

Tolerates salt water, so can be used in maritime environments

Flowers are strongly scented... reminiscent of lilac

Used medicinally for hundreds (or more) years, but no reliable information

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-9, not frost tender

Forest Garden Use: Shrub Layer

Cultivars/Varieties: Multiple varieties, but many are not available in the U.S.

Pollination: Typically Self-Sterile; should be planted with two selections for cross-pollination and best crop yields

Flowering: Spring (April-June)

Years to Begin Bearing: 3-4 years, Years to Maximum Bearing: 5-10 years

Light: Prefers full sun

Shade: Tolerates moderate shade

Moisture: Medium, however will tolerate dry soils

pH: tolerates a wide range of soil conditions (5.1 - 8.5)

Special Considerations for Growing: Goumi is an actinorhizal nitrogen fixing plant... it will grow best if inoculated with actinobacteria from the genus Frankia.

Maintenance: Minimal.

Temperate Climate

Temperate Climate Permaculture What's a Temperate Climate?

A Temperate Climate is often difficult to define, and then often, by default, it is defined by what it is not. It is not tropical. It is not polar. It is just in between. It is a place where there are typically four well defined seasons.

My name is John Kitsteiner. Please follow along as I share as much as I can about Permaculture, gardening, farming, homesteading, and self-sufficiency. This website is the product of a lot of research and some opinions.

I came across a book, “You Can Farm” by Joel Salatin. At first glace this was the exact book for which I was looking. However, as I read into it, I realized the author was anything but a typical farmer. As someone who never quite considered himself “ordinary”, I immediately identified with his anti-establishment attitude. But what I truly loved about Joel Salatin’s writing was that it just plain made sense. He wrote about minimizing work through intelligent design of farming systems, all with using almost no chemicals, and still producing a superior (e.g. better tasting) product.

This was my first exposure to alternative farming and food production. While he didn’t use the term, Joel Salatin was practicing Permaculture.

I continued to read as much as I could on the subject of alternative food production. This led me to books on hobby farming, self-sufficiency, and home gardening. My growing love of cooking dovetailed nicely with the growing options for superior tasting organic foods. Gone were the days of hippy, tree-huggers and their worm filled “organic” foods that tasted worse than what you got in the grocery store but weren’t “filled with no chemicals from the Man, man!” Organic food was being produced scientifically by people who were outside the norm but were not abnormal. And the food was better!

I had seen a few book titles for Permaculture during this time, but the covers of the books looked a bit odd. At first glance I dismissed these books, because they seemed a bit too hippy and “way out there” to me. There seemed to be an almost religious aura around these books that turned off my more logical mind. They also seemed to be dealing more with Australian agriculture, which it turns out they were since that is where Permaculture was developed.

Eventually, I read a book called “How to Make a Forest Garden” by Patrick Whitefield. This was truly the first Permaculture book that I read, although that term was rarely used in the book. The basic premise was designing a forest of plants (trees, shrubs, vines, etc.) that are useful to humans in a way that mimicked a natural forest. It was a simple concept, but it was, and still is, revolutionary to me.

From there I read the two textbooks on temperate climate forest gardening in North America, “Edible Forest Gardening” volumes I and II by Dave Jacke, then Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway, and finally “Introduction to Permaculture” by the creator of Permaculture, Bill Mollison.

I finally realized what Permaculture was not. It was not a tree-hugger, hippy, pseudo-religious idea. It was not about a militant, eco-fanatic approach to conservation. It is not “way out there”. However regretable, you will find many who treat Permaculture in this way.

Permaculture is truly a scientific approach to land, plant, and animal management that still treats the natural world with a sense of awe and respect. Permaculture is about practical sustainability on an individual as well as societal basis. The science of Permaculture has a lot of breadth and depth, but basically, I think it is how I expected God wanted us to treat the land back in the Garden of Eden.

New tcpermaculture site

Udo USDA Hardiness Zone: Zone 4-9. However, there are a number of reports that this plant is only hardy to Zone 7 or 8. It is possible that there are some varieties that are more cold hardy. It is also possible that there is a lot of bad information being propagated on the internet and in books. There is not a whole lot of authoritative information available for this plant.

produce dark berries that are toxic to humans, but the birds love them! (note the ladybug/ladybird beetle on the stem)

Can grow in partial to full shade
Moisture: Prefers moist soils.
pH: 5.0-7.5

This is a great plant for the deep shade areas of your gardens or behind structures.

Many growers recommend wind protection for this plant as the large leaves are susceptible to wind damage.


Crown Vetch

Vetch Yarrow is a small herbaceous plant that is currently used decoratively for its pretty flowers; however, in traditional times Yarrow was used as a food source and a medicinal plant (hence the name "soldier's woundwort"). It also happens to be drought resistant, a great groundcover tolerant of foot traffic, an attractor of beneficial insects, and much, much more. One of the most versatile plants in the food and Forest Garden.

The genus (Achillea) is named after the Greek mythological character Achilles whose soldiers used yarrow to staunch their wounds.

Other names for Common Yarrow was herbal militaris, staunchweed, soldier's woundwort, knight's milefoil, carpenter's weed, nosebleed weed, and many more... a plant used to stop bleeding at home, in the shop, or on the battlefield.

Leaves - raw or cooked. The young, tender leaves are much more palatable and are a great addition to a mixed greens salad. Cooked leaves are also good, with a sweet and bitter flavor combined - a good spinach substitute

Secondary Uses:
General insect (especially bees) nectar plant - Plant for beneficial insects
Shelter plant for beneficial insects (bettles, lacewings, parasitic wasps, spiders)
Lacewings prefer to lay eggs on this plant
Aromatic Pest Confuser
Drought Tolerant Species
Groundcover (space plants 6-18 inches apart), quite tolerant of foot traffic
Dynamic Accumulator (Potassium, Phosphorus, Copper)
Liquid Plant Feed - soak leaves in water for a few weeks, dilute with water, apply to plants
Dye (yellow and green) from flowers
Aromatic oils from seeds used as fragrance
Flavoring/preserving component to beers - Part of the traditional herbal mixture, Gruit (sweet gale, mugwort, ground ivy, horehound, heather, and yarrow, plus additional local herbs), much more common before the widespread use of hops
Tea Plant - leaves and flowers
Traditional medicial plant

USDA Hardiness Zone: 2-10

Light: Prefers full sun
Shade: Tolerates moderate shade
Moisture: Can tolerate dry to medium moisture soils
pH: can tolerate a range of soils (5.1 - 7.5)

Special Considerations for Growing:
Spreads easily. Keep this in mind in choosing a location. Can often be planted in a grass lawn (on purpose!) as it can be cut low, tolerates foot traffic, and stays green later than most grasses.

Spreading habit - the roots are quite vigorous and can send up/out shoots extensively. Be sure to plant in an area where this is tolerable.
Poisonous (?) – Some people will develop an allergic rash, develop photosensitivity (skin becomes sensitive to sunlight), or can develop gastrointestinal discomfort when eating this plant or even coming into contact with it. I recommend sampling small amounts of this plant to determine personal tolerance first; if you can handle it, then enjoy!

Welcome to the Temperate Climate Permaculture Plant Index! Plants are categorized by their place in the Forest Garden and then listed alphabetically by common name. Please check back often as a new species is researched and added to the listing on about a weekly basis. To find out a bit more about Edible Forest Gardens, click here, and for more information on the nine layers of the Forest Garden, click here. I am also including links to my specific use listings of plants here:

Aromatic Pest Confusers for a Temperate Climate

Dynamic Accumulators for a Temperate Climate

The Facts Behind Dynamic Accumulators

Nitrogen Fixing Plants for a Temperate Climate

Pioneer Species for a Temperate Climate

Windbreak Plants for a Temperate Climate

Plants for Beneficial Insects

Trap Plant Species


Hugelkultur Permaculture Projects: Hugelkultur

Interesting keyhole/hugelkultur design

Tricks to Keep the Dirt from Sliding off a Hugel? I know I'm probably not the only one that deals with this. I build up a nice pile of wood, put sod over it, and then attempt to cover with dirt. The dirt all rolls off, piling on the ground around the hugel. This makes for deep soil at the bottom, and very little on the top. To get soil deep enough at the top, the bottom gets so wide I can't reach the plants at the top of the hugel. It's very frustrating!

I'm currently thinking about putting some logs around the base while I put the dirt on the hugel, and then removing them afterward, and hoping the dirt doesn't all slide off... and that the logs will actually come out!

-In the last podcast I heard Paul (finally) mentions the technique of putting dirt down as the logs are being placed. (That is, put down a few logs, then some dirt, and repeat.) That helps with preventing big voids in the logs, and might help with keeping it taller without needing to be so wide. I also recall hearing about Sepp having to tell excavator operators to just keep piling it up repeatedly in the same spot until it just works. I wish we had known these things before we built our hugels.

But I'd like to offer a different perspective as well. First, just like you don't want to have to reach too high, you probably don't want to have to bend down too low, so having a large log at the bottom isn't a bad thing. It kinda makes it like a raised bed. Second, you can think of the plants at the top that you can't reach as the surplus that will get eaten by your chickens and other critters.

-I'm a newbie, so please excuse this if it's a dumb response, but why can't we build hugels in a manner more similar to stacking wood? The wood would be whole logs rather than split, but shorter lengths, and not all oriented in the same direction. You could make the whole pile a bit more rectangular rather than totally pyramidal.

-I think you would end up something pretty much pyramid shaped no matter which way you stack the logs because you couldn't get the sides to be vertical with only dirt for support. You could flatten off the top, but you would be losing some of that growing area which is one of the major benefits of the hugel mound. It would be worth trying out in any case just to see exactly what would go into making it rectangular, and seeing if there is any benefit to building that way.

I like the idea of using a bit of a retaining wall around some of the bases on my hugel mounds along with some areas that go all the way to the ground. I've used straw bales, stacked stone, and galvanized tin roofing back filled with stones to make the vertical walls, all with pretty good results. I was able to get the sides pretty steep on some of mine by continually pulling the dirt that sloughed off the sides from the bottom to the top and then mulching the heck out of it after planting a good cover crop. It works pretty good, but is lots of work!

-Oh ya, and it's not necessarily a bad thing to have varying depths of soil along with a lot of variation in the substrates of your hugel mounds. Having different levels of moisture, fertility, solar exposure, and soil composition within your mound really adds to the edge effect permaculturists are so fond of! Don't be too sad if your mound doesn't come out just perfect, you may be pleasantly surprised!!!

-Mulch is looking to be a very underrated part of my hugels. Lots of mulch. The hugels I had lots of it on did great, without it they grew alot of weeds and lost soil.

I also use pine limbs and lay them flat against the hugel, the pattern of the branches lends itself to catching things sliding off. Mulch heavily, lean pine boughs against the mulch, even insert sticks into the hugel to catch and hold the pine boughs down onto the mulch.

-On my first Hugelbed I poked a lot of small twigs to prevent the sandy soil and fine mulch from sliding down.

For the second bed, I used a small watering can to moisten the soil between each layer of sand that I added. That made the sand stick and I could make the bed quite steep. I also scooped the sand with a shovel (not a straight spade) and "threw" the sand it against the Hugel. Because of the moisture it it did not roll down.

You also could sow a cover crop like cereal rye now. Next spring you cut it down to a stubble of say 1 inch and then add the soil from the bottom to make it steeper. The stubbles will then prevent the sliding.

-I like putting one or two logs standing upright so I can sit on them while I work, and that sure helps with the bending over while harvesting/weeding. I'm trying to avoid having too many exposed logs so that they don't wick moisture out of my mound.

-The first thing to do is make sure there are no empty spaces between the logs and layer everything as you build.

I usually also seed each layer as I go up, this allows the mound to be steeper since the roots of the newly growing plants help keep the soil where it is wanted.

Once you have the mound at the height you want, the cover crop is establishing nicely, you can start adding materials for shaping the mound.

As the cover crop(s) grow taller, just add more compost or soil to the top, it will filter down until the plants capture it and halt the effects of gravity.

I have some mounds that are two years old and still being shaped into the nice, rounded, steep hill form they will end up as.

If you use small twigs between layers as you build, they will help give stability as well.

The constant planting of covers as you build will do the most good at holding the new mounds shape as well as adding nutrients as you cover it and smother it with the next layer.

If you continue building a mound, it only gets better. If you simply build one and then forget to add to it, it will fail to become the bounty giver it can be with care and nurturing.

A Hugel or growing mound is a living thing, it requires attention through out the year just as any other garden bed does.

Tuwa tokiya kola [Japanese: When I'm tired]

-Nicole, I had hugels that were about knee high and a bit wider at the bottom, building them sure made them seem big, but they weren't big enough to withstand all the things that affect hugels. Erosion is one, termites is another, and rodents is a third Rodents got into mine, were probably extremely grateful for giving them such easy dirt with such great wooden structures, and turned them into hugel wind tunnels.

So maybe the question is why do you want hugel mounds as opposed to a hugel pit? Are you trying to create a wind block, as sepp holzer does, and keep temps higher on the protected side? Or you just want to use the rotted wood/dirt combo? Or you like the look, or maybe they've got more growing space?

I think to have the least amount of trouble with them they need to be quite big, maybe 6 feet wide at the base and building up from there, keeping it wide. But as Bryant explained, they require a lot of special planting and maintaining. Even sepp holzer used a bulldozer and made them at least 15 feet wide at the base and are as tall as a person, so they can withstand more invasions from nature.

Making them twice as wide as a row, taking up two rows and a pathway, with a cover crop might be more stable than skinny and tall.

Hugel pits, on the other hand, work just as well, have no maintenance when buried with layers of wet, rotted wood and manure, only get better when rained on, rodents help break the wood down. They are working 24/7 without any more input from you. The digging is not so bad, and it's a one-time thing for many years, depending on the size of wood you put in them. And if you grow with one for several years, redigging it to replace or add wood down the road is much easier than the first time, and you'll know it's well worth the effort.

If you don't have a lot of space you want to devote to a hugel mound, you could do a cinder block raised bed with wet and rotting wood in it, manure, built up just like a mound, only with stable sides. If you put the cinder blocks open side up you can plant into the cinder blocks as well. You can move them around to change the shape, or add on easily.

-We used manure from our rabbits and chickens, as well as cardboard and packing paper, for fill around the logs and branches and wood chips. Before we added the dirt from the trench to cover the wood, a branch was placed at the base to keep the dirt from falling away from the mound . As dirt was added, the top of the mound was flattened. This allowed for a slow build up on the top. The dirt was then tamped down around the limb after the top was scraped. When the mound was almost up as high as we wanted it, the branch was moved to the other side, the top was scraped and a ridge was formed so the dirt wouldn't run off the branch-less side.

We used only hand tools and finished the bed in about 3 days. We built the bed in the worst soil on our land; clay with pine needles for mulch, but the site gets very good sun all day. Despite the nitrogen drawing properties of the buried wood, all the plants have thrived and are about two to three weeks ahead of our other gardens. We have zucchini, patty pans, potatoes, kohlrabi, buckwheat, nasturtiums, beets, radishes, kale, comfrey, green beans and broom corn growing on the beds. We have not watered since we built the bed.

After building the hugel bed, we looked at our brush piles with new eyes and have already turned one into a hugel bed simply by putting manure and dirt on top of it. All the plants are doing well.

Finished hugel

Hugel Planted

-We actually live in a very wet area. Running water off the hills has to be diverted to utilize it. With the trench, the water is under the bed and soaking into the ground around it. That is one of the purposes of a hugelkultur bed. I will see if I can find the PDF I have of the building of our hugelkultur but until then, these pics might help.

-Since I don't have the same situation that you do, I googled some stuff and came up with the following sites of interest. Hope they help :^)

Raising trees out of wet soil with mounds My current method is a modified kill-mulch/hugelkultur mound. I lay down a sheet of cardboard as a weed barrier, layer on three or four wheelbarrow-loads of weeds from the garden, and toss in any punky firewood I find lying around. In a year or so, I could plant into that as-is, but since I want to plant sooner, I make a depression in the middle, pour a baby tree out of its pot with all of the soil intact around its root ball, then add a bucket of horse manure around the edges of the potting soil. I top it all off with a straw mulch, and I'm done...for now.

The trees will be able to grow into the partially-composted manure nearly right away, and will reach the woodier organic matter around the time it starts to decompose. I suspect the weeds will rot down to become just an inch or two of humus, but hopefully the addition of punky wood will keep figs out of the groundwater longer. I'll continue adding either hugelkultur or weed donuts around the plants, though, to give the plants dryish ground to grow into over the years.

Square Egg Hugelkultur, meaning “hill culture” in German, is a method of raised bed gardening that uses decaying wood as a basis for building up a berm. Berms are useful in directing the flow of water, and protecting more delicate plants from prevailing wind damage.



For this simple hugelkultur garden, I have piled sticks and wood, covered them in compost, planted my shrubs, and mulched the resulting berm first with a layer of newspapers, and second with a layer of wood chips.

As the wood breaks down, it will create a rich soil with plenty of air pockets, allowing for excellent drainage and root penetration for the plants planted in the mound.

Hugelkultur raised beds are a form of “no-dig” garden (like the straw bale gardens) making them a good choice for those with impaired mobility or strength. They also sequester carbon, and provide a handy use for all of the trimmings from pruning and hedge maintenance.

My yard has poor drainage, so building up the soil is the only sustainable way to utilise the space without creating a pond. Hugelkultur beds provide exceptional drainage for plants that don’t like “wet feet” (ie. waterlogged root systems).

In areas with excessively high groundwater, raised beds can essentially turn into micro chinampas, which is useful if you have any plants that suffer from fungal diseases in your area, as it allows them to keep their “feet (roots) dry while still digging into a natural form of subirrigation (what else, watering your plants from underground). While you will still need to water said plants, you can keep it to times when their leaves and blossoms will dry off quickly, lessening the spread of fungal growth and maybe giving you the chance to harvest before they kick the bucket. This would work well for annual plants if you can get them to produce before dying, and for fruit trees like stone fruits that succumb to brown rot if you can keep the branches out of the splash zone for spores jumping up from the ground.

One caution, though; don’t put green wood in your hugelkulture mounds. Wood is a really high-carbon material, and if you put it in a garden bed too soon, it will rob nitrogen from the soil as microorganisms consume it to work on the wood. It’s best if you age your wood for at least a year or two before expecting it to help your plants, if not more. The spongier the better, it will still provide many years of nutrition to your garden bed. It is a great fate for firewood that’s too rotten to burn, though.

The Many Benefits of Hugelkultur

When you see acres and acres of nothing but lawn and think, "How many sheep could that feed?"

You know you are a permie when it takes your household a month to fill the trash can.

You know you are a permie when your friends save their kitchen scraps for your chickens, cardboard, fall leaves, and plant cuttings for you.

You know you are a permie when you have more species of birds in your yard than anyone you know and you don't have any bird feeders out.

You can be calm long enough to identify the spider type on sight before taking action. No matter how big or how close it is. You can catch a big nasty one in a baby food jar if you have to.

When the utility companies have you on speed dial because you'll take junk elm wood chips so their contractors don't have to leave town with them and/or pay to have the chips hauled for disposal.

You visit neighbor and ask if you can weed, and carry some of the largess away with you (all those good edibles they're ignoring)

One of your besties works at the 24 hr truck stop and saves you pails of coffee grounds. You pay them back with 100% totally righteous tomatoes when they come in.

. . . the first thing you do when you see a potential patch of growing area is grab a handful of soil and smell it.

You're thrilled by all the bugs in your garden.

When you look at a 'weed' and wonder what it is trying to tell you about the conditions.

Or whether it's edible...

...When the compost pile is inside the chicken coop.

...When you pick feathers from the ground in the coop and stick them in your hair for safekeeping.

...You upgrade the hen house so the girls can have better ventilation.

...The rabbit's litter box goes into the henhouse so they can reuse it.

...You see a bug and bring it straight to the chickens.

...The chickens follow you to the clothesline, just in case you drop something edible.

...The dog hides in the hen house during thunderstorms.

When you think nothing of running outside to pee on plants.

You find yourself looking for the "edges" all over your property.

You think in terms of zones and value

When someone shows you an ornamental and you want to know the culinary, medicinal or cosmetic uses.

You think one of the uses of certain trees are as a potential water source...when you visit other people, you are constantly zoning their areas and redesigning spaces in your you drive, you contemplate the soil or topography you see instead of the billboards.

...when you find yourself asking the neighbors if they've noticed "changes in the hydrology of their site" since you moved to town

...when you suddenly realize you have over 150 duck eggs in the shed, but all you can think about is getting more ducks for fertilizer and slug control

...when you name 20 or more "nutrient accumulators" to try planting to some poor soul at the grocery store when they mentioned they didn't have much luck growing tomatoes last year

...when you collect "weeds" to transplant INTO your garden.

...when you rescue toads from the WalMart parking lot.

...when you step inside the shed to pee in the watering can.

...when you end your day feeling like you made a difference.

Garg 'nuair dhùisgear! [Scottish Gaelic: Garg 'when woke up!]

...You need potting soil, so you send your kid into the chicken coop with a rake.

Hugelkultur part 23 - Slug Sandwich

V Building a Hugelkultur Garden Bed in the City We look at how to access resources for your Huglekultur garden bed, how to construct it, and how to add sheet mulch to the top of it so you can utilize both Huglekultur and sheet mulching at one time.

HugleKultur beds are design to remove the need for watering and to provide soil fertility for your garden. Sheet mulching can be thought of as 'composting in place' instead of utilizing a compost bin and then moving composted material into your garden. With sheet mulching you create the compost pile on the garden bed.

V Hugelkultur Pots hugelkultur style pots I have some that are 3 years old They are working great I would back these! I got the idea watching making wicking pots Rob is an Great teacher and worth a look

Hugelkultur, never do this invasive privet et al. Shrubs will come up from under ground.

1, 3 & 4 Year Old Hugelkultur Results | & Does Wood Deplete Nitrogen In The Soil?

Sector Design

Permaculture Sectors This is another core concept in Permaculture. A sector is a path of energy into or out of your Permaculture System. I mean energy in its true sense (not a quasi-spiritual one). There are many potential energies that can enter and leave your land. Let's look at a few of them:

Sun Energy
Consider the path of the Summer Sun and Winter Sun. The further from the equator you are, the bigger the difference in path, angle, duration, and intensity. Is your home facing the early morning sun? Does your garden get the western setting sun?

Wind Energy
Do you live in an area that has Summer Winds? Do you have Winter Winds that come from a different direction? How about a salty sea breeze? Do you have seasonal storms? Does the wind always/usually blow from east to west or from south to north?

Water Energy
From which direction does the rain come?

Where do vehicles enter and leave your property? Do you have trails accessing your land? Where does wildlife come and go? Where would a burglar try to enter and leave your property? These are paths that can carry energy on and off your land.

Not quite an "energy", but still important. ''t discount how much a view (positive or negative) impacts your mood and how some privacy can create a stronger sense of peace.

Designing with Sectors

Viewing sectors on a map can be a bit confusing at first. Just remember that the home is the center of the circle, and all the other sectors radiate out from it. For example, using the Sector Map below, from the 10:00 position to the 2:00 position is an "Undesirable View..." (this is also from WNW to ENE if compass readings are your thing). Some sectors overlap, for instance the direction of the Winter Sun and Summer Sun.

The map below also shows the Permaculture Zones overlaid in shades of yellow and orange.

Sector Design is a vital part of planning your Permaculture System. Every place is unique, so take some time to consider how energy enters and leaves your location.

Edible Food Forest

What is an Edible Forest Garden? Picture yourself in a forest where almost everything around you is food. Mature and maturing fruit and nut trees form an open canopy. If you look carefully, you can see fruits swelling on many branches—pears, apples, persimmons, pecans, and chestnuts. Shrubs fill the gaps in the canopy. They bear raspberries, blueberries, currants, hazelnuts, and other lesser-known fruits, flowers, and nuts at different times of the year. Assorted native wildflowers, wild edibles, herbs, and perennial vegetables thickly cover the ground. You use many of these plants for food or medicine. Some attract beneficial insects, birds, and butterflies. Others act as soil builders, or simply help keep out weeds. Here and there vines climb on trees, shrubs, or arbors with fruit hanging through the foliage—hardy kiwis, grapes, and passionflower fruits. In sunnier glades large stands of Jerusalem artichokes grow together with groundnut vines. These plants support one another as they store energy in their roots for later harvest and winter storage. Their bright yellow and deep violet flowers enjoy the radiant warmth from the sky. This is an edible forest garden.


Digging and turning over the soil exposes a very delicate ecosystem to the air which dries it out, and to the ultraviolet rays of the sun, which sterilize the soil – killing the soil organisms. The soil loses a lot of its nutrients, such as carbon and nitrogen. It also loses a lot of its organic matter, and as a consequence, does not retain water as well. The delicate soil structure is destroyed, compaction of soil occurs, leading to hardpan formation, and reduced water infiltration in the soil, and more surface runoff, which increases soil erosion. []

see Morag's Method

The Mollison Permaculture Ethics and Design Principles



**Keys To Building a Healthy Soil - Organic - Permaculture and Polyculture

This type of landscaping, therefore, is called terracing. Graduated terrace steps are commonly used to farm on hilly or mountainous terrain. Terraced fields both decrease erosion and surface runoff, and may be used to support growing crops that require irrigation, such as rice. The rice terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the significance of this technique.

Earthworms, Castings, and Farming

Castings for sale 10 lb bag for $20. Texas Red Worms has farms in San Antonio and Livingston, Texas. 210-310-2046 or email

Worms for sale European Nightcrawlers are now available at They can be used for composting just like the red worm, but are a bit larger, stronger and are deeper tunnelers than the top feeding red worm. Red Worms prefer piles of moist decaying organic matter (leaves, manure).

There are many different species of earthworm ranging in size and climate, most can be classified in one of two larger camps. The first being the deeper dwelling tunnelers (European Nightcrawler), and secondly the top feeding composters (Red Worm).

Care for both worms is similar and they can even co-habitate. The nightcrawlers are able to be added directly to your garden, flowerbed, or lawn, while the red worms would not fare so well. The red wigglers are more prolific smaller worm that will not scatter like the European nightcrawler, or Alabama Jumper. Both are well suited for composting and bin raising, and care is identical.

Texas Worm Farm located in Central Texas just outside Austin in Georgetown

Bragg: Worming his way out of ugly lawn Bad people will kill for money. Good ones will die for God and country.

On a related note, some guys will do really weird stuff to save their lawn.

For Kyle Harrell, that meant getting deeply into worms, or, to be more specific, what they eat, how they crawl and the poop they leave behind.

It's hard to make vermiculture - not worm culture, but the production of worms - sound attractive, but Harrell does a pretty good job. In a few short years, he has become an Annelid Evangelist.

Texas Red Worms is the name of his backyard worm farm, his blog, and they are the object of his affection. And by affection, I mean obsession. And by obsession, I mean it in a good way. He recently helped Texas State University, his alma mater, set up a composting and worm operation that uses scraps from the school cafeterias and food-service operations.

Worms, Harrell told me, are nature's gardeners.

When worms wiggle through the soil, they're aerating it, allowing air to mix with the dirt and make it healthier. And when they "do their business," the stuff they leave behind is the perfect fertilizer. In a show of deep affection, Harrell will add, "and they ''t stink."

224 W Market, San Antonio, Texas 78211 (210) 219-5596

Earthworms enrich garden soils by composting Here's a promising get-rich-quick scheme for gardeners: It's called vermiculture, or worm composting, and along with super-sizing crop yields, it cuts water bills, conditions soils and repels troublesome insects.

"Vermiculture is a step up from working with the standard compost pile," said Dorothy Benoy, who with her husband, Al, owns the Happy D Ranch Worm Farm at Visalia, Calif. "It takes a bit more management, but the returns are greater."

Earthworms spend most of their time reproducing, eating and excreting, which is where their "vermicastings," or manure, comes in. Set them up for housekeeping in homemade tubs or specially made bins and you have the structure for a "wormery," where the creatures will turn table scraps into a highly enriched organic soil amendment while expanding their population many times over.

Worm castings contain five times the available nitrogen, seven times as much potash and one-and-a-half times more calcium than typical topsoil.

You can buy the product commercially (a little more than $1 per pound for castings and $15 per gallon for worm tea, plus shipping) or do it yourself. All you need is a well-ventilated container and some moistened bedding - usually shredded newspaper, computer paper or corrugated cardboard that can double as food. Add a pound or more of hungry worms (figure as much as $25 per pound, which works out to about 1,000 earthworms) and you're in business.

You can buy the product commercially (a little more than $1 per pound for castings and $15 per gallon for worm tea, plus shipping) or do it yourself. All you need is a well-ventilated container and some moistened bedding - usually shredded newspaper, computer paper or corrugated cardboard that can double as food. Add a pound or more of hungry worms (figure as much as $25 per pound, which works out to about 1,000 earthworms) and you're in business.

"One pound of worms can easily handle 3 pounds of waste per week," Benoy said.

Worm composting can be fun and easy, but it's not simply a matter of digging up a few garden-variety night crawlers from your backyard, she said.

"Night crawlers tend to be solitary and won't reproduce in bins," Benoy said. "Red worms (Wigglers or Eisenia foetida) are hardy, easy to handle and best for composting."

Worm bins can be placed in the home or out, but do best where air can circulate and temperatures are kept between 55 and 75 degrees. The operation is odor-free, but you can raise a stink by overfeeding or adding too much water. Worms like their surroundings about as damp as a squeezed sponge.

"There shouldn't be any smell coming from a worm bin except like from a rich, brown dirt," Benoy said. "The bin has gone anaerobic (without oxygen) if it stinks like rotten eggs. It's not properly draining. There's too much moisture. The bacteria will die."

Castings go farther when brewed up as worm tea. Scoop some into a net bag or pantyhose, drop that into a water-filled container, add a dollop of molasses to nourish the bacteria, and then mix it for a day or so using an inexpensive aquarium air pump.

"Worm tea is the strongest organic fertilizer there is," said Curtis Thomsen, program manager for the Los Angeles County Smart Gardening Program. "It has a ton of good uses, but primarily as fertilizer, herbicide and compost. Worm compost and worm tea are a great one-two punch. They add bacteria to the soil, aid in root development, help get rid of fungus and mildew, enable you to cut back on watering, and get rid of pests like aphids and black flies."

Worm castings and worm tea can increase garden productivity anywhere from 20 percent to 200 percent, Thomsen said. "I've personally seen 12 tomato plants grow to a height of 12 feet and produce 200 pounds of tomatoes per bush," he said.

8 Tips for Time Sequencing Your Garden for Continual Productivity When we dream of gardens, we tend to do so with enduring abundance in mind. We like to think of a summer of tomatoes or months of lettuce. Unfortunately, in our excitement over this prospect, we often forget about the importance of timing. Namely, if we plant everything at once, filling the garden to capacity in one weekend, our harvest won’t be long and continuous but abrupt and far more than we can handle.

Experienced gardeners, though, know that the goal is the end result — the harvest — rather than the sowing. Instead, they plan and plant their veggies with a strong consideration as to when crops will be ready, using mental might before physically getting into the garden. Doing so can result in extended harvests through the season, plentiful picking in the garden and constant variety on the table. And, that’s the dream.

1. Sow in Succession

For plants that we know will do well and that we want throughout the season(s), it’s important to sow a small crop every two or three weeks. Then, there will always be something maturing instead of everything maturing at once. Of course, this technique will also require some responsible bookkeeping and devotion.

2. Use Seedlings

Some plants — beans, onions, root veggies — prefer to be sown right in the ground where they will grow, while others — tomatoes, peppers, lettuce — are quite happy to be started in pots and planted as seedlings. Using seedlings means cultivation can begin earlier in the spring, and it also means later that little plants rather than seeds can be waiting to replace expired crops, which will result in a faster turn around of production.

3. Get a Greenhouse or Cold Frame

Having a place that allows cultivating earlier in the spring, later in the fall, and possibly through the winter means that we can grow something to eat throughout the year. Plus, using the greenhouse or cold frame to get plants going before outside temperatures might allow means we can sequence them into the garden for more production.

4. Companion Plant

Generally, companion planting is approached with an eye towards beneficial relationships. For example, carrots repel moths from leeks and leeks deter carrot flies, making them great partners. This can also work on a time level. Radishes mature in about thirty days, while carrots take much longer. The radishes will loosen up the soil for the carrots and be gone in time for the later bloomer to spread out.

5. Plant Perennials

Perennial plants, those that regenerate themselves year after year, tend to work on a different time schedule than annuals. They are great for gardeners because they '’t require cultivation year in and year out, and they are great for cooks because they often stock the cabinets earlier in spring and later in fall than annuals.

6. Grow Crops for Continual Harvesting

Many vegetables, such as corn, carrots or cauliflower, grow one-time harvests, which results in the plant dying off, but others — tomatoes, green beans, loose-leaf lettuces, cucumbers, chard — can be harvested time and time again, often only increasing their production as a result. These crops keep the veggie bins full for longer while the others provide exciting influxes of something specific.

7. Always Add Something New

Experimenting is one of the great, exciting parts of gardening. It’s a good idea to keep a bed or two for hodge-podge planting, where an unfamiliar and different variety can be sown each week. This helps with discovering new things to grow en masse, as well as provides diverse flavors to enjoy amongst old standards.

8. Using the Moon

The moon can be a very simple and effective guide. Seeds like to be planted on the waxing moon, when the gravitational force of the moon is pulling things upward, which causes the seed to swell for faster germination. The full moon is well-suited for root vegetables, as it forces moisture back into the soil. The waning moon is the best time to transplant seedlings. Planning the succession of sowing to take advantage of this will have a positive impact.

Overlooked by many beginning gardeners, good timing can make a huge difference as to how a garden grows. Coming up with a thoughtful schedule can be the difference between having lulls in cucumber crops or missing out on an extra harvest of beets. In other words, it’s most definitely worth our time to time our gardens well.

Why Garden

Top 10 Reasons to Start a Garden

1. Healthy Food – Right at Your Backdoor

You know what is in your backyard and what you are putting into your garden. With the growing concerns about various chemicals used in the food supply chain and their effects, there is a high demand for organic produce. Additionally, fresh vegetables are 50% higher in nutrients than their long traveled cousins. When you have your own garden you can ensure that your family gets fresh food that is thoroughly safe and is the most ‘local’ you can get!

2. Exercise with Your Eggplant

Gardening is an excellent form of exercise and includes both cardio and aerobic exercise. Research shows that you can burn up to 300-400 calories an hour with moderate gardening. Gardening requires various poses with stretches, muscle tension and walking movements: these all add up to a serious workout while tending to your patch.

3. Save Mounds of Money

Who’s kidding who? The cost of food, especially organic produce is going up. A garden allows for fresh and great tasting organically grown food that is a pittance of the price you’d pay at the grocery store (one seed is between 3-10 cents). If you plan well, you can have food for not only the summer and early fall months, but also throughout the winter months.

4. Picture Perfect

A house flowing with lovely foliage of flowers and vegetables is a pleasure to view. The richness of growing plants: flowers or a vegetable garden are soothing and appealing. Make a little bench or a sitting area close by so you can stop and smell the roses…or beans.

5. Benefit Children’s Development

teaching children to garden gives them immeasurable life skills of independence and sustainability while encouraging them to eat more vegetables as well. The daily activity in the garden can become an excellent family time that is a communal project to encourage team building and independent skills.

6. Expanding Horizons

Gardening is a great way to expand your horizons. Try planning a vegetable you have never tried and see what you think when it is in full growth. Actively meet other gardeners through garden clubs, plant organizations, and gardening websites to swap seeds and get informed. Share the successes and mistakes!

7. Personal Time

Gardening provides an outlet for your own personal time. It is not an arbitrary place or date (like: “I should go to the gym sometime”); it is real and in your face. Take the time for yourself to decompress and have a place to go to just let thoughts flow and your mind wander. If the butterflies can do that, so can YOU!

8. Back to Green Basics

When you have your hand in the dirt and take a small seed and gently nurture it to grow into food for your family, there is a heightened sense of connection with nature, and the planet. The fact that you are growing a garden is reducing huge carbon footprints, taking the GMO aspect out of the food chain and gives the soil a boost back of nitrogen when the compost is mulched in the fall. It also heightens the appreciation for how precious food really is and brings back an age old art (there are Egyptian tombs with gardening information on them!).

9. Healing Herbs

Did you know that there are now Horticultural Healers? Gardens play an important part in our well being and in fact horticulture has been employed as a staple therapy for many centuries. For example, many wounded soldiers, as part of therapy, are instructed to spend time in the garden for healing purposes. The beauty of nature can have an uplifting effect especially when combined with the physical stress release. Gardening has been proven to reduce stress, anger, depression and pain levels and enhance productivity and problem solving skills.

10. Sense of Achievement

Setting your mind to embark upon a task with obvious and edible results can have a huge effect upon self satisfaction and feelings of personal growth (no pun intended). Like cooking, where you see the fruits of your labor, gardening produces tangible evidence of your investment in time and energy.

Companion Planting

Companion Planting Another thing that good, and smart, gardeners do is plant with purpose. They pair plants that work well together, that can be beneficial to one another. Some plants are particularly well suited to repelling insects, others to fertilizing, others for providing shady respite, or aerating the soil or pulling up nutrients from deep below the earth’s surface. Plants do so much more than just producing food, and it’s wise to take advantage by grouping plants carefully.

1. Carrots and Onions--each acts as a natural pest repellent for the other. Carrot flies hate the smell of onions, and onion flies aren’t into carrots.

2. Tomato and Basil--Basil, a mosquito and bug deterrent, makes a great companion for nearly any plant in the garden, but it is particular good for tomatoes and lettuce. So, come to think of it, planting all three of these together might not be the worst idea, as the tomatoes would shade the lettuce a bit while the lettuce works as a ground cover.

3. Corn, Squash and Beans---Due to Native Americans, this may be the most famous of companion plantings, and it comes in three. Corn, squash and beans work splendidly together. Beans fix the nitrogen in the soil, acting as a sort fertilizer for the other two. Corn provides a living pole for the beans to climb up, and squash (or pumpkins or melons) crawl along the ground covering the soil, which protects it from erosion and drying out when the corn is young. 4. Broccoli and Beets--Broccoli and beets are both great sources of nutrients for our bodies, and in the garden, they work famously together because of nutrients. Broccoli loves calcium in the soil, but beets aren’t too concerned with it. Additionally, both of these guys benefit from a little dill added to the mix, as it will handle the insect situation. Broccoli also gets along with other dark, leafy greens like spinach and Swiss chard.

5. Eggplant, Peas, and Peppers--Who doesn’t love stuffed eggplant? Who doesn’t love stuffed peppers? Well, both could be on the menu. These two work well together because they like the same growing conditions: hot and sunny. Plant them with some bush peas (or beans) to thwart the advances of Colorado potato beetles, which love eggplants. Throw some marigolds, a friend to most plants, in the same bed, and it’ll help with other insects.

6. Mint and Cabbage--Mint can be a quite invasive plant, running shoots all over the place. However, it is remarkably good a repelling pests, including ants, fleas, rodents, aphids and cabbage moths. It also attracts quality predatory insects like bees and hoverflies, as well as earthworms. What’s more is that, while it’s keeping the pests at bay, mint improves the health of cabbage plants. 7. Borage and Strawberries--Sure, this is a veggie patch, but if there’s a chance to grow, and to eat, some strawberries, why pass that up? Borage, for those unfamiliar, is a medicinal herb that is often used to make a tea that has a distinctive calming effect. In the (fruit and) veggie patch, these two team up splendidly. Borage is great for trace minerals and preventing pest problems, and it enhances the yield and flavor of the strawberries.

8. Radish and Cucumber--Radishes are well-respected members of the garden as they are powerful repellents for boring insects, such as squash borers, cucumber beetles and rust beetles. They work very well with cucumbers and the other members of that family (melons, squashes and pumpkins). Radishes could be thrown into the corn, bean and squash trio as a fourth component. Add some nasturtiums to help improve the soil conditions for the radishes, as well as add some spice to those salads.

Milkweed Bombs If you have garden space to plant it, great. You can start with seeds or cut straight to the chase and go with plugs. But those with no dirt of their own can do their part with some handy-dandy guerilla gardening and a handful of seed bombs. Seed bombs (or seed balls if you want to sound less militant) protect the seeds from scavengers and allow planting in hard-to-reach places. Aban'ed lots, meadows, sides of the road, stream banks … anywhere there’s soil within the reach of a good toss that could host some milkweed?

Milkweed Seeds by county We encourage you to only plant milkweed species that are native to your area. The Biota of North America Program’s (BONAP) web-based North American Plant Atlas provides county-level distribution information for all Asclepias species in the lower 48 states (milkweeds are not native to Alaska and Hawaii).

Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation Butterflies, dragonflies, beetles, worms, starfish, mussels, and crabs are but a few of the millions of invertebrates at the heart of a healthy environment. Invertebrates build the stunning coral reefs of our oceans; they are essential to the reproduction of most flowering plants, including many fruits, vegetables, and nuts; and they are food for birds, fish, and other animals. Yet invertebrate populations are often imperiled by human activities and rarely accounted for in mainstream conservation.

Verticle Gardening

The idea behind permaculture is simple: take care of the earth, and the earth will take care of you... turn your property into a sustainable ecosystem.

Over Grow the System Want to multiply the number of plants you can grow in a garden or on a patio or deck? Grow up! Vertical gardening, a technique to cultivate plants up surfaces or supports, is the perfect way to squeeze lots of plants into a small space. Growing up, rather than out, offers countless other benefits beyond higher plant yields.

Vertical Gardening- Save Space by Growing Up [INFO-GRAPHIC] Food Is Free

Vertical Gardening


Layered Espalier Food Forest / fanned gooseberries and strawberries

Recommended Perm. Plants

Trees & Bamboos over 12'

Analogue Climates

Analogue Climates - a design tool

Koppen Climate Classification

Csa = Temporate/mesothermal

Group C: Temperate/mesothermal climates:

Dry-summer or Mediterranean climates (Csa,Csb)

s = dry summer

a = hot summer

Mediterranean climates

These climates usually occur on the western sides of continents between the latitudes of 30° and 45°.[6] These climates are in the polar front region in winter, and thus have moderate temperatures and changeable, rainy weather. Summers are hot and dry, due to the domination of the subtropical high pressure systems, except in the immediate coastal areas, where summers are milder due to the nearby presence of cold ocean currents that may bring fog but prevent rain.


Beirut, Lebanon (Csa)
Latakia, Syria (Csa)
Tel Aviv, Israel (Csa)
Duhok, Iraq (Csa)
Los Angeles, Californa, United States (Csa)
Sacramento, California, United States (Csa)
Perth, Australia (Csa)
Adelaide, Australia (Csa)
Khorramabad, Iran (Csa)
Ilam, Iran (Csa)
Rome, Italy (Csa)
Seville, Spain (Csa)
Madrid, Spain (Csa)
Marseille, France (Csa)
Tashkent, Uzbekistan (Csa)
Athens, Greece (Csa)
Antalya, Turkey (Csa)
Santiago, Chile (Csb)
Essaouira, Morocco (Csb)
Porto, Portugal (Csb)
Vigo, Spain (Csb)
San Francisco, California, United States (Csb)
Cape Town, South Africa (Csb)
Seattle, Washington, United States (Csb)

Video on Global Oneness Project a design system based on nature. The three ethics are:

1. Care of the earth.

2. Care of people.

3. Setting limits to population and consumption. And reinvesting surplus back into the system.

Growing Up: Vertical Farms Evolve to End Hunger

Turn lawn into food on a budget|Meredith Thomas|Central Texas Gardener KLRU--sheet composting & hugelkultur

Okra is good raw in a salad. The leaves are also edible in salads or cooked. Pickled okra is great.

How to Grow a lot of Food in a Small Garden - 9 EZ tips OneYardRevolution | Frugal & Sustainable Organic Gardening

1. Grow in raised beds, not rows.
2. Use keyhole beds to allow access
3. Optimize spacing between plants and paths.
4. Grow vertically. Winter squash, malabar spinach and obvious on trellises.
5. Succession planting to keep a bed continually producing.
6. Interplanting.
7. Grow in partial shade: greens, herbs, rhubarb, mushrooms.
8. Grow food in your front yard.
9. Grow microgreens. You can plant them really close together. Cut and come harvest.
10. Grow in pots and containers.

Ideas from viewers

1) Interplant sweet peas with sunchokes. The sweet peas fix nitrogen, the sunchokes act as trellises for the peas, and both attract beneficial insects.

2) 3 sisters garden

3) Grow dwarf trees and plant shade tolerant crops underneath

4) Grow in window boxes

5) Optimize use of space by growing food you like the most

Vegetable/ornamental no-lawn makeover|Ann & Robin Matthews|Central Texas Gardener

Amazing EDIBLE GARDEN & TREES Using WOOD CHIPS Egyptian spinach loves the heat. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha Annie huge in India.

Top 9 Easy Tips On How To Gardening With WOODCHIPS Morning Gardener's Show

Food and flowers vegetable garden design|Ellie Hanlon|Central Texas Gardener

Edible paradise on only 30 square metres: Marie Manning's Super-productive home garden

**Permaculture Paradise: Unity Garden Permaculture Garden Delights! Allow all life to flourish. Honor all life. johnny mars

Polyculture: plants help other plants. Permaculture Paradise: Val and Eli's Garden!

Permaculture Paradise: Unity Garden Permaculture Garden Delights!

Creating your own urban farm is as simple as planting your flowerbeds with edibles. ~Greg Peterson, My Ordinary Extraordinary Yard: The Story of the Urban Farm, 2009,

Video: My Permaculture Garden - Morag Gamble Australia. lemon myrtle tree, cranberry hibiscus, Society garlic [Tulbaghia violecea]--flowers are eatable. Mustard spinach [Brassica juncea].

Never Enough Dirt: blog

Video: GARDEN TOUR: Front Yard Permaculture Garden Never Enough Dirt

Video: GARDEN TOUR: Backyard Garden July 2016 Never Enough Dirt

Video: Establishing a Food Forest the Permaculture Way (2008)

Video: Cold climate permaculture design and farming / Zarifa

Permaculture Research Insitute articles, forums, global, courses.

*Video: Permaculture Design Intro Geoff Lawton [Australia, his website. Ethics = 1. Earth care: all living things have an intrinsic worth. 2. People care: supply our needs in a sustainable way. 3. Return of surplus; anything which is in surfeit should be returned to the first two [fair share]. Thus an abuntance world. Permaculture leads to absolute abundance.

Sustainability produces more energy than it consumes. Endless resources as long as the sun shines.

Diversity is about interactivity. Our designs focus on thise models. Our teacher is the natural system. Stacking diversity stores and creates a surplus. Stacking through time, through succession, nature's reparative functions. We can stack in space and time: exciting.

We need to design how nature works, but improve on those functions: that's permaculture. Yield, through diversity, is not about trophy hunter mentality, about what's the biggest crop we get, it's not about monoculture.

Geoff Lawton online many permaculture videos handpicked by Geoff


Watercress is among the most highly nutritious vegetables, many of the great herbalists wrote of the revitalizing power of watercress. The health benefits of watercress are attributed to its nutrient content. Watercress is an excellent source of vitamins B1, B2, B6, C, E, manganese, and carotenes.

Victorian watercress garden in Oxfordshire /

It also a good source of calcium, fiber, iron and copper. Watercress livens up raw salad... For optimal health benefits, eat watercress raw and as fresh as possible.

It's got more vitamin C than oranges, more iron than spinach, and more calcium than milk. Enjoying a renaissance as a health food. Requires very fresh water. You can grow it indoors. Use bowl, fill 1/2 with gravel. Buy some watercress with roots and plant. Add mineral water to top of gravel and keep level at top. Keep picking leaves to keep it from flowering as then the leaves will taste bitter. See video for soup recipe.

The watercress tastes sharp and peppery.

Watercress is a powerful cleanser of the body, especially the bloodstream.

Watercress is low in calories and high in potassium which is valued for weight loss, as its diuretic action draws excess fluid down and out of the body.

Watercress helps improve digestion by regulating the flow of bile.

The chlorophyll-rich leaves are chewed to absorb breath odors.

Watercress leaves are used as a poultice for the relief of enlarged prostate gland. The poultice can also treat swollen feet and sprained ankles.

Watercress is a good source of iodine, which is important to the function of the thyroid gland.

Watercress Upland Cress is both delicate and petite geometrically shaped lime green leaves and razor thin stems' featherweight composition is married with flavors full of pepper and spice. Upland Cress becomes more pungent, often acrid and less succulent with maturity. Maturing plants will produce fragrant yellow flowers with the same delicate texture and overt flavors. The entire plant is edible.

Seasons/Availability: Upland watercress is available year-round.

Upland Cress is known as a European green though its parentage can be traced to China. It is a cool season crop that is both cultivated and grows wild and weed-like. It prefers moist sandy clay soils rich in nitrogen and organic matter. Like most greens, Upland Cress prefers full sun to thrive, though the plant will bolt in hot climates.

CONVERT YOUR ECO-UNFRIENDLY SWIMMING POOL INTO A BIOLOGICALLY ACTIVE AND ATTRACTIVE FISH FARM! Swimming pools get a bad rap in enviro-circles, and for good reason. They cost a great deal to construct – using a lot of CO2 intensive materials in the process – they waste huge amounts of water and energy for maintenance, use chemicals to keep them clear and ‘safe’, and they take up a lot of space that could be utilised for more productive purposes (like growing veggies!). Many people also just find them a lot of work to look after, which is especially annoying when their usage is often only seasonal at best.



Eating from the pool didn’t seem to be the primary goal for Vanessa and Justin, but rather to create a closed loop biological system that would add beauty and diversity to the rest of their Permaculture system.

How they did it

After draining the pool, they set to cleaning it of contaminants by scrubbing the inside with vinegar and rinsing it clean. This is important or the fish you introduce could die. Before introducing fish, however, plants need to be established, as well as the all-important oxygen-generating algae. Algae forms on its own when allowed, and the best plants to introduce are those you’ll find in natural freshwater environments in your area (lakes, ponds, rivers) as these are best suited for your climate.

Justin and Vanessa even introduced a couple of plants that are regarded as ‘pests’ by many government authorities – like salvinia, a fast spreading floating fern. Rather than a pest, the plant serves a purpose here as chicken feed, and its characteristic of spreading fast just means the chickens have a good supply of it!

Another plant introduced is azola – which is very high in nitrogen due to its special relationship with a nitrogen-fixing cyanobacterium. This makes it an exceptionally good mulch (azolla is said to increase rice yields significantly – "as much as 158 percent per year"). Of course, they also introduced plants that are great for human consumption – like kangkong, water chestnut and watercress.

At the moment the pool is essentially a closed loop biological system. The plants feed off the nutrients supplied by fish and bird droppings, the fish feed off the plants and insect larvae (like dragonflies, etc.), and the algae regulates the CO2/oxygen levels. Zooplankton and mollusks (snails) feed on the algae, the crustaceans (shrimps) feed on the zooplankton, and the fish feed on the mollusks and the crustaceans.


Oh, speaking about snails, if anyone spotted the blue hoses at top and thought I really should have pulled them out before taking any pictures, let it be known that I was going to do just that, but got stopped in my tracks. These hoses also serve a purpose – snails cling to the outside, and also live inside the hose, and it’s from these hoses that the fish like to feed.

As mentioned, algae is very important for the health of the pool – but you can have too much of a good thing. Algae blooms are to be avoided as they can suffocate life in the pool. A balanced algae population can be regulated in three ways: 1) reducing nutrient input (i.e. harvest some fish), 2) reducing light (i.e. add a translucent shade, or a living vine, over part of the pool), or 3) simply scoop some algae out if you get desperate and use it for mulch or compost.

The biggest thing stopping a decent increase in the fish population is oxygen. To regularly eat from the pool, Vanessa and Justin would need to incorporate a water filter/oxygenation system – which is something they’re looking at doing next. As you can see from the pictures, the water in this particular pond is rather ‘natural’. A biological filter would make the water clearer – so, if you wanted, it could still retain the pool’s original purpose (swimming!). Increased oxygenation also tends to keep algae from getting out of hand.

A bio-filter doesn’t need to be too complicated or expensive. Water could be pumped out of the pool and through a gravel trench, and then back into the pool (a solar pump could be utilised). As the water passes through the gravel it gets filtered/cleansed (by the algae that will develop there) and oxygenated. Reeds growing on the gravel aid in making the biological filter itself a closed system.


As well as the general aesthetic and the potential for increased food security and health, pools like these also contribute to the health of the garden in general as they attract a greater diversity of wildlife. Vanessa and Justin now have regular visits from predatory creatures, including white-faced herons and even the australasian bittern, a threatened species.

Essentially, a pool like this is a great example of the very essence of Permaculture – working with natural synergies, and finding ways to make them work for ourselves and the environment. Where modern agribusiness concentrates on chemistry, Permaculturists deal in biology. Instead of reductionist science, which would take just one element and pull it apart to its base chemical ingredients before we look up thinking we understand something, this kind of management takes a broader view.


UTILIZATION OF MACROPHYTE BIOFILTER IN EFFLUENT FROM AQUACULTURE: I. FLOATING PLANT "water hyacinth is one of the many plant species we use as a low impact bio filter. When we harvest it, it makes a fine fungal based compost. We use azola as well."

Permaculture Magazine

cNorth America

Permaculture Design Magazine Sunnyvale, CA

Permaculture Magazine on Facebook

Permaculture Activist

Pip Magazine, Permaculture in Australia


Milorganite & Straw Bale Gardening Be sure to purchase straw bales made from alfalfa, wheat, oats, rye or other cereal grain that have less weed seeds than hay. Start a few weeks before the designated planting date.

Place the bales in their permanent location with the cut sides up and twine parallel to the ground.

Hose end timer Orbit 62061N-91213 Single-Dial Water Timer. $18.99 + Free Shipping.

Video: Stunning Tour of my Permaculture Backyard! Rick Larson

My Permaculture Garden - Morag Gamble winter in the garden

How to Make a Worm Tower: by Morag Gamble add tissues, kitchen waste, shredded newspaper, coffee grounds

9" PCV pipe, 2.5 ft. long. Drill 5mm holes in bottom 2/3 of pipe [will be buried]. Dig holw and bury. Put compost at the base. Add big handfull of composting worms: red worms, tiger worms, blue worms.

Make sure the holes are below the soil. Backfill but ''t compress it. Mulch the top of the soil. Put a handful of mulch on top of the worms. It helps to discourage flies and keep a nice stable temperature. Place a plastic pot on top of the pipe upside down to keep animals out and keep too much rain from getting in.

How To Make A DIY Worm Tower GreenShortz DIY. More, bigger holes. Use replair coupling for lid. Add a little grit, sand, on top of worms to help them process.

Three winter gardening shortcuts from Graham Ross

Graham Ross: Winter Vegetable Garden, Ep 22

Graham Ross: Vegie Garden Tips, Ep 16 Fall chores

Gardening: Vegie garden, Ep 1 Fall

Graham Ross: Graham's Vegetable Garden #2, Ep 7 (14.03.14) Fall

How To Build Beautiful Self-Sufficient Gardens For Any Climate: Keyhole Gardens | Amazing Earth

PERMACULTURE / high-yield production in limited space / The raised bed hugelkultur

Backyard Permaculture: Starting at home... Peter Cundall.

Permaculture and NoTill Gardening


Urban Agroecoloy: 6,000 lbs of food on 1/10th acre - Urban Homestead - Urban Permaculture

Secrets to a successfull urban garden with little work.


LearnHowToGarden youtube

Growing Winter Salads

HOW TO GROW FIGS IN A CONTAINER OR POT Morag Gamble : Our Permaculture Life youtube

What to look for when you're buying land for permaculture

Geoff Lawton videos

The evolution of a backyard food forest - the first three years two great videos.

Food Forests

Temperate Climate Food Forest The illustration is mine, so please give credit (name and website) if you choose to use it. Almost all the links on this page go to my archived site for now. As I update the articles and bring them over to my new site, you will not be redirected. But for now, this is how it is.

Welcome to the Temperate Climate Permaculture Plant Index! Plants are categorized by their place in the Forest Garden and then listed alphabetically by common name. Please check back often as a new species is researched and added to the listing on about a weekly basis. To find out a bit more about Edible Forest Gardens, click here, and for more information on the nine layers of the Forest Garden, click here . I am also including links to my specific use listings of plants here:

Aromatic Pest Confusers for a Temperate Climate

Dynamic Accumulators for Temperate Climates

The Facts Behind Dynamic Accumulators

Nitrogen Fixers for Temperate Climate Permaculture Forest Gardens

Pioneer Species for a Temperate Climate

Windbreak Plants for a Temperate Climate

Plants for Beneficial Insects

Trap Plant Species

Canopy Layer

Typically over 30 feet (~9 meters) high. This layer is for larger Forest Gardens. Timber trees, large nut trees, and nitrogen-fixing trees are the typical trees in this category. There are a number of larger fruiting trees that can be used here as well depending on the species, varieties, and rootstocks used.

Alder (Alnus species)
Apple (Malus domestica or pumila)
Bamboo (Bambuseae Tribe)
Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)
Cherry, Black (Prunus serotina)
Cherry, Sweet (Prunus avium)
Cherry, Tart (Sour) (Prunus cerasus)
Chestnut (Castanea species)
Lime, Linden, & Basswood (Tilia species)
Hazelnuts or Filberts (Corylus species)
Honey Locust (Gleditsia triancanthos)
Juniper (Juniperus species)
Monkey Puzzle Tree (Araucaria araucana)
Mulberry (Morus species: M. nigra, M. rubra, M. alba)
Oak (Quercus species)
Osage Orange (Maclura pomifera)
Pea Tree (Caragana species)
Pears, Asian (Pyrus species)
Pears, European (Pyrus communis)
Pecans and Hickories (Carya species)
Persian Silk Tree or Mimosa (Albizia julibrissin)
Persimmon (Diospyros species: D. kaki, D. lotus, D. virginiana)
Pine Trees for Pine Nuts (Pinus species)
Raisin Tree (Hovenia dulcis)
Service Trees, Rowans, Whitebeams, and Mountain Ashes (Sorbus species)
Walnut (Juglans nigra and Juglans regia)
Walnut – Other species (J. cinerea, J. ailantifolia var. cordiformi, J. x bixbyi)
Willow (Salix species)

Subcanopy Layer

Typically 10-30 feet (3-9 meters) high. In most Forest Gardens, or at least those with limited space, these plants often make up the acting Canopy layer. The majority of fruit trees fall into this layer.

Alder (Alnus species)
Apple (Malus domestica or pumila)
Bamboo (Bambuseae Tribe)
Cherry, Sweet (Prunus avium)
Cherry, Tart (Sour) (Prunus cerasus)
Chestnut (Castanea species)
Cornelian Cherry (Cornus mas)
Elderberry (Sambucus species)
Hazelnuts or Filberts (Corylus species)
Jujube (Ziziphus zizyphus or jujuba)
Juniper (Juniperus species)
Mayhaw (Crataegus aestivalis and Crataegus opaca)
Medlar (Mespilus germanica)
Mulberry (Morus species: M. nigra, M. rubra, M. alba)
Oak (Quercus species)
Osage Orange (Maclura pomifera)
Pawpaw (Asimina triloba)
Pea Tree (Caragana species)
Pears, Asian (Pyrus species)
Pears, European (Pyrus communis)
Persian Silk Tree or Mimosa (Albizia julibrissin)
Plum (Prunus subgenus Prunus species)
Quince (Cy'ia oblonga)
Raisin Tree (Hovenia dulcis)
Service Trees, Rowans, Whitebeams, and Mountain Ashes (Sorbus species)
Sumac (Rhus species)
Willow (Salix species)
Yellowhorn (Xanthoceras sorbifolium)

Shrub Layer

Typically up to 10 feet (3 meters) high. The majority of fruiting bushes fall into this layer. Includes many nut, flowering, medicinal, and other beneficial plants as well.

Alder (Alnus species)
Aronia or Chokeberry (Aronia species)
Bamboo (Bambuseae Tribe)
Blue (Berried) Honeysuckle (Lonicera caerulea)
Blueberries (Vaccinium species)
Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea species)
Cherry, Sweet (Prunus avium)
Cherry, Tart (Sour) (Prunus cerasus)
Chestnut (Castanea species)
Currants (Ribes species)
Elderberry (Sambucus species)
Goji Berry (Wolfberry) (Lycium barbarum, Lycium chinense)
Gooseberries (Ribes uva-crispa)
Goumi (Elaeagnus multiflora)
Hazelnuts or Filberts (Corylus species)
Juniper (Juniperus species)
Mayhaw (Crataegus aestivalis and Crataegus opaca)
Nanking Cherry (Prunus tomentosa)
Oak (Quercus species)
Osage Orange (Maclura pomifera)
Pea Shrubs (Caragana species)
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Roses – An Introduction to Rose Types (Rosa species)
Roses – Rosa rugosa (Rosa rugosa)
Sage (Salvia officinalis)
Salal or Shallon (Gaultheria shallon)
Saskatoon (Amelanchier alnifolia)
Sea-Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides)
Sumac (Rhus species)
Willow (Salix species)
Wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius)
Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)
Yellowhorn (Xanthoceras sorbifolium)

Herbaceous Layer

Plants in this layer die back to the ground every winter… if winters are cold enough, that is. They do not produce woody stems as the Shrub layer does. Many cullinary and medicinal herbs are in this layer. A large variety of other beneficial plants fall into this layer.

Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis)
Buckwheat (Fagopyrum species)
Borage (Borago officinalis)
Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
Camas (Camassia species)
Chicory (Cichorium intybus)
Clover, Red (Trifolium pratense)
Columbine (Aquilegia species)
Comfrey (Symphytum asperum)
Echinacea or Coneflower (Echinacea species)
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
Ginseng (Panax species)
Good King Henry (Chenopodium bonus-henricus)
Hollyhock (Alcea rosea)
Horseradish (Amoracia rusticana)
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza species)
Lupine (Lupinus species)
Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
Plantain (Plantago species)
Ramps (Allium tricoccum)
Rhubarb (Rheum species)
Saffron (Crocus sativus)
Sea Kale (Crambe maritima)
Sorrel (Rumex species)
Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)
Turkish Rocket (Bunias orientalis)
Udo (Aralia cordata)
Vetch (Vicia species)
Yarrow (Achillea species)

Groundcover Layer

There is some overlap with the Herbaceous layer and the Groundcover layer; however plant in this layer are often shade tolerant, grow much closer to the ground, grow densely to fill bare patches of soil, and often can tolerate some foot traffic.

Aronia or Chokeberry (Aronia species)
Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
Clover, Red (Trifolium pratense)
Creeping Blueberry (Vaccinium crassifolim)
Groundcover Raspberry (Rubus nepalensis, R. pentalobus, R. tricolor)
Hog Peanut (Amphicarpaea bracteata)
Juniper (Juniperus species)
Lupine (Lupinus species)
Mint (Mentha species)
Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris)
Rhubarb (Rheum species)
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Sage (Salvia officinalis)
Salal or Shallon (Gaultheria shallon)
Sea Kale (Crambe maritima)
Sorrel (Rumex species)
Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)
Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas)
Turkish Rocket (Bunias orientalis)
Wild Angelica (Angelica silvestris)
Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)
Vetch (Vicia species)
Yarrow (Achillea species)

Underground Layer

These are root crops. There are an amazing variety of edible roots that most people have never heard of, but I hope to introduce them to you here.

Camas (Camassia species)
Ginseng (Panax species)
Groundnut (Apios americana)
Hog Peanut (Amphicarpaea bracteata)
Horseradish (Amoracia rusticana)
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza species)
Oca (Oxalis tuberosa)
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
Skirret (Sium sisarum)
Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas)

Vining or Climber Layer

These vining and climbing plants span multiple layers depending on how they are trained or what they climb all on their own. They are a great way to add more productivity to a small space, but be warned. Trying to pick grapes that have climbed up a 60 foot Walnut Tree can be interesting to say the least.

Hog Peanut (Amphicarpaea bracteata)
Hops (Humulus lupulus)
Kiwi – Tropical and Hardy (Actinidia deliciosa, A. arguta, A. kolomikta)
Malabar Spinach (Basella alba, Basella rubra)
Maypop (Passiflora incarnata)
Muscadines (Vitis rotundifolia)
Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas)
Vetch (Vicia species)
Wisteria (Wisteria species)

Aquatic or Wetland Layer

These plants can live in moist to water-logged soils as well as entirely within water features (ponds, streams, etc.). The most productive plants for converting energy into plant matter can be found in this layer.

Cattail, Bulrush, or Reedmace (Typha species)
Common Reed (Phragmites australis)
Mayhaw (Crataegus aestivalis and Crataegus opaca)
Water Lotus (Nelumbo species)
Water Spinach, Kangkong, Ong Choy (Ipomoea aquatica)
Willow (Salix species)

Mycelial or Fungal Layer

The fungal networks living within forest soils are nutrient and communication highways, and their health is inseparable to that of our Forest Garden. Unlike other soil life, we can sow, manage, and harvest products from fungus, and this layer will steadily increase in importance as our understanding of it grows.

Reishi or Ling Chi (Gandoderma lucidum)
Shaggy Mane (Coprinus comatus)
Shiitake (Lentinula edodes)

Video: The Basic Premise Behind Developing A Food Forest Plant Abundance

Video: Companion Planted Food Forest the Permaculture way. Permaculture Homestead. Yarrow is great compost activator. Passion fruit is great in drinks.

Polycultures and Guilds - Episode 1 - Apples -n- more! EdibleAcres. Apple tree guild. Co-planted with garlic to discourage deer. Close by as rhyzome barrier are rhubarb and comfrey around southern edge of bed. Red currents between the rhubarbs. North are an American Persimmon and a deep rooted Pawpaw. Peach tree with pawpaw. Pawpaw and persimmon are back ups if trees ''t survive.

Polycultures and Guilds Ep2 - Grapes, Honeylocust and more!

Polycultures and Guilds - 3 - Succession design and dense food forest EdibleAcres.

Polycultures and Guilds 4 - Many MANY layers

Polycultures and Guilds 5 - Chestnut with Allies

Permaculture Potato Planting - Using Potatoes to develop beautiful permanent raised beds

How to Make a Temperate Forest Garden : Part 1 PermacultureMedia from Permaculture Magazine from England

How to make a Temperate Forest Garden - Part 2 Phyllostachys is clumping bamboo, edible, very sweet.

Living With The Land | Part 1 | Forest Gardening good intro to forest gardens

Living With The Land | Part 2 | Natural Building

Living With The Land | Part 3 | Farming with Nature

Living with the Land | Part 4 | Urban Permaculture: Permablitz

Living With The Land | Part 5 | No-Dig Gardening

Living With The Land | Part 6 | Animal-free Farming

Living With The Land | Part 7 | Off-grid Living

Living With The Land | Part 8 | Transformation Through Learning

Living With The Land | Part 9 | 21st Century Foraging

Fruit Tree Guilds

How to Clean Murky Pond Water without Chemicals | Full Version

Converting our Swimming pool to a swimming pond part 1!

Building a Natural Pond from a Swimming Pool Ep 1 ENVIROTUBE

Urban Backyard Food Forest Tour (Year 3)

Martin Crawford's Forest Garden Part 1

United Diversity

Temperate Climate Permaculture Food Forest (Riverton, New Zealand) Permasolutions

beneficial weeds in a young food forest - polyculture! paul wheaton. Tonascet, Washington

mullein: heal the earth with cowboy toilet paper paul wheaton. a dynamic nutrient collector. Deep taproot.

V Exciting additions to our food forest edible food forest and kitchen perm. garden in Netherlands.

V Tour of Urban Edible Forest Netherlands, temperate climate

V You can do permaculture!! Start small and work slow!! How I break Parkrose Permaculture down in a series of small gardens. Don't feel overwhelmed with a big garden project! Break it down and tackle small areas at one time. Permaculture gardening and living is approachable

2 varieties of pawpaw, persimmon, juneberries, large-fruited sea buckthorne 'Botanica', hazelnut 'Webb's Prize Cob' , hardy tea plant and a hardy pomegranate!


Bumble bees, their colony and nest Dave Kennedy

Mason Bees Micro Documentary paul wheaton



Your Usless Pool into a Beautiful Pond - Part 1 Envirotube - Ku-ring-gai, Australia

Pool to Pond - Part 2 Envirotube

Building a Natural Pond from a Swimming Pool Ep 1 ENVIROTUBE - Australia

Building a Natural Pond from a Swimming Pool Ep 2

How to Save Native Fish in a Swimming Pool - Ep 3

Building a Natural Pond from a Swimming Pool - Ep 4

Commercial Hvy Construction Conversions:

Swimming Pool to Pond Conversion - How To Part 1 of 2 in Green Village, NJ

How to turn a pool into a pond

My from pool to pond transformation Billy Pang.. filled pool with dirt. 180 hrs of work. Waited 6 mos for soil to settle. Then shaped the soil into levels. Put dirt in bags to stabilize. Plastic! Yuch.

All in One! Natural pool, fish pond and veggies mynaturalpool.

Natural Swimming Pools & Ponds: About Rocks and plants help keep water clear. Some interesting info... waterfall has gravel with beneficial bacteria which clean the water, converting waste into food for the plants. Biological filter area of pool

CTG: Pond habitat from swimming pool | Irene Anderson

CTG: Serene Pond Backyard |Barbara and David Hale

CTG: Ponds replace lawn | Laura and Travis McGarraugh

Swimming Pool to Fish Pond Conversion Video #1 Jim Migdoll, Muldoon, Australia [on island of Tasmania]... beginnings. Water is opaque.

Pool to Pond Conversion Video #2 Jim Migdoll, used their existing pool pump. Using fake stream with gravel, rocks, plants to filter water. Uses happenstance supplies he has... good permaculture practice.

Pool to pond conversion Video #3

Pool to Pond Conversion Video #4 flockulent or barley straw to get rid of cloudiness of water.

Pool to pond conversion #5

Pool to Pond - Part 1 Trey Clanton, SE Texas

Pool to Pond Part 2 Trey Clanton water lilies, snails eat debris, will eat plants if too many

Pool to Pond - Part 3 - A Quick Updare Trey Clanton

Pool to Pond Part 4 How to pot lily pad tubers the right way

Pool to Pond - Spring 2017 First Update Trey Clanton

How to plant water lilies in a deep pond ? guy in a suit?

Adding a water lily to your pond Pond Girl

Planting a Hardy Waterlily properly. Planting Pond Plants, Water Gardening Help

Hardy Waterlilies more important information

The Garden Gurus - To the Rescue: Water Lily Success The Garden Gurus TV

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ How We Went from Desert to Food Forest source--trees $1.49 good roots, quality. Zone 4 Cold High.

Cold Stream Farm located in Michigan is a wholesale shrub nursery and bare root tree nursery.

Black Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) - 6-12" $4.39
Chinese Wisteria [Wisteria sinensis] - 6-12'' $5.20
Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) - 6-12" $4.39
UPS Ground $12.96 Your order # is: 100152418. Ordered 3/6/17

Edible Forest

Back To Eden Food Forest great tour

From Gotham to isolated, code & debt-free West Texas estate S. Brewster county. Really cheap to buy land and live. Did because of debt.

Jagannath K The Natural Farmer - Mediterranean - #1 20 Year Old Food Forest in Italy

Jeff Lawton Intro to Permaculture

Thriving 23-Year-Old Permaculture Food Forest - An Invitation for Wildness

The principles behind designing a backyard food forest Treehugger

Remember that awesome video showing the first three years of a backyard food forest? Even with the slideshow explaining how Dan from Plant Abundance turned a litter-strewn yard into an urban oasis, I have to admit that a Lazivore like me was still intimidated.

That's why I was delighted to see that Dan just posted a new video explaining the simple principles behind his method of gardening. Here's a summary:

video: The Basic Premise Behind Developing A Food Forest

Video screen capture Plant Abundance

1) He doesn't like to be too restrictive: That's why he hesitates to label his work "permaculture", "organic gardening", or "forest gardening", for example—instead taking inspiration from all of these disciplines and more.

2) Layering is central to everything: The most basic premise behind any food forest is the idea that we can maximize our yield if we learn to use all layers of the garden—using the vertical space above and below ground to cram in a much larger harvest than if we only rely on what grows at ground level. By using root crops, ground cover crops, herbaceous plants, shrubs, small trees, canopy trees and vines, Dan is able to more efficiently take advantage of all the space available to him.

3) Symbiosis doesn't necessarily mean self-sustaining: Dan points out that he's growing in a small urban yard, and manages the land accordingly. While a multi-acre food forest might be—by both necessity and design—largely hands off, Dan has to regularly prune back his trees and perform other management in order to maintain an optimal yield. He could let it go and it would probably still thrive, but his yield wouldn't be quite so large nor so diverse.

4) Understanding sunlight is crucial: The downside of layering your plants is that you now have to manage which plants shade what. (This is one of the main concerns folks have about vertical farms too.) So first understanding how sun falls on your property, and then designing your garden with spacing in mind, is critical to success. As Dan showed in his first three years video, though, it's OK for some plants to eventually get shaded out. You just need to plan for that—perhaps planting more annuals in the early years, until your shrubs, small trees and canopies really start to mature.

Obviously, there's more to all this than these four simple principles—and as someone who has dabbled and failed at much of what's here, I am still in awe of what Dan has achieved. but this seems like a useful primer for anyone interested in giving this a go.

Plant Abundance the video

How to Make 7 Productive Layers to Create a Thriving Food Forest Food forests may take a while to develop, but they are certainly worth the effort. Even better, though the systems do take a while to reach maturity, they can be planted to be productive from beginning to end. And, at the end, there should be a stand of permanent food-producing trees, big and small, which are accentuated with other sources of food, beauty, and habitat. This system, like a forest, will take care of itself, all the while yielding delicious harvests. One mistake people make when thinking of food forests is picturing landscapes solely composed of large trees, but in reality, forests aren’t so simple. They are a complex combination of flora and fauna, both above and below the soil surface, that take years to develop. Our food forests need to be the same, but we are stacking these layers of life with species that provide us with food the entire way. In the end, we can use all the different layers to provide a well-balanced diet.

1. Canopy Trees

Canopy Trees

Canopy trees act as large linchpins to food forests; however, most of them take a long time to grow — sometimes years, sometimes decades — into production. Nonetheless, these trees — apples, pears, chestnuts, cherries, mulberries, pecans — eventually provide us with huge mountains of food. Canopy trees, in a way, are the point of the food forest: We are nursing these trees to maturity so that we can receive their massive yields, and we are designing our forest around them.

2. Understory Trees

Understory Trees

Understory trees are often either secondary crop yields to the canopy trees that tend to provide food earlier or support species for the productive plants. This isn’t to say they '’t provide huge amounts of food. A dwarf or semi-dwarf fruit tree produces enough fruit for a small family. The other, highly important trees to include here, are nitrogen-fixing leguminous trees (around 90 percent of the initial forest trees), which can provide food but, more importantly, offer fertilizer and biomass to support the productive species. These will be thinned out as the forest matures.

What is Chop-and-Drop Mulch and Why You Should Use It for Your Garden A chop-and-drop mulch plant is one that produces a lot of biomass, which can be periodically pruned, pulled or coppiced (cutting the plant down to a stump), the organic matter then allowed to fall right to the ground as a layer of mulch. Hence, why it’s called chop-and-drop: we cut the plant and let the trimmings fall seemingly carelessly to the floor.

Any plant can be cut down and allowed to remain felled where it falls, but quality chop-and-drop plants specialize in the practice. Not only do they regenerate, typically quite quickly, even when cut to the nub, but they have more to offer than just any run-of-the-mill rose bush. Their leaves might carry a particular well-stocked cache of trace minerals, or their roots might release fertilizing nitrogen nodules when branches are trimmed.

In essence, chop-and-drop cultivation is the act of growing a plant because it is very good at being cut down and left for the benefit of the other plants

Why You Should Chop-and-Drop

When naturally revitalizing soil, a collection of choice chop-and-drop plants helps to create well-balanced, nutritionally rich earth in which we can easily cultivate other plants. Aside from providing easy-to-reach mulch material, mulching being a must in healthy gardens, typical chop-and-drop plants come with some special characteristics that increase their worth.

Deep-Tapping Roots

Some chop-and-drop species have deep-tapping roots, which drill beyond the reach of other roots, and they can accumulate trace minerals and nutrients from far beneath the surface. These elements build up in the plant, and when it is cut and used as mulch, all of those good things are then available to plants with roots closer to the surface.


A favorite chop-and-drop selection is the perennial, nitrogen-fixing the legume (and a few that aren’t leguminous). Nitrogen-fixing plants harvest their own nitrogen from the air and store it in nodules in their roots. When a plant is pruned above the ground, it mimics the action below the surface. In this case, that results in fertilizing boost both atop the soil from the mulch and below the soil from the roots.


Specific low-lying herbs, grasses, and legumes are also a commonly used option. They are grown thickly and allowed to run wild in a resting bed or a garden to be, and then they are chopped to provide an abundance of mulch matter atop the soil. This is great because the live plants have protected the soil from weather and erosion damage, the roots softened the soil, and now there is an abundance of biomass to feed new plants.

A Few Great Plants for Chop-and-Drop Mulch

Not all plants are up to this task, which is fine, as each species has its own prize and purpose. Tomatoes aren’t great for chop-and-drop mulch, but that’s fine because they provide delicious food for our tables. However, for those looking to get into some chop-and-drop action, here are some favorites of the permaculture community.

1. Comfrey

Often considered a weed, comfrey produces an abundance of leaves that are crazy packed with good stuff. Identified as a “dynamic accumulator”, it is often put on par with manure for the fertility it provides.

2. Pigeon Pea/Siberian Pea

Two different nitrogen-fixing legumes, pigeon pea is better suited for frost-free climates, and Siberian pea for colder climates. Both provide good biomass for the soil surface and nitrogen boosts from their roots. They are good for harvesting woody material to drop.

3. Red Clover

A widely appreciated “cover crop”, used to keep soil active and away from harsh weather conditions, clover is easy to grow and also fixes nitrogen in soil. When it’s time to make a garden, chop it and drop it for a fertile and refreshed bed.

3. Shrubs and Bushes

Shrubs and Bushes

Woody shrubs and bushes are the next layer in the garden, and again, with smaller plants often comes faster growth. Berries occupy a huge part of this layer, and in temperate climates, ranging from Louisiana to Michigan, there are options. The berry family is vast and varied. These will grow well throughout the forest while the trees are small, and once mature, berries naturally thrive at the edges of forests.

4. Herbs


Herbaceous plants are often edible, such as culinary herbs, or medicinal, like comfrey and St. John’s wort. In addition to being productive as food and medicine, this layer is often great for attracting beneficial insects, repelling crop pests, and adding biomass to the forest floor. “Weeds” — comfrey, plantain, burdock, and dandelions — often have deep taproots that mine minerals from far beneath the surface and deposit them on the topsoil when they drop leaves. This is good for the other plants.

5. Vines


Since there are productive trees, there might as well be productive vines growing up them. There are many perennial vines that would enjoy having a home on a food forest, just as less desirable vines, like poison oak, enjoy living in natural forests. Grapes, kiwis, scarlet runner beans, passion fruits, and many other options are there, and vines are a great way of adding an extra layer of production.

6. Groundcovers


Groundcovers are usually herbaceous plants, but in this instance, we are choosing plants that have the tendency to spread out low and cover the soil, acting as a living mulch. Strawberries are a good, fruit-producing choice. Other options include things like crimson clover, which is edible and adds fertility; creeping thyme, which is a culinary herb; and/or sweet woodruff, which clumps rather than spreads and smells great.

7. Roots


Lastly, we shouldn’t forget that there is plenty of action underground, and many of our favorite foods—carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic—come from below the surface. Because food forests tend to lean towards perennial production, including things like groundnuts and Jerusalem artichokes might make for huge added harvests. Harvesting these will also help to naturally turn soils for a bit of oxygenation.

These are the seven classic components of food forests, but they shouldn’t limit the lines of imaginative thought. We haven’t included mushroom production, which is perfect for food forests, in this list. We haven’t thought about all the wild animals we want to be roaming around, adding fertility with their manure, turning soils with their foraging, and spreading seeds for the next incarnation. Ultimately, these forests will have such abundance from so many different sources for such a long time that … well, why wouldn’t we grow them? They are Eden!

LATER: Harvesting Rosella & Sowing Seeds on our Urban Farm Rob Bob's Backyard Farming & Aquaponics. Rosella/sorrel/edible hibiscus.

Roselle [Hibiscus sabdariffa] a species of Hibiscus native to West Africa,[1] used for the production of bast fibre and as an infusion, in which it may be known as carcade. It is an annual or perennial herb or woody-based subshrub, growing to 2–2.5 m (7–8 ft) tall. The leaves are deeply three- to five-lobed, 8–15 cm (3–6 in) long, arranged alternately on the stems. The flowers are 8–10 cm (3–4 in) in diameter, white to pale yellow with a dark red spot at the base of each petal, and have a stout fleshy calyx at the base, 1–2 cm (0.39–0.79 in) wide, enlarging to 3–3.5 cm (1.2–1.4 in), fleshy and bright red as the fruit matures. They take about six months to mature.

Rosella Growing Information Botanical Name:Hibiscus sabdariffa

Common Names: asam balanda, bissap, edible hibiscus, flor de jamaica, grosella, karkade, lumanda, luo shen hua, meshta, omutete, paya, queensland jam plant, rajeab, rosela, roselle, saril, sorrel, susur. Plant Family: Malvaceae.

Plant Description
A native of tropical West Africa, it prefers warm climates. Rosella is an attractive annual shrub to 1.5 m high with large, lobed reddish leaves and attractive yellow hibiscus-like flowers. Rosellas are easy to grow, with few pest problems, hardy and productive. Most soil types are suitable, provided they are rich and well-drained. Plenty of water is needed to maintain growth, flowering and fruit development, mulching is beneficial. Three to four plants is all that is needed to produce a good crop. Plants normally begin to crop when about 3 months old and cropping may continue for 9 months or until the first frost. The fruit is ready to pick about 3 weeks after flowering, when they'll be 2 - 3 cm across at their widest part.

Planting Details
Sow When: Sow in early spring in tropical areas, rosellas need at least 5 months frost-free to bear. Rosellas need a very warm soil to germinate, preferably over 25°C. In southern areas of Australia this would be as late as October outside. Some years the soil might take even longer to warm up. So gardeners in cooler areas need to start seed indoors using a small bottom-heat unit, or the top of the water heater.

Planting Depth: Cover seed with 12 mm of fine soil.
Spacing: Plant several seeds 50 cm apart and thin seedlings to the strongest.

Food: the fleshy calyx is used in salads, jellies, cranberry-like sauces, jam and cordial, syrups and wine. Dried the red calyx is used for tea and it is an important ingredient in the commercial Red Zinger, Hibiscus and Fruit teas. The tea is very similar in flavour to rose-hips and high in vitamin C. Seeds are roasted and ground into flour. Young leaves can be steamed or stir-fried and are known as Red Sorrel in the Pacific.

Hedge: Rosella is an attractive annual hedge or windbreak for the summer garden.

Available as seed: Rosella

How To Grow Rosella & Make It Into Jam?

Why We Should Be Urban Farming

HOW TO: Turn your lawn into an urban farm

Homegrown Revolution (Award winning short-film 2009)- The Urban Homestead
Urban Homesteading

Profile of an Urban Homesteader

Treating the Farm as an Ecosystem with Gabe Brown Part 1 The 5 Tenets of Soil Health Later

Companion Planted Food Forest the Permaculture way. Permaculture Homestead--later

Companion planting in a small productive urban garden. Sustainable Gardening Australia SG Aust--later

Companion Planting! Chemical Free Pest Control and Plant Created Fertilizer Later

What is Companion Planting, Food Forest Examples. Later

Companion Planting Made Easy Later

Companion Planting, 200 best videos Top five companion plants:

1) beans or peas, nitro fixers, in container with chard, lettuce, spinach.

2) Alliums--onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, chives, et al. repel pests with brassicas like cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy, cabbage, also tomatoes, carrots, celery, peppers in containers.

3) Marigolds "the wonderdrug of companion planting" french marigolds in particular produce a pesticide which lasts for years; plant with brassicas and cucurbits like squash, cucumbers, melons; even put in small pot and move around the garden to keep pests at bay.

4) Herbs like basil, rosemary, thyme, and sage; enhance the flavor of tomatoes and repel pests; plant at base of tomato plants.

5) Radishes, plant with plants which will be tall or slow growing like eggplants [slow until summer heat], peppers [same], and good with squash [prevent squash borrers]

Dynamic accumulator

= Dynamic accumulators are plants that gather certain micronutrients, macronutrients, or minerals and store them in their leaves. These plants can be used either for detoxifying soil or for gathering a certain nutrient or mineral from an area. For instance, clovers will mine great quantities of nitrogen out of the air via a symbiotic relationship with bacteria. These bacteria convert gaseous nitrogen into a form available to the clover, and exchange this nitrogen for exudates/sugars given by the clover. When the clover dies or is cut down, the green matter breaks down and releases the nitrogen into the soil.

These plants become rich in a certain substance and can then be cut down. This can be used as a fertilizer or as part of a fertilizer mix for other plants that may be deficient in those particular nutrients. The use of a nitrogen dynamic accumulator, such as a clover patch, could potentially replace nitrogen-rich fertilizers. These types of plants play an important role in many permaculture guilds. [Wikipedia]


Comfrey Planting, Dividing, Expanding!

V Morag Comfrey: how to use, harvest and propagate. Film #30 by Morag Gamble: Our Permaculture Life Good edge plant.

V Morag How to Make Comfrey Tea - Morag Gamble: Our Permaculture Life

This year, I did not have my neighbor's horse manure, and since I am growing comfrey, I made a comfrey tea, with excellent results. The big plus is that comfrey re-generates itself and you can make at least 3 cuts/ year. put all these leaves in a barrel, top with water and let stew. In a few weeks, you will have a serious helper in the garden because comfrey really accumulates what if gets from the ground. Also, NO SEED WEEDS. That alone is a great plus. My garlic, normally pretty poor in my sandbox grew to twice the size and there were no bugs.

I made a late batch that is still brewing and will save it for my fruit trees next year. That stuff is really potent! dilute it before use. cover it, or your nose when you get near.

Comfrey articles in my vegetable page

Comfrey articles in my herb page

Comfrey (also comphrey) is a common name for plants in the genus Symphytum. Comfrey species are important herbs in organic gardening. It is used as a fertilizer and as an herbal medicine. The most commonly used species is Russian comfrey Symphytum ×?uplandicum,[1] which is a cross or hybrid of Symphytum officinale (common comfrey) and Symphytum asperum (rough comfrey).

Russian Comfrey [Symphytum ×?uplandicum]

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale L.) is a perennial herb of the family Boraginaceae with a black, turnip-like root and large, hairy broad leaves that bears small bell-shaped flowers of various colours, typically cream or purplish, which may be striped. It is native to Europe, growing in damp, grassy places, and is locally frequent throughout Ireland and Britain on river banks and ditches. More common is the hybrid between S. officinale and S. asperum, Symphytum ×?uplandicum, known as Russian Comfrey, which is widespread in the British Isles, and which interbreeds with S. officinale. Compared to S. officinale, S. ×?uplandicum is generally more bristly and has flowers which tend to be more blue or violet.

Comfrey has long been recognized by both organic gardeners and herbalists for its great usefulness and versatility; of particular interest is the "Bocking 14" cultivar of Russian Comfrey. This strain was developed during the 1950s by Lawrence D Hills, the founder of the Henry Doubleday Research Association (the organic gardening organisation itself named after the Quaker pioneer who first introduced Russian Comfrey into Britain in the nineteenth century) following trials at Bocking, near Braintree, the original home of the organization.

The comfrey bed should be well prepared by weeding thoroughly, and dressing with manure if available. Offsets should be planted 0.6–1 m (2 ft 0 in–3 ft 3 in) apart with the growing points just below the surface, while root segments should be buried about 5 cm (2.0 in) deep. Keep the bed well watered until the young plants are established. Comfrey should not be harvested in its first season as it needs to become established. Any flowering stems should be removed as these will weaken the plant in its first year.

Comfrey is a fast-growing plant, producing huge amounts of leaf during the growing season, and hence is very nitrogen hungry. Although it is a tenacious grower, it will benefit from the addition of animal manure applied as a mulch, and can also be mulched with other nitrogen rich materials such as lawn clippings, and is one of the few plants that will tolerate the application of fresh urine diluted 50:50 with water, although this should not be regularly added as it may increase salt levels in the soil and have adverse effects on soil life such as worms.

Mature comfrey plants can be harvested up to four or five times a year. They are ready for cutting when about 60 cm (24 in) high, and, depending on seasonal conditions, this is usually in mid-Spring. Comfrey will rapidly regrow, and will be ready for further cutting about 5 weeks later. It is said that the best time to cut comfrey is shortly before flowering, for this is when it is at its most potent in terms of the nutrients that it offers. Comfrey can continue growing into mid-autumn, but it is not advisable to continue taking cuttings after early autumn in order to allow the plants to build up winter reserves. After the growing season, leaving comfrey beds fallow may deliver higher yields in future harvests, as the plant builds up energy reserves in its roots.

Comfrey should be harvested by using either shears, a sickle, or a scythe to cut the plant about 2 inches above the ground, taking care handling it because the leaves and stems are covered in hairs that can irritate the skin. It is advisable to wear gloves when handling comfrey. Despite being sterile, Bocking 14 Russian Comfrey will steadily increase in size. It is therefore advisable to split it up every few years.

It is however difficult to remove comfrey once established as it is very deep rooting, and any fragments left in the soil will regrow. Rotovation can be successful, but may take several seasons. The best way to eradicate comfrey is to very carefully dig it out, removing as much of the root as possible. This is best 'e in hot, dry summer weather, wherein the dry conditions will help to kill off any remaining root stumps.

Comfrey is generally trouble free once established, although weaker or stressed plants can suffer from comfrey rust or mildew. Both are fungal diseases, although they rarely seriously reduce plant growth and thus do not generally require control. However infected plants should not be used for propagation purposes.

Comfrey is a particularly valuable source of fertility to the organic gardener. It is very deep rooted and acts as a dynamic accumulator [plants that gather certain micronutrients, macronutrients, or minerals and store them in their leaves. These plants can be used either for detoxifying soil or for gathering a certain nutrient or mineral from an area. For instance, clovers will mine great quantities of nitrogen out of the air via a symbiotic relationship with bacteria. These bacteria convert gaseous nitrogen into a form available to the clover, and exchange this nitrogen for exudates/sugars given by the clover. When the clover dies or is cut down, the green matter breaks down and releases the nitrogen into the soil.], mining a host of nutrients from the soil. These are then made available through its fast-growing leaves (up to 1.8–2.3 kilograms (4.0–5.1 lb) per plant per cut) which, lacking fibres, quickly break down to a thick black liquid.

There is also no risk of nitrogen robbery when comfrey is dug into the soil as the C:N ratio of the leaves is lower than that of well-rotted compost. Comfrey is an excellent source of potassium, an essential plant nutrient needed for flower, seed and fruit production. Its leaves contain 2–3 times more potassium than farmyard manure, mined from deep in the subsoil, tapping into reserves that would not normally be available to plants.

There are various ways in which comfrey can be used as a fertilizer. These include:

--Comfrey as a compost activator – include comfrey in the compost heap to add nitrogen and help to heat the heap. Comfrey should not be added in quantity as it will quickly break down into a dark sludgy liquid that needs to be balanced with more fibrous, carbon-rich material.

--Comfrey liquid fertilizer – can be produced by either rotting leaves down in rainwater for 4–5 weeks to produce a ready-to-use "comfrey tea", or by stacking dry leaves under a weight in a container with a hole in the base. When the leaves decompose a thick black comfrey concentrate is collected. This must be diluted at 15:1 before use.

--Comfrey as a mulch or side dressing – a two-inch layer of comfrey leaves placed around a crop will slowly break down and release plant nutrients; it is especially useful for crops that need extra potassium, such as fruit bearers but also reported to do well for potatoes. Comfrey can be slightly wilted before application optionally but either way, avoid using flowering stems as these can root.

--Comfrey as a companion plant for trees and other perennials – soil tests confirm[10] that soil nutrients increase in the presence of comfrey even when it is not used as mulch, side dressing, or liquid fertilizer, but just allowed to grow.

--Comfrey potting mixture – originally devised to utilize peat, now environmental awareness has led to a leaf mold-based alternative being adopted instead; two-year-old, well decayed leaf mold should be used, this will absorb the nutrient-rich liquid released by the decaying comfrey. In a black plastic sack alternate 7–10 cm (2.8–3.9 in) layers of leaf mold and chopped comfrey leaves. Add a little dolomitic limestone to slightly raise pH. Leave for between 2–5 months depending on the season, checking that it does not dry out or become too wet. The mixture is ready when the comfrey leaves have rotted and are no longer visible. Use as a general potting compost, although it is too strong for seedlings

Contemporary herbalists have a mixed view of comfrey, despite widespread historical use. Its traditional names of knitbone, boneset and the derivation of its Latin name Symphytum (from the Greek symphis, meaning growing together of bones, and phyton, a plant), speak to its longstanding reputation as a therapeutic herb.

Comfrey was historically used to treat a wide variety of ailments ranging from bronchial problems, broken bones, sprains, arthritis, gastric and varicose ulcers, severe burns, acne and other skin conditions. It was reputed to have bone and teeth building properties in children, and have value in treating "many female disorders".

The plant contains the small organic molecule allantoin, which is thought to stimulate cell growth and repair while also depressing inflammation. Constituents of comfrey also include mucilage, steroidal saponins, tannins, pyrrolizidine alkaloids, inulin, and proteins.

In modern herbalism, comfrey is most commonly used topically. Some experts say that comfrey should be restricted to topical use, and should never be ingested, as it contains dangerous amounts of hepatotoxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs).

Growing and Using Comfrey Leaves There are many uses for comfrey, but it should not be taken internally because it is toxic to the liver.

In case you're not familiar with comfrey (Symphytum officinale), it's a member of the borage family, a strong-growing perennial with somewhat hairy leaves 12 to 18 inches long, rising on short stems from a central crown. The flower is a pretty blue bell, fading to pink. We ''t wait to see the blossoms, however, because the foliage is at its best if cut before blooming time. The plant reaches a height of over two feet and spreads to more than a yard across, but — since comfrey doesn't throw out creeping roots and hardly ever sets seed — it's remarkably non-invasive for such a sturdy being.

Coe's Comfrey Ordered root cutting Receipt number: 1341111933555386 $21 with shipping. 4/5/17

Originating in the Caucasus mountains of Russia, Comfrey can withstand temperatures of -40° F below zero without winter kill. It thrives in Africa in 120° F heat and with 12 cuttings per year there, they hold the world record yield of over 140 tons per acre.

Comfrey can be planted spring, summer or fall, anytime the soil can be worked. In warmer climates, (Deep South and Southwest USA) it can be planted and the leaves harvested throughout the year.

Comfrey grows best in USDA Hardiness Zones 3-9. But will grow almost anywhere. Comfrey prefers a sweet soil with a pH of 6.0-7.0 and grows best in rich, moist soil in full sun, but will tolerate some shade. It will grow well in clay, light sands or loams — whether in dry or wet areas. Strong growing and deep- rooted, Comfrey adapts well to most any environment.

Because the Bocking #4 is so deep rooted, it will thrive in drought where most other plants are helpless. We do not sell the Bocking #14 strain of Comfrey as “it is shallow rooted and subject to drought,” and “it is disliked by rabbits and chickens — as being too bitter” according to Lawrence D. Hills, the world’s foremost expert on Comfrey.

Plant Comfrey in “fertile holes” to get established and it will thrive and live even through the hottest Summer or coldest Winter. Comfrey needs a 3 foot spacing for proper root development and highest yields. Strong, mature plants on a 3 foot grid will have the larger outside leaves touching the adjacent plants after 4 to 5 weeks growth.

Comfrey can also be grown indoors, in pots (1 to 5 gallon size) for a continuous harvest of fresh, small leaves. For this purpose best results are obtained by planting two-year or 3-to-4-year plants in the larger pots or 5- gallon buckets.

Comfrey roots can grow down 8 to 10 feet and out to a 3-foot radius bringing up minerals and nutrients that have leached down for thousands of years.

For best results: Keep your comfrey plantings CLEAN (free of weeds and grass), CUT (monthly cuts bring on new growth) and FED (use organic fertilizers such as manure).

In Permaculture, comfrey is often left to grow around trees without cutting. The larger outer leaves will lay down forming a nutrient-rich mulch and ground cover. Leaves can also be cut and scattered around the orchard. However to obtain the highest yield as a crop, it should be kept free of competition from grass, weeds, and tree roots. The plants are then cut when at peak growth and manured.

For Best Results — Use “Fertile Holes” This method is to simply dig a hole for each plant on a 3- to 4 foot grid or 2- to 3 feet apart in a row system. Fill the hole half to 2/3 full with aged manure of any kind, add dolomitic limestone powder if your soil is acidic, Comfrey prefers a sweet soil — 6.0 to 7.0 pH. Fill hole to ground level, blend and mix well with a narrow shovel. Soak with water, set a plant or crown cutting to correct depth, then firm the soil. That’s it!

Root Cuttings 10 for $12. Crown cuttings 10 for $25.

Comfrey Common at Growers Exchange Our Price: $7.95 [18.90 with shipping], ZONE: 3 - 9, EXPOSURE: Full Sun, SIZE: 36"H x 15"S, BLOOM: Lavender, Late Spring - Summer, POT SIZE: 1 PINT 28.86 CU IN.

Tips: Comfrey likes a damp, grassy habitat. It is a fast growing plant, producing huge amounts of leaf during the growing season. It thus requires a lot of nitrogen, and will benefit from the addition of lawn clippings and other nitrogen-rich organic fertilizers. Comfrey is covered in small, fiberglass-like hairs and can cause skin irritation and itching. A vigorous self seeder, one plant will give you tons of seeds for planting!

Great Companions... Lavender 'Munstead' $6.95 Chamomile 'Roman' $5.95 Valerian $5.95

High Country has but is out of stock

Peaceful Valley has comfrey seeds. $3.99 Ordered some and onion sets, Organic German Butterball Seed Potatoes Your order #100286425 Order Date: 04/05/2017

Burpee Ordered 3 plants Tomato, Sun Gold Hybrid, 3 plants Tomato, Italian Ice Hybrid Order Number: BP00917871 Order Date: 04/05/2017

the value of comfrey

7 Ways to Fertilize the Garden with Comfrey 2: Comfrey Manure

Green manure is an alternative to–or supplement to–animal manures as a soil amendment. Green manure plants are simply cut back and turned into the soil. For those on city lots who may not have easy access to livestock manures, green manures are the way to go.

Manure sources are rated for their N-P-K values (nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium) since they are the primary nutrients plants need for healthy growth.

When comparing comfrey manure (1.8-0.5-5.3) to chicken manure (1.1-0.8-0.5) for example, we can see that they are relatively close in value, with comfrey actually having higher nitrogen and potassium values. By comparison, the value of homemade compost usually falls around 0.5-0.5-0.5, highlighting the fact that the benefit of compost is in its beneficial microbial content and as a soil conditioner, rather than as fertilizer.

When using comfrey as a green manure, add chopped comfrey to garden soil in the fall. Gently mix it into the top layers of the soil using a digging fork. By spring, it will have mostly decomposed and enriched the soil.

Alternatively, comfrey manure can be added in the early spring–at least two weeks before planting. To jumpstart the decomposition of the comfrey manure at this late date, try the quick method explained above under Activate Compost.

Note: Comfrey may not emerge from its winter slumber until late March/early April depending on your location, so there may not be comfrey leaves to chop and spread before the growing season gets underway.

To counteract this potential problem, see the next step!

3: Powdered Comfrey Having dried comfrey on hand is a habit that I have grown accustomed to. I use the dried comfrey leaves to make a healing salve for cuts, scrapes, bites, bruises, sore joints, and all manner of external ailments. Dried and powdered (root or leaf) comfrey can also be used to build and fertilize garden soil. Make your own by air drying comfrey or using a dehydrator at 95 degrees until crisp. Remove the dried leaves from the stems and use a blender or coffee grinder to make a powder. Store in an air-tight container. Simply mix powdered comfrey into the soil with a digging fork, about two weeks before planting. Remember that powdered comfrey is more concentrated than fresh leaves, so a little goes a long way. A sprinkle along each row should be plenty. The benefit of using the powdered comfrey is that it can be used in the late winter/early spring garden before the comfrey plants have woken up and produced leaves. The powder will also decompose more readily than fresh leaves, which is better for the spring garden.

4: Condition Soil Comfrey’s roots reach 6-10 feet deep into the earth, breaking up heavy clay and creating channels for aeration and better water absorption. Over time, its decomposing leaves and roots will fertilize the soil. This dual action of decomposing leaves and roots can help improve marginal land. Since comfrey prefers rich soil, when planting it in poor or damaged soil, give it a head start by adding a shovel of manure or compost.

5: Boost Seedlings Young perennials (fruit trees, berry bushes, asparagus, herbs, etc.) and fruiting vegetable seedlings (tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, etc.) will enjoy a nutritional jumpstart from comfrey. At the time of planting, bury a few comfrey leaves (not flowering stems) underneath each planting spot. As the comfrey leaves decompose, they will provide essential nutrients and help the young plants grow strong and be pest- and disease-resistant.

6: Liquid Fertilizer Compost tea is an excellent way to provide an immediate nutrient boost to established plants. It is made by steeping fresh plant matter in water for a certain amount of time, straining the liquid, and using it to water stressed plants for a mid-season boost. The extra nitrogen in comfrey compost tea will help overall growth, while the potassium will encourage better flowering and more vigorous growth in perennials and mature fruiting vegetable plants such as tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, cucumbers, etc. Comfrey compost tea is not recommended for young plants. To make a strong comfrey compost tea: Fill any size container halfway with fresh comfrey cuttings. Fill with water, cover, and steep for 3-6 weeks. Warning: This will smell really bad! Strain off the liquid and dilute by half. Or if using a hose end sprayer, no need to pre-dilute. To make a weaker (less smelly) comfrey compost tea: Add one gallon of water for every quart of fresh comfrey cuttings. Let sit for three days, stirring daily, then strain and use full strength. For a quicker comfrey compost tea: Measure one quart of water for every ounce of dried comfrey. Boil the water and pour over the dried comfrey. Let it cool for 5 minutes, then cover and steep for 4 hours. Strain, then dilute with 1 gallon of water unless using the hose end sprayer. Be sure to compost the leftover plant solids.

Comfrey cuttings and compost soil are added to beds in the fall as a green manure soil amendment.--This comfrey was air-dried on the clothesline.

7: Comfrey Mulch Mulching—in general—is a great way to protect soil and prevent erosion. Mulching with comfrey—also called chop-and-drop—will help to retain moisture and protect beneficial soil organisms. Comfrey mulch is a slow-release fertilizer that is best used under perennials and fruiting vegetables. We grow comfrey underneath our cherry trees so that the fruit trees benefit from comfrey fertilizer. Read more about growing comfrey under fruit trees

Here’s the kind of comfrey that I buy for planting.

A Few Great Plants for Chop-and-Drop Mulch

Not all plants are up to this task, which is fine, as each species has its own prize and purpose. Tomatoes aren’t great for chop-and-drop mulch, but that’s fine because they provide delicious food for our tables. However, for those looking to get into some chop-and-drop action, here are some favorites of the permaculture community.

1. Comfrey

Often considered a weed, comfrey produces an abundance of leaves that are crazy packed with good stuff. Identified as a “dynamic accumulator”, it is often put on par with manure for the fertility it provides.

2. Pigeon Pea/Siberian Pea

Two different nitrogen-fixing legumes, pigeon pea is better suited for frost-free climates, and Siberian pea for colder climates. Both provide good biomass for the soil surface and nitrogen boosts from their roots. They are good for harvesting woody material to drop.

3. Red Clover

A widely appreciated “cover crop”, used to keep soil active and away from harsh weather conditions, clover is easy to grow and also fixes nitrogen in soil. When it’s time to make a garden, chop it and drop it for a fertile and refreshed bed.


Comfrey articles in my vegetable page

Comfrey articles in my permaculture page

Comfrey articles in my herb page

Growing Comfrey - A Useful and Ornamental HerbComfrey is a tall, easy to care for perennial plant that is often grown simply for its beauty. However, comfrey was once grown as a popular medicinal herb. We have recently learned that it can be carcinogenic when taken internally, but it is still used as a topical treatment for skin irritations, cuts, sprains and swelling and as livestock feed and making compost.


Comfrey plants shoot up quickly, early in the season, and can easily reach heights of around 5 feet.

The lower leaves are equally large, somewhat dwarfing the hanging clusters of flowers at the top of the plant. The form and size of the plants might have you thinking it is a shrub, but it will die back to the ground in the winter and it does not get woody. Comfrey is in the same family as borage, a smaller plant with a similar structure.

Because of its deep tap root, Comfrey is extremely drought tolerant and a useful clay busting plant.

Flowers: Violet, pink or creamy yellow flowers born on forked cymes.

Botanical Name: Symphytum officinale. Bloom Period: Comfrey flowers bloom late spring / early summer. Hardiness Zone: Comfrey is reliably perennial in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 - 9.

Comfrey Growing Tips:

Soil: Comfrey is widely adapted but it will thrive in a rich organic soil. As with all rapid growers, comfrey needs a lot of nitrogen. Comfrey gets all its nitrogen from the soil, so some type of regular organic matter is essential. However it is not particular about soil pH. A neutral to acidic range of 6.0 - 7.0 is ideal.

When starting several comfrey plants,it is more common to use root cuttings. These are 2-6 inch lengths of root which are planted horizontally 2-8 inch deep.

Plant shallowly in clay soil and deeper in sandy soils.

You can also grow comfrey from crown cuttings, but these will be more expensive. A crown cutting will include several eyes and may grow faster than root cuttings, however the difference is negligible. Crown cuttings are planted 3-6 inches deep.

Once comfrey is established it will take care of itself. Each year the plant will get a little larger and the root system will get more dense. It is very hard to get rid of an established comfrey plant. Comfrey can live several decades before it begins to decline.

If you are growing it to harvest the leaves, you can make your first cutting when the plants are about 2 ft.tall. Cut back to within a few inches of the crow. However if you begin harvesting early, you will not get any flowers.

Leaves, flowers and roots have all been used in traditional medicine, but use extreme caution if you do not know what you are doing. Comfrey should never be taken orally and even a topical application can cause problems.

One of the safest and easiest uses of comfrey is as a mulch for other crops. Comfrey leaves will slowly release all their nutrients their long tap roots pulled up from the soil. The are especially good around plants that like a little extra potassium, like fruits and tomatoes.

Low Maintenance Plants: Comfrey comfrey originated in Europe and is common in England and Ireland.

Functions: Accumulates nutrients in the soil, excellent mulch plant, fast growing, chop and drop or add to compost, grown for 2000+ years for medicine, attracts pollinators, beautiful flowers and foliage.

Site Requirements: Tolerates a wide range of conditions but prefers sun to partial shade and moist clay soil. Once established it is very difficult to remove, so take care in choosing an appropriate site.

Notes: A highly multifunctional garden plant and excellent addition to a fruit tree guild to improve nutrient quality of the soil and suppress weed growth. Its long taproot mines nutrients from deep in the soil. Mine tries to spread throughout my garden, but I chop it back every month to use as an exceptionally nutritious mulch, and I use it when I’m making herbal teas as well (after the urine section).

Creating a No-Dig Garden

Morag V Free permaculture masterclass: 7 tips to make an abundant no-dig garden Masterclass #6.

About natural gardening, feeding the soil, building organic matter, top-dressing; best for home gardeners.

Why do no-dig gardening: a living design process, low-disturbance strategy, less effort and time, low waterning needs, soil regeneration and building.


7 Tips

1. Open the ground. Just a little lift. Allows room for soil life and roots. Don't do around perennial plants. Don't step back on the soil.

2. Activate the area. Set up compost bins or worm towers where you want to develope the soil. Or place a bale of straw and water in. Will activate the soil.

3. Soil moisture: water, slow it, spread it, sink it, store it. best to build garden after good rain. Water each of the layers when building a no dig garden. If any layer dry, it will suck water out of the soil. Management of water in the garden: keyholes and swales can slow water. Or divert water directly into your beds. Never leave soil exposed to the sun.

4. Design for life: soil life connectedness, bigger areas with soft-edged paths.

Vibrant soil; can grow much more in same area.

5. Newspaper. EPA outlawed heavy metals in papers; synthetic pigments now. Soybean oils are beingn used as carrier. No toxins in bleaching now.

Wrap around existing plants. If garden plot old and weeds coming in, also use newspaper or cardboard. Put CB in pathway ditches. Also put on pathways. Also, place at edges so you have a good barrier. If at wall, tuck it in. Don't use rocks or other edges because weeds will find their way through. If there is a slope, overlap papers so the rain soaks into the ground; reverse of a roof shingle. When plant, create little bowls in paper. So rain is directed to the plants. Cover the paper completely; if not the sun will dry out and wind will damage. Soak paper before laying, a little at a time so doesn't turn to mush. Add the path paper at the very end. 10 pages thick is best.

6. Planting and replaning: deep rooting perennials, least disturbance, replanting without re-doing. For seeds, pull back mulch,scribe a line in paper, put a line of componst and plants seeds.

Get a lot of deep rooting perennials like welsh onion, sacred basils, sorrel, garlic chive, okinawan spinach, surinam spinach, Brazilian spinach. All deep rooting. Just add extra compost and mulch in time.

I don't do rotational beds because I have so many perennial plants in my gardens. With the diversity, I don't get an accumulation of stuff in the soil.

7. Identify and collect local abundances. Collect mulch from your own plants. Comfrey underneath mulch to build up organic matter. Local mulch like straw. Meet the need from your own garden. Grow edible cannas; eat bottom, chop tops off. Trees, manure from chickens. Be sure what you collect is chemical free. Local mushroom farm spent compost for mulch. Look around your area and identify things which could be useful. Stockpile things.

Use weeds under paper. plant densely.

How to Make a No-Dig Garden: Morag Gamble's Method for Simple Abundance - Our Permaculture Life Put newspaper or cardboard under the mulch layer. Weeds in compost defeated by cardboard or newspaper. In hot climates it also acts as an insulator. Also, the compost then adds nutrients to the life of the soil. Quickly improves soil.

Step 1 Open up the soil to allow air and moisture to penetrate down and deal with any compaction. Leave the weeds which add to organic matter. Throw any fresh green stuff on top. Use a fork and just gently open the soil leaning fork about 45 degrees. ''t fork in the pathways. Won't damage the earth worms. Important not to step on it after opening. Adds air and moisture without ruining the soil structure.

Step 2 Add in extra food for the soil organisms. Coffee grounds, tea leaves, worm liquid or castings, comfrey tea plus the sludge, compost, biochar, leaves. Do after watering the site; capillary action helps it get down into the soil. For sandy or clay soil add cocoa peat, cocoanut fiber: adds structure and fiber to the soil. Comfrey greens: just break off and it will grow back in a week. Pigeon pea, cannas, greens available.

Step 3 add compost. About 10 centimeters thick [1/2 inch]. Wet everything down really well.

Step 4 is newspaper to stop weeds. If a slope, start at the top to catch water. Soak the newspaper. About 10 sheets thick. Overlap about 10 centimeters [1/2 inch] in every direction. Keeps soil temp more stable, keeps the moisture in. Water it in to make sure it doesn't suck any moisture from the soil; also check for holes.

Step 5 mulch heavily. Use seed-free hay, sugarcane mulch, straw. Break up and spread 1-2 inches thick at least. If the sun hits the newspaper it will break it down quickly. Wet down so it doesn't blow away if there is wind.

To plant, make a bird's nest down to the newspaper. Consider the newspaper the new topsoil. Use a pointed trowel to make smallest possible hole through the newspaper. Make hole, wiggle around, add handfull of compost. Plant and add another handfull of compost around it. Bring mulch around but not touching it. Firm in. Level to plant: remember your newspaper is the new topsoil. Use seedlings or large seeds.

For seeds, make a line in the mulch and add compost or potting soil and plant the seeds in that. Carrots, beets grow really well in these beds. Check out society garlic. Stems and flowers are edible. Garlic chives. Comfrey; grow it all over the garden: makes tea, compost activater, scatter on new beds, plant around fruit trees to improve the soil.

V How to Make a No-Dig Garden: Morag Gamble's Method for Simple Abundance - Our Permaculture Life

Newspaper goes just before mulch. Stops weeds in compost and ground. Also paper serves as an insulation layer in hot climate. Helps to keep the moisture and the coolness in the soil. Also, placing paper on soil and then compost, you are separating the soil organisms; at least 30,000 species in healthy soil and billions of organisms.


Allows the air and moisture to penetrate down. Leave weeds there: add organic matter and help break up the soil.

Society Garlic, wonderful clumping perennial. Stems and flowers edible

Society Garlic Texas Botanical Name: Tulbaghia violacea
Plant Type: Perennial
Light Requirement: Full Sun, Partial Shade
Water Demand: Low, Medium
Landscape Use: Container, Rock Garden, Fragrance, Deer Resistant, Salt Tolerant
Ornamental Value: Pink, White
Native/Adapted: Adapted
Wildlife Value: r source)
Season: Spring, Summer, Fall
Deciduous/Evergreen: Evergreen
Plant Form: Upright
Plant Spread: 1'
Plant Height: 1.5'


Variegated form has white stripes and pink flowers.

Eat The Weeds: Society Garlic Because I am asked about it all the time I decided to do an article on it: Yes, you can eat Society Garlic… well… most of it, maybe all of it.

The flowers and leaves are edible raw, no debate there. The peppery leaves can be used like garlic in salads and other dishes. The flowers are on the peppery sweet side, onion-ish.

The bulbs, however, are more medicinal though there are reports of them being eaten as well. A native of South Africa it is a favored food and medicine of the Zulus.

The botanical name is Tulbaghia violacea, Tulbaghia honors Ryk Tulbagh, 1699-1771, governor of the Cape of Good Hope. Violacea means violet-like, referring to the blossom.


One of the odd aspects of the most of the plants in the genus is that they are pollinated by moths at night when the plant manages to be lightly scented. T. violacea however is scented in the day and pollinated by bees and butterflies. (Moths are out only at night and butterflies only in the day.)

It’s called Society Garlic because Dutch settlers to South Africa thought it was a more polite spice to use for flavoring dishes than true garlic particularly for social events. Oh… and alliacea… (al-lee-AY-see-uh) means like onions.

IDENTIFICATION: Society Garlic is a fast-growing, bulbous plant about two feet tall. Leaves are long, narrow, strap-like, slightly fleshy and smell strongly of garlic when bruised. They grow from fat, tuberous roots which spread to form clumps of plants. The pinkish to mauve, tubular flowers, clustered into umbels of up to twenty flowers are on flower stalks above the leaves. They smell of garlic when picked. Triangular capsules replace the flowers and are grouped into a head. When ripe they split to release flattened, hard black seeds.

TIME OF YEAR: Your local summer or all year round in warm climates

ENVIRONMENT: Drought resistant, most soils, sunny or partial shade.

METHOD OF PREPERATION: Leaves and flowers raw, or cooked. Bulbs are reportedly edible but I have not tried them. Medicinally the crushed leaves have been used to treat sinus headaches, the fresh bulbs are boiled in water and the decoction taken orally to clear up colds and coughs. They have also been used for pulmonary tuberculosis and intestinal worms. The aroma also repels insects.

Gently fork the soil. Only the plot, not the path.

Perfect day to do this is after a good rain.


Add food for soil organisms. coffee grounds, tea leaves, worm liquid, comfrey tea, compost, biochar, cocoa fiber to add structure if soil is sandy or clay, Yank off comfrey leaves; it will grow back in a week. Don't use pine or gum tree biomass. On top of all, add compost. Wet down everything well.

Have the garden watered before adding foods. On dry soil the additions will clump and stay there.


Newspaper 10 sheets or cardboard. overlap 10 cm or 4 inches. If plant, make get gaps if not overlapped.

Water again thoroughly. And check for holes.


Mulch really thickly. Uses seed free hay or straw. or sugar cane mulch. About 10 inches thick all over.

Water down with thick stream to bind mulch together in case of wind or rain.

Plant densely and you won't even see the mulch.

V How to Make a Worm Tower: by Morag Gamble Just sink a large pipe. Feed from top. Newspaper for carbon. For new, dig a hole. Bury pipe 2/3 in ground. 5mm drill for holes. Put compost at base. Composting worms; Make sure holes are below soil. Add mulch around to keep cool. Finish with straw or other mulch on top. Prevents flies and keeps stable temperature. Put upside down pot on top to keep animals out and protect works from too much rain.

NO DIG ABUNDANCE, a weedy field becomes garden in 9 months, using mulches only Charles Dowding

No wooden sides to paths: leads to slugs in British climate.

HOW TO MAKE A NO DIG BED IN UNDER 30 MINUTES No more than 4', 3' is better width.

Start with cardboard. Critical to soak it first. Soak overnight. grass cuttings, manure, Manure draws worms quickly. Shredded paper. Compost goes on top to plant into. wilted nettles; important to have in garden. calcified seaweed. better than lime; gentle release. Soaking CB 3-4 layers thick. Then nettles, stems create air spaces; 5 cm thick. No roots on nettles; if you have nettles you have excellent soil, they are quite particular about where they grow. Keep a nettle bed: draws aphids away from your plants and draws ladybugs. Alternate green and brown layers. CB then nettles, then manure. Salad gives you one of the fastest returns you can get out of your garden. Water the manure. Next layer grass and shredded paper in a thin layer. Water in again. Top off with compost.

V Morag--7 tips for no dig garden soil food is compost, liquid fertilizer, green scraps, et al. 10 cm = 4 inches. Newspaper or cardboard. Plant THROUGH the paper. 1. Open the soil. 2. Activate soil [worm towers, compost bins] Attracts a lot of life. 3.

Mulch [cardboard?] Keyhole pathways to lead water into soil. Never leave soil open to the sun. Check soil moisture before watering.

Pathways critical; connect bedss and water.

Bend at pathways to create barriers. Goal is to cover everything. At walls, tuck it in. Overlap so that water goes to the ground under. Cover paper completely so the sun doesn't ruin it or dry it out. Soak in a tub first to get wet. Newspaper soak a few for a few so they are wet but not pulp; ten pages thick.

Use narrow trowel. Make birds nest of mulch, Dig little hole through paper. Put in handfull of compost, then plant seedling, soil at top of paper. For carrots, scribe a line, put in compost, then sprinkle seeds along that line. Get lots of deep rooted perennials, like the welsh onion-sorrel-garlic chives-sacred basil-okinawan spinach-, in the garden to build the soil. Plus, don't have to disturb the soil. Occasionally add more compost and mulch.

Identify and collect as much local abundance as you can in making your garden; make sure no chemicals have been sprayed. Uses spent plants as mulch--edible cannas, trees, vines, comfrey, manures. Place comfrey underneath the mulch. Or grow mulch on site.

V FRUIT TREE BASICS | BACKYARD GARDENING Hole twice depth of pot and wider.

3 Years Later...EPIC MULBERRY FRUIT HARVEST from my BACKYARD GARDEN in ARIZONA! Also pineapple guava or phegilla. Pakistan mulberry gives huge fruit. Dwarf mulberry gives tasty fruit.

V How to Plant & Grow a Jabuticaba Tree (Brazilian Grape) phoenix. grapes are tasty. Planted against house to protect from winds and heat and cold. Morning sun, afternoon shade.

V Jaboticaba, Myrciaria cauliflora Berg 30' tall. Slow growing. Myrtle family. Fruits on branches. white flowers. Produces fruit several times of a year. Fruit look and taste like muscadine grapes. Skins not eaten.

V 5 fruit trees that will have you eating for the whole year! Tempe, AZ. Citrus stay ripe on tree for months. Date palms femailes prduce fruit. need one maile. Barbados cherry full sun ripens 7 mos through year. Fruiting mulberries--get white or purple tastes like blackberries with sugar. Don't put near houwe, invasive. Loquat better than apricot. Evergreen year round. Fruits early. Moringa trees have fruit all year. Drought tolerant after two years. Can eat leaves, the new kale.

Morag channel site

Blogspot: Morag Gamble: Our Permaculture Life


Video: How to Plant a Hedgerow how to attract beneficial insects to your organic garden by planting a hedgerow

You need a habitat for beneficial insects. With a hedgerow good bugs will outnumber bad bugs three to one. Favored are buckwheat, carrot, yarrow, clover, alyssum, nasturtium

Wildflower seed mixes are great for hedgerows. Best hedgerows are diverse. Plant in strips or on the border of your garden or orchard. Better in strips than in clumps. Uses Good Bug Blend, mixed with native wildflowers. Prepare soil. Mix seed 1:1 with perlite or vermiculite or course sand. Split in two. Broadcast half. Then make another pass. Tamp down soil or add some compost. Water in.

Good Bug Cover Crop Blends We pioneered these seed mixes to create a beneficial insect habitat. We designed our mix to include plants that are proven hosts to specific wild as well as introduced beneficials, such as predatory mites and wasps, ladybugs, lacewings, syrphids, tachnids, predacious beetles and many more.

Good Bug Blend has been field-proven for over a decade in large and small scale growing areas. Since the mix blooms nearly year round, Good Bug Blend should be planted in areas which can go a little wild, such as field borders, ditchbanks, fence rows, etc.

Blooms begin 45-90 days after planting and will continue for years.

Average height is 18" (but some plants can get as high as 6' depending on soil fertility, available moisture, or competition)

Contains the following seeds: Crimson Clover, Red Clover, Nungarin Subclover, Yellow Sweet Clover, Hykon Rose Clover, White Clover, Semi & Non Dormant Alfalfa, Coriander, Daikon Radish, Dill, Red Radish, Carrot, Calendula, California Buckwheat, Baby's Breath, Sweet Alyssum, White Yarrow, Caraway, Celery, Chervil, Fennel, and Parsley.

Attracts Beneficial Insects
Easily Established
Fixes Nitrogen
Provides Quick Growth
Requires Summer Water


I planted this on my side yard and it completely covered the ground with amazingly beautiful plants and flowers that bloomed the entire season and brought lots of honey bees in for the clovers! I have since ordered it in bulk! I highly recommend this as an excellent cover crop for beneficials and beauty!

How to Attract Beneficial Insects with Hedgerows To get proper coverage, divide your seed (no matter how much you’re sowing) into two parts. Mix half the seed with an inert material like vermiculite or sand (not beach sand). You want a one to one ratio: one part seed, one part inert. Using either a rotary spreader or hand broadcasting, cover the whole area.

Then mix the other half the same way and make one more pass. This will ensure you '’t have any bare spots.

Either tamp down the soil with a board or a lawn roller, or just add some compost on top of the seeds to cover them.

Water your seeds and soon you will have a beautiful home for beneficials for seasons to come.

Wildflower seeds

Butterfly Garden Flower Mix 37.99 (lb) Butterfly Garden Wildflower Mix (1/4 lb) $14.99

Ordered 4/15/17 from Peaceful Valley:

Peaceful Valley Good Bug Blend - Nitrocoated (Lb) PBE970 $7.99
Zinnia, California Mix SWF126 $2.99
Marigold, African SWF131 $2.99
Butterfly Garden Wildflower Mix (1/4 lb) SWF630 $14.99 S&H $7.99


Video: How to Grow Organic Sunflowers They are native to the US. They need full sun, adequate moisture and enough space.

Plant once air is warm, 1-3' apart depending on size and 1.5 inch deep. Rotate every three years so disease does not occur.

Protecting crops from birds

Protect tomatoes et al. from birds by wrapping with cheesecloth or mesh bags.

Plant yellow or white tomatoes which birds cannot see as well as the red ones.

Lasagna [no dig] bed prep

see Instant Garden

Lasagna Gardening no dig bed prep. also called sheet layering.

Cut veg short. Lay down overlapping newspaper or cardboard. Water down so it doesn't blow away.

Add nitrogen: chicken manure. Or soybean meal, grass clippings, food scraps, coffee grounds, seed-free weeds, comfrey, green trimmings.

Lasagna Gardening

Lasagna Gardens

Lasagna Gardens

Lasagna Gardens & prep

Add carbon materials like pine needles, dried leaves, sawdust, straw, old corn stalks

Add water with each layer.

Alternate nitrogen [green layer] and carbon [brown layer] layers until the bed reaches 18 inches to three feet.

You can add to the bed over time as you get materials. End with a carbon mixture layer so the moisture is kept in and the flies kept out. Water at the very end.

Takes bed 3-6 months, sometimes a year to be ready. It is a slow composting method.

Can also be 'e in a raised bed.

To plant right away top with 3" of compost on top.

To maintain your bed, keep adding more layers.

Morag on Permaculture

V Permaculture Design Principles In Your Garden and LifeMaster class #5

Principles can be applied to everything.

Practical Skills for the Everyday

12 Principles of Permaculture:

Connected Eco-design thinking and action.
Use as lenses to focus your attention
Consider all aspects of your life.

    Conscious design
    Let nature be your teacher
    Continuous observation

    Solar, wind, water
    Seed, harvests
    Harvest the abundance when they are there. Capture water as high as possible in the soild so it percolates down through the landscape. Earthworks also to guide water.

    Permablitz is good example of community

    Design for abundance.
    Getting a yield helps you persevere with the work
    Pumpkin is good example. Greens are edibble before we get to the pumpkins.

    Notice and collect and review
    Ask why
    Be open
    Co-evolve with the lessons
    Ask, for instance, why this plant is doing well here, but not over there.
    Be humble and accept lessons
    Don't make the same mistakes over and over
    Embrace nature's abundance
    Reduce dependence
    Example of chickens. Area for them. They do the mixing and pest cleaning.
    Bees are nother helper.
    Find ways to not use gas

    Chop and drop; allow things to rot in situ; your own mulch
    Try going shopping and produce no waste. No plastic or garbage.
    Do a little more every day.
    Use metal cups instead of plastic.

    Context, meaning, flow, zones
    Zones are a really useful tool for planning

  8. Start with overall Pattern--Slovenia on left;

    Zone 0 is your house; Zone 1 is the kitchen garden; Zone 3 is the food forest; Zone 4 is the farm; Zone 5 is the harvest zone
    Leave as much rooom as possible for nature
    Zones 0-3 as compact as possible & intense
    Flow: how do you move through the land? Seek best accessibility; How do you use the landscape?

    Relationships; interconnectedness

    Doable, fixable, use smallest intervention, human

    Composting toilet with pipe to carry smells away. Denmark has toilets which save 2, but urine is collected and used to grow timber. Also use urine in Sterling engine to generate power.

    Small interventions can make a big difference. Human scale solutions.

    Polyculture, regeneration, ways of seeing.

    The more diversity, the less vulnerable we are.

    Left is picture of my permaculture garden; it is FULL of diversity. Herbs, flowers, vegs, root crops, medicinal plants, fruits, creepers, native plants, and habitat in there for a whole range of wildlife. It pretty much looks after itself.

    It is a regenerative way of getting great yield plus habitat for life.

    This also applies to our seed heritage. We have lost so much. Gardens can become seed banks. Save seeds and redistribute.

    Find a way of living and creating a future which is based on a deep understanding of the land.

    We need to talk to our indigenous elders.

    Opportunities, Creativity, Innovation.

    Harvest energy from water. On left, azolla, an amazing plant which collects nutrients from the water and grows just on the surface. It has been around since the time of the dinosaurs. Grows very rapidly. She harvests it and composts it. Makes brilliant compost.

    In cities, edges and marginal places should focus on the fabric. This is Hong Kong. Around the edges a massive amt of land is being abandoned. Young farmers are moving out of the city and reclaiming the land. Community ag. farms. Boxing up food and sending to just one apt building. People from the apt. come out on weekends and do weekend farming. They are able to reconnect with each other and the soil.

    Next picture, around apts, massively stacked gardens. Food systems beside sidewalks, between buildings, around schools.

    Typical example is using the edge of ponds.

    Culturally, when we step out of our silos and comfort zone, we start to connect and work on the edges of our ordinary life, we can start to see opportunities.

    "the only thing which is guaranteed is change."

    How we respond to that change and creatively use it is important. rather than allowing it to throw us into chaos.

Urban Farm interesting plants: turmeric [huge leaves], cassaba root edible or cooked leaves, Monstera or fruit salad plant, cherry guava, curry leaf tree, elderberry, malabar or Ceylon spinach, pigeon pea leaves for mulch and seeds are edible, Canna edulis [edibble] or Queensland arrowroot edible roots to use instead of potatoes looks like banana leaves, Canna indica black seeds leaves for mulch, Pinto peanut for leguminous cover crop around orchard creates dense mat for lots of wildlife and creates microclimate, yam, sugar cane grows really fast for mulch

Overgrow permaculture

[copying from e-books: You can highlight a passage, select "highlight" from the pop-up menu, and then go to and click on the "Your Highlights" link. Your highlights will be listed there and you can copy and paste from there to wherever you want.]

Gaia's Garden

Quotes from Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway. 2nd ed., 2009.

three-quarters of the people on this continent live in metropolitan areas... using our landscapes to reduce our ecological footprint and become more self-reliant, while enhancing habitat for increasingly threatened wildlife.

Natural landscapes seem so rich; they seethe with activity; they hum with life in comparison to our own. Then I encountered a garden that had the vivid aliveness of nature, yet it was packed with fruit and edible greens.

You could think of them as “edible landscaping meets wildlife gardening,” but they are more than that. These are true backyard ecosystems

plea for less consumption and more self-reliance.

Our home landscapes consume immense amounts of resources—far more water, fertilizer, and pesticides per acre than any industrialized farm... our yards, city parks, curbsides, even parking lots and office courtyards could become lush, productive, and attractive landscapes that aid nature while yielding much for us as well, instead of being the grassy voids that they are now... the grassy voids that they are now.

More Americans now live west of the Mississippi than east of it,

I’ve attempted to synthesize these permacultural ideas with ecologists’ growing understanding of what makes nature work.

Permaculture uses a set of principles and practices to design sustainable human settlements. The word, a contraction of both “permanent culture” and “permanent agriculture,” was coined by two Australians, Bill Mollison and David Holmgren. Using what they had observed in nature and in indigenous cultures,

fragmented gardens: an orderly vegetable plot here, flower beds there, and a corner for wildlife or a natural landscape... This book shows how to integrate these isolated and incomplete pieces into a vigorous, thriving backyard ecosystem that benefits both people and wildlife.

Perm Garden

Ecological gardens meld the best features of wildlife gardens, edible landscapes, and conventional flower and vegetable gardens, They are more than the sum of their parts. An ecological garden feels like a living being,

dense and encyclopedic bible of the field, Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual by Bill Mollison. [$95 at Amz]

the groundbreaking book Permaculture One by David Holmgren [$189 at Amz].

Permaculture focuses on the careful design of relationships among them—interconnections—interconnections—that will create a healthy, sustainable whole. These relationships are what turn a collection of unrelated parts into a functioning system, whether it’s a backyard, a community, or an ecosystem.

It is a culture that focuses on relationships, It is a linking science. The aim of permaculture is to design ecologically sound, economically prosperous human communities. It is guided by a set of ethics: caring for Earth, caring for people, and reinvesting the surplus that this care will create.

The aim of permaculture is to design ecologically sound, economically prosperous human communities.


1. Observe. Use protracted and thoughtful observation rather than thoughtless action.

2. Connect. Use relative location,.. create useful relationships and time-saving connections. Catch and store energy and materials... Every cycle is an opportunity for yield, every gradient (in slope, charge, temperature, and the like) can produce energy.

3. Choose and place each element in a design to perform as many functions as possible. 4. Each element performs multiple functions. Stack elements in both space and time.

5. Each function is supported by multiple elements. Redundancy protects the whole if one element fails.

6. Make the least change for the greatest effect. find its “leverage points” and intervene there

7. Use small-scale, intensive systems. Grow by “chunking”—that is, developing a small system or arrangement that works well—and repeat it, developing a small system or arrangement that works well

8. Optimize edge. The edge—the intersection of two environments—is the intersection of two environments

9. Collaborate with succession. Living systems usually advance from immaturity to maturity, accept this trend

10. Use biological and renewable resources.

11. Turn problems into solutions. “We are confronted by insurmountable opportunities.”—Attributed to Pogo (Walt Kelly).

12. Get a yield. Design for both immediate and long-term returns

13. Design for both immediate and long-term returns from your efforts

14. The biggest limit to abundance is creativity.

15. Mistakes are tools for learning. Evaluate your trials... learn from them... try to apply them in as many places as you can.

Garden Path

Pay particular attention to situations where the principles aren’t being followed, as those will be the spots that drain the most labor and do the most environmental damage.

That shade tree, for example—can’t it also offer nuts or other food for both people and wildlife and maybe attract pollinators that will later help fruit trees bear more heavily? Plus, the tree’s leaves will build the soil when they fall, and it’s harvesting rainwater and pulling dust out of the air. That tree is already doing about fifteen different jobs... nuts or other food for both people and wildlife and maybe attract pollinators... leaves will build the soil.. harvesting rainwater and pulling dust out of the air.

connectedness goes two ways. each role is supported by many players. redundancy shrinks the risk of failure. So, looking back at that lone shade tree from this perspective, '’t plant just one—plant a cluster of several varieties. If one grows slowly or doesn’t leaf out densely, the others are there to fill in.

food-bearing hedge (sometimes called a fedge)

deep-rooted species, including chicory, yarrow, and daikon radish, which pull nutrients from the subsoil and deposit them on the surface at leaf-fall.

mulch-producing species like comfrey and cardoon, a thick-leaved artichoke relative. I slashed their leaves periodically and left them on the ground to create a mulch layer that holds moisture in the soil.

Nature has a broad back, and with a little ingenuity and a change in viewpoint, a gardener can shift plenty of labor to this willing partner. Nature can be the gardener’s ally.

the vast majority—90 percent or more—of all insects are beneficial or harmless. A diverse and balanced ensemble of insects in the landscape means good pollination and fruit set, and quick, nontoxic control of pest outbreaks, held in check by predaceous bugs. We need insects in the garden. Without them our workload would be crippling—hand-pollinating

nature abhors bare soil, large blocks of a single plant type, and vegetation that’s all the same height and root depth. Nature doesn’t till, either--in the long term, tilling depletes fertility (those revved-up microbes will burn up all the nutrients, then die), causes more disease, and ruins the soil structure, with compaction to hardpan and massive erosion the result is bare soil, a perfect habitat for weed seeds. Weeds are simply pioneer plants, molded by billions of years of evolution to quickly cover disturbed, open ground. Naked earth also washes away with rain,

Weeds are simply pioneer plants, molded by billions of years of evolution to quickly cover disturbed, open ground.

Solid blocks of the same plant variety, though easy to seed and harvest, act as an “all you can eat” sign to insect pests and diseases.

why till and add trainloads of fertilizer, when worms and other soil life, combined with fertility-building plants, will tailor the finest soil possible, with very little work?

In a balanced landscape, diseases and insect problems rarely get out of control.

Natural gardens consist almost exclusively of native plants and are intended to create and restore habitat.

In the United States, all the developed, inhabited land—cities, suburbs, and rural towns, including roads, buildings, yards, and so on—covers only about 6 percent of the nation’s area. You could fill every yard and city park with native plants and not even begin to stanch the loss of native species and habitat.

the real damage to the environment is 'e not by the cities and suburbs themselves but by meeting their [our] needs. We, who live in the developed 6 percent of the land, have an insatiable appetite and use between 40 and 70 percent of America’s land area (estimates vary depending how “use” is defined) to support us.

Each nonhomegrown meal, each trip to the lumber yard, pharmacy, clothing store, or other shop, commissions the conversion of once-native habitat into an ecological desert.

The lumber for a typical American house of 2,500 square feet scalps roughly three acres of forest into barren clearcut— thus, living in a modest house will aid native species vastly more than will installing a few mountain laurels on a small suburban lot.

A native plant garden, while much easier on the environment than a lawn, does not change the fact that the owner is causing immense habitat loss elsewhere, out of sight. But an ecological garden can change that.

Every bit of food, every scrap of lumber, each medicinal herb or other human product that comes from someone’s yard means that one less chunk of land outside our hometown needs to be denuded of natives and developed for human use.

Cities and suburbs are already out of the natural loop, so we should strive to make them as useful to people and as multifunctional as possible, farms and tree plantations are the lands that could truly become wilderness again.

urban land can be incredibly productive. In Switzerland, for example, 70 percent of all lumber comes from community woodlots. Our cities could provide the materials for many human needs and allow some cropland and tree farms to return to nature.

By gardening ecologically, designing multifunctional landscapes that provide food and other goods for ourselves while creating habitat for other species, Taking care of ourselves in our own yards means that factory farms and forests can shrink.

Calling a species “invasive” is not good science. Following David Jacke in his book, Edible Forest Gardens, I will use the word opportunistic... opportunistic, which more accurately gives the sense that a species needs particular conditions to behave as it does.

Even the words native and exotic have their difficulties, the energy spent on yanking exotics and planting natives is misdirected and futile--European bittersweet, Japanese honeysuckle, Kudzu, Purple loosestrife, Russian olive--these plants are invading disturbed land and disrupted ecosystems, fragmented and degraded by grazing, logging, dams, road building, pollution, and other human activity.

our intervention is the problem. We assume nature is making a mistake when it creates hybrid, fast-healing thickets, so rather than allowing disturbed habitat to stabilize, we keep disturbing it.

Humans create perfect conditions for exotics to thrive... it turns out that the place had first been severely disturbed by development, logging, or other human use.

Opportunistic plants crave disturbance, and they love edges. Those are two things development spawns in huge quantity.

kudzu, Scot’s broom, and Russian olive are nitrogen fixers whose role is to build soil fertility. So they prosper in farmed-out fields and overgrazed rangeland and are nature’s way of rebuilding fertility with what is available.

When humans make a clearing, nature leaps in, working furiously to rebuild an intact humus and fungal layer, harvest energy, and reconstruct all the cycles and connections that have been severed.

You can’t fight nature—nature always bats last—but intact ecosystems are very difficult to invade.

often an opportunistic species is playing an important role, where nature is working on a problem that we may not recognize

purple loosestrife turns out to be superb at both tolerating and cleaning up polluted water. It, like many other opportunistic species, is screaming out to us that there is a problem—contaminated water

A plant will thrive only if conditions are right for it. Modify those conditions— eliminate edge, stop disturbing soil, cast shade with trees, clean up pollution—and that opportunist will almost surely cease to be a problem.

the only common food crops native to North America are sunflowers, hops, squash, and some nuts and berries. Nearly everything we eat originated on other continents.

plant communities, that is, groupings of trees, shrubs, and nonwoody plants that naturally occur together and seem to be connected into a whole. “synthetic” plant communities, which permaculture calls guilds, form healthy, interacting networks that reduce the gardener’s labor, yield abundant gifts for people and wildlife, and help the environment

ditches, called swales save precious rainwater and create sheltered, moist microclimates

The average yard is both an ecological and agricultural desert. The prime offender is short-mown grass, which offers no habitat and nothing for people except a place to sit, yet sucks down far more water and chemicals than a comparable amount of farmland. A tidy layer of bark mulch, instead of more natural and protective ground plants, robs small animals and insects of their homes.

Typical lawns, and vegetable and flower gardens, too, to a great extent, suffer from another ecological fault: they are monocultures.

The immaculate lawn was developed in the mild and evenly moist climate of Great Britain.

beneficial insects, who will shelter in hedges.. The key is providing biodiversity in the landscape. biodiversity means having a semiwild but well-designed palette of useful plants that will attract and sustain the helpful insects, birds, and other animals we need.

plant bee balm, goumi (Elaeagnus multiflora)

landscapes have an irresistible tendency to mature, we can actually accelerate succession, using nature to help a garden mature much faster if we lay the groundwork, nature will create many of the connections and fill in the gaps.

most important to include in the ecological garden: • Deep soil that is rich in nutrients and organic matter • Plants that draw fertility from deep in the earth, from the air, and from rainwater • Many layers of vegetation to create varied niches for other creatures • An emphasis on perennial plants • Mutually helpful relationships among plants, insects, birds, microbes, mammals, and all other inhabitants, including people • Increasingly closed cycles; that is, over time the garden should require fewer supplies from outside, producing most of its own fertilizer, mulch, seeds, new plants, and so on.

if left untended, a garden falls apart, while nature doesn’t.

Soil Building: To create a mature soil quickly, just pile on the organic matter with deep layers of mulch. The complement, bottom-up soil building, is 'e with plants. with nutrient-accumulating plants in the garden, the task of spreading fertilizer will dwindle to almost nothing.

many annuals can be replaced with perennials. Perennial greens abound: Good King Henry, perennial kale and collards, French sorrel, and many others, all described in Chapter 6. There are perennial onions, root crops, herbs, and, of course, vegetables such as asparagus, artichokes, and rhubarb. And '’t forget the obvious perennial food plants, such as berries, fruits, and nuts.

The advantages of perennials are legion. They eliminate seed starting,

group plants in communities. plant communities is a new field that’s in its infancy.. Permaculture designers have a bit of jargon to describe this. They call it “stacking functions.” If it lacks certain members, the community as a whole suffers.

Stacking functions is a key rule and one of the most important to follow.

The two aspects of function stacking—each element performs multiple functions, and each function is served by multiple elements—can be used throughout the garden, the landscape “learns” as it goes, selecting and improving the patterns that work best.

Most important functions in organisms and ecosystems have backups, often several layers deep. Look at our sense of balance. We use three independent methods to keep our equilibrium. First, our eyes tell us what position we’re in. Second, our ears contain a fluid-filled chamber lined with hairs that are sensitive to orientation. The hairs’ position tells our brain which way is up. And third, our muscles and ten's have receptors that telegraph data on our limb movements and positions. By devoting energy and organs to this “tell me three times” strategy, our bodies make a big investment in not falling over.

Observation is the key to good design. By observing the patterns and cycles that nature uses to solve design problems, we can replicate these forms in our gardens, dynamic solutions that save labor, resources, and energy.

what permaculturists call patterning... Nature’s shapes are rarely rectilinear, and there is good reason for that.

I regard garden paths as a necessary evil. changing the pattern used for garden beds can minimize the land sacrificed to paths. E.G., keyhole bed. if we point the central path toward the south and locate tall plants such as tomatoes or sunflowers at the back, or northern edge, the bed creates a U-shaped sun bowl that traps warmth. The toasty microclimate inside is a good place for tender or heat-loving varieties.

Keyhole beds are round, whereas most yards are square. So what about the margins, those little triangles of unused ground at the corners of these beds—isn’t that wasted space? Not at all. Every garden needs insect-attracting flowers, or perennial nitrogen fixers.. fill the margin with robust mulch-providers

It could be a perfect spot for a small fruit tree.

Keyholes can extend to the left and right of a central walkway.

an herb spiral. a mound of good soil about 3 feet high and 5 feet across. has slopes that face all directions. The sunny, south-facing slope will be hotter than the north. The east-facing side, which gets morning sun, will dry out earlier in the day than the west one. The soil at the bottom will stay wetter than that at the top. We’ve created an herb garden with different microclimates. So we plant accordingly,

Varieties that thrive in hot, dry climates, such as oregano, rosemary, and thyme, go on the sunny south side near the top. Parsley and chives, which prefer cooler, moister climes, find a home on the north side. Coriander, which seems to bolt in too much hot sun, can be stationed on the east side, protected from afternoon scorchings.

Also, include in an herb spiral lettuce and other salad greens, strawberries, flowers, or any other small plant that you use often.

To save on topsoil, place a few rocks, concrete rubble, or a heap of subsoil at the base of the mound, then build over that.

Watercress, water chestnuts, and other edible pond plants

a leaf taught him a novel design for garden paths. “They use the least possible space" “You make a big central path for a cart or wheelbarrow, and smaller ones branching off of it for foot traffic to the beds.

Gardeners often create a net pattern when placing seeds in a raised bed, setting the seeds in a pattern of triangles to create equal distances between each seed. This pattern fits the most seeds into the space available.

In drylands, orchardists plant their trees in a net pattern to collect rain and runoff. Fruit trees are planted in small depressions, and the basins are connected by a network of shallow trenches. By this clever system, rain and runoff water falling over a large area are collected by the trench network and delivered to the base of the trees.

We can use this net pattern in our yards. If our soil is poor and plants are few...

permaculturist Doug Clayton applied the net pattern to his yard. He began with a grid of small fruit trees spaced over his future orchard. Around each sapling, he added manure and wood chip mulch and planted cover crops and perennials, creating a network of mulched circles. Each tree became a small zone of healthy soil and mild microclimate.

“Edge” is a key concept in ecology, so much so that ecologists speak of “the edge effect.” Edges are fascinating and dynamic places, Edges are where things happen. All the species that thrive in each of the two environments are present, plus new species that live in the transition zone between the two. The edge is richer than what lies on either side.

if we want to boost the biodiversity in our yards, we should increase the amount of edge. For a start, this means encouraging plantings of varying heights. A transition between, say, lawn and trees should be gradual, softened with increasingly large perennials and shrubs to increase habitat and variety.

House/yard edge. The outside walls of a house create varied microclimates. The south wall will be hottest and sunniest, so heat-loving and cold-tender plants can go here, often making it possible to grow plants found one or two USDA hardiness zones to the south. [for us, tropical plants like banana trees]

Pavement/soil edge. Paved surfaces collect water, so thirstier plants can be placed alongside sidewalks and driveways to catch runoff. Pavement also stores up heat on sunny days, so the adjacent soil will be warmer.

Fence/yard edge. Fences can also be used as trellises,

Plant/soil edge. To increase the number of plants that can fit into a given space, place them in a wavy pattern rather than a straight line.

Plants at the edge of beds often yield more than the ones in the center, so patterns that increase edge in beds will boost production. Rows of tall plants can be alternated with short ones to achieve the same effect.

Plant/air edge.

Water/soil edge. Varying the depth of the pond (another way to increase edge) will make room for more types of fish and water plants. Frogs and tadpoles can bask in the warm shallows while golden koi flash in the depths.

'’t forget about extending the edge effect into the third dimension by varying the height and depth of plantings, soil, structures, and ponds.

Remember how self-reliant a natural landscape is. An ecosystem provides for itself. No one brings in truckloads of fertilizer to a forest; no one carries its waste to the dump. The forest takes care of all that internally,

the steps in creating an ecological garden design are:

• Observation. Here we ask, What do we have to work with? What are the conditions and constraints of the site and the client?

• Visioning. What should the design do? What do we want? What does the site need? How should it feel?

• Planning. What do we need to make our ideas happen? How should the pieces be assembled?

• Development. What will the final design look like? How will we make it happen?

• Implementation, the final step. How do we install the garden?

A great way to begin the process of getting to know the site is by making a map of it.

Making a map creates more than just a piece of paper. Each time I prepare a map, I become aware of details I would never notice otherwise. Mapmaking puts me in intimate contact with a place.

Observation goes far beyond simply noting the objects on the site. Observation at its best means being immersed in the place.

What creatures live there?

When do various birds and other animals come and go?

What do they eat or otherwise use at the site?

What interactions take place among the plant, animal, and human inhabitants?

The first step is just to list these observations.

It’s not easy to separate the process of observation from analysis.

“this plant’s leaves are turning yellow” with an analysis: “because it needs more nitrogen.”

Should we keep this sickly plant?

Should we add companion plants to aid it?

Is this an appropriate species to have here?

What plants will be happier in these conditions?

How much soil improvement do we want to engage in?

Remember, we’re not looking for solutions at this point but simply an understanding of what we have.

Keep track of these observations.

After making the initial observations, do research

A design cannot succeed without a realistic picture of the resources and limitations that constrain it.

I cannot emphasize this strongly enough. Planning what goes where must wait until later.

it helps to have a notebook or tape recorder to preserve our ideas.

As each step is finished, it’s wise to revisit the earlier steps briefly and evaluate them to see if anything needs modification in light of your new knowledge.

For a garden to be considered ecological, the new landscape should:

• Require few outside inputs, especially once it’s mature

• Increase biodiversity

• Create rather than destroy wildlife and plant habitat

• Enhance air, water, and soil quality

• Eventually result in less work instead of more for the human occupants.

questions to ask

What do you and the other human inhabitants want

What does the landscape and region need?

How should the new landscape feel?

What will you do there?

What would you like to have?

Will the place have an overall theme ? [sanctuary]

When noting the items your want in the landscape, describe them in terms of what they do.. begins by ranking your priorities.

determining what goes where:

If plant A needs lots of nitrogen, find a nitrogen-producing species to install alongside it.

water-conservation techniques, like mulches and dense plantings under the tree to shade and hold water in the soil

accumulator plants can be mulched in place to build soil and offer nutrients.

Pollinator-attracting plants and beneficial-insect habitat should be near the pear tree.

Each need not satisfied by another component of the design becomes work for the gardener; each product not used becomes pollution. Do a “needs and yields analysis,”

A trick used by other gardeners is to dig a pond on the sunny side of a greenhouse or group of fruit trees, where the reflected light aids in ripening and heating. Clever connections abound;


Can we use the cuttings to make a woody compost pile (see the discussion of Hugelkultur in Chapter 4)?

the zone-and-sector method.

Any elements of the design that need continual observation, frequent visits, or rigorous techniques

Zones help us organize the elements and the energy flows of our property in the right relationships,

Every property needs a zone 5. It’s the wild land. Whether it’s a corner of an urban lot dedicated to a wildlife thicket and a few rustling birch trees or a nature preserve on the back forty, it is where we are visitors, not managers.

Sector energies such as sun and wind are free energy. Think of this energy as another nutrient source, like free fertilizer or water.

another technique, called random assembly:

Sketch in the various planting beds, trees, walls and fences, patios and decks, and other design elements.

At first, '’t go into any detail, just draw rough circles and outlines of the major components, showing their relative placement (this is often called a bubble diagram).

include distances, scale, and enough other details to implement the design. Detailed documentation of the design is very important. '’t expect to rely on memory.

Trees and shrubs should also be planted early in the work, conforming to the old adage, “The best time to plant a tree was ten years ago.”

In the garden, we’re working with live beings, not just shapes and colors. These creatures grow, set seed, and multiply, and in time they die.

A Latin American farmer said “Of course you have terrible soil problems in your country. What do you expect when you call it dirt?”

soil is miraculous. It is where the dead are brought back to life.

In soil, matter crosses and recrosses the boundary between living and dead; and, as we have seen, boundaries— edges—are where the most interesting and important events occur.

soil is alive. One key to having a garden that’s bursting with healthy plants, well-balanced insects, and thriving wildlife is to stuff the soil with as much life as possible.

Diversity builds diversity. the knowledge and techniques for maximizing biodiversity in garden soil

How much life is in the soil? At least as much as above ground.

A teaspoon of good pasture soil may contain a billion bacteria, a million fungi, and ten thousand amoebae.

Above ground, an acre of good pasture may support a horse or two, say about a half-ton of animals. But living in the soil of that acre may be two tons of worms and another two tons of bacteria, fungi, and soil animals such as millipedes and mites.

Vegetarians may be appalled, but much of gardening actually involves raising animals: the tiny ones under Earth’s surface.

a firm specializing in analyzing soil life, calls these swarms of subsurface livestock “microherds,”

From a plant’s perspective, the main role of soil organisms is to break down matter that plants can’t digest themselves and transform it into nutrients that they can readily absorb.

The soil organisms in a properly tended garden will furnish almost all the fertilizer that plants need.

In nature, most fertility comes originally from the rocks. Rocks contain potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and most of the other elements that plants need to build tissue and fuel their metabolic machinery. To convert rocks into food, plant roots and soil organisms secrete mild acids and enzymes that etch atoms of nutrients loose from rock particles. In a sense, plants and soil microbes are miners, sluicing down rocks with caustic substances that carve away precious life-supporting ores.

If we create healthy soil in our gardens, the rampant soil life will coax enough minerals from the rocks for most of our plants’ needs.

1 hectare (2.5 acres)

One dry leaf flutters down..

bacteria that have lain dormant on the leaf surface.

hyphae, Fungi possess a broad spectrum of enzymes able to digest lignin. This gives them a critical niche in the web of decomposers

larger creatures. Millipedes, pill bugs (isopods), fly larvae, springtails, oribatid mites, enchytraeid worms, and earthworms begin to feed on the tasty tissue,

These worm castings coat the burrow with fertile, organically enriched earth. Before long, hungry bacteria, fungi, and microscopic soil animals will find this cache of organic matter and flourish in walls of the burrow, adding their own excretions and dead bodies to the supply.

a growing root from the oak tree will find this burrow, and, coaxed by the easy passage and the tunnel’s lining of organic food, will extend deep enough to tap that stored moisture.

Worms are among the most beneficial of soil animals: They turn over as much as twenty-five tons of soil per acre per year, or the equivalent of one inch of topsoil over Earth’s land surface every ten years.

Meanwhile, on the surface, the feasting invertebrates continue to shred the leaf into tiny bits—or comminute it, in soil-specialist parlance. Comminution exposes more leaf surface—tender inner edges at that—to attack by bacteria and fungi, further hastening decomposition.

the small army of mites, larvae, and other invertebrates feeding on the leaf deposit a fair load of droppings, or frass, which also becomes food for other decomposers

Soil invertebrates such as worms and mites.. their job is principally to pulverize litter.. also mixes the leaf particles with soil,

The real alchemy— the chemical transformation of the leaf into humus and plant food—is 'e by microorganisms.

a second wave of bacteria, fungi, and other microbes descends on the remains. these microbes snap large molecules into small, edible fragments.

a teaspoon of soil may hold 5,000 species of bacteria, each with a different set of chemical tools. these microbes also build up soil structure. As they feed, certain soil bacteria secrete gums, waxes, and gels that hold tiny particles of earth together.

These miniclumps give microbially rich soil its good “tilth”

Microbes '’t live long—just hours or days.

The leaf’s contents (those that '’t forever recycle in life or dissipate as gases) end up as one of two substances, humus or minerals. Both are critical to healthy plants.

humus, a fairly stable, complex collection of many substances that only slowly undergoes further decomposition.

In a sense, humus is the end of the road for organic matter: By the time our leaf’s remains have reached the humus stage, decomposition has slowed to a snail’s pace. Since organisms can’t easily break down humus, it accumulates in the soil.

Humus is critical to soil health; thus, wise gardeners keep their soil rich in humus.. will absorb four to six times its weight in water.. Humus also swells when it’s wet, aerates the soil.

Where humus really excels is in holding nutrients.

Plant roots, as noted, secrete very mild acids which break the bonds that hold the nutrients onto the humus. The nutrients from humus are washed into the soil moisture, creating a rich soup.

when plants have supped long enough, they stop the flow of acid to avoid depleting the humus.

plants take up only what they need. This turns out to be very little, since plants are 85 percent water, and much of the rest is carbon from the air. A fat half-pound tomato, for example, only draws about 50 milligrams of phosphorus and 500 milligrams of potassium from the soil.

Peat moss isn’t exactly humus—it’s organic matter that’s been arrested on its way to becoming humus because peat bogs lack the oxygen for decomposers to finish the job

Microbes make plant fertilizer right in the soil. This process of stripping the inorganic plant food from organic, carbon-containing compounds and returning it to the soil is called mineralization.

Soil life is much more mobile than plants and has a speedier metabolism. When hungry, microbes can grab nutrients faster than roots.

Gardeners are often admonished not to use wood shavings or straw as a soil amendment because they lead to nitrogen deficiency. This is because shavings and straw, though good sources of carbon, are very low in nitrogen. These nitrogen-poor amendments are fine for use as mulch, on top of the soil, The same lockups occur when other nutrients are lacking in the soil. Until the soil life is properly fed, the plants can’t eat.

Burning carbon out of the soil with chemical fertilizers can actually select for disease organisms. humans must step in with sprays. This becomes a chemical treadmill. It’s a losing battle, reflected in the fact that we use twenty times the pesticides we did fifty years ago, yet crop losses to insects and disease have doubled, according to USDA statistics.

What’s really happening during tilling? By churning the soil, we’re flushing it with fresh air. All that oxygen invigorates the soil life, which zooms into action, breaking down organic matter and plucking minerals from humus and rock particles. Tilling also breaks up the soil, greatly increasing its surface area by creating many small clumps out of big ones. Soil microbes then colonize these fresh surfaces, extracting more nutrients and exploding in population.

This is great for the first season. The blast of nutrients fuels stunning plant growth, and the harvest is bountiful. But the life in tilled soil releases far more nutrients than the plants can use. Unused fertility leaches away in rains.

After a few seasons, the soil is depleted. The humus is gone, the mineral ores are played out, and the artificially stimulated soil life is impoverished. Now the gardener must renew the soil with bales of organic matter, fertilizer, and plenty of work.

tilling releases far more nutrients than plants can use. Also, the constant mechanical battering destroys the soil structure,

We should allow plant roots to do the job. Questing roots will split nuggets of earth in their own time, opening the soil to microbial colonization, loosening nutrients at just the right rate. Once again, nature makes a better partner than a slave.

Building soil. three broad categories: composts, mulches, and cover crops. “black gold,”

All homeowners generate excess organic matter: kitchen scraps, grass clippings, leaf piles, and debris from pruning and cleaning up a yardful of plants.

If you’re not fussy, simply piling this stuff in a corner in your yard and waiting a few months is enough to generate compost.

an overall C:N ratio of 30:1 is ideal. rule of thumb: Green materials, such as grass clippings and fresh plant trimmings (and we’ll also include kitchen waste here), are high in nitrogen. Brown items, such as dried leaves, hay, straw, and wood shavings, are high in carbon. Mixing roughly half green with half brown approximates the ideal 30:1 C:N ratio.

When building the pile, add the materials in layers no more than six inches thick. needs water about as moist as a wrung-out sponge. I usually cover the finished pile with a tarp or permanent lid to retain moisture on sunny days and keep rain from leaching out the hard-won nutrients.

A slowly rotted compost, from my experience, still gets hot enough during that first heating-up to kill weed seeds, but it seems to supply my plants with nutrients longer than the product of rapid turnings.

Sources of high nitrogen: cottonseed meal.

Hugelkultur or mound culture.

pile up branches or brush a foot or two deep in a mound four to eight feet around. Stomp on the pile to compact it a bit.

Then toss compostable materials—grass clippings, sod, straw—into the pile.

Moisten the pile to that wrung-out sponge stage.

Sprinkle some compost on the mound and top with an inch or so of soil.

Then plant the hugelkultur with seeds or starts.

Potatoes really love hugelkultur—I can start potatoes in these mounds a month earlier than in garden beds. Squashes, melons, and other vines do well here, too.

compost piles aren’t the optimal way to raise your microherds.. bury wood beneath our plants.

I’d like my gardening to be a gentle art. each disruption of the pile is a setback to the soil life. Also, composting can waste nutrients.

I’ve been completely sold on composting in place, commonly known as sheet composting or sheet mulching.

sheet mulching can be 'e in any season.

Gathering the materials for sheet mulch is the most laborious and time-consuming part of the job; the rest is pretty painless. It’s remarkable how much material it takes to really do it right.

straw, grain hulls, and other food-industry by-products.

distribution warehouses often generate plenty of organic waste.

landscapers will often deliver chipped tree trimmings,


Put the word out that you’re looking for organic matter, and someone else’s disposal problem will become your windfall.

Straw, if harvested with a well-tuned combine, contains no seed; it’s just the stems of grain plants. Hay is the whole stalk, seed-head and all.

Robins and towhees, hunting for worms that now were migrating into the straw since the soil was moist right up to the surface.

By composting in place, the soil organisms, so essential for ferrying nutrients to plant roots, aren’t disturbed. An intact subterranean ecology develops, woven by silken fibers of mycelium, riddled with the channels of traveling microfauna, bound into perfect tilth by the gummy exudates and carbon-rich liquors of metabolism. Oxygen-gulping microbes colonize the upper layers of soil, and the shy anaerobes work their complex alchemy further below. Exploding populations of wriggling worms

sheet mulch is forgiving. As long as you put down a weed barrier of paper or cardboard and top it with a foot of moist, decomposable organic matter, you’ll have great soil in short order. And it can be 'e anywhere: I’ve seen sheet mulch on pavement and on rooftops.

Sheet mulch can be as simple as a layer of newspapers topped by eight to twelve inches of nearly any mulch material.

materials list for the perfect sheet mulch:

1. A two- to three-foot stack of newspaper, or about 300 square feet of corrugated box cardboard without staples or plastic tape. You can also use cloth, old clothing, or wool carpet, provided they contain no synthetic fabric, but these take far longer to decay than paper.

2. Soil amendments,

3. Bulk organic matter: straw, spoiled hay, yard waste, leaves, seaweed, finely ground bark, stable sweepings, wood shavings,

4. Compost,

5. Manure

6. A top layer of seed-free material, such as straw, leaves, wood shavings, bark, sawdust, pine needles, grain hulls, nut husks, or seagrass.

If you can’t find every item, '’t worry. Sheet mulching is very forgiving.

The day before you mulch, water the site well unless the ground is already moist from rain.

After the water has soaked in overnight, slash down any vegetation. '’t pull up weeds—leave all the native organic matter right there, including the roots.

Next, add any soil amendments.

For alkaline soil, a little gypsum or sulfur will help.

If your native earth is clayey or compacted, now is a good time to open it up a bit. Just push a spading fork into the ground, rock it a little, and pull it out.

Then add a thin layer of high-nitrogen material.

For concentrated matter such as rabbit manure or blood meal, sprinkle down enough material to just cover the soil.. attracts worms and burrowing beetles, which will aerate and loosen the soil.

Lay down newspapers and/or cardboard to create a continuous light-blocking layer that will smother existing plants. Overlap the sheets by six inches or so to keep weeds from sneaking between them. As you spread out the sheets, wet them thoroughly. Soak the sheets several times to make sure the water seeps through. Try not to walk on the paper, especially after it’s wet,

Next, toss down another thin layer of nitrogen-rich manure, meal, or fresh green clippings. This will entice the worms up through the soon-to-be rotting sheets and coax plant roots downward.

On top of this, pour on the bulk mulch, about eight to twelve inches of loose straw, hay, or other substances listed above.

Weed seeds seem to rot rather than germinate in the slowly composting mass.

As you build this layer, spray on water every few inches. This layer should be damp but not wet; you’re looking for that wrung-out sponge state. This can require a surprisingly large volume of water. It may take a couple of minutes of soaking every few inches to achieve the damp-but-not-wet state.

Atop the bulk mulch, add an inch or two of compost. If this is in short supply, add compost plus whatever soil is on hand to reach the final thickness.

if you plan to plant the sheet mulch within a few weeks, a layer of compost will be necessary to act as a seedbed. The final layer is two inches of weed- and seed-free organic matter, such as straw, fine bark, wood shavings, or any of the

others listed above.

drawback to sheet mulch is slugs. In the early phase of decomposition, slug populations can explode. make slug collars from cans (tin or steel, not aluminum)

Sheet mulch, and deep mulching in general, is a fast and easy way to boost organic matter and soil life to prodigious levels. soil life blossoms within days,

A fresh sheet mulch won’t be as productive as one that’s six months old; hence it’s best to prepare it in the fall. These beds seem to reach their prime the second season after construction, a productivity that doesn’t fall off for several years and can be renewed by simply adding more mulch.

If your sheet mulch hasn’t broken down to soil by the time you want to plant, start seeds by making tiny pockets or trenches about three inches deep, filling them with soil or compost, and seeding these

If the plant is deep-rooted, pull the mulch aside, slit the paper or cardboard in an X-pattern, and replace the mulch. Then plant above the slit, and roots will find the opening with no trouble.

Cover Cropping

beds that are constantly being replanted, such as salad beds, use compost. For main garden beds, I prefer sheet mulch. But for large areas, for long-term fertility, and for shifting the labor to nature’s ample muscles, use cover crops.

Cover crops are planted specifically to build and hold soil and to smother weeds.

The aim is the same: a solid cover of plants. Their leaves shield the soil from hammering rains and carpet the earth in fall with nutritious, humus-building litter. The dense planting crowds and shades out weeds. And their roots drive deep into the soil, loosening the earth, drawing up nutrients, playing host to soil life, and placing organic matter farther down than even the deepest plowing.

Roots are nature’s subterranean humus builders.

roots add organic matter in vast quantities during their constant cycles of growth and decay.

After a heavy rain or deep irrigation, the ground becomes saturated with water, and legions of root hairs die from lack of oxygen. This explains why some plants, such as cucumbers and squash, sometimes wilt after a rain,

builds humus deep in the soil and is one benefit of cover crops that can’t be achieved any other way. Many cover crops send roots ten or fifteen feet deep.

diversity provides the key. It’s best to seed a number of varieties and record which ones thrive. the more species of cover crop we plant, the more varied will be the soil life’s diversity. As we’ve noted, this will subdue disease and boost plant growth.

Masanobu Fukuoka, the brilliant author of The One Straw Revolution, used perennial white clover as a permanent, living mulch in his garden beds. To plant crops, he simply opened up small areas in the clover and placed seeds or transplants in the resulting gaps. This is a great example of stacking functions: The greenery suppresses weeds, the shade holds moisture in the soil, the blossoms attract beneficial insects, and nitrogen fixed by the clover boosts the growth of the other crops.

routinely plant a nitrogen-fixing shrub in the same hole as a fruit tree.

But remember that balance is important. All that nitrogen must be balanced with carbon. Soil organisms consume ten to fifty times more carbon than nitrogen, so farmers always blend a grass or other nonlegume into their cover crops. A cover crop rich in nitrogen will rekindle the soil life’s metabolic fires, burning prodigious amounts of carbon to balance the nitrogenous bounty. A too-rich nitrogen fuel can actually deplete more organic matter than the cover crop adds. For this reason, commercial cover crop mixes contain 10 to 40 percent oats, annual ryegrass, or other nonlegumes.

Some cover crops are great at opening up heavy or compacted soils. Rapeseed and mustard have extensive root systems that punch through hard subsoil, aerating the earth and adding humus as the roots die. [Rapeseed radish does best here in winter; daikon raidish in summer???]

I’ve grown daikon radishes in heavy soil, let them flower, and then snapped them off at ground level.

Chicory, a warm-season perennial, is renowned for its lengthy taproot, which seeks out pockets of potassium, sulfur, calcium, magnesium, and other minerals.

Buckwheat converts insoluble phosphorus to a more plant-available form.

dynamic nutrient accumulators.

Another use for cover crops is to attract beneficial insects. The blossoms of buckwheat, mustard, and vetch

I’ve seen old farm texts that list fifteen varieties in their cover crop mixtures, That kind of biodiversity will bring many forms of nature’s energy—soil life, humus, minerals, beneficial insects, and more—to work in your garden.


In truth, our planet should be called Water, not Earth. About 70 percent of the globe is blanketed by this life-giving liquid, roughly 331 million cubic miles of it.

All but 3 percent of Earth’s water is salty; and, of the remaining dab of fresh water, three-quarters is locked in ice. It gets worse. About half of what’s left, Earth’s unfrozen fresh water, is 2,500 feet or more below ground, embedded in rock.

The accessible fresh water in lakes, rivers, groundwater, and the atmosphere makes up only 0.375 percent—of Earth’s total water.

In an ecologically based design, water isn’t an externally caused event—it is designed in, automatically present, naturally abundant. In the ecological garden, ample water, not drought, is the default condition.

nature holds water in plants, in the air, and in the soil. be less reliant on distant, erratic, and expensive water sources.

The Zemachs’ garden combines five complementary techniques to support the goal of ample water: building organically rich soil, contouring the landscape to catch water and direct it to where it is needed, including drought-tolerant plants when possible, planting densely to shade the soil, and mulching deeply.

Closely spaced plants, stacked in layers, boost the garden’s yields. A drip irrigation system is an unnecessary expense.

one of permaculture’s mantras: The cheapest place to store water is in the soil.

One foot of rich, moist soil blanketing a backyard holds as much water as a three-inch-deep lake the size of the yard.

A swale, laid out on contour so that water doesn’t flow along it but instead percolates into the soil, forming an underground storage reservoir. Swales can be 1 to 3 feet deep and 1 to 4 feet or more across, with a berm downslope roughly the same size, made from the soil from the swale.

The soil acts as a giant sponge. It could hold massive quantities of water and hold it for months. Over the dry summer, this sponge would dribble its water downhill, slowly draining into the Klamath [river]. This explains why our rivers stay full instead of just draining dry after each rain.

what feeds the creeks? There’s no endlessly gushing faucet at the top. Water slowly seeps out of humic earth, drop by drop, the drops coalescing into a trickle, the trickles broadening into creeks.

Rivers come from the soil, guardian of our water. By building our garden’s soil, we can store whole rivers and lakes in our yards.

sculpting the land to hold water. contoured like a dish: The center of the circle is a few inches lower than the edges. It’s a gentle concavity that you can hardly see, but the rain knows it’s there. Rainwater collects in the depression and soaks in, reducing the need for irrigation.

A swale, in this use of the term, is a shallow trench laid out dead level along the land’s contours. It’s sometimes called a bioswale. A swale can be anywhere from one to several feet across, a foot or so deep, and whatever length necessary. A swale is shaped like a long, skinny pond. The earth dug from the swale is piled on the downhill side to make a raised mound or berm,

The stored water creates an underground reservoir that aids plant growth for tens of feet below the swale. The critical point here is for the swale to be truly level so that water will infiltrate evenly and steadily.

dig a rough trench one foot deep and about eighteen inches wide and mound the excavated soil along the downhill edge of the trench.

you can dig pits or other deep spots in the swale above water-loving plants to coax additional water to their roots.

Planting along the berm will make the swale more stable and multifunctional. Most any plant will help, but trees and shrubs are ideal, because their deep roots will hold the berm in place, The shade will also slow evaporation.

fish-scale swales.

Where does runoff accumulate? Often, driveways and sidewalks are sloped or crowned and act as water catchments that direct rain to the adjacent soil. That’s a good location for water-dependent plants.

near downspouts, under unguttered eaves, densely pack and stack plants together to create shade.

Shading soil can reduce evaporation loss by over 60 percent.

Shade: astilbe, monarda, geranium, and others, originated in forests or on shady riverbanks and will flower with a half-day of sun.

covering the soil in a blanket of plants will curtail water loss. A two- to four-inch mulch layer (or more) will squelch moisture loss, keeping plant roots cool

Organic mulches also soak up rain rather than letting it run off. Mulch materials are nearly limitless: straw, alfalfa and other seedless hay, wood shavings, bark, leaves, corncobs, shredded cornstalks, seaweed, husks and hulls, even sand. For acid-loving plants, sawdust or pine needles work well. One warning: Mulched soil won’t warm up in spring as fast as naked earth, so to speed the growth of heat-loving plants, strip the mulch off in spring

five water-holding techniques—rich soil, contouring and swales, the right plants, dense plantings, and mulch

Every home has a handy rainwater collection system built right into it: the roof.

I know people who get most of their irrigation water from just four fifty-five-gallon drums, one at each downspout. These drums are easy to camouflage with plantings and paint.

rainfall in the West is rarely sufficient for gardening. roof or other catchment? Pavement and other hard surfaces can also be called into service.

A rule of thumb is that every 1,000 square feet of roof area will catch about 625 gallons of water per inch of rain.

If the storage can be higher than the garden, gravity, rather than a pump, can power the irrigation system.

Birds, small mammals, and many insects can’t drink from a pond with such a sheer rock edge.

A swale runs alongside the pond. Overflow dribbles out of the pond, down a rock waterfall, and into the swale. The water is captured by the level swale and sinks into the soil. Tom’s vegetable garden is just downhill from the swale, and The pond and swale thus form a subsurface irrigation system for the nearby garden.

The typical American family uses 100 to 200 gallons of water a day in their home

Greywater: sink, shower, and laundry drain, Reusing graywater reduces pollution and the strain on sewage and septic systems. Just as we now separate our compostable garbage and recyclables from landfill-bound trash, it makes sense to split easily reusable, almost-clean graywater from toilet wastes.

For such a system you will have to use biodegradable soaps

Be careful of what you put in a graywater system. Chlorine bleach, detergents containing boron (borax), and some household chemicals and solvents are toxic to plants and should never go in a graywater system. Hydrogen peroxide– based bleaches are safe to use.

Most common detergents will make graywater alkaline, stores sell detergents that are graywater compatible and are labeled as such.

But filtering graywater through a layer of mulch and fertile soil, or a home wetland, is usually enough to restore pH balance.

Never store untreated graywater for more than a day or two. The normally low numbers of bacteria can multiply quickly create unpleasant smells at best and health hazards at worst.

Get raw graywater on the ground quickly.

Although the amount of soaps, food, and other material in graywater may seem trivial, it adds up over time, building biomass, becoming plants and wildlife and food.

I’ve seen graywater systems that have quickly and dramatically boosted the fertility and lushness of a yard. My favorite resource is Create an Oasis with Greywater by Art Ludwig

The simplest possible graywater system— maybe too simple for most people—is a basin in the sink. When it’s full, just empty the basin into a well-mulched garden bed.

So trees are excellent water purifiers, and active ones. A full-grown tree can transpire 2,000 gallons of water on a hot, dry day. But this moisture doesn’t just go away—it soon returns as rain.

Up to half of the rainfall over forested land comes from the trees themselves.

To build sugars and the other carbon-based molecules that provide fuel and structure for the tree, the leaves remove carbon dioxide from the air.

trees help create cooling winds above them.

Plants that are parsimonious with water, Xeriscapes

Begin by using native plants where you can. your region’s wildlife will appreciate the familiar food and habitat.

A single tree may have ten to thirty acres of leaf surface, all able to draw dust and pollutants from the air. Air passing through the tree is thus purified—and humidified as well.

clouds (half of them created by trees, remember) trees act as cloud seeders to bring rain.

A mature tree can absorb over a quarter inch of rain before any reaches the earth. The leaves and branches act as a funnel, channeling much of the rain to the trunk and toward the root zone of the tree. Soil close to the trunk can receive two to ten times as much rain as that in open ground.

The water falling from the leaves is very different from what fell from the sky. Its passage through the tree transmutes it into a rich soup, laden with the pollen, dust, bird and insect droppings, bacteria and fungi collected by the leaves, and many chemicals and nutrients secreted by the tree.

This nutritious broth both nourishes the soil beneath the tree and inoculates the leaf litter and earth with soil-decomposing organisms. In this way, the tree collects and prepares its own fertilizer solution.

The leafy canopy holds this heat, preventing it from escaping to the night sky. So nighttime temperatures are warmer beneath the tree than in the open.

By harvesting dew and fog, trees can boost available moisture to far beyond what a rain gauge indicates.

At least 50 percent of this tree’s mass is below the ground. The roots can range far beyond the span of the tree’s branches.

trees mine and concentrate the sparse ores that surround them to build fertility and wealth.

This tree’s roots have threaded toward those of nearby oak trees and fused with them.

One of the largest organisms in the world is a forest of aspen trees that is in fact a single individual. beneath the surface, they are all connected via their entwined roots. Each of these aspen trees is genetically identical.

swarms of insects hymenopteran the birds that feed on these bugs.

A tree is a dynamic element embedded in and reacting to an equally dynamic landscape.

Want an insect-attracting, deerproof, and edible flower with medicinal properties? Try bee balm (Monarda didyma).

For a plant that yields salad greens and poultry forage and has roots that break up clay soil and make a coffee substitute when roasted, use chicory (Cichorium intybus).

How about a nitrogen-fixing shrub that is great for erosion control and hedges, with edible berries that are packed with vitamin C? That would be sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides).

Maximilians are one of the few perennial—not annual—sunflowers. They grow five to seven feet tall and sport four-inch yellow blooms in the late fall, giving a fine flash of color when most everything else is spent.

The plants aren’t invasive, but they grow thickly, forming a superb deer barrier. the trimmings, especially when I cut them to the ground in early spring, were copious and created plenty of biomass for mulch or compost. have edible shoots that are delicious raw or cooked.

They are very hardy, to –30 degrees Fahrenheit. The plant is very drought tolerant. It can handle many soil types, the sunflowers’ thick growth stanches the tide of grass

Goumi (Elaeagnus multiflora) is a nonopportunistic relative of Russian olive tasty berries. Red, three-quarter-inch fruits thickly festoon this six-foot-tall shrub in late summer and are good eaten out-of-hand Birds love the berries, Once established, goumi is very drought tolerant, so it’s a good wildlife shrub for the far, unwatered margins of the yard.

Spring finds goumi vibrant with hundreds of fragrant, cream-colored flowers that are adored by bees and other pollinators. these shrubs one of the few N-fixers outside the pea family. can be slashed back heavily to yield mulch.

a vining passionflower, maypop (Passiflora incarnata), Note: Native to texas. fast-growing climber is native to the southeast United States and is hardy to 0 degrees Fahrenheit. a lemony fragrance. The flowers attract bees, butterflies, and admiring humans and develop into an edible fruit about the size of a hen’s egg that tastes a little like apricot.

the young leafy shoots are edible and can be chopped raw into a salad or cooked as a green. can also climb up bare tree trunks or into nonflowering shrubs to provide color with their blossoms.

Spreading can be a problem: The roots can send up new plants fifteen feet away, though usually only a few of them each year. A quintessential permaculture plant, comfrey (Symphytum officinale) Its pink and purple blossoms are certain bait for bees and other beneficial insects, once called knitbone, Poultices of mashed leaves have long been used to heal cuts and scrapes.

a stellar nutrient accumulator, roots and leaves. it’s a vigorous biomass producer, with soft, lush leaves and stems that can be slashed down two to four times each growing season and either composted in place or shuttled to where the fertility and cover are needed.

can be grown as a living mulch. “chop and drop” mulching, which triggers the plant to regrow, converting yet more nutrients from the earth into biomass and then topsoil.

Comfrey’s fat vigorous taproots push far into the soil and can break up hardpans and heavy clays. Chopping off the top-growth causes some root dieback, leaving the roots’ organic matter deep in the soil to decompose and nourish the underground microherds.

it can grow exuberantly from root caveat about comfrey: '’t dig or till close to it. When I wanted to eliminate a plant, sheet mulch did the job.

mashua (Tropaeolum tuberosum) is an edible nasturtium. It’s common knowledge that nasturtium flowers are tasty, but this species also offers edible tubers. the raw tubers have a radish-like pepperiness that disappears on cooking. Baked or roasted, the tubers become sweet and delicious.

The leaves are also edible, having a watercress-like sharpness. Mashua was an Inca staple most famous Inca tuber, the potato One healthy plant can provide eight pounds of tubers, each one, incidentally, packed with vitamin C. contains compounds that repel nematodes, fungal diseases, and some harmful insects.

Interplanting it with other crops such as potatoes, corn, and beans can control pests of those plants. Its cream to orange flowers are also edible.

mashua is a vine, trellising easily up a six-foot fence; thus it makes a fast-growing screen to block unpleasant views or hot sun.

Bamboo is the queen of the useful plants—whole

More than 1,580 human uses for bamboo have been found, including paper, flooring, poles, food, baskets, bridges, fans, fences, hats, acupuncture needles, and xylophones. Thomas Edison used bamboo for the filament of his first successful light bulb.

often called “the brother,” “running” (or monopodial) The roots, like those of other grasses, '’t expand in girth, thus it can be planted over septic drain fields without fear of clogging the pipes. erosion control

shady, sussurating grove. Its leaves remain throughout the year, so it forms a permanent haven and screen. The young white shoots of most varieties are edible and delicious when steamed or sautéed.

plant bamboo next to a pond, compacted path, or gravel driveway. A sidewalk or paved driveway - nonspreading clumping bamboos—called sympodial,

the very best way to contain bamboo is to use it. It is a plant that seems to cherish an active relationship with people, often languishing without human companions. So eat any errant shoots, thin out and use the poles when they are three or four years old, and perhaps with some creativity you can add to the long list of known uses for bamboo.

see plants as active participants in garden ecology.

Mulching is simply composting in place, but it brings other benefits, such as moisture retention, soil cooling, and habitat creation.

Mulch plants should be cut before they go to seed unless you want mulch growing in your beds. Some gardeners interplant mulch makers among their crops and simply chop-and-drop the whole plant to deliver its benefits right in place. If the mulch looks too messy, it can be tucked under a layer of straw or wood shavings.

Many shrubs, especially nitrogen fixers such as alder, Elaeagnus, Scotch broom, and ceanothus, break down very quickly. Trimmings from shrubs and trees that have small branches (pencil-thick or thinner) are fine for mulch.

A tall pile of brush won’t break down nearly as fast as some stomped-down branches that get ground contact.

living mulches. A soft undercover of greenery offers many of the same benefits as dry mulch, plus those of living plants, dwarf yarrow, thrift, Ajuga, wild strawberry, long taproots yarrow, chamomile, fennel, lamb’s quarters, chicory, dandelion, and plantain. elderberry, marigolds. The wild marigold, Tagetes minuta, Some hybrid marigolds, in fact, stunt the growth of nearby plants and attract pests.

Insectary Plants that attract beneficial insects. insectary plants are yarrow, buckwheat, lavender, golden marguerite, bee balm, and many clovers. Nearly all of the celery or carrot family (the Apiaceae), which includes fennel, Queen Anne’s lace, dill, and coriander, are excellent insectary plants.

Other plant families that are loaded with insect-attracting species include the onion or lily family (the Lilaceae), the sunflower or composite family (the Asteraceae), and especially the mint family (the Lamaceae).

Maximilian sunflower, secrete mildly toxic compounds that inhibit seed germination and root growth. comfrey, These include daikon (Japanese radish), chicory, comfrey, artichoke, and dandelion. Others, such as mustard, rapeseed, and alfalfa, don't have a single taproot but instead thrust a massive, fibrous root system deep into the earth to accomplish the same soil loosening. intercrop them among the beds or under trees to continually break up the soil.

After they’ve 'e their work, these plants can be cut down, shaded out by taller plants, or sheet-mulched.

If you choose appropriate plants, rare birds, mammals, and butterflies—not deer and raccoons—will appear.

dogwood, elderberry, chokeberry, native roses, hawthorn,

U-shaped suntraps for warmth.

Why make compost when you can have plants that build their own soil? Why weed when a living mulch will smother any unwanted invaders?

salad greens are either perennial,

French sorrel, Good King Henry, or self-seeding, such as arugula, chard, red mustard, and lettuce.

I prefer perennials for ecological reasons, too. Planting annuals every year means disturbing the soil, brings weed seeds to the surface, This uses up nutrients that could otherwise be feeding plants. Plus, the bare soil erodes in the rain and wind.

“standing biomass” the part of the plant that’s permanent, such as branches, trunks, and large roots, The biomass is the garden’s essence: Remove it, and everything stops.

harvesting annuals is like small-scale clearcut logging).

Perennials, with their permanent roots and stems, are a feature of mature ecosystems, annuals of immature ones.

Perennials can replace many (though not all) annual plants. Fruit and ornamental trees; bushes for berries, blossoms, and wildlife; shrubs, vines, herbs, edible greens, and flowers—all come in perennial varieties.

tough to fill with perennials: vegetables.

asparagus, rhubarb, and artichoke. Egyptian or walking onions,

A perennial broccoli exists, called Nine-Star,

bamboo, with its edible shoots. Scarlet runner beans are perennial in mild climates (USDA Zone 8 and above).

Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum), Chinese mountain yam (Dioscorea batatas), Perennial groundcherry (Physalis heterophylla), Groundplum milkvetch (Astragalus crassicarpus), Sea kale (Crambe maritima), Lovage (Levisticum officinale), Mitsuba or Japanese parsley (Crytotaenia japonica)

moist, shady spots: Ramps or wild leeks (Allium tricoccum) thrive in shade.

Udo (Aralia cordata) partial shade. Watercress (Nasturtium officinale), Chinese water lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) has chives, fennel, parsley, various mints, and garden cress.

oregano, sage, marjoram, dandelion, chicory, pigweed, lamb’s quarters, chickweed, sheep sorrel, and cleavers.

white campion and salad burnet reveal alkaline soil.

Plantain was named white-man’s foot by Native Americans because its tiny seeds lodged in the wooden soles of early colonials’ boots. As the colonists blundered about the unfamiliar woods, plantain seeds dropped and sprouted, revealing where the Europeans had walked.

Acknowledging the usefulness of weeds can eliminate some of the warlike sentiments that we often bring into the garden.

Now I see weeds as my allies, protecting soil that I’ve inadvertently left naked, quietly boosting fertility until I’m ready to plant. And most of them are a source of food, Perennial greens abound. These include French sorrel (Rumex scutatus), Good King Henry (Chenopodium bonus-henricus), dandelion greens (Taraxacum officinale), bush kale (Brassica oleracea ramosa), New Zealand spinach (Tetragonia tetragoniodes), Malabar spinach (Basella rubra), and Turkish rocket (Bunias orientalis).mashua, Oca (Oxalis tuberosa) grows three-inch tubers with a lemony flavor. • Yacon (Polymnia edulis) is a frost-tender plant with large, crisp, and juicy tubers.

Mashua (Tropaeolum tuberosum) is a vining nasturtium with a small, peppery tuber that becomes deliciously sweet on baking.

if leeks are allowed to set flowers, many small bulblets will form at the base. If you pull only the main stem and bulb, the bulblets can grow the following season.

cutting back broccoli or cauliflower after harvest can keep it growing for several years.

They reseed naturally. chard, red mustard, corn salad, and lamb’s quarters.

A drought-loving rosemary bush that will drown too close to a downspout will perk up in a hot, sunny corner.

The right microclimate is crucial to a plant’s survival. In turn, the plants we choose will change the environment around them.

The big force that creates most microclimates is heat transfer. When the south wall of your house enters the scene, the picture changes dramatically. Sun heats the ground just as in the open, but now the sunlight also warms the south-facing wall. The wall’s warmth then bounces onto the ground, warming the earth further. That’s heat transfer.

A vertical wall blocks up to two-thirds of heat loss from a nearby “radiant body”—the ground in this case. The wall also alters heat transfer in a third way: It blocks air movement, preventing cool air from mixing with the warm air against the wall.

Trees, shrubs, and other vegetation alter the way heat transfer and air mixing occur. A leafy canopy, even that of a good-sized herb, will block sunlight during the day, slowing the warming of the ground beneath it.

At night, that canopy prevents the escape of heat from the earth to the sky, so temperatures below any plant won’t fluctuate as much as in open ground.

Also, the air below the greenery is more humid, and moist air uses more energy to heat than dry air. This further reduces temperature swings.

in winter, when the sloping rays of the horizon-skimming sun reach under the leaves of, say, an evergreen shrub to warm the soil while at night the leaves block heat loss. Tender perennials can shelter there. Overhanging eaves of a house can have a similar effect, especially on the south and west sides, creating another spot for less hardy or warmth-loving plants. This all means that cold-sensitive plants can survive under canopies and eaves in climates where, in the open, they would be frozen out.

Cold air drains downhill, so it’s important not to block its escape routes. Thus, slope can affect microclimate, too. Since cold air sinks, orchardists know that fruit trees on high ground can survive frosts that blacken the blossoms of trees just a few feet lower.

A perfect time to locate warm and cool spots is just after a light frost. Watch which places lose the hoary rime of ice the soonest. These may be ideal sites for starting early flowers or cool-weather vegetables.

If you have pets, they’ll let you know where the hot spots are.

Insects are savvy microclimate users.

Color creates microclimates, too. A dark wall absorbs heat, while a light one reflects light.

when peaches and grapes were grown against a light-colored wall, the fruit set was heavier and earlier.

Light-colored soils heat up slower than dark ones.

Soil density matters as well. A dense clay warms far slower than a fluffy, sandy soil.

And mulch, with its many insulating air pockets, can keep soil from freezing but retards the warming of soil in spring. Pull mulch aside when spring temperatures rise to speed soil heating.

I’ve mentioned the benefits of planting deciduous vines on arbors, trellises, even roofs and walls. Summer temperatures can be lowered substantially this way. Shading a yard works the same way, especially with a high canopy of trees.

using plants to modify both soil and microclimate to spur the growth of other flora. Species that do this are called nurse, chaperone, and scaffold plants.

creating an ecological garden is a restoration project.

Many nitrogen fixers make great nurse plants since their symbiotic microbes force-feed them nutrients, even in poor soils, so they grow quickly (think of the astounding growth of wisteria and alder, both nitrogen fixers).

Mesquites are the favorite nest-trees for white-winged doves, chaperones bestow more than just shade. Their roots loosen the soil, build humus, and secrete sugary juices for beneficial microbes; the leaf litter creates mulch and keeps soil moist; and the leafy canopy slows evaporation and forms a microclimate that damps temperature swings and holds humidity.

Use nurse plants as scaffolds. Other uses of scaffold plants are to hold soil in place on eroding hills and gullies, to stabilize and catch windblown soil, and to create thorny or dense fencing that protects young plants from deer and other animals.

The denser shade and tasty fruit makes hackberries a favored bird hangout. imported via squirrel fur and bird poop.

In ecological gardening at its best, that’s all the work that’s necessary: putting things in the right relationship. Nature will do the rest.

animals can be one of the gardener’s most powerful allies. In the wrong place, an animal can wreak havoc, but when the garden’s elements are in clever relationships, animals will eliminate a lot of labor for the gardener.

By attracting birds, small animals, and insects to our yards, we not only increase biodiversity but make our gardens more balanced, disease free, and productive as well.

The principal producers are plants, which turn sunlight into leafy and woody tissue. The decomposers, as we have seen, live mostly in the soil, working their alchemy to transform organic matter into a new and useful state. The consumers are primarily animal: humans and other mammals, insects, birds, and all the rest.

It’s too easy to notice the bug-ravaged leaves of broccoli and ignore the benefits of pollination and the role of pest-killing predator insects. Yet MOST INSECTS ARE EITHER HELPFUL OR NEUTRAL. Only a minority harm plants. Without insects, there would be very little for us to eat, no compost or topsoil, few birds, fewer mammals— they’re an essential, major thread in the web of life.

Fourteen percent of all crops are lost to insects and disease, fifty years ago crop loss was only 7 percent. factors are loss of soil fertility. the death of the beneficial insects fencerow-to-fencerow “clean” cultivation and heavy and ill-timed pesticide use. multispecies hedgerows and left wild vegetation along creeks and back pastures.

the advent of herbicides and high-powered tractors and the incentive to squeeze every dollar from farmland destroyed the good bugs’ habitat. the wild places, were disdained as unproductive and as wellsprings of weed seed, pests, and disease.

The second of the one-two punches that knocked out beneficial insects was widespread insecticide use.

Insects that feed on plants reproduce at staggering rates, quickly surging to astronomical numbers. But the insects that prey on these pests reproduce more slowly and are far fewer in number. Predators always occur in much smaller numbers than their prey. This makes them vulnerable to extinction when prey declines.

aphids can reach pestilential proportions in a week or two (frighteningly, aphids can give birth to already pregnant young). The farmer sprays insecticide. This kills lots of aphids—and most lady beetles. The fast-breeding aphids recover within a few days, but the lady beetles remain at critically low numbers

four types of beneficial insects: predators, parasitic insects (or parasitoids), pollinators, and weed feeders. beetles, true bugs, flies, wasps and their relatives, many eat anything that comes their way, whether helpful or harmful.

spiders they are superb pest predators. They shelter in dried grass and mulch, which provide the high humidity and refuge from temperature changes that they prefer. A cleanly cultivated garden is poor habitat for them: small wasps and flies that lay their eggs inside other insects or insect eggs. I have heard that the makers of the film Alien got their inspiration from parasitic wasps.

Parasitoids are often specialists, rarely harm helpful insects.

corn, grapes, and a handful of other wind-pollinated plants.

At the end of the dinosaur age, insects learned that protein-rich pollen was excellent. in some cases, the ability to buzz loudly at just the right frequency to send pollen boiling out of the blooms.

Predatory beetles, ladybugs overwinter in leaf litter, under rocks, consume fifty to five hundred aphids each day.

green-or blue-winged beauties known as ground beetles, rove beetles, Lacewings, Predatory wasps, yellow jackets and paper wasps

Solitary wasps, such as digger wasps.

All these wasps rely on pollen and nectar as adults. Plants with tiny flowers, including fennel, angelica, coriander, dill, and Queen Anne’s lace, provide their favorite food.

Syrphid flies many of them look like bees.

Tachinid flies also like houseflies. pirate bugs about 1.8-inch long, black with white wing patches, particularly like elderberry, mountain ash, hairy vetch, and wild and domestic buckwheat.

Big-eyed bugs are about -inch long and silver-gray, resembling tiny cicadas with bulging eyes. planting sunflowers boosts their numbers. honeybee aren’t as tough as wild bees.

Some insects specifically eat unwanted plants. Without a reliable supply of prey, predators and parasitoids won’t stay around. This is another benefit of hedgerows or weedy spots, shelter, includes dense foliage, mulch, dead brush and leaves, and rock piles and walls. Shrubs, hedges, and thick perennial beds are ideal.

Drinking water is needed.

Grow many species of flowers so that several types are always in bloom.

Multispecies hedgerows, wild and weedy spots, mixed and perennial borders, and flowers sprinkled in vegetable beds all provide habitat.

Sunflowers are native to North America, and over 150 species of insects, including weevils, beetles, and caterpillars, feed on their foliage, roots, flowers, and seeds.

Each year, I add more useful flowers, and I’m astounded at the almost exponential increase in insect life.

Birds can decimate a berry crop, peck holes in fruit, and scratch up small seedlings. Often these problems arise because good bird habitat is lacking, and the birds are reduced to making do with what’s available (in other words, your plants).

Individual bird droppings may not amount to much, but when a gardener concentrates manure by hanging a feeder or by some other tactic, plenty of fertilizer can accumulate.

Birds take dust baths in dry soil to subdue mites and other parasites. Birds also eat grit to aid digestion.

insect-eating birds have long, slender beaks to pluck insects from foliage, while the bills of seed-eaters are short and thick to crack tough seeds.

Researchers found that when they provided perches in a field, the number and variety of seeds brought by birds skyrocketed. If in our landscapes we offer birds a few shrubs for perching, they’ll introduce many new plant varieties on their own.

even hummingbirds get over half their nutrition from insects.

Wide, dense plants are useful since lots of birds prefer to nest deep inside a broad hedge or bush.

Evergreens. bamboo, Grasses, flowers, and herbs. Tall Nectar-producing plants. Summer-fruiting plants. Plants like mulberry, elderberry, Fall-fruiting plants. Winter-fruiting plants.

sumac, crabapple, chinaberry.Nut and acorn plants. oaks,small livestock. chickens, rabbits, pigeons

Small animals suited for the backyard are legion and include chickens, turkeys, pigeons, doves, ducks, quail, and peafowl, as well as rabbits, guinea pigs, and pot-bellied minipigs. (Geese and guinea fowl, though also small animals, are a little too noisy for the city or suburbs.) Occasionally I’ve spotted pygmy goats in suburban yards.

We raise DOGS AND CATS with nary a second thought, yet they require expensive feed and intense care, their excrement is extremely noxious, they destroy property, and barking dogs and love-smitten cats are every bit as noisy as roosters.

rather than allowing the critters to wander and wreak havoc in freshly seeded beds.

CHICKENS can also graze free-range in the garden, where they will glean insects, slugs, and weed seeds, but it’s best to keep an eye on them in case they find a crop they really like, such as berries or tomatoes. Wait until garden plants are mature before letting the chickens into the garden, as poultry will happily eat tender seedlings. If you allow the birds into the garden in the late afternoon, they won’t be there long enough to do any damage and will naturally return to their coop or tractor at dusk, sparing you the trouble of a lengthy chicken chase.

DUCKS are gentler on plants than chickens and don't scratch much, thus they don't need close supervision in the garden.

the RABBIT. WORM BINS can also process kitchen scraps. Worm bins are a first-rate composting system that can be used indoors. The virtually odorless,

INTERPLANTING, avoid solid clumps of one vegetable. garden plant communities onions, carrots, and lettuce in the same garden bed.

lettuce needs less sun than onions and carrots, so the slight shade cast by the latter two won’t impede lettuce’s growth.

In summer, lettuce tends to bolt and taste bitter unless shaded, which is a good reason to grow it beside taller plants.

the roots of these three plants don't compete for space: Interplanting Brussels sprouts, parsley, spinach, and onions is effective because the spinach and onions are ready before the sprouts mature, and the parsley can tolerate some shade.

Radishes, lettuce, and peppers work well together

This form of interplanting doesn’t blend plants into dynamic, interactive associations the way nature does. What’s more, interplanting rarely capitalizes on the mutual benefits plants can provide each other,

A second technique, COMPANION PLANTING, sage near carrots. Carrots stimulates the growth of peas.

Mexican marigolds (Tagetes minuta) can repel harmful soil nematodes. However, other varieties of marigold actually attract pests,

Interplanting combines crops that minimize competition for sun and nutrients. Companion planting blends varieties that enhance each other. Natural plant communities, tuned by billions of years of evolution, do both. Why not emulate these plant communities in our gardens?

As microclimates multiply, favorable conditions evolve for yet more species. Niches abound, and new varieties will move into these niches, attracting more insects, more birds, more life. The typical vegetable garden, however, has only one niche: loamy soil, at neutral pH, in full sun.

This reduces a diverse ecology to an impoverished uniformity.

Sentencing our garden plants to a single uniform habitat erodes the broad potential available to us.

Two weeks before the last frost: Indoors, start about five cabbage plants. The cabbages should be ready for transplanting a month or so after the seed mixture below is sown. To extend the season, choose both early- and fall-maturing cabbages.

Week One (at the last frost date in your region): In early spring, sow seeds of radish, dill, parsnip, calendula, and lettuce. heat-tolerant varieties such as Summertime or Optima will stretch the lettuce season into summer.

Broadcast all the seeds over the same area to create a mixed planting. cover the seed with about a quarter-inch of compost and water gently.

Week Four: Some of the radishes should be ready to pluck. In a few of the gaps left by the radishes, plant cabbage seedlings about eighteen inches apart.

Week Six: The young lettuce will be big enough to harvest. The dense sowing of lettuce will yield a flavorful mesclun blend when the plants are young. Pick the whole plant to make space for the rest to grow. With continued thinning, the remaining lettuce will grow up full sized. plant bush beans in the spaces left by the lettuce. If more openings develop in early summer, sow buckwheat and begin thinning their edible greens shortly after they appear.

mild-winter gardeners poke garlic cloves into the openings, to be harvested the following spring.

Our plants coevolved in dynamic environments, molded by neighboring plants. To re-create or mimic the original niches of our now-domesticated plants, we can use a gardening technique called POLYCULTURE, a word hybridized from the Greek poly, meaning “many,” and the Latin cultura, “to tend or cultivate.” Polycultures are dynamic, self-organizing plant communities composed of several to many species.

basic principles that blend common vegetable varieties into combinations that would ripen, one variety after another, over many months to give up to nine months of continuous food.

Ianto devised a seven-variety polyculture that mimics natural succession and fills ecological niches—and a garden bed—densely. The thick planting forms a living mulch for the soil,

Ianto’s polyculture blends early-sprouting radishes, insect-attracting and edible dill and calendula, lettuce, parsnips, cabbage, and nitrogen-fixing bush beans. Strongly scented dill and calendula will confuse insects. Dill also hosts tiny predatory wasps that attack cabbage loopers. Cabbages, enough diversity to bewilder most pests. thick planting creates a living mulch

in Nepal, the Jajarkot Permaculture Program,

One tip for a successful annual-vegetable polyculture is to use plants from each of these three groups: fast-growing greens and early vegetables such as radishes and the spring brassicas (broccoli, raab, early cauliflowers), midseason veggies such as beans and onions, and slow-growing plants including fall cauliflower and cabbage, Brussels sprouts, parsnips, and leeks.

One month before your last frost date: Start, seedlings each of cabbage, cauliflower, or broccoli indoors.

Select a blend of varieties that will ripen over a long season.

Week One (at the last frost date in your region): Create an edible ground cover by densely sowing a mix of mustard greens (Osaka Purple mustard, tatsoi, mizuna, garden cress, and the like) and other cool-season greens such as arugula, garden purslane, and shiso.

In regions where spring is warm (May temperatures reaching 80 degrees Fahrenheit), also sow buckwheat. Young buckwheat greens are delicious in salads or stir-fried.

Then add some salad crops. Lightly sow the seeds of radishes, chard, lettuces, and carrots among the previously sown seeds.

Herb seeds go in next. Sow fennel, dill, and coriander somewhat more densely than the salad crops since they don't seem to germinate as well.

Now add legume seeds to the mix. Push fava beans, bush peas, or a blend of these, into the soil roughly one foot apart.

Add some of your favorite alliums, such as onions, garlic, garlic chives, or leeks. Plant either seeds or starts of these

Weeks Two to Four: Begin harvesting the edible ground cover. don't just trim the leaves; pull the whole plant to create openings. Take care not to disturb the young beans or alliums. Pull a few of the young herbs to thin them out; they’ll make a tangy addition to salads and stews. In some of the resulting gaps, plant cabbage, cauliflower, or broccoli seedlings about eighteen inches apart.

Late Spring/Early Summer: When soil temperatures reach 60 degrees Fahrenheit, plant basil and bush beans in the openings.

As the spring warms up, many of the greens will bolt. Speed up your harvesting of these to eliminate them before they set seed.

Alternatively, if you want to naturalize these greens in your garden, let a few go to seed, then pull the whole plant and lay it on the soil to compost and reseed.

To help gardeners design polycultures, Ianto Evans has developed a set of guidelines

Seed several varieties of each species. Don't sow seed too thickly.

Begin your harvest early. Harvest your plants, especially greens, when they begin to crowd,

Overcrowding will inhibit rapid growth. Young plants are especially tasty,

Mix plant families, not just species. Closely related plants compete for the same nutrients

Include many seeds of fast-growing, shallow-rooted species. Radishes, mustard greens, fenugreek, and buckwheat will cover the soil quickly to thwart weeds and will get your harvest off to a fast start. You’ll eat a lot of these small plants, so plant them the thickest.

Overlap the harvests. To extend the harvest season, plant several varieties of each species, each with a different ripening time.

blend fast-growing vegetables with slow ones and early-season crops with late. Examples are radishes followed by cabbage, peas followed by bush beans followed by fall fava beans, or spring herbs such as dill succeeded by summer basil.

Avoid root and light competition. Sprawling plants such as tomatoes and potatoes may not be appropriate for polycultures since they’ll shade out many other plants.

Harvest whole plants. This allows room for the other many contenders for the same space. Be gentle; don't disturb the roots of adjoining plants. Harvest from the densest zones

Examine your polyculture every day. Things happen fast in polycultures. They will need daily harvest to continue rapid growth.

As the Chinese say, the best fertilizer is the gardener’s shadow.

polycultures reside firmly in the realm of vegetable gardening.

think of ecosystems as intricate polycultures, with far more complex interactions.

In ecosystems, we see qualities you won’t see in conventional farms and gardens.

Here’s one useful quality: Ecosystems are fundamentally cooperative places.

Plants display outward, measurable characteristics, such as nitrogen fixation, insect attraction, and mulch production.

Permaculturists call these imitations of natural associations guilds.

a GUILD is a group of plants and animals harmoniously interwoven into a pattern of mutual support, often centered around one major species, that benefits humans while creating habitat.

if we ignore the material needs of humans in our urban and suburban landscapes, we’re doomed to continue our voracious consumption of wild land for factory farms and tree plantations.

The American triad of corn, beans, and squash, a combination often called the Three Sisters. The trio qualifies as a guild because each of these plants supports and benefits the others.

Native Americans developed shorter, multistalked cultivars specifically for this guild, such as Black Aztec, Hopi White, or Tarahumara sweet corn, so you might consider a similar many-stalked variety.

After harvest, leave the stalks, vines, and other organic debris on the ground to compost in place.

In the Southwest, a fourth “sister” is found in this guild: Rocky Mountain bee plant (Cleome serrulata). Often found growing near former Anasazi settlements—The young leaves, flowers, and seedpods of bee plant are edible,

The Inca and other New World peoples added their own fourth member to this guild: amaranth. Amaranth is a high-protein grain with tasty leaves.

The addition of bee plant or amaranth boosts the Three Sisters rule for guild design, which is to start with something familiar and simple and gradually add connections.

apple tree. daffodil bulbs. circle of lush comfrey, artichoke plants. Dotted around these grow flowers and herbs: yellow bursts of yarrow, trailing orange nasturtiums, and the airy umbels of dill and fennel. dandelion, chicory, and plantain.

a thick ground cover of clover, some fava beans and other legumes

every guild has elements to do the tasks—disease control, fertilizer production, pollination—necessary for the guild to be healthy and low maintenance. Good guild design lets nature perform all these jobs by fitting different plants and animals into each role. If we leave out one of the guild’s pieces, we’re stuck with performing that part’s task.

In keeping with ecological gardening’s emphasis on processes rather than pieces, I’ve organized the guild members by function instead of plant type.

Usually the central element is a food-producing plant, The tree should be pruned to an open shape to allow light to reach the plants below.

Grass-suppressing bulbs. The shallow roots of bulbs keep grasses from moving into our guild. Daffodils are particularly useful bulbs, as they contain toxins that animals abhor.

Insect- and bird-attracting plants. The tempting blossoms of flowering plants will lure pollinators for boosting fruit set and attract predatory wasps that feast on pestiferous larvae such as borers and codling moths.

Mulch plants. Growing mulch under the tree eliminates trudging around with a compost-filled wheelbarrow since the guild will build its own soil. Mulch makers include soft-leafed plants such as comfrey, artichokes, cardoon, rhubarb, clovers, and nasturtiums, all of which can be slashed and left to compost in place. A ring of comfrey around the tree can be hacked down four or five times a summer.

plants that accumulate nutrients are chicory, dandelion, yarrow, plantain, deep taproots,

Nitrogen fixers are a critical component of guilds. another N-fixer strategy, which is to plant a young nitrogen-fixing shrub, such as goumi, bladder senna, or Siberian pea shrub, in the same hole or close to a new fruit tree. Just keep cutting back the shrub to roughly half the size of the tree until the tree is five years old or so and then remove the shrub altogether.

Certain plants exude substances that repel pests. Examples are nasturtiums and certain marigolds.

Habitat nooks. Piling up stones, logs, or brush near the apple guild and creating small ponds and puddles will attract lizards, frogs, snakes, and birds.

climbers such as vetch, which might trellis up the apple and shroud it with vines.

rule of thumb, the larger the plant, the fewer of its kind in the guild:

New guild-builders often place plants too densely under the tree.

remember to leave room for access.

a plant community that immensely lightens the human workload.

the saguaro-mesquite lands of the low desert,

Local field guidebooks, especially recently published ones, often list the dominant plant communities of the region. will teach us which species regularly occur together.

In and around many cities and suburbs, these hybrid communities may be telling us more than the native communities about what plants will work well in our surroundings. Both kinds of communities can teach us the general principles of how plants can be combined, but the hybrids might tell us more about which specific species will work best in our area. that happily thriving mélange of native and imported shrubs, flowers, and weeds in the vacant lot down the street is probably growing in conditions more like those in your yard

the mingling of these scrappy species signals that a powerful synergy is taking place. In the right context, some of these plants or their more domesticated relatives could be arrayed in attractive and useful combinations.

a guild centered on a walnut tree, pioneer shrub called hackberry (Celtis spp.). Hackberry’s leaves and berries yield good wildlife forage, and the fruit, while small, is tasty, hackberry’s toxins inhibit grasses and other shallow-rooted plants.

CURRANTS the half-gloom that currants favor. chiltepine (Capsicum aviculare) and wolfberry (Lycium spp.). Both are members of the Solanaceae, the nightshade family, which also includes tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and eggplants. Tim notes that the Solanaceae are narcissistic—that is, they thrive in the leaf litter of members of their own family.

Nitrogen-fixing plants multiple functions brand them as near-mandatory components of guilds. Russian olive. Other members of Russian olive’s genus, Elaeagnus, will also work, goumi and Elaeagnus × ebbingei, include indigenous nitrogen fixers such as ceanothus, or, IN THE SOUTHWEST, APACHE PLUME (FALLUGIA PARADOXA).

mulberries, elderberries, black locusts, and acacias. The last two also fix nitrogen and are beloved by bees.

the rule for determining numbers is: The bigger the plant, the fewer in the guild.

In the South, however, these vegetables will appreciate the walnut’s dappled shade. Radiating outside of this circle, place the mulberries and other buffer plants. guano, small mammals to till, prune, and fertilize.

a more academic, armchair method of guild design. Remember, though, that nothing substitutes for observation, searching under “Plant Communities, Oregon”

Here are some questions to ask that will help select plants for useful guilds:

1. What is the dominant species of the community?

2. Which plants are offering food to wildlife?

3. Are any plants capable of providing food for humans?

4. Which species are common to more than one community,

5. Does any species show exceptional insect damage or have large numbers of harmful insects living on it? This might not be a desirable variety.

6. What species generates most of the leaf litter? Would it make a good mulch plant?

7. How well, and by what mechanisms, does the community withstand drought or flood?

8. Do any plants have bare ground or stunted vegetation near them?

9. Are any plant families heavily represented in the community?

10. Does the community contain any known nitrogen fixers or other nutrient accumulators?

The answers to these questions will generate a list of species that can form the backbone of a potential guild.

Oaks often swarm with birds probing the bark for insects. madrone is an outstanding tree, luring immense flocks of birds to munch the prolific flowers and berries. suggestion for using this genus is to plant madrone’s close relative, the strawberry tree, Arbutus unedo, which bears creamy and sweet, somewhat seedy fruit. Strawberry tree in its full-sized version grows twenty feet tall, but there are bush and dwarf cultivars that will nestle under an oak easily.


wild strawberries are an obvious choice for a tasty ground cover.

shun the heavily domesticated hybrid roses; their pollenless blossoms lack wildlife value, and they demand incessant care. For guild plants in general, choose the less domesticated varieties.

Yerba buena is a trailing, aromatic herb with leaves that produce a mild sedative effect when steeped as a tea.

American vetch fixes nitrogen, but I might swap it for the more readily available common vetch.

The guild now contains plants for food, birds and mammals, insects, herbal medicine, and nitrogen fixation, which covers most of the necessary roles of any guild. The only obvious omission from the list is a heavy-duty mulch plant such as comfrey or artichoke.

a few more insectary plants (herbs such as dill or fennel or suitable natives)

Maximilian sunflower (Helianthus maximilianii) with its fall seeds and dense, sheltering foliage, as well as shoots we can eat and late-season blooms.

Asters of all kinds (Aster spp.) provide seeds and attract tasty insects for birds to munch.

Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) also offers seeds, as well as having medicinal properties and attracting beneficial insects.

weave together trees of diverse uses to create a “superguild.”

the value of BUFFER PLANTS.

Nitrogen-fixing trees and large shrubs. Black locusts, acacia, red or black alder, golden-chain tree, silk tree,

guilds can consume a lot of space. guilds are slower to establish than an annual bed. A fruit tree takes several years to bear.

Since a guild’s many plants act in close concert, tracing the source of a difficulty - say, stunted fruit on an apple tree - can be challenging.

Also, guilds are often site-specific.

Some plants aren’t appropriate for guilds, particularly sprawling winter squash that can smother nearby plants, and a few vegetables that insist on a full day of sun.

guilds, supplemented with annual beds, can approach the ecological ideal of minimal inputs and maximum diversity.

In a guild, we are but one living being among many others; and, like all the other animals enfolded by this community, we nurture and are nurtured by an almost-wild place. We prune and cull, as do the deer and mice.

We participate rather than rule. even guilds are just pieces of a larger whole.

Now it’s time to tie guilds into a unified, ecologically sound landscape.

the process of SUCCESSION, the end result of succession nearly everywhere is forest. Even in the arid Southwest, dryland forests of ironwood, mesquite, and saguaro cactus blanketed what is now desert,

This is why, as noted earlier, suburbanites must constantly weed and chop out woody seedlings from their well-watered lawns and garden beds. The typical yard, with its perfect regimen of irrigation and fertilizer, is trying hard to become a forest.

So why fight this trend toward woodland? Instead, we can work with nature to fashion a multistoried forest garden,

pink-flowered silk trees (which just happen to fix nitrogen). I’m not talking about a gloomy mass of light-blocking trees, but an open, many-layered edible woodland garden with plenty of sunny glades and edges.

Many yards already contain most of the elements of a forest garden: a few tall trees in front or at the back edge, some shrubs for a hedge or berries, a vegetable patch, a few herbs, and a flower bed. But in the typical yard these elements lie separate and disconnected.

A FOREST GARDEN simply integrates all these pieces into a smoothly working whole.

A simple forest garden contains a top layer of trees, a middle level of shrubs, and a ground layer of herbs, vegetables, and flowers. Each plant is chosen for the roles that it will play,

A forest garden has a different feel from other garden styles, in large part because trees are a major element, integrated into and defining the other layers. in a forest garden, trees—their leaves arching overhead,

The trees dominate, yet without smothering other plants. the aristocrats of the plant world. trees—as full, integrated partners, not merely as scattered specimens—are a prerequisite for a healthy, sustainable landscape.

Trees are unparalleled, for productivity you can’t beat trees. without annual replanting. Apple and other fruit tree yields can reach seven tons per acre,

Trees reach deep into the earth for nutrients and water, and far and wide into the sky for solar power. They are life’s largest, most effective natural collectors of energy and matter. So, by incorporating trees as integral elements of the garden, we’re putting heavy hitters on our team.

the gardener can mix and match the styles to tailor a garden that combines food, beauty, habitat, species preservation, and income.

southerners may desire dense spacing to provide needed shade.

too much shade and fruit yields and flower density won’t be as large in the shady parts of the understory as in full sun.

once established, forest gardens are low-maintenance because the thick vegetation cover reduces water needs, smothers weeds, and renews soil through self-mulching and natural soil building.

Forest gardening is a young field for North American gardeners, but it has a long history. Food forests have existed for millennia in the tropics,

The surrounding tangle of vegetation was assumed to be untamed jungle, and these people were branded as practicing only primitive agriculture.

Rampant growth was slashed back several times each year and used for mulch or animal fodder.

His book, Forest Gardening, Robert Hart

How to Make a Forest Garden, by Patrick Whitefield.

Edible Forest Gardens, by David Jacke and Eric Toensmeier.

bee plants such as borage and comfrey; other insectary species, including fennel, celery, dill, and coriander; and strongly scented pest-confusers such as horseradish, Mexican marigold, garlic mustard, and walking onions.

slug-eating snakes

scionwood for grafting.

Nitrogen-fixers: Siberian pea shrub, Russian olive, fava beans, clovers, lupine, bird’s-foot trefoil, fenugreek, alfalfa.

Insectary plants: borage, buckwheat, comfrey, fennel, celery, dill, coriander, oregano, chamomile. • Pest fumigants and repellents: horseradish, Mexican marigold, garlic mustard, walking onion.

Dwarf fruit trees, the usual choice for small spaces and high production, fared poorly. They are bred to have feeble root systems, which keeps them small. But in these nutrient-poor soils and harsh conditions, the skimpy roots meant starvation.

“Polish swales.”
Instead of digging swales into the rocky soil, he does it backward: he piles up small branches along the contour lines, adding compost and discarded greenery, along with stones and other available debris. This forms berms that trap soil, leaf litter, manure and bird poop, and anything else sluicing down the steep slopes. The berms of these inverted swales slow down water and force it to percolate down into the food forest’s root zone.

christened Mana after the Hawaiian spiritual force, grows like a gossamer bud from his house. One key to his success is an inflatable double-walled clear plastic that insulates far better than glass and is much less expensive.

a deluxe forest garden can contain as many as seven tiers of vegetation. As the illustration below shows, a seven-layered forest garden contains tall trees, low trees, shrubs, herbs, ground covers, vines, and root crops.

The canopy trees will define the major patterns of the forest garden, so they must be chosen carefully.

on dwarf and semidwarf rootstocks to keep them low growing. Plus, we can plant naturally small trees such as apricot, peach, nectarine, almond, medlar, and mulberry. Here also are shade-tolerant fruit trees such as persimmon and pawpaw.

can easily be pruned into an open form,

dogwood and mountain ash, and some nitrogen fixers, including golden-chain tree, silk tree,

can be pruned heavily to generate plenty of mulch and compost.

herb is used in the broad botanical sense to mean nonwoody vegetation: vegetables, flowers, culinary herbs, and cover crops, as well as mulch producers and other soil-building plants.

include strawberries, nasturtium, clover, creeping thyme, ajuga, and the many prostrate varieties of flowers such as phlox and verbena. They play a critical role in weed prevention, occupying ground that would otherwise succumb to invaders.

will twine up trunks and branches,

kiwifruit, grapes, hops, passionflower, and vining berries; and those for wildlife, such as honeysuckle and trumpet-flower.

These can include climbing annuals such as squash, cucumbers, and melons.

Most of the plants for the root layer should be shallow rooted, such as garlic and onions, or easy-to-dig types such as potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes. carrots don't work well

sprinkle a few seeds of daikon (Asian radish) in open spots

it’s easy to place spindly seedlings too close together, leading to overcrowding and dense shade when they mature. Leave room for sunlight to penetrate between full-grown trees,

Early on, include plenty of nitrogen-fixing and other soil-building plants.

The open spaces between trees and shrubs can at first be filled with annual vegetables, flowers, nitrogen-fixing cover crops

Tall trees are best placed to the north to reduce the shade cast on other plantings, but wide spacing will also allow ample sunlight

Renew the mulch once or twice a year to build the soil quickly and smother weeds.

the wisest strategy is to get zone 1 established first and then expand outward.

I’d advise planting a soil-building, habitat-providing cover crop mix. This will keep weeds at bay and boost fertility until we’re ready to plant the lower layers.

This lush mix need be mowed only once or twice a year, so it needs very little maintenance while it boosts fertility. Cover crops are a good strategy for less-visited parts of a garden.

grass- and rodent-suppressing bulbs near the tree trunk,

mulch plants, insect-attractors, and other guild members—depending on their need for light— should be tucked into openings between neighboring trees and shrubs, nestled into pockets under the branches, or lined alongside paths to allow access for picking and pruning.

Guilds very near the house should emphasize plants for food, medicine, and other human use, with less florae for wildlife, mulch production, and the like.

Keep the mulch pulled back from the tree trunks to discourage bark-gnawing rodents.

After three or four years, The gardener won’t need to import much fertilizer and mulch any more, as the forest, through the rain of leaves and the upward tug of deep-soil nutrients through roots, will be just about self-sufficient.

The forest garden reaches yet further, into the fourth dimension of time.

Urban yards are rarely big enough to encompass more than permacultural zone 1 and a modest zone 2, the areas of intensive use.

As Bill Mollison says, where you have fruit, you have friends.

organic matter in a metropolis is considered waste. It is a surplus that must be disposed of.

Spent coffee is excellent compost fodder, particularly for a worm compost bin, which is a space-saving soil technique perfect for urban houses and even apartments.

Websites such as Craigslist and FreeCycle

Houston, Texas, Kevin Topek of Permaculture Design, LLC.

the boundary between two environments— lets us create microclimates, increase yields and biodiversity,

The sun/shade edge.\

even the shady places are bright enough for many plants to grow.

the north sides of buildings are in eternal shade, something almost never experienced in nature.

albedo the amount of reflected light

And if that dark north edge is under the eaves of a house, it becomes the gardener’s nemesis: dry shade, a place where few plants can thrive.

perhaps this confluence of tricky sectors is telling us to consider the spot for some function other than planting, such as storage or socializing. After all, it’s shady, which in summer heat can be a fine place for a deck or patio, and humans, unlike plants, Don't require moist soil.

redirect excess water away from the wet spots and into the dry ones, using swales, berms, or other earth contours.wild variations in soil moisture. Soil under a building’s eaves may stay dry all year, while inches away the downspout might create a permanent bog. That’s a harsh habitat transition that few plant species can bridge.

The west side of a house will cook in afternoon sun, while just around the corner, the permanent shade of the north face is cool.

the entire metropolitan belt is usually several degrees warmer than the surrounding countryside. That heat evaporates soil moisture quickly, creates wind, and dries the air, stressing plants.

Soils in cities often contain lead, deposited in a light dusting everywhere during the era of leaded gasoline and in concentrated bands along the foundations of most houses built before 1960, when lead-based paints were the rule.

Rainwater running down road gutters could be an abundant resource for irrigation when shunted onto yards via curbcuts and bioswales, but since it is blended with petroleum drippings, it must be cleaned up first.

Concrete itself is alkaline, thus runoff from streets, sidewalks, and foundations raises soil pH.

much of what you need to know will be told simply by checking the pH. A basic pH meter is inexpensive and comes with instructions. Or pH-testing paper from garden or aquarium supply stores will do; just thoroughly mix soil and water in equal proportions, let the soil settle out, dip the pH paper in the water, and compare the color to the chart in the kit. Soils that are outside a pH range of 6.5 to 7.5 can be corrected with lime (for acid soil) or gypsum (for alkaline soil).

Mushroom guru Paul Stamets Mycelium Running,

Mushrooms fill a crucial and neglected niche in the urban garden.

Most other soil-edge difficulties can likewise be solved, or at least abated, by adding organic matter, whether by compost, mulches, or cover crops.

the so-called Venturi effect

Keyhole beds minimizes path area and maximizes growing space.

example of a space-efficient interplant is carrots, onions, and lettuce.

bush beans and lettuce. Radishes and young salad greens

Marjorie Hunt, High-Yield Gardening, bush collards underplanted with a groundcover of strawberries and Nepalese raspberries, with chives, parsley, and garden sorrel in the openings. chard have packed into any remaining bare patches,

Square-foot gardens. his recommended soil mix uses vermiculite and peat moss—two ingredients that are very fossil-fuel intensive—and fairly high inputs (wood for the bed walls, lots of compost, and the optional vermiculite and peat moss),

Biointensive gardening.

an alternative for urbanites to sacrificing precious yard space for compost crops is to harvest the urban waste streams.

A pecan/hickory cross called a hican is both smaller (to twenty-five feet) and more cold-tolerant (to USDA Zone 4) than the pecan itself.

Pine nuts can be had via the Siberian dwarf pine, which reaches only ten feet in height.

Urban guilds often contain fewer species than their more expansive large-yard counterparts.

ringed the small space with edible daylilies and a perennial onion relative called ramps (Allium tricoccum).


Beneath the peach is a goumi, mentioned in Chapter 6 as a nitrogen-fixing shrub with edible berries.

Also tucked under the peach are a honeysuckle bush, sea kale with its edible greens and shoots,

a couple of purple-flowered Veronica spicata (speedwell) plants to attract insects, and

a ground cover of Himalayan raspberry. I’ve pruned the peach to an open form to allow plenty of light to reach the plants beneath.

Winter squash, melons, and cucumbers are often left to ramble, yet their natural habit is to climb.

Indeterminate tomatoes can be trained to grow up a single string if side shoots are religiously trimmed. I’ve seen zucchini, normally a floppy bush, carefully taught to climb.

trellises along their northern edges, where they won’t shade other plants. Tepee frames can be set over small mounds and odd spots. And poles can be tucked anywhere.

Adding a few weeks to either end of the garden-friendly season and growing more in the allotted season gives us the same benefits as having more room: create microclimates that lengthen the growing season or let us grow plants from outside our climate regime.

permaculture itself, is really about making efficient use of time and labor.

Expanding Time with Microclimates

lots are so small, often our efforts can improve the climate of the entire yard






The south and west sides of any object will usually get warmer than the east side, so those are the best places for storing heat.

dense objects such as rock and concrete that don't cool quickly once warm. air mixing.

to warm a cool place, we want to slow or stop the wind from stealing our heat.




Fences and privacy screens may be necessary in city lots, but in hot climates, make them permeable rather than solid so wind can flow through them. Avoid dense materials like stone and dark-colored objects



vermiculite or perlite require high-energy inputs.

wasteful, life-denying grass


One oft-overlooked bit of potential garden space in cities is the parking strip, also known as the right-of-way or the hell strip.

It’s also not really under the homeowner’s control: Although the homeowner must maintain it, it’s usually encumbered with a file-full of easements to the power utility, the phone and cable companies, and the city, often with restrictions on what can be planted there. Plus, it’s the public right-of-way. Any citizen has the right to freely pass across this strip of ground, for access to parked cars, for relieving dogs, and for anything else on the legal side of loitering and vandalism.

start by learning what your city will allow there and how those ordinances are enforced. My own decidedly unscientific survey of several cities suggests that the most common restrictions are on tree size beneath power lines.

Another common rule prohibits fruit trees along streets since the fruit may drop on cars. (How rich we must be to value automobiles more than food!)

some cities insist that any plants other than trees and shrubs must be shorter than one foot, to allow easy access to cars. However, every official I spoke to, when pressed, said that these rules were almost never enforced, even after complaints.

Soil on hell strips is often badly compacted. A first step is to fluff it up by adding compost and mulch.

underlying cardboard or newspaper doesn’t protrude, which is both unsightly—we want to stay friends with neighbors here—and slows decomposition.


other useful roles the parking strip can play: a place for bird and beneficial-insect habitat, carbon sequestering, soil building, and ornamental plants.

The hell strip lends itself to small guilds. A shrub or small tree accompanied by a few smaller insectary, nutrient-accumulating, and other functional plants will need little care once established. Envision the magic of a street edged with guilds of bird-habitat

There is, however, one big incentive for planting the largest practical trees on parking strips: They raise property values. A California realtor’s association estimates that a mature street tree adds $6,500 to the sale price of a house. The most appealing, and expensive, neighborhoods in any city are those with tree-lined streets.

Tying cities back into natural ecosystems is important, and creating habitat for birds and insects is one of the best ways to do this. These small creatures weave connections among individual species, plant communities, and whole ecosystems by transporting seeds, pollen, and nutrients.

Cities are also becoming friendly again to small livestock and poultry. Many towns have dropped their prohibitions of poultry in urban yards. The revised ordinances usually exclude roosters and limit hens to three or four. even three hens will provide a dozen or more eggs per week during warmer months, enough for a family.

all RABBITS trim grass and weeds and produce a manure that is high in nutrients but less liable to burn plants than chicken droppings.

Cats, too, can be a challenge in multifunctional landscapes. To have joyfully created some enticing bird habitat and then see a cat convert it into a private killing ground brings on both horror and guilt. In some cases it comes down to a stark choice between having either birds or outdoor cats, but often it’s neighboring cats that are the problem.

Commercial cat repellents are moderately useful. Another solution is to concentrate bird habitat well off the ground by limbing up trees and thinning shrubs, so that ground-feeding birds are not attracted. Cats will also use bare soil as their litter box, which is yet another reason to mulch. I’ve also used floating

Permaculture is a design approach to create landscapes that function like ecosystems,

once we grasp the pattern of a gentle edge that arcs to the ground in a graceful curve instead of a harsh right angle, and as we understand how nature nests shapes inside each other like Russian matrioshka dolls and orders them so each can catch light, water, and fertility,

form permaculture,

function permaculture,

Create healthy soil, and the rest of gardening simplifies.


third element, on center stage, is the vegetation.

animals, an ecological garden swarms with niches for pollinators, pest controllers, and scavengers

The beauty and effectiveness of the ecological garden is in how the parts are connected. a dense web of connectedness. each function is performed by multiple elements. often yields unexpected synergies.

ladybugs that have lain semidormant amid yarrow and fennel

Ecological gardens are constantly evolving, and the process of their evolution—not just the final product—is fascinating to watch. Each year brings new treats

Providing the right pieces and getting important cycles going is most of the work in creating an ecological garden.

Catching and holding resources is the key to a sustainable garden (or society, for that matter).

Fertility builders can make up as much as half of a young garden. In poor soils, having 25 percent N-fixing plants to begin with is not too many.

variety is important. Choose plants of different heights, both woody and soft-tissued ones, having diverse fruit, flowers, leaves, and twigs to support the many types of feeding styles, with dense and open foliage and a selection that offers food at all seasons.

Digging swales and channels to catch runoff, adding humus to soil, using deep mulches and dense plantings, and capturing rooftop rain

drawing animals into the garden can be as simple as hanging a bird feeder where we want soil scratched and manure dropped.. this may just be bird poop, but from the ecological viewpoint it’s a useful input that the gardener didn’t have to work for.

the whole remains. And in a living net, the breaks are quickly repaired by the shifting, breeding, swarming surge of life. It is this webwork, more than any other factor, that distinguishes the ecological garden from the more conventional, vulnerable forms.

niche-enhancers include birdhouses and feeders, mulch to hide predaceous beetles and attract insect-hunting birds, rockeries for helpful lizards and snakes, brush piles for bugs and birds, and ponds to offer homes for fish and amphibians and drinking spots for other animals.

Nurse, scaffold, and chaperone plants--Helper plants are one of the biggest factors that propel a garden toward behaving like an ecosystem. Use them liberally.

Guilds, or plant communities pick up much of the gardener’s work. each element to have multiple functions—a a deeply interwoven landscape begins to act as a single being, with its own character and novelties. This makes the ecological garden a fascinating place.

chunking. start small and close to the house, find out what works, get one area growing successfully, and then repeat this pattern

after an initial period of sluggish plant growth and imperceptible soil improvement, the garden suddenly explodes into life and seethes with greenery, fruit, blossoms, and wildlife.

nitrogen fixers like New Mexico locust, Russian olive, and Siberian pea shrub.” In the shade of these, they planted fruit and nut trees that would eventually soar past the nitrogen-fixing nurse plants to form the canopy. “We’d work on creating a favorable spot, concentrating our resources there, and then grow out from those nuclei,”

a nearly closed canopy of greenery now cast cool shade that offered refuge from the intense New Mexico sun and kept the soil from burning to dry powder.

Deep mulches, for example, quickly boost the amount of energy and food available for soil life.

Ramping up the activity of the decomposers by adding plenty of organic matter unchains the once-stunted plant and animal life.

Deep-mulching the area around a house, combined with dense planting, creates an expanding circle of vigorous life and fertility. The densely interconnected soil, plant, and animal life are now surging with nutrients, water, pollen, chemical messages, and other “information flows.”

The living interconnectivity of the garden is so boosted that it becomes a fibrous knot of life, virtually impossible to wound, invade, or otherwise destabilize. this kind of garden fills out quickly because nearly any potential resource that enters it will be grabbed by some waiting organism. That translates into fast growth and dense interconnections.

It’s another example of the “rich get richer” phenomenon, more formally called the law of increasing returns.

Designing with zones ensures that the places that need the most care are the closest to hand, making it easy to notice the little bare spot that needs mulching, the drooping ground cover crying for water, or the slugs perforating the lettuce.

Now let’s look at how we can speed up the process to accelerate our arrival at that delightful popping stage.

Start with the Soil. Not only is the soil the base of the ecological pyramid and thus the logical place to begin, but very shortly the soil will be stuffed with perennial plants and thus be much harder to work on. Bringing the soil to rich, loamy fertility will accelerate and invigorate all that succeeds it.

the first step is to create a small bed of rich soil near the front or back door or in other close-in site

this soil needs to be immensely fertile. sheet mulching is the method I prefer.

Doug Clayton now applies the insecticide Imidan once a year to his fruit trees. He believes a single dose of this effective pesticide is far less harmful than what he once used: almost-weekly sprayings of organically acceptable, yet very toxic, pyrethrum and rotenone. think long-term.

4, I consider adding compost to be a short-term method, an emergency technique to quickly bring soil to decent fertility so that a patch of ground can be pushed into production fast. But to build soil that is truly surging with life, I like sheet mulching—composting in place— because it encourages multiple generations of soil life

The downside is that the sheet-mulched bed won’t reach maximum fertility for a year or two. But it still can and should be planted immediately by using soil pockets or a thin top-dressing of good soil.


Where exactly to locate these precious first garden beds? Here’s where knowing a little about microclimates comes in handy.

In general, look for sites that have no wild swings of temperature, moisture, or sunlight

Desirable in almost any location is lack of wind, so locate the heart of zone 1 in the still shelter of a house,

another important early step in ecological design is to define and control a property’s edges. Edge, after all, is where flows and energy enter a site. These are opportunities. If missed, they can become problems

where do weeds and pests come from? From off the site. We need barriers at the edges

fence or other quick windbreak, and this feature most likely will be located at the edge of the yard.

If nature’s assembly rules are that specific and complex, what are the chances that a humble gardener can collect all the right elements to make a landscape pop? Very good odds, as it turns out. Nature is very forgiving and resilient, as both its continued survival in the face of human damage and ecology research prove.

They were surprised to find how often this random mixing resulted in a stable ecosystem.

These experiments confirm what many permaculture gardeners have learned: We '’t know exactly how the assembly of successful guilds and ecosystems works, but if we begin with a wide array of plant types, nature will usually sort out something that clicks.

assembling a backyard ecosystem is not as difficult as one might think. Nature adheres to a deep order. It is as if living beings “want” to come together to form coherent communities. Given half a chance, plants and animals will self-organize into a connected whole.

transforming our own viewpoint, from a static bits-and-pieces orientation to one based on the interconnectedness of nature, may be the biggest hurdle of all.

a lifetime of study, observation, and puttering among the plants.

Plants for a Future On our website,, you can search for over 7000 edible and medicinal plants using a number of search criteria including: common and Latin names, keyword, family, habitat and use (medicinal, edible or other).

Gaia Greek goddess of the Earth, and the origin of the word root geo-, as in geography and geology. Also, as in Gaia theory, James Lovelock’s idea that many of Earth’s processes are self-regulating.

guild A harmoniously interwoven group of plants and animals, often centered around one major species, that benefits humans while creating habitat.

plant communities Groupings of trees, shrubs, and nonwoody plants that naturally occur together and seem to be connected as a whole.

polycultures Dynamic, self-organizing plant communities composed of several to many species.

swale A shallow trench laid out dead level along the land’s contours to allow water to enter the soil.

Campbell, Stu, and 'na Moore. The Mulch Book: A Complete Guide for Gardeners. Storey Books, 1991. A good introduction to mulching.

Creasy, Rosalind. Organic Gardener’s Edible Plants. Van Patten, 1993. Descriptions of over 130 edible ornamental plants. ———. The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping. Sierra Club, 1982. The foundation book that brought vegetables into the front yard.

Gershuny, Grace. Start with the Soil. Rodale, 1993. A superb handbook on the how and why of creating great soil.

Hart, Robert. Forest Gardening: Cultivating an Edible Landscape. Chelsea Green, 1996. A personal account of forest garden design by one of the originators of the field.

Holmgren, David.

———. Permaculture: Pathways and Principles Beyond Sustainability. Holmgren Design Services, 2002. Permaculture’s principles applied to sustainability and energy descent, by the field’s cofounder.

Jacke, David, and Eric Toensmeier. Edible Forest Gardens. Chelsea Green, 2005. The new bible on forest gardening, highly recommended. [2 vol. set, Hardcover $ 104 82 ]

Ludwig, Art. Create an Oasis with Greywater: Your Complete Guide to Choosing, Building and Using Greywater Systems. Oasis Design, 2000. The best practical guide to graywater systems.

Mollison, Bill. Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual. Tagari, 1988. The fat bible on permaculture, worth many rereadings and perusings.

Smith, J. Russell. Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture. Devin-Adair, 1987. One of the inspirations for the permaculture concept, showing how trees are key to sustainable agriculture. Stein, Sara. Noah’s Garden: Restoring the Ecology of Our Own Back Yards. Houghton Mifflin, 1995. A well-written and compelling plea for allowing nature back into our yards, full of natural history.

Stout, Ruth. The Ruth Stout No-Work Garden Book. Rodale, 1975. Using deep mulches to reduce labor and improve fertility.

Toensmeier, Eric. Perennial Vegetables. Chelsea Green, 2007. The best book on growing perennial vegetables, covering most known species for temperate climates. [kindle $19.95, paper $25.65]

Magazines Permaculture Activist PO Box 5516, Bloomington, IN 47407 $23/year, 4 issues.

Permaculture Institute USA PO Box 3702, Pojoaque, NM 87501 505-455-0270

Abundant Life Seed Foundation PO Box 772, Port Townsend,WA 98368 360-385-5660 Nonprofit growers and collectors of nonhybrid seeds. Catalog $2.

Deep Diversity Box 190, Gila, NM 88038 The brilliant Alan Kapuler’s delightful and esoteric seed collection.

Forestfarm Nursery 990 Tetherow Rd., Williams, OR 97544-9599 541-846-7269

Forestfarm Nursery 990 Tetherow Rd., Williams, OR 97544-9599 541-846-7269 This may be the most extensive supply of useful plants in the United States—over 3,000 varieties. Catalog $5 and worth it

. Native Seeds/SEARCH 525 N. 4th Ave., Tucson AZ 85705-8450 520-327-9123 Specializes in heirloom varieties from Mexico and the Southwest. Catalog $1.

Plants of the Southwest Agua Fria Rd., Rt. 5 Box 11A, Santa Fe, NM 87501 800-788-7333 Native plants and seeds from the Southwest.

Visit his Web site at

RichSoil Permaculture community


Five Reasons to Grow Yarrow Yarrow is a flowering herb with many uses medicinally and in the permaculture garden. Here are 5 reasons why you will benefit from growing yarrow.

Common yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is native to the dry, disturbed soils of prairies, meadows, and the edges of forest in the northern hemisphere. This perennial grows best in hardiness zones 3-9. Like many other prairie plants, its deep, fibrous roots enjoy absorbing water in my rain garden. It will grow to 36-inches high and produce white flowers. Other varieties produce pink, yellow, red, or orange flowers.

Even if you '’t grow yarrow in your garden, it is a fun herb to forage for. The fern-like foliage of yarrow can be spotted in sunny, cleared areas.

Here are five reasons why I enjoy growing yarrow in my garden.

1. Yarrow Accumulates Nutrients (Fertilizer)

Yarrow is a nutrient accumulator. According to Edible Forest Gardens, its deep roots mine the subsoil for potassium, phosphorus, and copper, making yarrow a nutrient-rich mulch.

Fruit trees: Because of its ability to fertilize, yarrow is often grown in fruit tree guilds to enhance fruit production.

Mulch & Compost: Yarrow can also be chopped and used as mulch around the garden, or added to the compost bin to boost its nutrient content.

Food Forests

In a food forest, where edible perennials like tall nut trees have recently been planted, it will be important to protect the soil until the trees have matured. A mixed cover crop can be used in this less-visited area to build soil, mine minerals, break up compacted soil, and attract beneficial insects.

In Gaia’s Garden, Toby Hemenway suggests a mixture of the following, which would only need mowed once or twice per year:

annual rye
daikon radish

For more about food forests, see Benefits of the Edible Forest Garden.

Would you like to learn more about using herbs like yarrow to improve the biodiversity of your garden, reduce maintenance, and increase yield?

You’ll find loads of information just like this in my book, The Suburban Micro-Farm.

Clean up Lead Contamination

Yarrow mines copper from the subsoil which is an important micronutrient for plant growth and an essential amendment for acidic soils. According to Gaia’s Garden, however, plants that mine for copper can also concentrate lead if it is present in the soil, “such as along the foundation of old houses where lead-based paint may have weathered”. A simple and inexpensive soil test can inform you about contaminated soil.

This is why yarrow and many other accumulators of copper and zinc are used to clean up lead-contaminated sites: The lead concentrates in the plants, which are dug up at the end of each season (roots and all) and disposed of. It may take more than one season to remove all of the lead, and regular soil tests are important. Because the leaves may be toxic in lead-contaminated sites, it would be important to NOT use these plants for mulching, medicinal, edible, or craft purposes.

2. Yarrow Attracts Beneficial Insects & Pollinators

Yarrow, with its white, yellow, or pink flowers, attracts many types of pollinators in search of nectar while it blooms summer through early fall. A wealth of beneficial insects such as lacewings, parasitoid wasps, ground beetles, spiders, ladybugs, and hoverflies find habitat for egg-laying or refuge for overwintering in the fern-like foliage. According to Carrots Love Tomatoes, yarrow emits a pungent odor that repels pests, and is therefore a boon to grow near pest-prone gardens.

3. Yarrow makes a good Ground Cover

If left to its own devices, yarrow will grow to about 3-feet high, producing flowers throughout the summer. However, yarrow can be grown as a running ground cover that can handle light foot traffic if it is mowed a few times a year (according to Edible Forest Gardens). Yarrow may not flower if it has been cut, but the beneficial insects will still be able to utilize the foliage for refuge.

4. Yarrow has Medicinal Uses

The flower and the upper portions of leaf and stem have many medicinal uses, making yarrow an important herb to have in your medicinal garden.

A yarrow tea can help to reduce a fever and a yarrow poultice can calm the inflammation and soreness of a bruise.

Yarrow has many first aid uses such as stopping bleeding, or as a general first aid remedy for calming and healing rashes, bug bites, bee stings, cuts, and burns.

According to Homegrown Herbs, the yellow flowers should not be taken internally, such as in teas, tinctures, elixirs, syrup, or honey. Only white or pink flower yarrows should be used for internal medicine. Also be aware that yarrow should not be taken internally by pregnant women.

5. Yarrow is Edible & Crafty

Individual flowers are edible, and Homegrown Herbs suggests using them for a confetti effect in cookie batter.

The dried cut flowers also make beautiful wreaths and dried bouquets.

Useful or not, yarrow is a joy to have in the garden!

Yarrow Care – Growing Yarrow Herb In Your Garden While often sold as a flowering perennial, yarrow plant (Achillea millefolium) is actually an herb. Whether you decide to grow yarrow in your flower beds or in your herb garden, it’s still a lovely addition to your yard. Yarrow care is so easy that the plant is virtually care-free. Let’s take a look at how to plant yarrow and also tips for how to grow yarrow.

How to Plant Yarrow

Yarrow is most often propagated by division, so chances are you’ll buy your yarrow as a plant. Space your plants 12 to 24 inches apart if you’re planting more than one yarrow plant.

You can also start your yarrow herb from seed. Start seeds indoors about six to eight weeks before your last frost date. Sow the seeds in moist, normal potting soil. The seeds should just barely be covered by the potting soil. Place the pot with the yarrow seeds in a sunny and warm location.

The seeds should germinate in 14 to 21 days, depending on the conditions. You can speed up the germination by covering the top of the pot with plastic wrap to keep in moisture and heat. Remove the plastic wrap once the seeds have sprouted.

Regardless of whether your yarrow plants are grown from seed or bought as full plants, you will want to plant them in full sun. They thrive in a wide variety of soils but do best in well drained soil. Yarrow plant will even grow in very poor dry soils with low fertility soil.

Some caution should be taken when growing yarrow, as in the right conditions, it can become invasive and will then be in need of control.

How to Grow Yarrow

Once you have planted your yarrow, it needs little care. It doesn’t need to be fertilized and only needs to be watered during times of severe drought.

While yarrow needs little care, it is susceptible to a few diseases and pests. Most commonly, plants will be affected by either botrytis mold or powdery mildew. These will both appear as a white powdery covering on the leaves. Both can be treated with a fungicide. Yarrow plants are also occasionally affected by spittlebugs.

YARROW: HOW TO PLANT, GROW, AND CARE FOR YARROW Yarrow is a hardy perennial with showy flower heads composed of many tiny, tightly-packed flowers. Their fern-like leaves are often aromatic. Yarrows are easy to care for and versatile: they are good for borders, rock gardens, or wildflower meadows. These flowers are excellent for cutting or drying.


Use a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil in your garden to about 12 to 15 inches deep, then mix in a 2– to 4–inch layer of compost.

Plant in the spring in well-drained, average to poor soil. Yarrows thrive in hot, dry conditions; they will not tolerate wet soil. If you grow yarrows in rich soil, the plants may require stalking because the rich soil encourages growth.

Space the plants 1 to 2 feet apart. They are quick to establish and spread, though some species, like Achillea millefolium, are invasive, so be careful when choosing your plants. Most kinds grow to be about 2 to 4 feet tall.


Remember to add a thin layer of compost, followed by a 2–inch layer of mulch around your plants each spring.

If you receive less than 1 inch of rain a week in the summer, remember to water your plants regularly.

Divide yarrow plants every 3 to 5 years. Lift the clumps of flowers in early spring or fall and remove any dead stems from the center of the clump. You can replant the divisions in well-prepared soil.

If you plant yarrows from tip cuttings, plant them in spring or early summer.


Powdery mildew
Stem rot


Coronation Gold, for its beautiful mustard-yellow flowers and silvery gray leaves

Fanal (“The Beacon”), for its rich red flowers with yellow centers

Cerise Queen, to add some bright pink color to your garden


Native Americans used ground yarrow infused in water as a wash to treat sunburns. It is also sometimes used as a remedy for anxiety and stress.

Yarrow is thought to symbolize everlasting love.


Low Maintenance Plants: Yarrow My favourite low maintenance companion plant that’s useful to have in the garden is Yarrow (Achillea millefolium). Yarrow: Attracts beneficial predator insects by into your garden to eat your garden pests (by providing the predators with a nectar source to keep them alive once they eat all the pests)...

Stimulates the growth and vigour of nearby plants, and increases the aromatic oil content of culinary herbs and insect repellent plants...

Works as a compost activator just like comfrey to speed up the decomposition process in your compost pile...

Grows as a shallow rooted, dense groundcover on garden borders that creates a barrier to weeds, and being a wild plant, requires very little fertilizer or maintenance... Is a wonderful medicinal herb that has been used over centuries for wounds and a variety of other ailments! This was in my original list, but nice to have it as a duplicate because it's definitely one of my favorites!

5 Reasons to Grow Yarrow in Your Garden

Yarrow is a flowering herb with many uses medicinally and in the permaculture garden. Here are 5 reasons why you will benefit from growing yarrow.

Growing Habits of Yarrow

Common yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is native to the dry, disturbed soils of prairies, meadows, and the edges of forest in the northern hemisphere. This perennial grows best in hardiness zones 3-9. Like many other prairie plants, its deep, fibrous roots enjoy absorbing water in my rain garden.

It will grow to 36-inches high and produce white flowers. Other varieties produce pink, yellow, red, or orange flowers.

Even if you don’t grow this herb in your garden, it’s a fun herb to forage. You can spot the fern-like foliage in sunny, cleared areas.

It’s easy to collect the seeds after the flower heads have died, so you can sow them around your garden.

5 Reasons to Grow Yarrow

1. It accumulates nutrients (fertilizer).

Yarrow is a nutrient accumulator. According to Edible Forest Gardens, its deep roots mine the subsoil for potassium, phosphorus, and copper, making it a nutrient-rich mulch.

Grow healthy fruit trees, mulch, and compost

Because of its ability to fertilize, it is often grown in fruit tree guilds to enhance fruit production.

Yarrow can also be chopped and used as mulch around the garden, or added to the compost bin to boost nutrient content.

Create amazing food forests.

In a new food forest it will be important to protect the soil until the trees have matured. A mixed cover crop can be used in this less-visited area to build soil, mine minerals, break up compacted soil, and attract beneficial insects.

In Gaia’s Garden, Toby Hemenway suggests a mixture of the following, which would only need mowed once or twice per year:

annual rye
daikon radish

FORAGING FOR YARROW: NATURE’S MEDICINE Well, hello! Guess what? Even in January I was outside foraging for yarrow! You’re probably wondering what in the heck I’m talking about. You may have not even heard of yarrow. But, let me tell you, yarrow really is nature’s medicine, and it pretty much grows everywhere. Even if you’re not able to find it right now where you live, just wait until spring or summer and I’m sure you’ll be able to find some somewhere. I even found it at almost 9000 ft elevation when I spent my summers in Yosemite National Park.

Yarrow is native to temperate regions of North America, Europe, and Asia. It has pretty flowers that attract beneficial insects to your garden, and the young leaves are edible, so you can add them to your salads. Here is a picture of what it looks like in the wild when it first starts to emerge in early spring.

It can be a little hard to see as it tends to blend in with it’s surroundings, but once you have an eye for the frilly leaf shape you’ll be spotting it everywhere! It really is quite beautiful. I even dug up a plant and potted it so I would always know where to find it if I needed it in a pinch.

Here is what it looks like when it first flowers,
which usually happens later in spring or early summer.

It can grow quite tall in some locations, and it has large and wide umbrel shaped flowers that bees love. Here is some very large wild yarrow that we found on the Oregon coast.

Cultivated varieties can have different colors, usually various shades of yellow, orange, pink, purple, and red.

Yarrow has been reported to do many things, but there are a few key things that make it noteworthy. First, it is an all purpose wound healer, which is why it is a common ingredient for herbal salves. You can also just make a poultice out of the leaves and put it directly on a minor wound.

It does, however, help to stop bleeding for minor wounds. Combine that with pain relieving and antibacterial properties and you have one powerful herb for cuts and scrapes. All that and it’s probably right in your backyard!

You can also dry your yarrow leaves to make a tea that, while bitter tasting, can help for colds and flu. It is good for sore throats and is a decongestant, and will also help to sweat out a fever. It is often blended with elderberry and peppermint for these purposes as well, which will also make the tea taste better.

Yarrow also improves circulation and digestion and is great for the reproductive system as it balances women’s monthly cycles. You do, however, want to avoid using it during pregnancy.

It almost seems like there is nothing that this herb can’t do! You should definitely be on the lookout for it as spring and summer arrive. I’m almost certain that you will find some. If for some reason you can’t find any, or if it’s the wrong time of year for foraging, you can always purchase dried yarrow from Mountain Rose Herbs.

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Chicory [Cichorium intybus]

Chicory Common chicory, Cichorium intybus, is a somewhat woody, perennial herbaceous plant of the dandelion family Asteraceae, usually with bright blue flowers, rarely white or pink. Many varieties are cultivated for salad leaves, chicons (blanched buds), or roots (var. sativum), which are baked, ground, and used as a coffee substitute and additive. It is also grown as a forage crop for livestock. It lives as a wild plant on roadsides in its native Europe, and is now common in North America, China, and Australia, where it has become widely naturalized. "Chicory" is also the common name in the United States for curly endive (Cichorium endivia); these two closely related species are often confused.

Common chicory is also known as blue daisy, blue dandelion, blue sailors, blue weed, bunk, coffeeweed, cornflower, hendibeh, horseweed, ragged sailors, succory, wild bachelor's buttons, and wild endive.

Wild chicory leaves usually have a bitter taste. Their bitterness is appreciated in certain cuisines, such as in the Ligurian and Apulian regions of Italy and also in southern part of India along with coffee, in Catalonia, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine.

In Ligurian cuisine, wild chicory leaves are an ingredient of preboggion and in Greek cuisine of horta; in the Apulian region, wild chicory leaves are combined with fava bean puree in the traditional local dish fave e cicorie selvatiche. in Albania, the leaves are used as a spinach substitute, mainly served simmered and marinated in olive oil, or as ingredient for fillings of byrek.

By cooking and discarding the water, the bitterness is reduced, after which the chicory leaves may be sautéed with garlic, anchovies, and other ingredients. In this form, the resulting greens might be combined with pasta[14] or accompany meat dishes.


The chicory plant is one of the earliest cited in recorded literature. Horace mentions it in reference to his own diet, which he describes as very simple: "Me pascunt olivae, me cichorea, me malvae" ("As for me, olives, endives, and mallows provide sustenance").

In 1766, Frederick the Great banned the importation of coffee into Prussia leading to the development of a coffee-substitute by Brunswick innkeeper Christian Gottlieb Förster (died 1801), who gained a concession in 1769/70 to manufacture it in Brunswick and Berlin. By 1795 there were 22 to 24 factories of this type in Brunswick. Lord Monboddo describes the plant in 1779 as the "chicoree", which the French cultivated as a pot herb.

In Napoleonic Era France, chicory frequently appeared as either an adulterant in coffee, or as a coffee substitute.

Chicory was also adopted as a coffee substitute by Confederate soldiers during the American Civil War, and has become common in the United States. It was also used in the United Kingdom during the Second World War, where Camp Coffee, a coffee and chicory essence, has been on sale since 1885.

The cultivated chicory plant has a history reaching back to ancient Egyptian time. Medieval monks raised the plants and when coffee was introduced to Europe, the Dutch thought that chicory made a lively addition to the bean drink.

In the United States chicory root has long been used as a substitute for coffee in prisons. By the 1840s, the port of New Orleans was the second largest importer of coffee (after New York). Louisianans began to add chicory root to their coffee when Union naval blockades during the American Civil War cut off the port of New Orleans, thereby creating a long-standing tradition.

A common meal in Rome, puntarelle, is made with chicory sprouts.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that Chicory is a native plant of western Asia, North Africa and Europe.

Cichorium intybus has been declared an invasive species in several states in the USA.

Information On How To Grow Chicory Chicory plant (Cichorium intybus) is an herbaceous biennial that is not native to the United States but has made itself at home. The plant can be found growing wild in many areas of the U.S. and is used both for its leaves and its roots. Chicory herb plants are easy to grow in the garden as a cool season crop. Seeds and transplants are the primary means of growing chicory.

There are two types of chicory plant. Whitloof is grown for the large root, which is used to make a coffee supplement. It can also be forced to use the tender white leaves called Belgian endive. Radicchio is grown for the leaves, which may be in a tight head or a loosely packed bunch. Radicchio is best harvested very young before it turns bitter.

Planting Chicory

Seeds can be started indoors five to six weeks before they are moved outdoors.

In warm climates, sowing outdoors or transplanting occurs September through March.

Planting chicory in cooler climates should be 'e three to four weeks before the danger of frost has passed.

Sow chicory seeds 6 to 10 inches apart in rows that are 2 to 3 feet apart. You can always thin the plants if they crowd each other but close planting discourages weeds.

The seeds are planted ¼ inch deep and thinning is 'e when the plants have three to four true leaves.

You can also sow a crop for fall harvest if you choose a variety that has an early maturation date. Planting chicory seed 75 to 85 days before anticipated harvest will ensure a late crop.

Chicory herb plants that are to be forced for blanched leaves will need to have the roots dug up before the first frost. Cut the leaves to 1 inch and store the roots for three to seven weeks in the refrigerator before forcing. Plant the roots individually after chilling to force the leaves to grow in a tight, blanched head.

How to Grow Chicory

Learning how to grow chicory is similar to learning how to grow most lettuces or greens. The cultivation is very similar. Chicory requires well drained soil with plenty of organic matter.

It performs best when temperatures are below 75 degrees F. (24 C.).

Extended care of the chicory crop requires vigilant weeding and a mulch to prevent moisture loss and further weed growth. Chicory plant requires 1 to 2 inches of water per week or enough to keep the soil evenly moist and reduce the chance of drought stress.

The herb is fertilized with ¼-cup of nitrogen based fertilizer such as a 21-0-0 per 10 feet of row. This is applied approximately 4 weeks after transplant or once the plants have been thinned.

Herb to Know: Chicory Hardy perennial. Chicory, also known as succory, blue-sailors and ragged-sailors, is a hardy perennial native to Eurasia but was transplanted and now grows naturally throughout North America, south to Florida and west to California. It is common along roadsides and in other wild, untamed areas, especially in limestone soils. All species in the genus Cichorium are native to Eurasia. The words chicory, succory, Cichorium and intybus are all derived from Greek or Latin names for the herb.

Chicory resembles dandelion in its deep taproot and rosette of toothed basal leaves; unlike dandelion, it puts up a stiff, hairy flower stalk clothed sparsely with small, clasping leaves. Stalks may grow 2 to 5 feet tall and branch several times. Stalkless flower heads 1 1/2 inches wide form singly or in twos or threes in the axils of the stem leaves in midsummer. They are clear blue (or, rarely, pink or white) and consist of 16 to 20 strap-like, toothed ray flowers.

Blossoms are primarily bee-pollinated and open early in the morning and close about five hours later.

Linnaeus, observing this tendency, planted chicory in his floral clock in Uppsala, Sweden. (There, the flowers opened at 5 a.m. and closed at 10 a.m.) Flowers may stay open longer on cloudy days. The herbalist Mrs. C.F. Leyel has observed that “the lovely blue color of the petals is changed into a brilliant red by the acid of ants, if placed on an ant-hill.” The plant tops make a dyestuff that produces a variety of colorfast yellows and greens, depending on the mordant used. In the language of flowers, chicory symbolizes frugality.

The second-century physician Galen called chicory a “friend of the liver,” and contemporary research has shown that it can increase the flow of bile, which could be helpful in treating gallstones. Laboratory research also has shown root extracts to be antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and slightly sedative. They also slow and weaken the pulse and lower blood sugar. Leaf extracts have similar, though weaker, effects.

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Keyline Design/System

Keyline design is a technique for maximizing beneficial use of water resources of a piece of land. The Keyline refers to a specific topographic feature linked to water flow. --Wikipedia.

The tool used for keyline plowing is the Yeoman's plow, a subsoiler with very thin shanks. Created in the 1950s by P.A. Yeoman, an Australian mining engineer and farmer, it was designed to lift and aerate the soil while limiting soil disturbance to minimize oxidation of organic matter.

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"Plan the work then work the plan." — P.A. Yeomans

Freshly keyline plowed (Photo: Kirsten Bradley)

In the mid 1950s, Australian engineer P.A. Yeomans demonstrated a new system of land management he called the Keyline system. The consensus of the time, championed by people like Dr H.H. Bennett, was that soil was a finite resource and that once depleted “it was irretrievably lost as if consumed by fire”. P.A. understood that long natural carbon cycles create soil, but also knew that this process takes hundreds or thousands of years. By adjusting the conditions in the soil with his plowing and management techniques, P.A. was able to speed this process and create dozens of millimeters of fertile topsoil in just one year.

P.A. started out as a conservationist, but quickly realized that creation of topsoil was the ideal solution, while conservation simply delayed the inevitable soil destruction. Depending on the climatological conditions, conservation may ‘work’ for just a few years under harsh conditions, while allowing profitable cropping for decades in other milder regions. This is a direct cause of the extractive farming methods still used today. Farming then and now is still dominated by the practice of mining the topsoil for minerals, turning over the exhausted topsoil with plows, and replenishing the minerals lost in the crop with fertilizers. This, as seen over and over, leads to soil depletion, erosion, and finally desertification.

Keyline Design was first developed by the great Australian, P.A. Yeomans (1904-1984), in the late 1940s & 50s initially as a practical response to the unpredictable rainfall regime he found on his new property

By changing this method of conservation to one that continually builds soil fertility to feed the crops, the land will become more fertile over time. This creates a feedback loop, but one with positive outcomes. It can be said that one should “feed the soil, not the plants.” When healthy soil is present and maintained, any crops suitable for the region will grow well without any fertilizer. Herein lies P.A.’s argument that soil creation and the Keyline system will lower the costs of the farm while at the same time producing higher yielding, and thus more profitable, harvests. This is even more relevant in today’s profit driven world. Farmers that would not otherwise concern themselves with improving their methods for the sake of the land will more often pursue actions that will increase their bottom lines.

Leveling is the primary concept when dealing with water and the Keyline system. Before any earth is moved the land should be sufficiently surveyed and pegged. Pegging is simply placing pegs at a corresponding level around the property to give rise to a visual level line. By manipulating the techniques used to determine each peg’s placement, one can plan-out all of the features of a system.

While a modern laser level would be the easiest tool to use in leveling, low-tech, do-it-yourself options exist. P.A. designed a type of level called a bunyip. Another DIY level is an A-Frame level. A-frame levels can be constructed even easier than bunyips, requiring only three pieces of wood, a string, and a rock!

Any of these leveling devices will need to be accompanied by a large number of pegs. When the level is found, the pegs can be placed accordingly to map out the land before any work is 'e. It may be useful to have pegs tall enough to be readily seen over the surrounding vegetation, or the vegetation can be cleared off before the pegs are placed. When using pegs to mark keylines, channels, and dam water levels, it is advisable to have the pegs painted or flagged to distinguish the lines dotting the landscape at a glance.

Employing the methods developed by P.A. Yeomans, keyline pattern plowing is a proven component in the job of revitalizing degraded soils. The plow performs deep ripping with minimal plant disturbance.


By using a chisel, tyne, or P.A.’s keyline plow, both aeration and water integration can be accomplished in one pass over the land. While mouldboard type plows turn over just the topsoil, the chisel plow creates numerous deep cuts into the compacted and often sealed soil where air and water can now penetrate deeper and activate the decomposition process just below the topsoil.

Different kinds of soil types may require altered preparation. For example, sandy, light soil in arid conditions can be chisel plowed deeply (45 cm) from the very start, while in heavy clay soils you must chisel plow shallowly (8 cm) the first year, while slowly increasing plow depth each year. This is because the heavier soil types will seal over with the first substantial rainfall, locking out the water and air.

The goal of this type of cultivation is to blend the subsoil and topsoil into one contiguous layer. This creates a more balanced distribution of minerals, nutrients, air, and water, everything needed to grow healthy plants. Again, a more traditional turn-plowing would leave the topsoil overturned and segregated from the subsoil leading to soil destruction rather than creation.

Soil Conditions

To create soil, certain conditions must be met. Some kind of organic material must be present that, when combined with the correct levels of moisture and air, will create an ideal soil climate for decay to occur. While adding organic material is often the fastest way to improve soil condition, over large areas of land it is not practical to haul in the massive amount of materials that would be required. The Keyline system focuses on hastening the decomposition of the naturally occurring organic material already in the soil by adjusting the moisture and air levels within. Once the biotic conditions in the soil are jump-started, micro and macroscopic life return in such abundance that it dwarfs the total weight of a harvested crop or the grazing cows above.

P.A. Yeomans

Roots are one of the main organic components that will be decomposing in the midst of the added moisture and air. As soil improves, more plants will grow, from the soil’s seed-bank or from being sown, and increase the field’s biomass; this is another positive feedback loop. Some of these plants are likely to have deep tap roots that stretch down into the subsoil and bring up minerals unlocked by chisel plowing, making them available for plants with shallower roots. As these and other pants die, the roots decay more rapidly in the improved soil conditions. The spaces left behind by the roots create natural pathways for air and water to further integrate into the soil. Even crops grown for harvest or grazing will still leave the roots in the soil, continuing the improvement process.

A positive interaction in soil life that can be used to your advantage is one between the roots of legume plants and bacteria that live on them. The bacteria fix nitrogen from the air into the soil, making it available to plants. The bacteria does this in exchange for starches created by the legume plant. If seeds are to be sown on land that is undergoing Keyline cultivation improvement, it is strongly suggested to use a mix that includes inoculated legume seeds appropriate for the area. Yet another benefit to growing legumes is that they are often high in protein, making them nutritious pasture.

Water flows

The shape of the land will determine how water flows over it. While some land is flat, most have at least slight valley and ridge shapes. Water will naturally flow from the higher ridges into the valleys, following and eroding the steepest path. These waterlines should be identified at the beginning of a project because they form the framework the land will follow. The placement of buildings, dams, paddocks, and anything else on the farm will be determined in relation to the existing waterlines.

Water Flows

All water will flow off of ridges and into valleys perpendicular to contour. When examining a topographical map, water will flow the shortest distance between two contour lines.

Water and Controls

Within the Keyline system, all water sources available to the farm fall into four categories. The first is the rain that directly falls onto the land, the second is runoff from the farm itself, the third is runoff from outside the farm, and the fourth is groundwater. In short, the idea is to capture and hold the water on your land as long as possible by controlling when and where it flows — via channels, keyline plowing, dams, and other features of the Keyline system.

Plowing and the Keyline

The first step in determining your water management plan is to find the keylines of the land. These are on-contour lines that occur where the steeper and flatter parts of the land meet in the center of a valley. A keyline can be found on topographical maps where the contour lines begin to get further apart. This represents the highest contour of the land that can efficiently hold water; there may be lower keylines, but they represent the highest point in a valley formation, not the overall property, where water can be held. Not all valleys have their keylines on the same contour.

The plowing should start at the center of a valley and follow the keyline. As you get further away from the keyline, the contour of the land changes, but the plowing should continue parallel to the initial keyline. This creates a slight grade in the plow cut that channels water in the furrows toward the ridge.

Keyline valley map

Ridge pattern

The furrows’ grade is slight. It is not intended to create any great flow, but to distribute the water more evenly over the ridge and valley formations with a gentle drift. By slowing the flow, the water is allowed ample time to absorb into the soil. This has a side effect of obstructing erosion. If you are familiar with on-contour swales, this concept will be familiar to you.

In flat lands the plowing can continue down the land as needed. In more undulating lands, paddocks may need to be created and plowed from multiple keylines. Keyline plowing can continue up the steeper land as high as the tractor can go.


After the keylines have been identified, a determination of which valleys should have dams constructed in them can be made. It is always worth holding water at the highest point possible to take advantage of gravity doing the work of irrigating the land below the dam. With 15 meters of height, gravity irrigation from a dam will have as much pressure as a spray irrigation system and can be used as such. This would give the farmer the benefits of spray irrigation while letting gravity pick up any energy costs.

The cost of building any dam comes down to a ratio of earth moved to water stored. When determining the ideal minimum shape of a dam, the length of the wall across a valley should be less than or equal to the distance water will back-flood. The ideal depth is between 3 and 6 meters. This depth should include 0.9 meters of free-board, the height between the full water line and the top of the wall, above the spillway level. This compensation will allow for 0.6 meters of free-board during rain events where 0.3 meters depth of water evacuates the dam via the spillway. This extra safety precaution is to compensate for large, 50 or 100 year, floods.

Keyline and dams

Types of Dams

High contour dams are installed above the valley keyline. Water from runoff is limited above these dams given their high positioning in the landscape. To fill these dams, swales can be constructed around the ridge to channel rainfall to these types of dams. These steep land dams come at a high price since great deals of earth need to be moved to store relatively little water in these narrow dams. Their water will be freely available for use in pressurized and flood irrigation just about anywhere on the property.

Following the land lower, valley keyline dams are the most common dams found in the Keyline system. Found in undulating lands, keyline dams are more economical than high contour dams; they store greater sums of water for little earth moved. Keyline dams offer another chance to use the stored energy of water to irrigate, but the irrigation area is restricted to the lands below the dam.

In flatter lands dams become even more economical, storing great sums of water for very little earth moved. As the land becomes flatter the wall of the dam will not necessarily find enough height between 2 shallow ridges. In this case the wall is extended back to create sides, or wings, that hold the water in. An extreme example of a flat lands dam is the broken ring dam. The side walls on the broken ring dam extend and curve back on the dam itself.

Finally, in dead flat lands ring dams can be utilized. Ring dams will have no runoff entering them naturally. To keep a ring dam filled, water must either be pumped or piped in from another source. The advantage a ring dam has over a pond is that the ring dam sits above ground level and therefor contains energy, albeit slight, that can push the water into an irrigation channel.

P.A. Yeomans


Dams can be fitted with lock-pipes under the wall. While these lock-pipes add greatly to the cost of constructing the dam, they then provide gravity fed water at the turn of a valve. The cost of the lock-pipe will be overshadowed in the savings over running a pump for irrigation. Irrigation can be spray if the total height of the water is 15 meters or more, but even in flatter lands gravity will still allow for, what Yeomans calls, flood-flow irrigation.

Flood-flow irrigation uses an irrigation ditch to channel the water from a dam’s delivery point source, the lock-pipe. Watergates along the irrigation channel can be opened and closed by one man to irrigate several hectares per hour of the land below. This land can be separated into smaller paddocks by fencing that is run on an irrigation steering bank. The bank will allow for more control of water disbursement.

Each paddock should be Keyline cultivated to spread the irrigation, or rainfall, evenly over the land. The keylines should ultimately lead the water to the next lower dam on the property. The slow speed of the water traveling through the keyline system, coupled with good drainage in each paddock leading to the next dam, will allow for sufficient absorption while also preventing the land from ever being over-saturated. This keeps in-line with holding the water on the land as long as possible, using and reusing it as often as possible.

The irrigation channels should be grassed over quickly in dry, windy areas to prevent erosion. This should be a simple task given the nature of the channels to be watered with every rainfall or irrigating.

The "Wombat" point causes effective shattering of compacted subsoil ~ Finding Yeomans Keypoint


Swales, which appear similar to irrigation channels, can be used to connect dams, hold water in places dams are not viable, and to help direct rainfall to different parts of the land. By connecting dams of the same level with a swale, you gain additional flood insurance; after one dam fills, the excess water can back-fill the swale and equalize all the dams in a lateral chain before any water is lost over the spillway.

Swales are built on contour so that there is no directional flow. The energy of the rising water will evenly spread water along the length of the swale. The water held in a swale after a rain event absorbs into the soil, adding to the subsurface hydrological flows. This underground water will flow through and down the land very slowly. This water moves so slowly it is effectively held in the land itself instead of on the surface in a dam. If rains are regular, the land should build to maximum water content within a few years; at this point springs may appear in the lower portions of the property.

While swales are not a major component of the Keyline system, they are worth mentioning because modern permaculture uses of swales have evolved alongside the techniques described in Yeoman’s books – and compliment each other well. Swales can be effectively deployed on properties not large enough to support full sized dams. They are also extremely cost effective soft earthworks, requiring no compaction.


When dams become over full there needs to be a overflow mechanism in place that will not allow water to flow over the wall of the dam, but also not concentrate the water such that erosion occurs. Spillways accomplish this task by controlling the overflow of water through a wide level gap in the wall. The water flows evenly and slowly over the spillway and onto land outside of the wall that is also graded nearly flat. From here the water will be treated as rain that falls outside of the dam and its watershed. In a large rain event lock-pipes can be opened as extra insurance against an overflowing dam, but this should only be necessary in extraordinary rains.

Timber integration

Trees plan an important role in the Keyline system. Belts of timber can be planted above keylines on the steeper less suitable slopes. These belts provide wind breaks, erosion control, shelter for grazing animals, and an opportunity to harvest poles for fencing. Trees can also be used along fence and farm roads to like effect. When planted above keylines, the trees provide a plowing guideline that can be followed each subsequent year.

P.A. Yeomans


After implementation, the Keyline system offers up a number of benefits. Some of these benefits are seen immediately, such as the stopping of erosion, while others take longer to show and are not as overt, such as restoring subsurface hydrological flows. Still another boon offered by the Keyline system, particularly the system of dams, is the abatement of both floods and droughts.

Often times water is sheeted off the land as fast as possible, increasing stream and river flows greatly but temporarily, before the water finds itself disbursed into the ocean. This fast moving water contains a great deal of energy that is not only wasted, but actively erodes the land on its journey to the ocean. By slowing the advance of water over the land with the Keyline system, the water has a chance to absorb fully into the land.

This restores aquifers and ancient subsurface flows. These aquifers and subsurface flows act as a battery. Once recharged the surrounding landscape will come alive as springs begin to dot a once dry landscape. Further this battery of water will regulate the flow of rivers, preventing large floods by slowing the water and compensating for the flow lessening ill effects of drought.

Additionally water that takes a leisurely subsurface course will have time to be naturally filtered. The results of this would be rivers carrying less sediment. This sediment is not noticeable when deposited in the ocean, but many bodies of water such as the Newcastle Harbour in Australia and the Chesapeake in the United States have been polluted by runoff from improper water management. The implementation of the Keyline system would have a side effect of clearing such bodies of water over the subsequent decades.

Keyline Plowing Results


The Keyline system provides a total solution to farmers that provides ample water infiltration in even arid regions for cropping or grazing land. This water, coupled with Keyline cultivation, activates decomposition where the top and subsoils meet. This decomposition leads to deeper, richer, more biologically active soil which in turn leads to more productive land.

By capturing and controlling water as it falls and flows over the land, erosion is completely mitigated. The water control system also tempers the bust and boom flood and drought cycles. Ultimately Keyline planning is the only long term, cost effective, restorative land management system available that can be applied to conventional farm and pasture lands without the need for less conventional modifications seen in more modern permaculture solutions.

More Information

Ken Yeomans is continuing his father’s work, selling copies of the books listed below as well as offering keyline consulting.

The Keyline Plan
The Challenge of Landscape
The City Forest

World EcoSystems

An Introduction to Keyline


This process is carried out when soil moisture conditions are ideal and is only 'e once a year if cover cropping or 5 – 7 years if sowing a permanent pasture.

Keyline Design


V Intention Direction Momentum for your Permaculture Orchard Quebec, Canada

Les guildes de plantes en permaculture en Francaise

Introduction to permaculture en Francaise

A Journey Into Permaculture and the 10 Year Residential Design of Midwest Permaculture Home Midwest Permaculture

Suburban PERMACULTURE, Growing Food For FREE! Jersey in June, tour of James Prigioni garden

V Man Quits Job in Finance to Create Incredible Permaculture Property - From Finance to Farmer Jordan narrator: Andrew Martin once worked in the finance industry in Australia, but after learning about the true state of the world as peak oil and climate change begin to take effect, he knew he had to leave that unsustainable lifestyle behind and do something useful to help heal the earth and to be more resilient in the face of change. He and his wife Beth moved to New Zealand, where they’re in the process of turning green-desert farmland into a productive and bountiful forest of food.

It’s incredible to see how much they’re harvesting after just three years. Andrew researches extensively about the big interconnected issues in the realms of economy, environment and energy and offers his skills and knowledge to city and regional councils that need to build their own resilience (that would be pretty much all of them!). Find out more about Andrew’s work on his website Rethink Enterprises.

This film was made as part of our Living the Change series. For this series we're traveling around New Zealand making short documentary films about permaculture farms, tiny houses, and sustainability.

Arizona Desert Permaculture Garden: The Doublewide Oasis June 2017 yarrow, salvias, snapdragons, native & Navajo melons, pomegranate, silk tree [N fixer, tea out of flowers], artichokes w/ blooms, Reliance peach tree, pineapple guavas, hollyhocks, cilantro suffers from the heat, pear tree,

A Tour of the Doublewide Oasis: Central AZ Backyard Permaculture Garden ft. Dog Holes zone 8a.

Permaculture Orchard Tour Part 1: The Poultry Run end of May 2017 Parkrose Permaculture in Oregon

Permaculture Orchard Tour Part 2: 2nd Half of the Poultry Run Parkrose Permaculture in Oregon

Permaculture Orchard Tour Part 3 of 5: Hidden Persimmon Guild Parkrose Permaculture in Oregon

Permaculture Orchard Tour Part 4 of 5: The Shade Garden May 2017 Parkrose Permaculture in Oregon

Temperate Permaculture Forest Garden Tour The Urban Farmer

Epic Permaculture Food Forest james prigioni in Jersey

The Permaculture Orchard - For Anyone Justin Rhodes in Quebec

Permaculture Fruit Forest of Incredible Abundance in Ireland! (Part 1) BealtaineCottage

Taking the Privilege Out of Permaculture! BealtaineCottage in Ireland

What can you do with a small property?! EdibleAcres in Trumansburg, NY

Edible Acres website

My favourite permaculture trick Living the Good Life with Rushka. Best edge is where trees are growing.

Urban Garden Tour - How We Grow Food For Our Family of 6 in Our Backyard (Fall 2016) From Seed to Spoon in Oklahoma

Grow 120 Sq Ft of Garden Up Your House or Wall - Amazing Vertical Raised Bed Garden VeganAthlete in Tempe Ariz.

Grow 30 Plants in Less Than 2 Sq Ft with the Green Stalk Garden Vertical Tower Garden VeganAthlete in Tempe Ariz.

Rushka Johnson Website South Africa, Dance fitness instructor.

PERMACULTURE HOME Stockholm - Making Vegetable Beds

Permaculture for Beginners Episode 1 School of Permaculture

Video: P A Yeomans-Keyline Interview Part 1 (26 min) 1979

Video: P A Yeomans-Keyline Interview Part 2 (36 min) 1979

Video: Keyline Market Garden Part 1

Video: The Market Gardener with Jean-Martin Fortier, Six Figure Farming Part 1 Introduction

Video: Permaculture Keyline Water Systems: Tom Ward @ Wolf Gulch Farm

Video: Keyline

Video: Ted Talk: How to green the world's deserts and reverse climate change | Allan Savory

V Longevity Gardens Tour May 2018 with Pamela Mace Phoenix, AZ.

Moringa trees. Starfruit sm tree. Jujube has thorns. Guava and apricot trees. Orange tree cut back to stump but growing back. Pomegranates do well in the desert. Zapote really happy. Tangerine. Both understory trees. Grapefrut.

Backyard: peach trees sm. Fig trees. Jabadakava? White Pakistan mulberry hanging over pool; full tree in two years. Wolfberry bush to help shade the house. Desert willow in hot spot. Date palm '* ranch gold'. Cactus garden. Carob tree slow growiing. Pecan tree. Big bush Barbados cherry, pink flowers, amazing cherries. Neem tree. Royal poinciana, huge beautiful tree, fern like leaves. Curry tree. Ice cream bean. Hard to grow in AZ. Papaya trees take a lot of water.

V Plant Functions in a permaculture garden Netherlands. Herb layer of food forest.

V 3 Polycultures permacultarist in Netherlands. Diversity leads to more yields and confuses pests.


Artichoke articles in my Vegetable page

JERUSALEM ARTICHOKES – LIKE DIAMONDS, ARE FOREVER Helianthus tuberosus is an annual which will tolerate most conditions. Commonly called Jerusalem artichoke, it is known in its native America as Sunroot. Other names include Sunchoke and Suntuber. It is not to be confused with the globe artichoke, Cynara scolymus, which is a thistle with edible flower-buds.

Suntuber foliage is said to be good fodder. Rapid growth makes it an excellent summer shade, screen, or windbreak. It may also have potential in paper-making. The plant produces a substance which inhibits growth in nearby plants, so '’t use the green foliage for mulch.

Sunchokes, Jerusalem Artichokes

Plant tubers in early spring, choosing the spot carefully – you plant Suntubers for life! When you harvest them – last year I took four and a half large buckets from a patch one metre square – small ones will be overlooked and grow next year. '’t put whole tubers in mulch or compost, and remove unwanted plants as they appear. In warm weather, plants will reach one to three metres in a few weeks. Water and feed in moderation. They will produce a crop even if totally neglected. The first cold snap kills the tops. Dig tubers as required. If you have to harvest them all at once, store them in moist sand in a cold place.

For Food: You can feed fresh tubers to pigs and goats, or finely chopped to poultry. As a human food, like many other food plants, they need careful preparation. Some people have no problem digesting them but they are a minority. Over 50 percent of their carbohydrate is in forms we '’t have enzymes to break down. Beans contain 10 to 15 percent of the same substances. These substances need to be leached or converted to make a digestible product.

Refrigerate or cold-store tubers for at least a month, then slice and boil in lots of water for 15 minutes, adding one tablespoon of lemon juice per 1200 mls after 10 minutes, or right at the start if you want crisp tubers. Drain, slip off peel, and pat dry. The slices can then be marinated, pickled, dehydrated, barbecued, roasted, deep-fried, made into soup, pureed and used in pies, cakes, or scones – use your favourite pumpkin recipes, but add less sugar.

If you have a solar cooker, slow combustion stove, crock pot, or are planning a hungi, cook whole tuber for 24 hours in a tightly closed container at 93’C (200’F). Season and serve, or slice and dry for a snack.

How To Grow Artichokes Grown from seed, the first will be harvested the first season, running neck and neck with the first tomatoes on the scene. Up north the seasons are shorter, however will start producing the very first part of August, following approximately 6-8 weeks of yield.

Most people have the idea that artichokes will not withstand high heat. Intense sunlight will cause the plant to wilt, even when soil is moist. '’t be dismayed they may look a bit bad for a while but will recuperate later. The sun may cause the plant to develop too quickly and will cause them to be somewhat smaller than normal and hardened or “tough.” As the weather begins to cool down the artichoke will respond with healthy delicious artichokes.

[Grow with some shade to give relief from heat.]

Preparing the soil: Artichokes need to grow quickly to be choice and edible. Watering is very important, and soil needs to be very good. They will need a high quality compost and manure in generous amounts each and every season. Sand and organic material should be worked into a soil that is “heavy.” Well-drained soil is significant for good production. Slightly acid soil is needed for artichokes 6.0 works well. Plant at least 2 plants per person, and if you really are an artichoke fan, then 4 per person.

The first year of planting, you will have better results with larger plants if you buy dormant roots form western nurseries. Your plants will use a lot of area in your garden, in time will grow 4 ft. wide and 3 ft. high. Where the season is short, they will grow only ½ that size, double your plants in that case as producing time is shorter. Place the plant in a 12x12-in. hole filled with rich compost. Make sure the soil around the plants is well fertilized and loose.

Growing from seed: Where the growing season is shorter, it is best to use seed to start the plant. You will start the artichoke about the same time as you begin to the rest of your plants indoors [8 wks before last frost: Feb. 1st]. Place the seed in a moist material (peat moss) in the refrigerator about 2 weeks before planting in garden. Move to individual containers after germination. Set out after all danger of frost is gone.

Caring for your plants

Each month sides dress each plant with a high nitrogen fertilizer.

Water well to encourage production in cooler climates. In warm areas too early flowering is not acceptable, cut back by trimming flower stalks and big leaves. In addition, reduce the water and feeding until highs are by mid-day in the 70’s.

When warm cover the soil with mulch. When weather is cool, remove much of the mulch.

One fourth of the plants should be replaced each year. Old plants need to be replaced with new ones to keep steady production. Take suckers or side roots from the best and healthiest plants to propagate. The shoot should be about 3 inches long, harvest these in early fall.

Artichokes perfect for eating should be soft and bendable for two or three inches below the bud. The bud “eatable part” can be kept for up to one month in the refrigerator. Cooked artichoke hearts are delicious and worth the effort of growing!

ARTICHOKES The artichoke (Cynara scolymus) is also known as the Globe Artichoke, but shouldn’t be confused with the Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosusv) or the Chinese artichoke (Stachys affinis).

This Mediterranean native is an edible flower variety of the thistle species within the Asteraceae family, which includes composite flowers such as sunflowers. Prior to cultivation, the ancestor and wild, natural occurring variety of the artichoke, the cardoon, was used by ancient Greeks and Romans. Around the 9th century the cultivation of what we think of as today’s artichoke, began in Naples. By the 19th century the artichoke had made its way to the USA.


The artichoke is grown today for both its food capabilities and as an attractive plant variety for flower beds and yards. If enjoying the food aspect of the artichoke there are many health benefits to be gleaned from this tasty bloom. 1 medium artichoke (120g), after cooking, offers 64 calories, 0 grams of fat, 3 grams of protein, and 14 grams of carbohydrates (10g of which is dietary fiber). These edible flowers are an excellent source of Vitamins K-1 and B-9 (folate). They are also a good source of Vitamin C and the minerals magnesium, manganese, and potassium.

Artichokes also contain cynarin, a hydroxycinnamic acid and a biologically active chemical constituent that inhibits taste receptors, making foods seem sweet. Cynarin has the ability to lower cholesterol, improve digestive health (including IBS and dyspepsia), and boost liver function. Artichokes also contain flavonoids such as silymarin, which improve liver health and function, and rutin, quercetin, and gallic acid, all which induce apoptosis and reduce the growth and progression of certain cancer cells.

To grow this majestic flower, plant seedlings in full sun to partial shade after the last frost date in your area has passed. However, '’t plant too late as extreme heat conditions during flower stalk formation will cause the plant not to flower.

Since artichokes have shallow root systems, they are not heat or drought tolerant. They prefer moist soils, but cannot endure being waterlogged. The top reasons for growth failure and onset of root rot in artichokes are summer drought and waterlogged winter soils.

Tree Guilds

How to Build a Fruit Tree Guild A guild is a grouping of plants that supports a central element—such as a fruit tree—for maximum harvest and use of space. Learn more about this permaculture technique for creating a low-maintenance system that also improves biodiversity.

Guilds are Interconnected Mini-Ecosystems

The use of guilds came about by observing how certain plants would naturally group themselves together in an unmanaged setting without human intervention, as if to demonstrate that their proximity to one another was mutually beneficial (like how birch trees and Douglas firs are interdependent). The concept of designing human-made guilds is relatively new, and many of the early experiments are still in progress.

Still, guilds provide a roadmap for developing interconnected ecosystems, which may reduce our workload and yield more harvests.

The goal of the guild is to underplant a central element, such as a fruit or nut tree, with plants that are highly useful and multifunctional.

For example, underplantings in a guild might include plants that fertilize, repel pests, attract beneficial insects, create mulch, and suppress grass.

The general idea is to take advantage of the benefits of plants to reduce cost, labor, and the need to import materials.

Now, to be certain, planting a tree guild will take more effort than simply planting the tree by itself, and it may also cost a bit more at the outset for the extra plants. However, in the long run, guilds will likely be more resilient and vigorous, even if solely from a biodiversity standpoint.

How you plant a guild will depend on your space, whether you have several acres or less than half an acre. On larger properties there may be space to build a large guild under an expansive, 70-foot tall nut tree, for example, while on smaller properties, the central element will likely be something smaller, such as a dwarf fruit tree or berry bush.

If you would like to build a guild, choose a central element that is appropriately sized for your property. Fruit and nut trees can be linked together in a grouping, underplanting them all with guilds. Toby Hemenway, author of Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, would call this a “superguild.” I like to call it an orchard on steroids! Check out the 2-hour film Amazon DVD $19.95: The Permaculture Orchard: Beyond Organic for more inspiration.

This “superguild” could be created in the shape of a long hedgerow, which I discuss in how to plant a hedgerow.

Apple Guild video tree co-planted with lots of garlic to keep deer away. Around is a rhizome barrier: rhubarb and comfrey around the southern edge. Red currant cuttings. To the north are an American Persimon and a Paw Paw seedlings within 2-3 feet of the base of the apple. Both have deep roots so ''t compete with apple roots.

Polycultures and Guilds Pt.2 Elderberry along the road to deflect deer traffic. Pollarded European Buckthorne, small tree or big shrub, with a Concord grape which climbs the Buckthorne. Lots of honey locust also in guild. Good for nitrogen fixation and also allows grapes to grow on it if pollarded. Also gives edible pods. Outside as rhizome barrier and deer deflector are gooseberries. Heavy feeders. Herbaceous layer is bee balm protecting blackhawe and service berry and nannyberry. Fills in as a groundcover and nectar source. Also valerian which gets along well with the elderberry. A dynamic accumulator. Has a really nice fibrous root system.

Polycultures and Guilds - 3 - Succession design and dense food forest Peach trees with tulips and irises [shallow root systems]. Chestnut tree planted by pine stump taking advantage of rotting roots. Also a Chickasaw Plum.

Polycultures and Guilds 4 - Many MANY layers Everything based on sun access. Tallest members to north. Shortest members are southernmost, profusion sorrel and alpine strawberries, sedum, King Henry. Chervil is starting to naturalize. Angelica. Next layer up are red currants, crusader black currants, lovage [accumulator] amazing perennial celery, scurret and taragon and creeping raspberries. Next up is a black locust, pollarded so it injects nitrogen into the center of the guild. Also autumn olives from Saskatchawan. Nitrogen fixers and can grow vines up them. Nanking cherry. To north is a Carpathian Walnut. Will grow into the dominant species. Elderberries more shade tolerant than he thought. Also a sweet cherry and American Persimmon which will be keystones eventually.

Polycultures and Guilds 5 - Chestnut with Allies Hybrid chestnut is the keystone. If you plant a chestnut you want a few close together for wind pollination. Initially had kale and squash and alii around it in the wood chips. Also had blackcap raspberries, thyme, prickly pear, amaaranth, collards, calendula, walking onion, ground nut and climbing beans. Hedged bets by planting a tiny mulberry to west with turkish rocket, and a carpathian walnut to the north and a Nanking cherry on the southeast. artemisia, clovers, but blackcap has taken over the understory.

Polycultures and Guilds 6 - Apple with Nut Trees and thicket of fruits polka raspberries, bee balm stops rats and mice, apple keystone, raspberries, chestnut northeat of apple, Shoot's white oak northwest of apple, thornless blackberries, Siberian peach, Turkish rocket, chives, garlic, growing well together.

Polycultures and Guilds 7 - The Grandma Cherry Old cherry of keystone & southernmost element of guild. Throws shade on entire guild. Dying, so there will be more sun soon. 10' to west is American persommon. Lemon balm under persimmon to protect. Also ground nuts nitrogen fixers and climb on tree. Hostas in shade under cherry. Titania black currants to south of cherry. Like shade but crop heavier in the sun. Jerusalem artichokes to north of currants, like rotting roots. On west is a Siberian peach, Groundnut climbinng through that. Carpathian walnut. Siberian apricot Briana, thornless blackberries growing up pecan tree. Hickory tree beautiful, may replace keystone. Grapevines growing up it. In center is small compost pile with checken wire circle. Ornamental dogwood tolerates shade,

Cold Climate Urban Homestead // pt. 1 Calgary VergePermaculture zone 3 Alberta, CA

Persian Silk Tree [Albizia julibrissin pea family]

Albizia julibrissin Albizia julibrissin (Persian silk tree, pink silk tree) is a species of tree in the family Fabaceae, native to southwestern and eastern Asia.

[the tree described by Antonio Durazzini. John Gilbert Baker used the same scientific name to refer to Prain's Albizia kalkora, the Mimosa kalkora of William Roxburgh.]

When allowed to grow on its own, it will form a dome shape and have multiple suckers. ~ A dark-leaved variety named “Summer Chocolate”

The genus is named after the Italian nobleman Filippo degli Albizzi, who introduced it to Europe in the mid-18th century, and it is sometimes incorrectly spelled Albizzia. The specific epithet julibrissin is a corruption of the Persian word gul-i abrisham which means "silk flower"

Albizia julibrissin is known by a wide variety of common names, such as Persian silk tree or pink siris. It is also called Lenkoran acacia or bastard tamarind, though it is not too closely related to either genus. The species is usually called "silk tree" or "mimosa" in the United States, which is misleading - the former name can refer to any species of Albizia which is most common in any one locale. And, although once included in Mimosa, neither is it very close to the Mimoseae. To add to the confusion, several species of Acacia, notably Acacia baileyana and Acacia dealbata, are also known as "mimosa" (especially in floristry), and many Fabaceae trees with highly divided leaves are called thus in horticulture.

The classic leaves of a legume. ~ Herbarium entry at the University of North Carolina.

Its leaves slowly close during the night and during periods of rain, the leaflets bowing downward; thus its modern Persian name shabkhosb means "night sleeper". In Japan its common names are nemunoki, nemurinoki and nenenoki which all mean "sleeping tree". Nemu tree is a partial translation of nemunoki.

A. julibrissin is widely planted as an ornamental plant in parks and gardens, grown for its fine leaf texture, flowers and attractive horizontal canopy. Other positive attributes are a fast growth rate, low water requirements and the ability to thrive planted in full sun in hot summer climates. It is very frequently planted in semi-arid areas like California's Central Valley, central Texas and Oklahoma. Although capable of surviving drought, growth will be stunted and the tree tends to look sickly. As such it should be given infrequent, deep waterings during the summer, which will benefit growth and flowering.

An ornamental pioneer species can make a renovation project more beautiful! ~ Pods are great animal feed!

The broad crown of a mature tree makes it useful for providing dappled shade. The flower colour varies from white in A. julibrissin f. alba, to rich red-tipped flowers. Variants with cream or pale yellow flowers are also reported. Other cultivars are becoming available: 'Summer Chocolate' has red foliage ageing to dark bronze, with pale pink flowers; 'Ishii Weeping' (or 'Pendula') has a drooping growth habit.

There is also a form, A. julibrissin f. rosea (pink silk tree) which has, in the past, been classed either as a variety or as a cultivar. This is a smaller tree, only growing to 5–7 m tall, with the flowers always pink. Native to the northeast of the species' range in Korea and Northern China, it is more cold-tolerant than the typical form, surviving temperatures down to at least -25 °C. The selected cultivar A. julibrissin 'Ernest Wilson' (also known as 'E.H.Wilson' or 'Rosea') is a cold-tolerant tree with deep pink flower colour. In Japan, A. julibrissin f. rosea is often used for non-traditional bonsai. The name nemunoki*(Jap. ????, Kanji: ???) and its variants is a kigo representing the summer in haiku, especially a sleepy summer evening. The variety A. julibrissin f. rosea has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.

The seeds are used as a food for livestock and by wildlife, and the sweet-scented flowers are a good nectar source for honeybees and butterflies.

~ The Silk Tree attracts a lot of beneficial and beautiful insects.

Silk Tree, Mimosa Tree, Pink Siris, Persian Silk Tree Soil pH requirements: 4.6 to 5.0 (highly acidic)

Propagation Methods: From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall

On May 26, 2017, Rests from Bryan, TX wrote: Had a mimosa tree in the backyard for 37 years. Was told that mimosas usually ''t live that long. This tree survived 2 tornados and being hit by lightning. The lightning split the tree down the middle. I wrapped it with anything and everything to put it back together thinking it would soon die. It grew back together and lived and thrived another 15 years or more. I know in Tenn. they are considered a nuisance tree, but here in Texas they are loved. They are just hard to find at nurseries here. Mimosas are tough and easy to grow.

A well-known ornamental, the Persian Silk Tree has a lot more to offer than just beauty!

Permaculture Plants: Persian Silk Tree Common Names: Persian Silk Tree, Pink Silk Tree, Pink Siris, Mimosa, Lenkoran Acacia, Bastard Tamarind
Scientific Name: Albizia julibrissin
Family: Fabaceae (the Legume, Bean, or Pea family)

This small, legume tree is fast growing and short-lived. Known primarily as a tropical-looking, ornamental tree, it has many additional uses. It fixes-nitrogen into the soil which allows it to grow in poor soils and act as a pioneer plant in addition to fertilizing surrounding plants. While the leaves and flowers are edible, they are reportedly not great; however, many animals (wild and domesticated) use the leaves and pods/seeds for food, and they are increasingly used as a fodder crop. It attracts beneficial insects, bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, and the wood can be used for many things, from furniture to firewood. The Persian Silk Tree (or Mimosa) is an ideal Permaculture tree to reclaim damaged soils and help establish a quality Forest Garden.

The Persian Silk Tree is used in traditional Chinese Medicine to “nourish the heart and calm the spirit”; recent research shows that the tree contains an anti-depressant effect


Primary Uses:

Ornamental Plant – this has been one of its primary uses around the world due to its showy, fragrant flowers and attractive leaves

Nitrogen Fixing Plant – this plant creates its own nitrogen through a symbiotic relationship with microorganisms (bacteria) in its roots. It typically produces an excess of nitrogen that can be used by neighboring plants.

Edible Leaves – Considered a potherb (a plant used as a vegetable or as a seasoning). Use when young, before they become fibrous. Aromatic. Dried leaves can be used for teas.

Edible Flowers – cooked and eaten as a vegetable.

Classic legume pods… a sign that this is a nitrogen-fixing plant!

Secondary Uses:

General insect (especially bees) nectar plant

Butterfly Plant – this plant has nectar that attracts Butterflies

Hummingbird Plant – this plant has nectar that attracts Hummingbirds

Fodder Crop – leaves, pods, and seeds – used for cattle, sheep, and goats

Wildlife Food – many animals will eat the pods and seeds (deer, squirrels, birds, etc.)

Wildlife Shelter – mainly birds and small mammals

Drought Plant – this species can tolerate prolonged dry conditions once established

Windbreak Species – fast growing, but not very tall, also it does not tolerate very high winds

Wood – used for furniture, cabinets, and other building applications (a few reports say it is a strong wood, but other say it is a weak wood… with this conflicting information, I would avoid using it for structures)

Fuel Wood – firewood, charcoal

Coppice Plant – while not a traditional coppice plant, this plant will grow back from the stump (or stool) and from the roots.

Pioneer Plant – helps reestablish overused or damaged land


Light: Prefers full sun

Shade: Tolerates minimal shade

Moisture: Prefers moist soils, but can grow in a dry conditions

pH: 4.0-8.0 (tolerates a wide range of soil conditions)

Special Considerations for Growing:

If you live in an area where wilt is common, consider growing a resistant variety (Charlotte and Tryon are two that know of)


Typically from seed. Scarification of the thick seed coat improves germination. Pre-soak for 24 hours in warm-hot water. Germinates in 2-3 months. Can be propagated by root cuttings (Winter), wood cuttings (Summer), and division of suckers (late Winter).


Moderate. Need to monitor for seedlings and suckers.


Dispersive – self-seeding can produce many seedlings.

In some areas, there is a high amount of pests and disease (wilt and web worms are most common). This is a mixed issue… if the tree shoots up and then dies back due to pests/disease, then we have to ability to speed succession, but we need to be monitoring closely and planning well.

Mimosa Rosea; Persian Silk Tree Albisia julibrussinZones 6 thru 9.

Nitrogen-fixing; hummingbird nectar.

Albizia julibrissin Albizia julibrissin (Persian silk tree, pink silk tree) is a species of tree in the family Fabaceae, native to southwestern and eastern Asia.

The genus is named after the Italian nobleman Filippo degli Albizzi, who introduced it to Europe in the mid-18th century, and it is sometimes incorrectly spelled Albizzia. The specific epithet julibrissin is a corruption of the Persian word gul-i abrisham which means "silk flower."

Seidenbaum (Albizia julibrissin) an der Karlstraße in Hockenheim / Closeup of Albizia julibrissin foliage, flowers and immature fruit
By Philmarin - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, / By "Eurema blanda laying eggs by kadavoor" © 2010 Jeevan Jose, Kerala, India is used here under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Albizia julibrissin is known by a wide variety of common names, such as Persian silk tree or pink siris. It is also called Lenkoran acacia or bastard tamarind, though it is not too closely related to either genus. The species is usually called "silk tree" or "mimosa" in the United States, which is misleading - the former name can refer to any species of Albizia which is most common in any one locale. And, although once included in Mimosa, neither is it very close to the Mimoseae. To add to the confusion, several species of Acacia, notably Acacia baileyana and Acacia dealbata, are also known as "mimosa" (especially in floristry), and many Fabaceae trees with highly divided leaves are called thus in horticulture.

Its leaves slowly close during the night and during periods of rain, the leaflets bowing downward; thus its modern Persian name shabkhosb means "night sleeper". In Japan its common names are nemunoki, nemurinoki and nenenoki which all mean "sleeping tree". Nemu tree is a partial translation of nemunoki.

There are two varieties:

A. julibrissin var. julibrissin. The typical variety, described above.

A. julibrissin var. mollis. Differs in the shoots being densely hairy.

The seeds are used as a food for livestock and by wildlife, and the sweet-scented flowers are a good nectar source for honeybees and butterflies.

Flowers are attractive to bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. The fruit is a flat brown pod 10–20 cm (3.9–7.9 in) long and 2–2.5 cm (0.79–0.98 in) broad, containing several seeds inside.

This tree is allelopathic to its neighbors and undergrowth (although Miner's Lettuce seems to thrive in its shadow in cool moist climates). Its seeds are numerous and they are fertile even over long periods of drought. Each pod, which resemble a flattened bean pod made of paper, contains an average of 8 seeds. The pods burst in strong winds, and the seeds carry over surprisingly long distances.

Dale's Three Day Garden

Dale's Three Day Garden

Forum: How much more work is a lawn As an englishman I know how much hard work it is to get a good lawn And how much toxic gick you have to put on it . So any suggestions how to convince my landlord to change to a food Forest... Will it increace the value of the property?

Permie for Pennies in France

Layered Espalier Food Forest / South Carolina Forest

Permaculture on already forested land I'm interested in an establishing a permaculture, perennially/tree based farm on 1-2 acres of an 18 acre lot in South Eastern South Carolina. The land is pretty heavily wooded and I want to focus on maintaining the current system as much as possible while implementing a greater number of productive trees.

Small yard food, flowers, art |Lisa LaPaso & Cavin Weber |Central Texas Gardener

SA Courtyard garden design|Central Texas Gardener

Spanish courtyard garden San Antonio |Claire Golden |Central Texas Gardener

Wonderland garden in San Antonio|Ragna & Bob Hersey|Central Texas Gardener

Lucinda Hutson's Life is a Fiesta Garden |Central Texas Gardener

Gail & ' Clowe San Antonio garden design: Central Texas Gardener

English Garden on Texas Soil | Jennifer & David Stocker | Central Texas Gardener

Turn lawn into food on a budget|Meredith Thomas|Central Texas Gardener

Canary Plants

Canary Plants The idea of a "canary plant" is really a rather simple one. Certain plants will show things like mineral deficiencies, fungal issues, and pest problems sooner than others. The concept comes, of course, from the "canary in the coal mine." Whether these "canary plants" are grown intentionally for this purpose or only incidentally, their function is the same.

A couple (vague) examples:

1. I ''t even recall where I heard this, but I think it was a podcast for something or other. No matter. A vineyard makes a practice of putting a rose bush at one end of each row of grapes. There is a fungus or pest or somesuch that attacks the roses before the grapes, which allows the farmers to take action before the entire vineyard is affected.

2. I'm not sure if this even qualifies, but it seems likely. Reading some of Wendell Berry's fiction, there was mention of a row of tomatoes planted at the end of a tobacco field. No explanation was given; it's possibly just a good idea for plant requirements and/or crop rotation, but a "canary plant" usage seems likely as well.

It strikes me that there is overlap with the idea of trap crops, and maybe more.

When the forsythia are flowering, it's time to plant peas.

When the apples are flowering, it's time to plant the first crop of corn.

Another one that just came to mind. I believe I read this in one of Frank Tozer's gardening books (they're really useful, if far from glitzy-- check them out!).

Sunflowers supposedly will show effects of water stress sooner than other plants. So if it's been dry and your sunflowers start to droop, it's time to water the garden (or at least the plants that ''t handle drought).

Weeds as indicator plants That’s right—read your weeds! They are excellent indicators of soil conditions and quality. If you have large patches of one kind of weed, your garden is trying to tell you something.

Dandelions indicate poor soil that is low in calcium, but high in potassium


Amaranth (also called red root pigweed) grows in rich soil, high in nitrogen.

Bindweed grows in crusty or compacted soil.

Common chicory can be an indicator of rich soil.

Chickweed and chicory like rich soil—high in nitrogen—and will grow well in sweet, compacted soil.

If you have groundsel [Senecio vulgaris], you have good soil.

Common groundsel is an indicator of rich soil.

Crabgrass grows where the soil has been depleted of nutrients and is low in calcium.

Dandelions indicate poor soil that is low in calcium, but high in potassium. Luckily, they can also make a yummy snack!

Bitter dock [Rumex obtusifolius] might grow if you’ve planted near a swampy area.

Dock and goldenrod grow in wet, poorly drained soil.

Fragile fern grows in near-neutral, dry conditions. Ferns also might be able to tell you something based on their history of folklore.

Henbit indicates high nitrogen.

Knapweed [Centaurea jacea] looks like its cousin the bachelor’s button.

Knapweed indicates rich soil, high in potassium.

Knotweed grows where the ground is compacted.

Lamb’s quarters indicate rich soil, high in nitrogen.

Little blue-stem (also called poverty grass) grows in dry, sandy, run-down soil depleted of nutrients.

There are many kinds of mosses that thrive in moist shady locations.

Moss indicates soggy, acidic soil that is low in nutrients.

Common mullein indicates that you might need to make your soil more alkaline.

Mullein grows in acidic soil with low fertility.

Mustard is commonly found in pastures & fields.

Mustard grows in dry, sandy soil, high in phosphorus.

Ostrich fern grows in rich soil.

Ostrich fern indicates an exceptionally fertile location.

Common wood sorrel (which you might mistake for clover) shows that your soil might need a calcium treatment.

Oxalis, or wood sorrel, indicates low calcium and high magnesium.

Ox-eye daisy is found in areas of low fertility.

Ox-eye daisies grow in acidic, often soggy soil with poor fertility.

Pearly everlasting grows in acid soil that is low in nutrients.

Peppergrass indicates sweet soil.

Plantain is a stubborn weed that often grows in heavy clay.

Plantain [Plantago major] grows in compacted, sour soil with low fertility and often indicates heavy clay. Like prostrate knotweed, it has evolved to survive being trampled and can grow in heavily trafficked garden paths.

Purslane prefers rich soil and is an indicator of high phosphorus. Like dandelions, purslane is edible and offers health benefits. Make the most of your common weed education and explore some purslane recipes.

Quack grass will grow in heavy clay or compacted soil.

Queen Anne’s lace indicates poor dry soil.

Queen Anne’s lace grows where the soil is poor, but on the sweet side.

Ragweed indicates low fertility.

Sensitive fern grows in poorly drained soil that is low in nutrients.

Sweet fern prefers sandy, acidic soil.

Stinging nettle doesn’t just indicate rich soil; it also has some valuable qualities.

Stinging nettle grows in rich, acidic soil. Find out how to harvest stinging nettle and its super-plant qualities.

Sheep sorrel grows in acidic soil that is low in nitrogen.

Sheep sorrel indicates dry, sandy, sour soil depleted of nutrients and low in calcium.

Yarrow is found on poor, dry, sandy soil where little else will grow.

Yarrow grows where the potassium and fertility are low and the soil is sandy and dry.

Weeds can provide important clues about your soil’s fertility. Use this information to your advantage when amending your soil or deciding what to plant where.


Horseherb or Straggler Daisy Calyptocarpus vialis

Calyptocarpus vialis Less.

Straggler daisy, Horseherb, Hierba del caballo, Prostrate Lawnflower, creeping Cinderella-weed

Asteraceae (Aster Family)

Depending on your point of view, Straggler Daisy or Horseherb is a pest or a welcome, shade-tolerant groundcover that tolerates moderate foot traffic. If you have a shady lawn anywhere within its range, you probably already have it. It gained in popularity during the growth in interest in native plants and is now occasionally available for sale at native plant nurseries (though it is so easy to propagate that you can easily grow it on your own). Thriving in sun or shade, its tiny, yellow daisy flowers add a minute touch of color to shady areas and attract small butterflies like sulfurs and skippers.

Horseherb draws many butterflies, like the Dogface and the Variegated Fritillary ~

Because it is dormant in cold winters, mix with cool-season spring annuals and evergreens for continuous color. In central Texas, Baby Blue-eyes (Nemophila phacelioides), Widows Tears (Commelina spp.), False Dayflower (Tinantia anomala), Violet Ruellia (Ruellia nudiflora), and sedges (Carex spp.) are good companion plants for shady areas.

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb, Forb
Leaf Retention: Semi-evergreen
Leaf Arrangement: Opposite
Fruit Type: Achene
Size Notes: 6-12 inches high
Leaf: medium green
Size Class: 0-1 foot

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May , Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep , Oct , Nov
Bloom Notes: Will bloom year-round in frost-free regions.


USA: AL , AR , AZ , FL , GA , HI , LA , NM , TX

Native Distribution: Native to eastern Mexico and south to south-central Texas. Non-native elsewhere in Texas and USA. Native Habitat: Woodlands, fields, meadows, often in disturbed soils

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low, Medium
Light Requirement: Sun, Part Shade, Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry, Moist
Drought Tolerance: High
Heat Tolerant: yes

Soil Description: Well-drained sand, loam, clay, caliche, calcareous preferred

Conditions Comments: It is evergreen in areas with mild or no winter, deciduous in areas with cold winters. Sometimes struggles with heavy fallen tree leaves that '’t decompose quickly.


Use Ornamental: A good shade groundcover with small, yellow daisy flowers. Also does well in full sun.

Use Wildlife: Attracts small butterflies and especially the Bordered Patch (Chlosyne lacinia) which is a North and South American butterfly in the family Nymphalidae. It is sometimes also called the Sunflower Patch. Straggler Daisy, Calyptocarpus vialis, is a host plant for the Bordered Patch butterfly.


Edible: The City of Austin's Native and Adapted Landscape Plants says that is "somewhat deer resistant", which might indicate that it isn't very tasty—at least not to deer. You probably wouldn't get violently ill if you tried some (if it were deadly poisonous, I feel sure it would appear in at least one of those toxic databases), but you could possibly have some unpleasant reaction to it.

Interesting Foliage: yes

Nectar Source: yes

Propagation Material: Root Division, Seeds

Description: Easily propagated by cuttings or divisions. Though this species may be propagated by seed, it is rarely 'e because the seeds are difficult to collect in quantity. Seeds are rarely if ever commercially available.

HOW TO EASILY “SEED” AN AREA: Simply find a fast growing, blooming stand of Horseherb and mow it periodically using a lawnmower with a grass catcher attachment. Then thinly spread the Horseherb catchings (clippings) onto the area to be planted. Let the clippings dry for a few days then water or let the next rainfall germinate the very small seed which were collected during mowing. Horseherb will establish itself in stony, shady areas where grass will not grow well. NOTE: Horseherb DOES NOT kill or crowd out grasses; the grass thins or dies and the Horseherb covers the bare spots!

Plants Commercially Available: yes but rarely

Maintenance: Mow if desired to keep even and to clear away dead growth in areas where it goes dormant in the winter. It may need supplemental water to look its best in hot, full sun areas during extended drought.

Information from Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and on the web at:

Horseherb, All Star Plant?

Horseherb (Calyptecarpus vialis) is not as showy as most of the blooming plants we describe in the “What’s Blooming Now” feature but despite its plain appearance horseherb deserves recognition for the important role it plays in many landscapes. My colleague on Milberger’s Gardening South Texas, Dr. Jerry Parsons went so far a few years ago to explore horseherb as a commercial groundcover. He collected the tiny seed and had test beds planted all over the area. Horseherb transplants do appear occasionally on the retail nursery market but is probably not destined for a major commercial role because despite its valuable characteristics, they are only provided on the plants own terms. Horseherb is hard to manage, it selects you and your yard, rather than being selected by the gardener.

Also called straggler daisy, horse herb is a low growing plant with dime-size heart-shaped leaves with tiny yellow flowers. Right now it is common in thin lawns on shallow soils in sun or shade . It grows so thick in its favorite habitats that the lawn can look like it has been overseeded. In fact, one of its all-star worthy values is that it makes an excellent groundcover. Combined with rescue grass and/ or annual bluegrass it is a sustainable winter turf for lawns that are thin due to shallow soil or shade. Mow the sustainable winter lawn every two weeks and it can look better than the regular summer lawn on such soils.

Horseherb is a reseeding perennial. I came reluctantly into the horseherb appreciator camp after years of unsuccessfully trying to control it with pre-emergent and contact herbicides. The plant seems indestructible, but again, on its own terms.

Horseherb is sensitive to dry weather. '’t get me wrong, it survives dry weather but it disappears during dry weather. Just when you are inclined to do without St Augustine or Bermuda grass in favor of horseherb, we have 4 weeks of drought and the ground is bare where it used to be lush with horseherb! When the rains start it will come back but until then the soil is bare.

There are also several other desirable horseherb characteristics to consider. The plant is a favorite browse for deer and it provides nectar to butterflies.

Wildlife biologists tell us over and over that deer are browsers, not grazers. A very small portion of their food is supplied by grass. They require the foliage and stems of broadleaf plants for nutrition. That pronouncement is questioned quite often in neighborhoods like mine where deer move across lawns feeding like cattle. Look close, however and the lawn component they are eating is the broadleaf weed, horseherb. As long as the soil is moist, the horseherb can provide enough browse to keep the deer healthy and happy.

Last year was a spectacular year for butterflies. Rainfall was generous and well-spaced so there was nectar producing blooms all year. One of those nectar sources was horseherb. If you lived in a neighborhood with horseherb, visits to the lawn area by butterflies, especially black swallowtails, was very noticeable. Next to the browsing groups of deer were numerous black swallowtails and other butterflies.

Horseherb It spreads by both seeds and runners


Try Horseherb, sea oats for groundcover I have a slope in deep shade, and the soil is clay

New Braunfels Development Manual Vegetated Swale: Channels that slow stormwater runoff and promote in infiltration, trap sediment and help treat pollutants.

A rain garden is a landscaped area in a basin shape designed to capture runoff and settle and filter out sediment and pollutants, primarily from rooftops, driveways, sidewalks, parking lots and streets. Swales with check dams or berms that allow water to back up behind them function like rain gardens, and flowthrough planters have also been described as a series, or treatment train, of rain gardens. What they all have in common is that they allow water to be retained in an area with plants and soil where the water is allowed to pass through the plant roots and the soil column.

Table 3-2 – Selection of Rain Garden Plants

Botanical Name ................. Common Name
Achillea millefolium .......... Yarrow
Acorus calamus ................ Sweet flag
Alstroemeria ................. pulchella Peruvian
Aquilegia hinckleyana ......... Texas columbine
Asclepias tuberosa ........... Butterfly weed
Aspidistra elatior ........... Cast iron plant
Amorpha fruticiosa ............ False indigo
Baptisia australis ............ Blue false indigo
Calyptocarpus vialis .......... Horseherb
Canna generalis ................. Canna
Coreopsis verticillata ‘Moonbeam’ ..... Moonbean coreopsis
Dichondra argentea ‘Silver Falls’ ..... Silver falls
Echinacea purpurea ................. Purple cone flower
Eupatorium coelestinum ................. Blue mistflower
Eupatorium purpureum ................. Joe-Pye weed
Heliopsis helianthoides ............... Ox-eyed sunflower
Hibiscus coccineus ................. TX Star hibiscus-red
Hibiscus coccineus ‘Lone Star’ ....... TX Star hibiscus-white
Hibiscus moscheutos ................. Swamp rose mallow
Hymenocallis liriosme ................. Spider lily
Ipomopsis rubra ................. Standing cypress
Iris spp. ................. bearded and hybrids Iris
Iris brevicaulis Louisiana species and hybrids ...... Louisiana iris
Kosteletzkya virginica ............ Marsh mallow
Liatris spicata ................. Gayfeather
Lobelia cardinalis ............... Cardinal flower
Lythrum salicaria ................. Loosestrife
Monarda fistulosa ................. Bee balm
Rudbeckia hirta ................. Black-eyed Susan
Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldstrum’ .... Black-eyed Susan
Rudbeckia maxima ................. Giant coneflower
Ruellia brittoniana ‘Katie’s’ ..... Ruella Katie
Salvia coccinea ................. Scarlet sage
Setcreasea pallida ................. PurpleHeart
Sisyrinchium angustifolium ....... Blue-eyed grass
Solidago altissima ................. Goldenrod
Stachys byzantine ................. Lamb’s ear
Tradescantia occidentalis .......... Spiderwort
Vernonia fasciculate ................. Ironweed
Zephyranthes spp. ................. Rain lily

Shrubs Aesculus pavia ................. Scarlet buckeye
Callicarpa Americana ............ American beautyberry
Cephalanthus occidentalis ....... Buttonbush
Clethra alnifolia ............... Summersweet clethra
Ilex decidua ................. Possumhaw holly
Ilex vomitoria ................. Yaupon
Itea virginica ................. Virgina sweetspire
Leucothoe recemosa ........... Leucothoe, Sweetbell
Myrica cerifera ................ Southern wax myrtle
Sabal minor ................. Dwarf palmetto
Symphoricarpos orbiculatus ......... Coralberry
Spirea x bumalda ‘Anthony Waterer’ ......... Anthony water spirea

Acer rubrunm var. drummondii ........ Southern swamp maple
Betula nigra ................. ...... River birch
Cyrilla racemiflora ................. Leatherwood (Titi)
Magnolia virginiana ................. Sweet bay magnolia
Sophora affinis ................. ..... Eve’s necklace
Taxodium distichum ................. Bald cypress

Swales can be more aesthetically pleasing than concrete or rock-lined drainage systems and are generally less expensive to construct and maintain. Swales can slightly reduce impervious area and reduce the pollutant accumulation and delivery associated with curbs and gutters. The disadvantages of this technique include the possibility of erosion and channelization over time, and the need for more ROW than a storm drain system.

Rainwater Harvesting

Rainwater harvesting - collecting rainwater from impervious surfaces and storing it for later use - is a technique used for millennia. In drought stricken Central Texas and other areas around the country with limited water resources and stormwater pollution concerns, the role that rainwater harvesting can play for water supply is being reassessed for both residential and commercial buildings. Thus, it is important to note that there are current changes being made to local rainwater harvesting laws, and design criteria are often modified, so it is best to check the most current regulations and incentives before implementing this practice.

Rainwater can be stored in a variety of structures. These include small 55 gallon barrels, the most common sizes for residential applications, to large underground cisterns. A photo of a rainwater collection system with a large above-ground storage tank is provided in Figure 3-10. Further, cisterns and barrels can be constructed of many different materials including wood, metal, plastic, glass or synthetic compounds.

Lazy Gardener and Friends, Houston newsletter

How you water during these heat spells is even more important. Overhead sprinklers can lose up to 50% or more of the water to evaporation during the day. Night can be almost as bad.

Even worse, unless you leave them on for hours, chances are they are only going to moisten the top soil layers. What happens then? Plants begin sending roots up into those top layers where the only available moisture can be found. The top layers dry out first. Roots growing in those upper layers will suffer heat far more quickly than those deeper in the soil.

If overhead sprinklers are your only choice, try to water as early in the wee hours of the morning as you can.

The best watering source these days is a soaker hose, aimed downward right at the base of the plant. A slow, steady flow - dribbles if you can - for an extended period. You want the water DEEP so roots to grow downward to reach moisture. Focus on that mental picture and it will help.

Do this deep watering once a week. Ideal is a hose laid next to the plant and allowed to dribble for an hour or so.

Get to know your plants and their water needs. Some, like those pictured here, will do fine on one good soaking every two weeks. Others need more. The more you water, the more dependent your plants will become on watering. So you need to see which ones can go the longest without and which won't. (In my yard, this is a sign from above that these plants ''t belong in my garden.

Above all, MULCH! Leaves and pine needles will do the job. So will purchased mulches. Mulch keeps soil cooler and helps it retain moisture. As the mulch decays, it will help replenish organic matter in the soil. A win-win all the way around. A few newspaper layers over the soil before you put the mulch on will help retard weeds.

Pam Hasker notes that stagger daisy is also known as horseherb (Calyptocarpus vialis) and sometimes the term "weed" is in the eye of the beholder. She uses it in low-growing groundcover in areas that ''t get enough sun.

Frog fruit and horseherb are two native groundcovers that are good for the shade.

If you have a hard time identifying your garden weeds, look at this list of common weeds.


After discovering what they mean, find out how to get rid of your weeds.

Dandelions and purslane are not the only edible weeds! Find out which of these weeds you can eat.


over the years I've found that Japanese beetles will start attacking multiflora rose (and other roses, too, I'd assume) before nearly anything else. So when I notice the Japanese beetles on the rose bushes, it's time to keep an eye on the garden crops that they seem to particularly enjoy, because they'll be moving to them next.

Indicator plants, I'd say, address chronic issues like soil mineral content, fertility, moisture level, etc. Canary plants, by contrast, address acute issues, and I think that is perhaps the main difference. So while an indicator plant might show you generally that your soil is low in calcium, say, you'll probably still be able to grow a lot of stuff; a canary plant might, on the other hand, show you that, regardless of overall condition, something is amiss with a particular crop or crop family that needs to be taken care of soon, before you lose the crop.

I observed that wood carving insects prefer red plum trees (Prunus cerasifera I guess- red plums with dark red foliage) above all. I ''t know which species they are exactly but definitely includes carpenter ants and termites. Tree reacts with a sticky substance, forcing the dwellers to move on to other fruit trees. Similar to the poor canary, it is sacrificed. Feeding the fish with logs full with insects is one option, burning is another. Red plums are always the first tree targeted in my garden. It might be a candidate for canary plants, maybe?

Water Retention Landscapes

Video: Water Retention Landscapes

Plant Uses

CHAMOMILE (CHAMAEMELUM NOBILE) [potassium, phosphorus, calcium]
COMFREY (SYMPHYTUM X UPLANDICUM) [potassium, phosphorus, calcium, trace minerals]
CHIVES (ALLIUM SCHOENOPRASUM) [potassium and calcium]
WHITE CLOVER (TRIFOLIUM REPENS) [nitrogen, phosphorus]
Moringa tree [nitrogen]
Alder tree [nitrogen]
Chicory [nutrients]
Dandelion [nutrients]
Daikon Radish [nutrients]
Garlic [nutrients]
Yarrow [nutrients]
LAMB’S QUARTERS [nutrients]
CHICKWEED [horseherb] nutrients
Rhubarb Leaves, Lamb’s Quarters (5)
Chickweed (3)
Parsley (4)
Chives (2)
Purslane (3)
Comfrey (6)
Yarrow (4)
Dandelion (7)
(#) indicates the number of nutrients the plant accumulates in its leaves


Alder tree
Apple tree
Black Locust tree
Cherry tree
Nectarine tree
Peach tree
Pear tree
Nanking Cherry sm tree
Serviceberry sm.tree
False Indigo shrub
Hyssop shrub
Lavender shrub
Raspberry shrub
Blackberry shrub
Creeping Thyme
Jerusalem Artichoke
Maximilian Sunflower
Pole Beans & Peas
CHICKWEED [horseherb]




Trumpet Vine


Black Locust tree
CHICKWEED [horseherb]


Red Clover
Alder tree


Hackberry tree
Choke Cherry sm. tree


CHAMOMILE (CHAMAEMELUM NOBILE) [cabbage, onions, fruit trees]
COMFREY (SYMPHYTUM X UPLANDICUM) [fruit trees, all plants]
CHIVES (ALLIUM SCHOENOPRASUM) [strawberries, carrots, tomatoes; ring around any tree]
WHITE CLOVER (TRIFOLIUM REPENS) [living mulch for orchard]
LEMON BALM (MELISSA OFFICINALIS) [veggies, fruit trees]
Red Clover [all food-producing plants]
Crab Apple tree [great apple pollinator]
Hackberry tree [good companion for walnut]


Black Locust tree
Hackberry tree
Sassafras tree




Mulberry Tree
Moringa tree [superfood, everything edible]
Pigeon Pea [protein-packed]
Red Clover [almost entirely edible]
Apple tree
Cherry tree
Crab Apple tree
Nectarine tree
Peach tree
Pear tree
Nanking Cherry sm tree
Paw Paw sm.tree
Persimmon American sm.tree
Serviceberry sm.tree
Black Currants shrub [sweeter than red currents]
Elderberry shrub [leaves are toxic]
Goumi shrub
Raspberry shrub
Blackberry shrub
Creeping Thyme
Daikon Radish
Jerusalem Artichoke
Maximilian Sunflower
Hardy Kiwi vine
Pole Beans & Peas
LAMB’S QUARTERS [nutrients]
CHICKWEED [horseherb]


Moringa tree
CHICKWEED [horseherb]


Hackberry tree
Jerusalem Artichoke [for pigs]
Maximilian Sunflower


Red Clover

GUILDS [Guilds are most commonly used in permaculture for fruit tree production. A fruit tree in a guild will be underplanted with herbaceous plants that help fertilize, attract pollinators and beneficial insects, provide mulch, and deter pests.]

DANDELION (TARAXACUM OFFICINALE) [increase earthworms; long taproots]
HazelnutsTreeBush [understory trees for food forest]


Apple tree
Black Locust tree
Cherry tree
Hackberry tree
Nectarine tree
Peach tree
Pear tree
Nanking Cherry sm tree
Persimmon American sm.tree
Black Currants shrub
Elderberry shrub
Goumi shrub
Raspberry shrub
Blackberry shrub
Siberian Pea Shrub




Pigeon Pea
Daikon Radish
LAMB’S QUARTERS [nutrients]


Red Clover
Sassafras tree
Hyssop shrub
Lavender shrub
CHICKWEED [horseherb]


WHITE CLOVER (TRIFOLIUM REPENS) [living mulch for orchard]
Mulberry Tree
Pigeon Pea
Alder tree
Black Locust tree leaf mulch (Allelopathic)
Crab Apple tree
Sassafras tree
Virginia Pine tree [for acidity]
Choke Cherry sm. tree
Paw Paw sm.tree
Persimmon American sm.tree
Serviceberry sm.tree
Goumi shrub
Jerusalem Artichoke
rhubarb leaves

Annuals [nasturtium, sweet alyssum, calendula ]
Perennials [comfrey, Rhubarb, thyme, oregano, white clover


Moringa tree
Pigeon Pea
Red Clover
Alder tree
Black Locust tree
False Indigo shrub
Goumi shrub
Siberian Pea Shrub
Pole Beans & Peas
LAMB’S QUARTERS [nutrients]


WHITE CLOVER (TRIFOLIUM REPENS) [living mulch for path]

PESTS CONFUSE/DETER [plact with veggies]

Creeping Thyme


Virginia Pine tree [for worn out farmland]
Choke Cherry sm. tree [fast growing]
CHICKWEED [horseherb]


Siberian Pea Shrub


Choke Cherry sm. tree
Nanking Cherry sm tree
Serviceberry sm.tree
Black Currants shrub
Elderberry shrub
Goumi shrub
Raspberry shrub
Blackberry shrub
Hardy Kiwi vine


Alder tree
Apple tree
Cherry tree
Crab Apple tree
Hackberry tree
Nectarine tree
Peach tree
Pear tree
Sassafras tree
Virginia Pine tree [for worn out farmland]
Choke Cherry sm. tree
Serviceberry sm.tree
Black Currants shrub
Elderberry shrub
Goumi shrub
Raspberry shrub
Blackberry shrub


Black Locust tree
Hackberry tree
Elderberry shrub
Goumi shrub
Hyssop shrub
Lavender shrub
Siberian Pea Shrub



7 Permaculture-Recommended Plants You Should Include in the Garden The following seven plants are ones that I’ve come across time and time again in studying permaculture, in designing gardens and food forests, these are all stars in the gardening game and worth investigating.

MULTI-FUNCTIONAL PLANTS FOR THE PERMACULTURE GARDEN In permaculture, elements of our designs should serve at least 3 functions. Many species can do much better than that. Below is a list of some of my favorite multi-functional plants that I am currently using on my permaculture site.

Permaculture Plants permaculture plants are really useful perennial plants, often with multiple functions, plants that improve your soil and the overall health and stability of the little ecosystem that is your garden.


Food Forest Plant Layer Index

Mulberry Tree ~ Comfrey in garden

Moringa tree ~ Pigeon Pea

Apple Tree Guild with chives, garlic, and goumi planted at base (Also wheat that came in with the wheat straw)

Thyme and Daylillys ~ mulch

Green Manure ~

Alphabetical List of Plants

ALDER TREE: Nitrogen fixer, Insectary, leaf mulch, wildlife benefit, timber

ALFALFA: Nitrogen fixer, animal forage, insectary, edible

APPLE TREE. Edible, insectary, hedgerow, wildlife benefit

BAMBOO. Bamboo, to put it simply, is just an amazingly useful plant to have around, and in some form, it grows just about anywhere that isn’t frozen for most of the year. Around the world, bamboo is used as food, medicine, animal fodder, wildlife habitat, construction and more — there are literally thousands of uses for bamboo. Find the right one for the climate, and it will grow extremely well, sometimes doubling in volume each year, which is why it is also notorious for its ability to spread. Nevertheless, bamboo can be considered the multi-purpose tool of the garden, anything from fencing to tomato stakes to mulch... Bamboo: Is actually a grass, but I '’t have a grass category. It’s extremely fast growing, can be invasive and impossible to get rid of when established, but it is a great edible, timber species, windbreak, & wildlife habitat (Excellent for holding dams)

BLACK CURRANT SHRUB: Wildlife benefit, edible (sweeter than red currants), hedgerow,

BLACK LOCUST TREE: Nitrogen fixer, Insectary, windbreak, hedgerow, wood, great for honey bees, durable long lasting wood, leaf mulch (Allelopathic)

BLACK & ENGLISH WALNUT TREE. Edible nuts, timber, windbreak, wildlife benefit (Allelopathic)

BLACKBERRY SHRUB: Edible, insectary, hedgerow, wildlife benefit

BLUEBERRY SHRUB: Wildlife benefit, edible, hedgerow,

BROADLEAF PLANTAIN (Plantago major) pops up where soil is compacted. Nutrient Accumulator: Plantain accumulates calcium, sulfur, magnesium, manganese, iron, and silicon. Plantain has edible and medicinal properties.

CHAMOMILE (CHAMAEMELUM NOBILE) Not only are the dainty chamomile flowers cute as a button, they work hard for us in the garden. Chamomile has been called “the plant’s physician” because it supports and appears to heal almost any plant it is planted next to. Chamomile is a fertilizer plant, its roots dredging up potassium, phosphorus, and calcium. Mulching with the spent plants will help improve your soil. The flowers attract pollinators, and beneficial insects are attracted to the lacy foliage. It is said to especially improve cabbage and onion crops, and it works well under fruit trees, too. You may know chamomile best as an excellent tea with calming properties. Now’s your chance to grow your own!

CHERRY TREE. Edible, insectary, hedgerow, wildlife benefit

CHICORY: Edible, insectary, nutrient accumulator

CHICKWEED (Stellaria media) [horseherb] shows up in disturbed soil such as garden beds and highly tilled areas, indicating low fertility. Nutrient Accumulator: Chickweed accumulates potassium and phosphorus. Beneficial Insects: Chickweed attracts pollinators searching for nectar in the spring and early summer. Chickweed has edible, lettuce-like greens and medicinal properties [Chickweed will benefit the soil if left to grow and die back on its own. For a tidier garden, cut the plants back monthly and tuck them under the mulch, or lay them on top of the soil to naturally decompose. Leave the roots intact—the plant will either regrow, or the roots will decay, enriching the soil and attracting beneficial soil organisms. Note: Cutting it back will reduce its availability to pollinators.]

CHIVES (ALLIUM SCHOENOPRASUM) Chives are a more common herb and for good reason. It’s useful in the kitchen and easy to grow. I love to walk outside in the middle of cooking and quickly snip a few leaves. The flowers are gorgeous and make a delicious edible garnish to salads. Another fertilizer plant, chives accumulate potassium and calcium. I like to plant chives at the ends of my garden beds. Giving the plants a haircut a few times a year, it’s easy to mulch the garden beds with the clippings to add some free fertilizer. Pollinators will enjoy the beautiful flowers throughout late spring and early summer. The strong scent of chives is a deterrent to pests, so I plant it among my strawberry patch to deter pests attracted to the sweet scent of ripening strawberries (and fertilize the bed frequently with chive trimmings). Chives are said to repel fruit tree borers, and other fruit tree pests and diseases, so I planted a ring of chives around the trunks of each of my cherry trees. Chives are said to be a good companion to carrots and tomatoes. Chives: Edible, insectary, nutrient accumulator, pest repellant

CHOKE CHERRY SM.TREE: Fast growing pioneer species, provides food to birds and mammals, leaf mulch

CLOVER: Insectary, nitrogen fixer, pollinator attractor, animal edible

COMFREY (SYMPHYTUM X UPLANDICUM) Comfrey is the poster child for permaculture gardens. It’s almost cliché to plant it, except it would be a shame to not grow this plant in your garden. Comfrey is perhaps the most important mulch plant. It’s at the top of the list of natural fertilizers, accumulating potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and a handful of other nutrients in its large leaves. It is commonly planted underneath fruit trees and throughout the vegetable garden. Comfrey’s large leaves can be chopped and dropped frequently throughout the season to feed the soil or to add to a compost pile. The beautiful, bell-shaped purple flowers are popular with pollinators, and the giant leaves attract many types of beneficial insects looking for habitat. I prefer to plant the type called Russian comfrey because, like fennel, comfrey is quick to self-seed. However, the Russian comfrey variety has sterile seed and will play nicely in the garden without spreading. Comfrey is also popular as poultry forage. One of the most useful healing herbs, the dried leaves and roots of comfrey are often used in salves and tinctures.

CRAB APPLE TREE. Wildlife benefit, insectary, edible, great apple pollinator, leaf mulch

CREEPING THYME: Edible, pest repellant, insectary

DAIKON RADISH: Edible, nutrient accumulator

DANDELION (TARAXACUM OFFICINALE) Surprisingly, dandelions – like many weeds – benefit our garden in many ways, the most important of which is fertilizer. Dandelions reach deep into the subsoil with those long taproots, dredge up important nutrients, and store them in their leaves. Dandelions excel at accumulating potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and a handful of other nutrients in its leaves, which are important for healthy plant growth. When those leaves die back or are cut back and left to decompose, they fertilize the soil. I let dandelions grow in my vegetable garden and it is common to encourage dandelions to grow in orchards under fruit trees. Dandelions increase earthworm populations, which is good for soil health. About once a month I snip the leaves off and compost them in place, which also discourages the plant from flowering and going to seed. Dandelions are good, but I '’t need a dandelion garden! Those nutrient-rich leaves aren’t only good for my garden and my soil, but they’re also good for me. Yep, dandelion greens are edible. I add the young, bright green spring leaves to salad mix. Some market gardeners even cultivate a specific variety of dandelion with giant leaves as a crop. On purpose! Local chefs go nuts over it. Also, apparently, so do chickens. Consider adding dandelion seed to your foraging seed mix. As if that weren’t enough, dandelion also has medicinal uses. The dried root is an excellent liver and kidney tonic. If dandelions are left to flower, they will attract pollinators and beneficial insects. [How to use dandelion in the garden: Dandelion will benefit the soil if left to grow and die back on its own, though one flower seed head can set over 100 seeds. For a tidier garden, cut the leaves back monthly and tuck them under the mulch, or lay them on top of the soil to naturally decompose. Leave the roots intact—the plant will either regrow, or the roots will decay, enriching the soil and attracting beneficial soil organisms. Note: Cutting them back will reduce their availability to beneficial insects.]

DAYLILY: Edible, fiber product, hummingbird attractor

ELDERBERRY LG.SHRUB: Wildlife benefit, edible, windbreak, hedgerow, leaves are toxic,

FALSE INDIGO SHRUB: Nitrogen fixer, insectary

FENNEL (FOENICULUM VULGARE) Fennel is a gorgeous, strong-scented plant with lacy foliage. It is often paired with basil in an edible landscape. The flower of fennel is umbel-shaped, like yarrow, and the beneficial insects and pollinators love it. Fennel attracts ladybugs, hoverflies, parasitic wasps, and lacewings, and I’ve enjoyed seeing an increase of swallowtail butterflies in my garden. I keep it at the edge of my vegetable and fruit gardens because it’s said that many crops do not grow well with it, but I mulch with it at the end of the season after I’ve harvested all the seeds because it’s a good accumulator of phosphorus. One note: It’s important to harvest fennel seeds at the end of the summer so the plants '’t set seed everywhere. Cook with the seeds and give them away to your gardener friends for planting!

GARLIC: Nutrient accumulator, edible, pest repellant

GOOSEBERRY SHRUB: Wildlife benefit, edible, hedgerow,

GOUMI SHRUB: Nitrogen fixer, wildlife benefit, edible, windbreak, hedgerow, tolerates air pollution, leaf mulch

GRAPEVINES: Wildlife benefit, edible

HACKBERRY TREE. Wildlife benefit, windbreak, hedgerow, good companion for walnut, food for wildlife, wood

HARDY KIWI VINE: Wildlife benefit, edible

HAZELNUT TREE. Hazelnuts are great trees and bushes because they put out a high-yield of high-calorie crop, which can be used as a nut, oil or flour in the kitchen. Additionally, the bushes can make fantastic windbreaks or the trees can work as understory trees for guilds with larger, fruit-bearing trees like apples and pears. They are also long-living plants, up to fifty years, that can tolerate shade. They work well in a food forest, especially as buffer between unfriendly plants like walnuts and others. Eventually, the trees will provide a good source of wood. Hazelnut: Edible nuts, windbreak, animal habitat & forage

HYSSOP SHRUB: Medicinal, tea, insectary, windbreak

JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE: Edible roots, insectary, pig forage, mulch plant

LAMB’S QUARTERS (Chenopodium album) common in old farm fields, where chemical fertilizers were used in excess. Over time, these “weeds” will improve the soil quality. Nutrient Accumulator: Lamb’s quarters’ deep roots accumulate nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and manganese while loosening the soil. Highly nutritious edible properties when found growing in safe environments. The leaves go for a high price to local chefs. [Lamb’s quarters will benefit the soil if left to grow and die back on their own, but one plant can set over 75,000 seeds. For a tidier garden, cut the plants back monthly so they can’t flower, and tuck them under the mulch, or lay them on top of the soil to naturally decompose. Leave the roots intact—the plant will either regrow, or the roots will decay, enriching the soil and attracting beneficial soil organisms.]

LAVENDER SHRUB: Medicinal, insectary, windbreak

LEMON BALM (MELISSA OFFICINALIS) My love affair with lemon balm is fairly recent. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I discovered the magic of this herb. As an accumulator of phosphorus, it is a wonderful herb to have to grow in the vegetable garden or under fruit trees. It has a clumping growth habit, so it won’t spread into areas you '’t want it to, but it is fast-growing and prolific, so it can be cut back frequently to use as a fertilizer. Its scent will confuse pests in search of your vegetables or fruit crops. Often called the bee herb, the white flowers bloom all season and are popular with bees. Lemon balm’s foliage is a popular egg-laying site for lacewings, a beneficial insect. With a lemony mint flavor, lemon balm has top-of-the-line flavor as a culinary herb and as a tea. It has a long list of medicinal benefits to boot and is commonly used in natural remedies.

LUPINE: Nitrogen fixer, edible, insectary

MAXIMILIAN SUNFLOWER: Edible, animal forage, insectary

MINT: Edible, pollinator attractor, pest repellant

MORINGA TREE. Moringa is another fast-growing tree, with a fast-growing reputation as a superfood. Basically, the whole plant — seed, root, bark, and especially leaves — is edible, and the leaves can be dehydrated into crazy healthy powder to add to smoothies and soup. Eaten fresh, the leaves have an endearing spiciness and work well for funking up a salad. Otherwise, moringa is a perennial legume tree, so it continually and naturally fixes the soil with nitrogen, the main component of most fertilizers. The tree also continually regenerates after being pruned, and it is amazingly drought-resistant.

MULBERRY TREE. Any tree that produces such an abundance of nutritious food is a great thing, and mulberry trees up the ante by being useful in many other ways. Mulberries are sweet and delicious but have not made a splash commercially because they damage easily. The trees grow strong and large very quickly, with a nice spread of branches that provide good habitat for wildlife. The leaves are big and dense thus great for shade, and eventually, they’ll provide some good mulch. It’s a great plant for foresting efforts, especially in spots away from the house where dropping berries (so much fruit) won’t stain anything.

NANKING CHERRY SM.TREE: Edible, insectary, hedgerow, wildlife benefit (Like a miniature plum)

NECTARINE & PEACH TREE. Edible, insectary, hedgerow, wildlife benefit

NORTHERN RED OAK TREE. Wildlife benefit, windbreak, hedgerow, wood, acorns provide food for animals, leaf mulch

PAW PAW SM.TREE: Edible fruit, dye, fiber, leaf mulch

PEACH TREE. Edible, insectary, hedgerow, wildlife benefit

PEAR TREE: Edible, insectary, hedgerow, wildlife benefit

PERSIMMON AMERICAN SM.TREE: Edible fruit, hedgerow, leaf mulch

PIGEON PEA SHRUB. Pigeon peas are another popular and perennial permaculture legume, beloved not just for the powerful protein-packed food yield but also for other leguminous qualities such as soil-fixing and chop-and-drop mulching. It only grows to a couple of meters tall and has a four or five year lifespan, so it makes for a great early component to those working on growing a food forest or preparing a new area for planting. Like comfrey, pigeon peas have deep taproots, which help to cycle nutrients through the ecosystem. These guys do not like frost, so in said areas, something like Siberian pea shrub might be a better choice.

PLUM TREE: Edible, insectary, hedgerow, wildlife benefit

POLE BEANS & PEAS: Insectary, Nitrogen fixers, Edible

RASPBERRY & BLACKBERRY SHRUB: Edible, insectary, hedgerow, wildlife benefit

RED CLOVER. As is becoming obvious, it’s hard to talk permaculture plants and not get heavily into legumes and nitrogen-fixing plants, so this is another one. Red clover is good for the soil and provides what other food-producing plants need to put out a good harvest. Clover makes this list as a good groundcover, a plant that prevents the soil from drying out in the sun and eroding. Red clover is particularly good because it is also almost entirely edible, attracts wildlife and has been used medicinally for centuries.

RED CURRANT SHRUB: Wildlife benefit, edible, hedgerow,

RED MULBERRY SM.TREE: Wildlife benefit, great tasting berries, durable wood, attractive ornamental, leaf mulch

SASSAFRAS TREE: Wildlife habitat, wood, fuel, oil used for tea, medicine and perfume, leaf mulch

SERVICEBERRY SM.TREE: Wildlife benefit, insectary, edible, early flowers good for beneficial insects, leaf mulch

SHAGBARK HICKORY TREE: Wood, soil stabilizer, fuel to give a smoked flavor to meat, nuts can be used for oil and flour, wildlife benefit, leaf mulch

SHELLBARK HICKORY TREE: Wood, fuel, wildlife benefit, leaf mulch

SIBERIAN PEA SHRUB: Nitrogen fixer, soil stabilizer, windbreak, hedgerow,

STRAWBERRY: Edible, insectary, nutrient accumulator

SUGAR MAPLE TREE. Insect habitat, wildlife benefit, wood, maple syrup, leaf mulch

VIRGINIA PINE TREE: Wildlife benefit, pine mulch for acid loving plants, pioneer species for worn out farmland,

WHITE CLOVER (Trifolium repens) shows up in nitrogen-lacking, dry fields and lawns that cover hardpan clay soil. Lawns where grass clippings are routinely carted away over time become lacking in nitrogen. Nitrogen fixer: Nitrogen is necessary for plant growth. It is present in the atmosphere, yet it must be converted into a useable form in the soil before it can be used by plants. Nitrogen-fixing bacteria live on the roots of clover and change the atmospheric nitrogen into a form that is useful to both themselves and surrounding plants. Nutrient Accumulator: Clover accumulates phosphorus. Beneficial insects: Clover attracts ladybugs, minute pirate bugs, and pollinators looking for nectar. It provides shelter for parasitoid wasps, spiders, and ground beetles. Clover is a preferred egg-laying site for lacewings. White clover has edible flowers. [White clover is used as a permanent ground cover in orchard areas, where it keeps the soil and shallow fruit tree roots covered, attracts pollinators and beneficial insects, and provides a consistent source of nitrogen. In the vegetable garden, white clover is often used in pathways, fertilizing nearby garden soil.]

WHITE OAK TREE: Wildlife benefit, windbreak, hedgerow, wood, edible, acorns can be made into flour, leaf mulch

YARROW (ACHILLEA MILLEFOLIUM) Yarrow is a gorgeous flower that is beloved by all manner of beneficial insects: ladybugs, hoverflies, parasitic wasps, and lacewings. I plant yarrow in between every few rows in the vegetable garden. Its scent will confuse pests trying to hone in on your vegetable crops! Yarrow is also a great fertilizer, its leaves are rich in potassium and phosphorus. When it finishes flowering in the fall, I chop it down and let it compost in place in the vegetable garden, or add it to the compost pile. Yarrow will provide these same fertilizing and beneficial insect benefits under fruit trees.Yarrow: Nutrient accumulator, insectary, edible

5 Weeds You Want in your Garden Weeds protect soil, fertilize soil, condition soil, attract beneficial insects.

Characteristics Of Permaculture Plants The plants used in permaculture designs usually have one or several of the following characteristics:

Permaculture tries to create a permanent system, so perennials are always preferred over annual plants.

Some plants are pioneer plants, plants that can grow in harsh conditions, in poor soils, that need little attention, and improve the area where they grow to make it suitable for other plants.

Many plants are legumes. With the help of nitrogen fixing bacteria they convert the nitrogen in the air into soil nitrogen that can be used by other plants.

Deep rooted plants mine the subsoil for nutrients. When that plant is cut, or drops its leaves, the nutrients are deposited on top of the soil. The plant matter becomes mulch, and when it breaks down it feeds the more shallow rooted plants.

Another benefit of such deep rooted plants is that they can break through hardened layers and clay pans, and improve deeper soil levels that our vegetables would not be able to penetrate.

Some plants can be frequently pruned for mulch. Rather than buying mulch you can grow it yourself. That's where the permaculture term "chop and drop mulch" comes from. Grow your mulch where you will need it, and then just chop it, and drop it right there. How easy is that?

Some plants are grown as living mulch. They shade the soil and keep it moist, out compete weeds, and increase the organic matter content of the soil.


Wisteria (Wisteria species)
Scientific Name: Wisteria species
Family: Fabaceae (the Legume, Pea, or Bean family)

Common Species:
Japanese Wisteria (Wisteria floribunda) – often with a Concord grape-like scent
American Wisteria (Wisteria frutescens) – typically not very fragrant
Kentucky Wisteria (Wisteria macrostachya) – typically not very fragrant
Chinese Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) – most fragrant, often a Concord grape-like scent
Silky Wisteria (Wisteria venusta) – largest flowers, fragrant

This beautiful, large woody vine is famous for its large, and sometimes fragrant, racemes (pendulous cluster of flowers) in purples, pinks, and white. However, this fast growing vine also puts nitrogen back into the soil and attracts many beneficial insects to the garden. A standout for the Forest Garden.

There are 10 species of Wisteria that are native to eastern North America and Asia (China, Korea, and Japan), but because of its showy flowers, it has been introduced all over the world.

The world’s largest Wisteria vine is in California, planted in 1894, and measures more than 1 acre (0.40 ha) in size!
Chinese Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) flowers were cured with suger and mixed with flower to make a delicacy called “Teng Lo” – I have yet to find the recipe for this


Primary Uses:


Edible Parts: There are many reports that the entire plant contains a toxic substance (a glycoside); however, there are only a few reports in the medical literature ( There are also many reports of traditional cultures, especially in Asia, that eat many parts of this plant. It is quite likely that heat destroys this toxic compound. Here is a great article on Wisteria from Green Dean of Eat the Weeds ( Until I find more reliable information one way or the other, I’m not going to be eating a lot of Wisteria, but I am dying to try some Wisteria Fritters… I’ll let you know when I do.

Flowers - washed and boiled or battered and fried into fritters.

Seeds - cooked or baked. Baked Japanese Wisteria seeds are said to have a taste similar to chestnuts.

Leaves – young, tender leaves are cooked and eaten, and may be used as a tea substitute.

Wisteria's abundant flowers attract bees and other beneficial insects.

Secondary Uses:

Nitrogen Fixer – puts nitrogen back into the soil which may be used as a fertilizer to other plants.

General insect (especially bees) nectar plant

Lacewings prefer to lay eggs on this plant

Parasitic Wasps prefer to live around this plant

Thickets can create habitat for small birds and mammals and other wildlife

Can grow seasonally along structures (fences, arbors, pergolas, etc.) which would be great at blocking or directing wind,providing Summer shade, or seasonal privacy screens

Fiber from the plant has been used to make paper, thread, and cloth.

Harvesting: October - December.

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-9

Leaf Type: Deciduous

Pollination: Self-Pollinating/Self-Fertile

Flowering: Summer. May-July. Flowers on when mature which may take only a few years with Kentucky Wisteria (Wisteria macrostachya), but can take up to twenty years with Chinese Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis)

Life Span:
Years to Begin Flowering: 1-2 years, especially with plants propagated through cuttings, but can take 20+ years for plants propagated from seed
Years of Useful Life: Easily dozens of years. Many documented vines are over one hundred years old.


Light: Prefers full to partial shade
Shade: Tolerates light to medium shade
Moisture: Prefers medium wet soils, Kentucky Wisteria (Wisteria macrostachya) can tolerate wet soils
pH: most species prefer fairly neutral soil (5.5-7.5)

Special Considerations for Growing:

Avoid fertilizing Wisteria with nitrogen – this plant can produce its own nitrogen, so excess will inhibit flower production.

Choose the location for planting carefully. The strong roots can destroy walls and pavement if planted too close.

Propagation: Hardwood cuttings. Softwood cuttings. By seed, but plants grown from seed may take decades to bloom.

Depending on the location and the amount of room you have, some pruning may be required to keep the vine in bounds.


Can spread quickly to a large size. Consider this when choosing a planting location and when determining how much seasonal pruning you desire to do.

Roots can be vigorous and expansive in some species.

Poisonous (see comments above)


I love wisteria-it is my favorite flower! BUT it's vines crawl along the ground (too low to cut off by mowing) and spreads indefinitely...It runs a few feet, puts down a root, runs a few feet, etc. And it's a quick grower-several feet a month with vines so tough you can NOT break them by hand. It will strangle a medium sized tree, and it gets so thick that a child can walk on a wire fence that is overgrown by it. (Ask me how I know!) Think of it as a most aggressively spreading bamboo in vine form. Please be careful with it!

Wisteria has eaten about three acres of my twenty. Some years it's so beautiful that many park in an adjacent lot just to look at it.

Compost left on the soil surface loses much of its nitrogen to volitazation. [from Peace Microfarms: A Green Algae Strategy to prevent War, bk by Robert Henrikson]

Achillea Millefolium

Improves the health of the soil.

Dainty flowerinjg herb with feather gray-green leavs and creamy white blooms.

Perfect companion plant

Medicinal. Attracts Pollinators and butterflies. Native aromatic. Drought tolerant.

[from Growers Exchange Herb Catalog]

Chinampas Gardening

Chinampas Gardens Chinampas Gardens are artificial islands or peninsulas created by scooping nutrient-rich lake, swamp or pond muck into a woven cage so that crops can be grown above the waterline in a wet environment. Within this simple design, several unique functions are accomplished at once: a micro-climate that prevents early frost damage; an extremely productive soil that is mostly self-sustaining; a self-watering system created by water wicking in from the sides as moisture evaporates from the surface of the beds; and the growing of plants and fish within the same area.

In Particular we want to:

Test the efficacy of Chinampas in our northerly-temperate climate

Assess their productivity and labor requirements compared to regular garden beds

Try something very different and creative.

There is plenty of room across the south shore of our pond and we plan to build three to five Chinampas extending out into the water like peninsulas for about 25 feet. They are located close to Earthcamp Village so that students, interns and/or guests camping in the cabins can quickly and easily access the chinampas gardens for food, fishing and enjoyment.

When our community of Stelle was built, a small pond just outside of town was dug so that residents might have some sort of wetland close by. Over the years we have watched it mature and recent testing has revealed that the water is amazingly clean and free of agricultural chemicals. The watershed that feeds this pond is all on the Stelle community property. But as with most ponds, with time there has been some silt buildup close to shore which creates an ideal environment for cattail and other shore loving plants.

History of Chinampas

A thousand years before the term “Permaculture” was coined the Mayans began developing a unique form of ‘permanent-agriculture’ to feed their growing populations which was further perfected over the following centuries by the Aztecs. With little tillable land remaining, the peoples of what is now central Mexico started to farm in their swamps, ponds, lakes and lowlands by creating raised beds called chinampas (from the Nahuatt word for “square made of cane”).

As in good permaculture design, Chinampas work by turning wastes into resources while stacking functions to maximize yields and minimizing work. After a plot is staked out into low ground or shallow ponds and lakes, a fence was woven between the stakes to create a cage or large basket that the farmers could then fill with the surrounding sediment and various forms of vegetation. The beds would be built high enough to become permanently above the high water mark and willows would be planted on the edges to protect the banks from erosion over the long term for when the posts rotted. Channels were maintained between the Chinampas for canoe access and for the growing of fish and water fowl.

The genius of this system?

Since water is always available to the bed, as water evaporates from the surface it is replaced by capillary action from below. A chinampas never has to be watered once a plants root systems are down. The grower never has to worry about drought or watering again. And because the ground is permanently moist by the capillary action of water being pulled upwards by ground evaporation, soluble nutrients stay suspended and available to the plant roots. What is created is a perfect root zone environment…all the time!

Historians tell us that it is likely that the chinampas may have been the most productive agricultural design ever developed by humans.

Growers were able to get up to 7 harvests per year from a single bed. And that is just the plants. What about the fish and water foul also harvested?

The Edge Effect

In a good permaculture design we take advantage of the areas where one system comes into contact with another (the edge zone) as this tends to be an area of greater activity and productivity. For example, where the water meets the banks there will be plenty of plants that could grow right along the bank or just into the water that would provide a unique species for food (humans, fish, ducks) or simply biomass for increased garden fertility.

Insects attracted to the edge plants become food for fish. Ducks eat the plants at the shore. Their droppings becomes food for the fish. All remaining residue and the fish poo sinks to the bottom to become fertile detritus that can be scooped up annual and added to the garden beds.

And because the fish are raised in channels they are easy to harvest with nets. Because ducks and geese are part of the system they are trained to help with keeping the banks weeded as well as working in the garden beds. They are great slug and weed eaters.

Trellis over the Channels

In some areas, arching trellises were extended over the narrow channels and vining plants such as squash, cucumber and beans were planted so that their yielding crop could be harvested directly into a canoe, paddled to shore for unloading, and then return for more.

An Amazing Microclimate

Combining the beneficial effects of surrounding water and trees to a growing environment is also a brilliant strategy. The water in the channels maintains a more constant temperature than soil, so the entire chinampas area establishes a micro-climate that greatly ameliorates the effects of frost damage — a simple method of season extension that does not require expensive row covers or greenhouses.

Trees not only held the banks in place and provided shade and some fruit for growers, they also protected the chinampas gardens from high winds on gusty days while holding in warmer air underneath the canopy on cold days. Together, these created a higher temperature and humidity level than the surrounding farmland which greatly mitigated frost damage.

“Creating channels of warmer air, the morphology of raised fields and associated canals can raise air temperatures as much as 6.3° C (11° F) above that of dry fields.” (Crossley 1999: 280)

Maintaining the Soil

Caring for the fertility of the soil in this design is almost self-sustaining. Simply scraping up the detritus on the bottom of the waterway and adding it to the soil is all that needs to be done. Detritus is the organic matter (leaves from garden plants, weeds, duck and fish poo) that falls to the bottom of a pond and breaks down. One could make the analogy that it is simply another way of composting waste materials into soil.

Benefits of Chinampas Gardening

Increased nutrient uptake

Less susceptibility to drought, frosts, and other weather calamities

Ability to grow more food (vegetables, fish and water foul).

Converting “unusable” low-ground into a productive food system

Dramatically reducing the need to water a garden. (Still need to water seedlings)

A more perfect example of stacking functions in a permaculture system can rarely be found. Fish, fowl, and water plants could be harvested from the water channel and vegetables, fruit, and lattice-grown vines from the bed itself.

Desert Climate

one piece of advice for desert permies- what would YOURS be? If you have ever lived in a desert, you know that our dry climate and temperature extremes can be challenging. Not all permaculture standbys work for all climates. A really telling example of this is the Herb Spiral. Herb spirals are a poor choice for dry climates because anything raised is going to dry out more quickly. If you combine dry with HOT - it gets even worse. You've exposed your plants to a super-heated, super-dry microclimate.

So, desert permies, if you had ONE PIECE of advice to give someone new to desert permaculture, what would it be?

A: Move.

When I retired I had the chance to stay in the desert or go elsewhere. I decided that if I was going to do permaculture and mycology, I had better go to a place that had good rainfall. Since I was already familiar with South Carolina and Georgia, that's how I ended up where I am.

But if I had to go back to the desert and apply permaculture principles to green it up, I would say learn everything you can about water catchments. Go out into the washes and observe where things grow and figure out how they are getting the water they need. It's very subtle, and in the beginning, someone will have to point it out to you, but after a while, you will begin to see why plants are where they are. Once you can see that, you will know how to be able to make things grow.

Video: Permaculture Greening the Desert - Geoff Lawton

How to Green The Desert With Geoff Lawton

How to green the world's deserts and reverse climate change | Allan Savory desertification, caused by animals

Watch This New Technology in China That Converts Desert Into Productive Land Rich With Crops

Green Gold - Documentary by John D. Liu

Permie Humor

You know you're a permie when... You know you're a permie when your really excited about an edible plant that wants to take over your property.

You know you're a permie when nursery and seed websites and catalogs are some of your favorite things to look and dream over. It's even better if they're full of unheard of edible perennials!

You know you're a permie when you're idea of garden art is herb spirals, legume trellises, and hugelculture.

When you run outside when it starts raining, to see which way the water flows

Your garden has weeds and you don't care

You pile rocks in your garden to attract snakes.

When everyone else sees a mess, and you see biodiversity.

you run and hide the pee bucket so the bathroom will look 'normal' when someone comes to visit who just wouldn't get it...and you don't want to spend time explaining...

"Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder."-Rumi

"In the garden of gentle sanity, May you be bombarded by coconuts of wakefulness.” ~ Chogyam Trungpa

When you consider weeds as valuable resource as the 'good' plants - mmm, dinner and free mulch.

you're hungry and you grab the scissors, not because there are coupons from Burger King and Kroger to be clipped, but there is stuff growing right outside the back door.

Waste is seen as opportunity and constraints become design challenges. look down at 'Organic' because it isn't good enough. skip adding nuts to your fruit salad this time of year cuz the fruit flies contribute enough protein.

“The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.” - Albert Einstein

. . . when people look at your garden and say, "Oh, you got lucky -- you have good soil --- my soil is terrible", when you know that you had the worst soil in the neighborhood when you bought your place.

. . . when you visit Starbucks 50 times without purchasing anything, but the trunk of your car smells strongly of spent coffee grounds.

You know you're a permie when you only keep plants in your garden that have several uses and are preferably edible

You look at pretty gardens that have neatly manicured ornamentals and think "what a dead space, what they really need is a fruit tree ..."


Permaculture Magazine launches global £20,000 prize


V Tough as Nails Perennials Daylilies [with daffodils], Silver Mound Artemesia, Catmint, Guara, Salvia sylvestre, Salvia gregii, Solidago 'little lemon', Black-eyed susans, Sedums, [Oklahoma Garrdening]

V Tried and True Perennials


Native Seeds focuses on southwest and Mexico.

Instant Garden

HOW TO MAKE INSTANT GARDEN BEDS A common problem when just starting a garden is dealing with the fact that we’ve not had time to condition the soil, fostering it into something heaving with fertility. Or, maybe we just aren’t that far into gardening yet anyway and don’t know what to do. Basically, it seems we are left with the option of using what we have and hoping for the best, or we can spend a heap on importing soil and compost and such. Fortunately, there is another route, an inexpensive way to make garden beds instantaneously.

Lasagna Gardening

Often referred to as lasagna gardens or sheet mulching, an instant garden bed requires little to nothing being brought in, and it can be cultivated right away (though it will get nicer as time passes). It begins with kitchen scraps, maybe some manure (or other high nitrogen items), old cardboard boxes or newspaper, and some mulch material such as dried grass, straw, or shredded leaves. In other words, most of what we need is already around waiting to be used.


One of the nice elements of this kind of garden is that it doesn’t require digging and tilling. Rather, whatever grass or weeds are growing in the garden space, leave them right where they are. Fresh green material provides a good boost of nitrogen.

Atop this, add a bucket full of kitchen scraps (no need to wait for it to compost) and, if available, some well-rotted manure, whatever is around: horse, rabbit, cow, chicken, etc. If manure isn’t available, other high nitrogen items would be more fresh grass clippings or spent coffee grounds from the nearest coffee shop.

Whichever nitrogen materials are used, they should be mixed together and completely cover the area where the garden will be. If there isn’t enough, just build what the material allows and add more growing space later.


Once the rich nitrogen mixture is in place, it should be covered with several layers of wet cardboard or newspapers. Go ahead and soak these beforehand, which will help with adding moisture to the bed, holding them in place, and kickstarting decomposition. Not only will the worms like this, both for blocking the sunlight and traveling, but the cardboard will snuff out any weeds that might try to pop up from below the garden bed.

After the “sheet” mulch is put into place, add a thick layer, even up to fifteen centimeters of carbon-y mulch material. Straw is easy to buy. Pine needles will work, as will leaves or hay, though these may have seeds that will sprout and require a little extra maintenance in the form of weeding. Putting the mulch deep and dense will help keep the garden moist and will start the process of soil building. The mulch material should cover the entire bed, particularly all of the cardboard.


The garden at this point is ready for plants. To put them in, clear out a space in the mulch, all the way down to the cardboard. The cavity should be something akin to a deep bird’s nest. Fill that with some quality topsoil and plant directly into it. For a little added bonus, if available, add some compost or worm castings.

Once all of the seedlings (or seeds) are in place, water the garden and there you go.

This way of building a garden is fantastic because it can be extended bit by bit as materials and time become available, or even as the season develops. It’s easy to add on new sections of garden whenever the moment arises, and they are instantly ready to plant in.

For a more in depth look at instant gardens, check out this video of Geoff Lawton himself making one.


Using Swales to Your Advantage: How to Water Your Garden With the Power of Nature The typical explanation of a swale is that it is something along the lines of a ditch but with a level bottom. Rather than removing the water, as a ditch would, a swale fills up like a bathtub and holds that valuable hydration, allowing it to absorb into the landscape, where plants can take advantage of it. Often the swale is filled with something, such as wood chips so that it can also function as a path.

Swale in Grass

Swales are not exclusive to permaculture, but they are widely used in the practice. They are a popular component for many garden designs, especially food forests. They are simple to make, requiring only rudimentary tools and a basic knowledge of what they’ll be doing: hydrating the landscape from below the earth’s surface. This can be especially useful in environments with low annual rainfall or distinctly dry season.

What’s more is that, while swales can be and often are massive trenches that stretch for hundreds of yards, they can also be something that works for a suburban lawn, as well as nearly undetectable to the untrained eye.

Perma Pics

Pumpkin, peaches, goats and chicken

Chicken feast, one Amaranth plant at a time... How dumb does it sound to say that France sure does look....French. It does, even the goats and chickens look French or is it my imagination?

Cool little summer retreat next to the forest garden

My little garden. Just moved here in November and spent most of my time clearing out blackberry vines. Hopefully next year I can have a nicer set up.


My apple tree guild over time:

Former orchard/vineyard/garden lost to time and disregard. The entire bit of it has been shaded over by three ceder trees I have been slowly thinning. I did some pruning on the grapes last winter (but not enough me thinks) Garden totally lost, grapes not bearing. There are two bearing fruit trees. A cherry and an exceptionally fruitful plum. The asian pear (fore ground of first picture has climbed to 25 feet tall to try and escape the ceders shade. I think it is a total loss. I am hoping to revive the grapes. None of the trees seen in the last picture shaded out this lot when it was planted 20 years ago

Raised bed garden in Fall 2012

Ducks, sunflowers, the morning sun! [Colorado]

Wanted to share a pic from today. It's the, "What are you doing?" garden. The swales are definitely working.

Here is the start of my project. I just built the front beds and starting a large swale on the back side that will allow multiple areas of draining water to be captured. It's a little boring at the moment, but will take pics as things progress.

Loquats ~ The frost didn't get em this year

Location: South West Idaho. about a quarter (Garden area) of my former food forest yard

Location: New Hampshire. I am just getting started. We built these swales, hugleculture beds and a small pond in mid May. We rented an 11,000 lb excavator and a big garden building party. .. Here is our 224' long swale. It has 2 sweet cherries, 2 plumes, 2 peaches, and Asian pear, and an apricot tree planted in it. The cover crops are just starting to sprout in this photo.

Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington. My first harvest of 2014 (raspberries). Basically this is a raspberry/marionberry/grape/cornelian cherry guild, located under our old zipline -- the kids are in college now, they don't use it so I am starting to use it as a trellis support. I think there may be a lot of good reasons to have a cable running through your food forest. It can hold up any plant, I have about about a dozen vines climbing up it thus far. It is held in place by posts at each end, which are held in place with deadman anchors. So the whole thing can be removed.

I did not plant the trefoil, but I allow it to grow since it is a nitrogen fixer.

Eventually all the grass will be shaded out or under mulch. But for now I just cut it a few times a year with a scythe.

I let the teasel grow so I can harvest it for tubes for mason bees. However I don't let it go to seed.

The Cornelian Cherry is a bit buried at the moment but it will eventually overtop the raspberries. Ditto for some of the grapes, and the oak. I grew both the oak and the chestnut from seed - just stuck the nuts in the ground.

Location: North Carolina zone 7. Location: North Carolina zone 7

I live in Holland, 30km east of Amsterdam, and my husband and I have bought a typical Dutch row house here. So we've got a garden that's like 40m³ (about 48 square yards?) small! So when we got excited about permaculture three years ago, we started to implement the design concepts into our tiny garden and - I think - ended up with a very good solution. Here is the draft I made for myself (planning) and you guys.

Please also see my Facebook photoalbum on this topic since you'll be able to see the development of the garden from construction till now and some more info on what we got there.

I think you can pretty much call it Nano Permaculture what we're trying to do here =) This year's gonna be our 3. year of gardening and hopefully it will all develop better this tme. I ordered many more flowers and climbers (3 clematis!) for the front garden and try to set up a nice veggy planting plan for the raised beds in the back garden. Hope I can share some pictures with you in summer. Finally summer pictures

Permie Pics

Location: Seattle, WA. This is my six week old hugelkultur mound, with two of my raised beds in the background. The closest tree is a pear with 3 types grafted on, the middle a plum tree and the fat one is an almond that hasn't broke dormancy yet. Clover, strawberries, buckwheat and lots of flowers for ground cover, plus some squash and cucumber plants. This is just the first half to my whole design for hugelkulturs on this property, and it's all an experiment for me, but I think it's coming great so far!

We're a micro farm in the Dallas Tx suburbs. We were really inspired by the Grow Food, Not Lawns movement and have been eliminating the grass and focusing on perennial edible medicinal and pollinator friendly plants! We started with one 10x10' raised bed (We have hardpan clay soil), at first we were busting sod, then I found permaculture and we began using the lasagna method of heavy cardboard, newspaper, soil & mulch. Actually, the first bed was an accidental hugal bed! I had a bunch of big wooden clipping from pruning trees, and unfinished compost, and dumped it on the bottom, then covered with soil. That bed was prolific!

Location: Western PA. In the beginning, Japanese Maple ~ First year and first attempt at no till and in my front yard too. I hate mowing and love the way this turned out. This is last year's garden and looking forward to filling in some voids this year. The fill is coffee grounds and chop n drop.

Location: New England USA, Zone 7a. Took a walk around in the rain today to see what's sprouting. Yarrow's back.

I've been farming in an organic, permaculture-ish fashion in upstate South Carolina since 1998, integrating bamboo groves into the farm operations and raising most of my own food. There are many bamboo groves, a 1/2 acre vegetable garden, an acre in orchards, sheep pastures, and a 3 acre pond.

Location: Upstate SC. This hoop house is built so I can easily remove the greenhouse film in spring and replace it with a combination of 30% and 50% shade cloth, the greenhouse film goes back on in the fall. In greenhouse mode it provides 7 degrees F of frost protection, in shade house mode it tempers my 90+ degree F summer heat and keeps insect pests out.

Upper SC. Temple bamboo (Semiarundinaria fastuosa) is one of my favorite bamboos because it is so fluid in its growth response. It is an amphimorphic bamboo [amphimorphic bamboo (meaning that its rhizomes both clump and run). If you keep removing the running shoots, then it forms a dead ringer for a mid-sized tropical clumper, and yet if you want to allow it to spread in a particular direction, simply allow the shoots in that area to marture. It is a very attractive bamboo with nice, smooth, green culms that can form an impenetrable, clumper-like wall if you allow it.] that, if left to its own devices, spreads producing canes spaced about a foot apart. But if all of the shoots that come up away from the main clump are removed, then it will form what appears to be clumping bamboo with canes spaced 1 to 3 inches apart, forming a tight visual screen that a cat couldn't get through. This bamboo gets 35 feet high with canes up to 2" wide that are useful in garden construction, is cold hardy to -5 degrees F, takes full sun to high shade, shoots late to avoid late frost damage, and has deep ranging rhizomes that are very effective for erosion control. I have a grove of this bamboo planted on the edge of my property to stop the spread of a 10 foot deep erosion gulley on neighboring property that was advancing onto my land.

I'd have to agree with the Semiarundinaria fastuosa pick because it is one of the most upright medium/large bamboos, and will get big with out very good soil or room for roots. It's culms are really thick, and some times cure black. The species S.fastuosa 'Viridis' is the more green variety. You may want to think about planning ahead for containment.

Pierce County, WA Zone 7b. My fruit tree guilds are starting to come to life in their third year. Last year, we had a brutal drought from May to September and they looked pretty shabby. But this year, we have more normal conditions and everything has sprang to life. I'm still rounding them out and adding to them, but the trees are looking great, the pollinators are happy, and there are even enough flowers for me to cut and make bouquets for the house. Even the hybrid tea roses I unwisely stuck under what would become the drip line are thriving without help this year.

Knoxville (zone 6 /7). My favorite part of growing parsley is the bugs!... Those are soldier beetles, not lightning bugs. Soldier beetles are a beneficial predator insect to have in the garden.

Location: Southeast, PA. Here's my small backyard garden and a picture of a hugelkultur bed in the front yard that I did as an experiment this year. So far so good, it's producing lots of Calendula for us , a bit of Chamomile and the insects are loving the Borage.

Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8. Here's a female Ox Beetle in the kitchen garden. We don't get to see these very often:

A couple of years ago I made a raised bed out of an old cattle watering tank. It's 6' in diameter. I made the bed by layering sunflower stalks, manure, wood chip mulch, old hay, and a few bags of so-called organic topsoil from the nursery. Each year I would top off the bed with a half dozen new bags of soil from the nursery until the settling stopped. I built the bed in 2011. It's been 2 years since I added soil and everything is stabile right now. I have nice, dark, crumbly soil! In this image you see peas and jalapenos planted among the 'ollas' that I use for irrigation. The rail around the stock tank was to keep the cows from stepping in to cool their feet! I've found that it takes several years to build the soil in a new bed so be patient with your first few crops.

Perma Cartoons

Water Harvesting

V Top 7 Mistakes to Avoid when Harvesting Rain Water

#1 Make it expensive. Instead get old hot tubs and set up in backyard. And rain barrels

#2 Let the mosquitos in. Put in Mosquito Fish. And goldfish. Both eat mosquito larva. Put on lids or screening. Or use Mosquito Dunks. Mosquito dunks:

Bactimos Mosquito Control Dunks 20 dunks $19.99 & FREE Shipping 4's

Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies israelensis solids, spores and insecticidal toxins, 10.31%

bird baths, old automobile tires, rain barrels, ponds, abandoned or unused swimming pools (particularly above ground types), tree holes, roof gutters for collecting rainwater, flower pots, animal watering troughs, elevator shafts, basements that flood, sump pumps and any drainage areas within buildings

BTI Mosquito Briquets are a sustained-release larvicide that conveniently floats right on the water surface. These briquets can be used in virtually any standing water site where mosquito larvae grow. As the briquets float, BTI (or bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, a natural mosquito-killing biocontrol agent) is slowly released at the water’s surface and gradually settles in the water where it is consumed mosquito larvae.

Question: Can I put them in a bowl that houses a bog plant indoors? It requires standing water and I think mosquitoes are breeding there.
Answer: Yes but you would need to break it. 1 dunk is too much.

Question: Can this be used around pets, ducks, horses?
Answer: Yes. I use them in my koi pond.

R J. White
5.0 out of 5 starsKilled the fungus gnats, YEAH!
February 15, 2011
Verified Purchase
I recently bought a lime and a lemon tree. The soil that they were in apparently had fungus gnats, and before I knew it, those pests were everywhere and had infested all my other houseplants too. I tried several home remedies to no avail. The population was just too high. The Bactimos dunks were mentioned on a gardening forum and so I decided to try them. One briquet was all I needed to water the 2 trees, and 7 other house plants including 3 orchids. Flies/gnats GONE. Within 24 hours I did not see any flying around and none of the little white larval ones in the soil. That was 1 1/2 weeks ago. I have since seen 2 or 3 stray ones flying around, most likely due to some eggs hatching since the treatment or breeding in the sink drains which they can do. I plan on treating my plants again and pouring some down the sinks. Honestly the best part is how far just one briquet will go!

R Kindle Customer
5.0 out of 5 starsDunks resulted in huge drop in nearby mosquito population!
August 5, 2018
Verified Purchase
These dunks have made a substantial difference in the huge amount of mosquitos we have here in rural northern Florida. We placed them everywhere we have standing water, and the mosquito population is much reduced. Highly recommended.

4.0 out of 5 starsif u have mosquitoes this will prevent more from reproducing
July 27, 2018
Verified Purchase
I use these in the rain water barrel and swimming pool- works great!!

#3 Choke the flow. Get big spigots.

#4 Don't go too small. AFter 5 minutes of heavy rain the rain barrels were overflowing. Build a pond or cistern.A 1" rain will collect 600 gallons from a 1000 sq ft roof.

#5 Don't miss the power of swales. This slows down water going down a slope. Slowing it down gives it time to soak into the ground. Also traps some organic matter. If you have a slope, build some swales and hang on to that rain water.

#6 Muck it up with algae. Algae are plants, just cut off the light. In a pond, algae is great, acts like compost when you water with it.

#7 [biggest mistake] Don;t harvest rainwater at all. You are missing an abundant resource. Rainwater is so much better for the garden than chlorinated water.

Perma Jokes

Permies Jokes Where do all the blonde jokes come from?
Brunettes sitting around on a Saturday night.

Two women friends had gone for a girl's night out. They were drunk, walking home, and they needed to pee, so they stopped in the cemetery.
One of them had nothing to wipe with, so she thought she would take off her panties and use them.
The other friend didn't want to ruin her panties, but she was lucky enough to squat down next to a grave that had a wreath with a ribbon on it.
They went home and the next day one of the women's husbands called the other and said, "These girls' nights have got to stop! My wife came home with no panties!!"
"That's nothing" said the other husband, "Mine came back with a card stuck to her butt that said.....
"From all of us at the Fire Station. We'll never forget you"

Ole heard voices from down in his pond and he went to check and found a bunch of young women skinny-dipping there. They all screamed and went down to the deep end where the water was up to their necks. One of the women shouted, "We're not coming out until you leave!" The old man said, "I didn't come down here to watch you ladies swim naked. I came here to feed the alligator."

My computer beat me at chess, but it was no match for me at kick boxing.



This is Part 4 in a Series about using Permaculture design principles to train your “lizard-brain” – a name I’ve used to refer to the oldest regions of your brain whose function is to keep you safe and comfortable.

In Parts 1 and 2 of this Series we met the lizard in your brain, found out how it’s responsible for behaviors like procrastination and avoidance, and began to explore the idea of re-casting its role in your life, from foe to friend.

In Part 3 we talked about “designing your distractions” so that instead of leading you astray, they lead you in the direction you want to go.

Here in Part 4, we’ll look at how you can expand on the Permaculture Zoning concept, to design almost everything in your environment so it points you in the right direction even in your most directionless moments.


Zoning, in Permaculture design, is a method of locating things on your property based on the frequency of human use and plant or animal needs. The idea is to place things that you visit more often, or that need more frequent attention, in close proximity.

But Permaculture Zoning can have an added layer of meaning in that proximity and immediacy are major reasons why something would register on your lizard’s radar.

In planning out where to put things, you can do more than just design the layout of your kitchen, garden, or work area. You can also, in advance, purposefully influence your own behavior.

This is useful for those times when, for example, you say to yourself, ‘Today, I am absolutely going to make sure I sit down to a nice garden salad for lunch.’

And then you find yourself standing over the kitchen sink eating baked beans from a tin.

If there are no baked beans to be found in your house, your harvesting basket is sitting by the kitchen doorway, and your salad garden is easily accessible from the kitchen, you’ll have significantly tipped the scales in favor of the salad.

It has nothing to do with will power in the moment when you stand, tired and hungry, in the middle of the kitchen looking for food.

It has everything to do with how you planned and located all the things that will catch the attention of your lizard brain when your rational human brain is ADHTS (Absent Due to Hunger, Tiredness, or Stress).

There are no voids (empty spaces) in nature: weeds come crowding to fill them.

Similarly, something is going to come crowding in to catch your attention whenever you are low on executive functioning power.

When you are tired and your focus falters, something either super-compelling (like a screen with an internet connection), or something with immediate proximity (at eye height or right beside your path), is going to distract you.

Unless you already possess super-human powers of focus, the question is not, “Will you be distracted?” but, “What will distract you?”

The idea here is to take the time, when your rational brain is fresh and, on the job, to design the path of least resistance so it still leads in the right direction.

I shared one example of this in Part 3 of this Series when I described how (and why) I hide my computer away in the mornings after I finish my writing sessions. [ ]

Here are a few more examples:

Are you regularly sitting up late watching movies, so you’re too tired to get up and work on your important project early in the morning?

Maybe you could set up a loud, obnoxious alarm that goes off in the bathroom at bedtime. You have to go to the bathroom to turn it off – and while you’re there you may as well clean your teeth, take a shower, get into your pajamas.

Do you like eating annual veggies, but the job of starting seeds regularly is getting pushed aside? Do you have packets of seed in your seed storage tub that are more than three years old?

Consider putting that seed storage tub at eye height, front and center, in the fridge – instead of at the back on the bottom shelf. Your spouse may be mad when they can’t find the lettuce. But when you start lowering the grocery bill with salad greens from the garden, you’ll earn forgiveness.

If its transplanting the seedlings into the garden that’s getting neglected, maybe you could find a spot to place the seedling tray where you will literally trip over it as you pass by the veggie garden on the way to collect the mail / get the eggs / hang up the washing.

Or take it a step further, and set up a small bench with seedling trays, seed starter mix, tools, and buckets of soil amendments – right beside the annual veggie garden area.

Now whenever you go near the garden, everything you need to keep it ticking along will be right at hand. You can take out a lettuce, and right away pop a handful of compost and a celery seedling (or whatever) into the same spot.

Seedlings placed in the pathway toward the veggie garden – where they can’t be missed.


Proximity works for tools, too. The presence or absence of a tool can influence your behavior significantly.

If a tool isn’t where you need it, even for a small job, you must go get it – which provides the perfect opportunity for the lizard to divert your attention to something more interesting along the way.

If you get diverted, you may not get back to that small job until after it’s become a big, painful job.

To illustrate my point, here’s how I trained my lizard brain to get on board with an unappealing but necessary habit: regularly trimming our goats’ feet.

Trimming a goat’s feet is a boring, thankless job that my lizard felt justified in leading me away from at every opportunity. Besides, I never had the right tools on hand to do it.

Well, one day when my rational human brain had the upper hand, I put a small pair of hoof cutters in my tool pouch and hung a goat collar and leash next to the goats’ feed bin.

Now, I always had the tools I needed on hand – and the proximity of the tools changed the whole picture. Soon, it became so satisfying to look at the goats’ neat, healthy feet, that I almost wanted to trim them when they didn’t need it.


The same principle applies, of course, to large tools that you can’t carry in a pouch – you need them on hand. So where to put them?

I know. You’re going to say what my husband always says: put them away, where they belong!

That’s a very good idea, but you could also try this: when you finish using a tool that doesn’t fit in your pocket, ask yourself, ‘What project that requires this tool is the most important one for me to work on next?’

Identify your next most important project, and put the tool there, at the site of that project.

If this project is truly important, hopefully you placed it in Zone One or Two. So now (since you pass through these Zones often) you’re going to see those tools sitting near that project, often. Prompting you to at least spend five minutes making a start on it.

There’s magic in making a start.


Start your day, your hour, your outside time, your morning time, whatever it is, with something important.

Making a start on what’s important increases its proximity powerfully – by putting you in the midst of it. Being in the midst of it alerts the lizard that this is something to pay attention to.

Making a start breaks down resistance, increases satisfaction, and gets some momentum going. It’s often easier to keep going with something once you’re “in it” than to break it off and get started on something else.

As the satisfaction grows, the lizard will get on board and want to keep you involved in the source of the satisfaction.

We’ll talk more about making a start, coming up in Part 5 of this Series.


Permaculture Explained The following quotes by Bill Mollison, co-developer with David Holmgren of the central ideas of permaculture, should help to unpack the meaning of the word Permaculture. Afterall, it has come to mean so many things to so many people, it can be hard to pin down a concrete definition.

“The overall aim of permaculture design is to produce an efficient low-maintenance productive integration of plants, animals, structures & man; with the ultimate result of on-site stability & food self-sufficiency in the smallest practical area.”

“Permaculture is the study of the design of those sustainable or enduring systems that support human society, both agricultural & intellectual, traditional & scientific, architectural, financial & legal. It is the study of integrated systems, for the purpose of better design & application of such systems”

“Permaculture Design is not the rain, the roof, or the garden. Permaculture Design is the connections between these things. Permaculture brings cohesion where there was once isolation.”


The following quote, by Alison Peck, who teaches high-altitude Permaculture in Colorado, says it all:

“Permaculture gains its name from the dream of a permanent, sustainable agriculture & culture. Permaculture expands edible landscaping to consider all of the elements that are part of a natural self-sustaining landscape. […] Permaculture works with natural forces to create productive landscapes rather than forcing production with inputs of energy & chemicals. The elements, the earth, plants & animals, are woven into a complex, balanced landscape providing good shelter, energy & more. A permaculture can be created in a back yard or with many acres; it can range from a minimum maintenance condominium planting to a productive farm. A carefully created permacultural landscape requires no more intervention to be healthy & productive than a mountain meadow needs weeding or watering.”


The role of ants

Ants aerate the ground, put dead organisms and frass (both are fertility) into the ground and can keep some harmful (to crops and garden) insects at bay. I would recommend trying to manage them at first and if you don't want them after understanding their role try to push them out.

To manage, try to make lizard and horny toad habitat. Put a medium size pile of rocks, or wood pile, close to the ant holes as lizard habitat. Sometimes a flat surface so the lizards can do their push-ups

To push them out you can change the moisture of the soil. If the soil becomes too moist they are prone to fungal infection and they will move away. Placing a compost pile, a lot of moist rotting vegetation or a grey-water outlet to help keep the soil moist. The reason they kill the plants around the ant mound is because the roots, fungi, and soil-building start to bring moisture where they don't want it.

Another push idea, that I've heard about but never done before is to put vinegar in a "C" shape around their ant mount. The vinegar is suppose to ruin their chemical trails and they will start to move the hive in the direction of the open part of the C.


My Permaculture instructor would say "What are you doing to create ant heaven?"

Are you growing a lot of small seed plants/weeds? Do you have a aphid farm, or do the ants have an aphid farm on your property? Something else? What they heck are all those ants eating?


If they are building good soil in the hills, I think I would dig that soil up (if you can find a safe way) and use it elsewhere. This will probably reduce ant activity over time, and give you some great raised beds (or whatever you do with the soil).


Ants are amazing. Once, in the woods in Sweden I saw any hills made of one needles that were easily six feet tall.

Their ingenuity and work ethic allow them to move into such a variety of niches. I like the above advice about covering the hills with straw or other organic material and keeping it wet. In fact, I like that advice even without the anthills! Good way to build gardens

I have had the experience of hating certain types of living things here in my little permaculture paradise. The deer ticks still get to me. Bindweed used to infuriate and exasperate me so! Now bindweed is my constant companion and one of my favorite research topics. I won't say I like it, but I don't hate it anymore.

Ants are a real bummer when I disturb their nests, and especially when my children disturb their nests. I remember one sad time when the twins were two, poor guys- they thought they had found a good place to dig, then they were covered from head to toe and in their undies. Yow!

As you continue your permaculture design process, keep building the soil with organic materials and observe the ants closely. They are doing good work for you, as long as they aren't biting anyone or getting into the honey. Make lovely gardens and build biodiversity and keep us posted on your progress.


Chop-and-drop can be done on the large scale - this is often referred to as green mulch. Here is a great resource on growing your own green mulch.

Grow your own mulch article

Location: Portugal

Our land has low levels of nitrogen and we are looking to fix this without the use of chemical fertilizers. Our land is already growing nitrogen fixing plants (Clovers, vetches and bird foot) trees (mimosa) and shrubs (broom). So it seems that nature naturally fixes itself if left to its own devices. However we want to speed this up by growing a lot more green material for mulching as well as fixing nitrogen into the ground. These are called cover crops, green manure or green mulch.

This will not only give us a better supply of mulch for composting and planting but the plants will fix nitrogen into the ground. As we usually like to mulch around our plants with a layer of green mulch followed by a layer of brown mulch, we will continually grow these nitrogen fixers in half of our annual garden every year to have green mulch readily available.

If you’re new to this, here is some terminology for the following article:

Cover crops: Annual plants such as clover that you plant on a resting field or bed to prevent soils drying out, washing away and to fix nitrogen into the ground.

Mulch: Organic biomass that is used to cover the soil to prevent soils drying out, prevent weeds from growing, stop top soil washing in rain and to provide nutrients to the microorganisms in the soil (e.g. hay)

Living green mulch: For example: clover can be grown around plants to act as a living mulch to prevent soils from drying out, hold off weeds and fix nitrogen

Green Manure: This is cuttings of cover crops that can be used in compost piles or as green mulch (see mulch above). Green mulch is higher in nitrogen than brown mulch (e.g. dry leaves, straw or hay)

Annual nitrogen fixing cover crops:
Listed below are the ideal times to plant cover crops that fix nitrogen in the soil. However I am sure most of them can be planted at different times just with a lower yield. There are many other cover crops that bring up nutrients (dynamic accumulators) and create biomass (lots of green mulch) that can be planted but this list just refers to nitrogen fixing cover crops. There are also other crops that produce a large amount of biomass (e.g. radish) and accumulate minerals (e.g comfrey) but these will be included in another blog.

English name (Latin name / Portuguese name) – note there are many varieties for some of these but we have listed at least one

Spring Planting:

Chickpeas (February) (Cicer Arietinum / Grão de Bico)
Clovers (Trevo) Subterranean Clover (Trifolium Subterraneum / Trevo Subterranean) – availible in organic bulk seeds at the local agrological shop in Portugal. A advantage of this is that it is self fertile, however it does not attract as many pollinators as other clovers.

White Clover (Trifolium Repens) – Shorter and spreads more than red clover, so it is better to plant as a green mulch around plants

Red Clover (Trifolium Pratense) – Taller than white cloverso it is better as a green manure

Alfalfa ( Medicago Sativa / Alfalfa)
Mustard (Sinapis hirta / Mostarda)
Sorghum (Sorghum Bicolor / Sorgo)
Oats (Avena Sativa / Aveia)
Rye (Secale cereale / Centeio) – Lots of biomass in spring
Peas (Pisum Sativum / Ervinhas)
Lupins (Lupinus / Tremoso)
Phacelia (Phacelia Tanacetifolia / )
Vetch (Vicia cracca / Ervilhaca) – Naturally occuring on our land

Summer planting

Cow pea (Vigna unguiculata/ feijão frade) There are many examples of summer beans that can be planted

Buckwheat (Trigo Sarraceno)
Yellow serradella (Ornithopus Compressus / Serradela) – Occurring naturally on our land

Plus most of the plants included in the spring planting above, if you have sufficient water to irrigate

Autumn planting

Clovers (Trevo) – Naturally occuring on our land
Subterranean Clover (Trifolium Subterraneum / Trevo Subterranean) – availible in organic bulk seeds at the local agrological shop in Portugal. Its good as its self fertile, its bad as it does not attract so any pollinators

White Clover (Trifolium repens)
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)
Alfalfa ( Medicago sativa / Alfalfa)
Rye (Secale cereale / Centeio) – Lots of biomass in spring
Ryegrass (Lolium / Azevém)
Oats (Avena Sativa / Aveia)
yellow serradella (Ornithopus compressus / Serradela) – Naturally occuring on our land, can withstand heavy gazing

Vetch (Vicia Cracca / Ervilhaca) – Naturally occuring on our land

Winter planting

Fava Beans/Broad Beans (Vicia Faba/ Fava)
Peas (Pisum Sativum / Ervilha)
Chickpeas (February) (Cicer arietinum / Grão de bico)

How do they fix nitrogen?

On the roots of these plants lives a nitrogen fixing bacteria (rhizobium and others). This bacteria takes in nitrogen from the air within the soil and the nitrogen is then available from the plants roots, leaves and stems.

To fix this nitrogen into the ground, the plants should be either:

Chopped before they go to seed and allowed to decompose in the ground, a technique called ‘chop and drop‘, then one should ideally dig the green mulch into the ground or cover it with an additional layer of brown mulch, to ensure the nitrogen isn’t released into the atmosphere but sequestered back into the soil.

Allowing animals to graze it and recycle it is a less efficient way of fixing the nitrogen because some nitrogen from urine and manure will volatilize (passed off as vapour) as ammonia and is lost from the system

Add the green mulch to compost piles

Add the green mulch around plants in other areas of the land (then cover the green mulch with brown mulch)

Don’t forget to let some go to seed so you can replant in the next season.

Mulch layering

We usually use a little compost or aged manure, which is then completely covered with green mulch (you should not be able to see the compost or manure). We then completely cover this with a thick layer of hay and then a thin layer of straw (again the previous layer should not be visible). The hay has a higher nutritional value for the soil than straw but can harbour seeds from weeds so we cover it with straw which does not contain weed seeds and stays dryer so does not act as a medium for weeds to germinate on. The straw we use has grain seeds of plants which are nitrogen fixers so often a further green cover crop is grown from these seeds that can be chopped and dropped for further nitrogen fixation.

Interplanting with annuals

We have been planting clovers around our trees and annual plants as these fix nitrogen and stop weeds growing in beds. There are different theories on when to plant the cover crops around different annuals, but I would suggest doing it a few weeks after you plant annual crops such as cabbages and corn for less competition .

Below, you can see that the bed in one of our annual gardens is covered in green. In this small bed we had summer crops of tomatoes, cabbage, peppers, brussel sprouts, leeks and onions. The broccoli leaves are still growing and being harvested for the chickens and salads. It has a variety of herbs to attract beneficial insects and to repel pests. It also has the complete area covered in a variety of clovers which we allowed to go to seed. We have been collecting the seeds for the past few weeks. This week I will pull out all of the plants which will either go to the kitchen or to the chickens. I will cut back all of the clovers and leave the leaves in the bed (chop and drop) and dig them into the ground with a little bit of compost and cover with hay and straw. Ideally some of the clovers will find a way to grow back from the roots and seeds to fix more nitrogen, I will then leave this bed to rest for one year. During this time I will continue to chop and drop the clovers.

Mulch in Portugal

Perennial nitrogen fixers

Growing annual nitrogen fixers is a quick method to get nitrogen into the soil. There are also nitrogen fixing trees and shrubs that can do the job year after year without maintenance. These can be planted in between nitrogen demanding trees, around annual beds or in pasture fields as a lot of them also act as fodder crops providing more sustainable food for livestock as well as shade. I will write about these in a future blog. However until these are established, the quickest way is with the annual cover crops mentioned above.


Berkshire County, Ma. 6b/4a. Approx. 50" rain

I recently bumped into a talk by Elaine Ingham on youtube. Her premise is that a lack of balance between fungi and bacteria in the soil can favor weed growth, and lock up "nitrogen" in the soil in the form of nitrate, in our annual gardens. A fascinating and easily digestible take on soils science.

She definitely has encouraged me to experiment with inoculating my soils with stropharia rugosoannulate.

Chop and Drop

Permies: chop and drop; perennial weeds; green mulch; using roots to add organic matter to soil

The garden has run its course and you are left with a bunch of dead plants. What do you do with all this leftover plant material? Daron Williams here with a daillyish to help you turn this leftover plant material into next year's abundance.

My blog post this week focuses on using a permaculture technique known as chop-and-drop to use cuttings, trimmings and leftover plant material to build soil fertility. Check out the companion thread to the blog post on permies so you too can use chop-and-drop to build your garden's soil fertility.

Build abundance with chop-and-drop

What is chop-and-drop?

If you have been following permaculture or homesteading sites online you have likely heard of the term chop-and-drop. Are you familiar with what this term means? What about when is the best time of year to do chop-and-drop?

In the most basic terms, chop-and-drop refers to the practice of cutting either dead or living plant material and letting the cutting fall to the ground in the same area. This might be when you are trimming plants throughout the year or when you are cleaning up your garden in the fall/winter.

I love chop-and-drop because it makes it easy to add mulch on my beds and keeps the nutrients onsite.

In my blog post Chop-and-Drop: A Quick and Easy Way to Abundance I provide an overview of how you can use chop-and-drop to build next year's abundance.

How to Quickly and Easily Build Abundance Through Chop-and-Drop - blog

I mentioned a couple of the benefits of chop-and-drop up above but here are 5 great benefits of chop-and-drop.

5 Benefits of Chop-And-Drop

  1. Supports soil life.
  2. Leaves the roots of the plants in the soil, which adds organic material deep in the soil as the roots decompose.
  3. Reduces water loss from evaporation.
  4. Slowly releases nutrients back into your soil.
  5. Saves you time and energy by eliminating the need to compost or haul the plant material away.

I use a hori hori knife for most of my chop-and-drop work. I find it
to be a very useful tool for my homesteading and gardening tasks.

Hori Hori Garden Knife with FREE Diamond Sharpening Rod, Thickest Leather Sheath and Extra Sharp Blade - in Gift Box. This Knife Makes a Great Gift for Gardeners and Campers! by Truly Garden $28.95 & FREE Shipping

I hinted at this subject a couple times in my blog post but I really did not dive into it but I thought it would be a nice addition to this post and good for a permies thread.

In my blog post I focused on chop-and-drop as part of the process for cleaning up your garden in the fall or winter. Basically, you got all these dead plants so what do you do with them? My view is that it is great to just chop and drop them all.

But there are other ways to chop and drop.

Sometimes I just pull up weeds and leave them on the ground to form mulch. Is this really chop-and-drop? I guess it depends on if you think leaving the roots in place is a required part of chop-and-drop. With other weeds I do just chop-and-drop when I'm not worried about them sticking around - I do this a lot with dandelions and plantains. My view is that pulling the weeds is not as beneficial as regular chop-and-drop but still provides some free mulch.

You can also chop-and-drop living plants that need to be trimmed or pruned. This works great for woody plants in addition to our regular non-woody plants. When you are using chop-and-drop in this way it is best to do it when the plants are not stressed for moisture. But some trimming in the hot time of the year is fine.

Comfrey is often talked about as a great chop-and-drop plant since it can be cut multiple times a year and produces a lot of biomass. I have been experimenting with native lupines to see if they can serve as a great chop-and-drop plant. Lupines are nitrogen fixers and still have big taproots and riverbank lupine so far is handling chop-and-drop well.

Another type of chop-and-drop is to plant a bunch of plants like red clover or others and then come through and cut them all at once creating a large volume of mulch. This type of chop-and-drop is often called green mulch but really is just the same as chop-and-drop but at a larger scale.

How do you practice chop-and-drop? Do you grow plants specifically for chop-and-drop?

What Do You Think?

One big advantage of chop-and-drop is that the roots of the plants are left in the ground. Plant roots are a great way to bury organic material in the soil without tilling.

Roots are self-burrying organic matter - what best to plant?

The logic is obvious: when plants grow, they send roots into the soil, and when they die, they let this organic matter there. When we prune branches, the tree prunes part of its roots and balance underground with above ground. The branches stay in the air, the roots rot in the ground.

If you have tried to burry organic matter, like sunken hugel, you know what a job it is! So I want to grow what gives as much root as possible. This let a few differrent questions arise....

- Are there plants that grow more root mass than others? Are trees the only ones that can do a good job at it? Is the speed of growth a good enough criteria to know what will put the maximum root matter in the ground?

- How can we choose the type or organic matter we want down there?

Legumes are prefered because they fix nitrogen, but are they enough? I cannot think about one type of plant being what nature prefers. Should we use cereals for example? I am almost sure some have an extensive root system. Which ones would be the best if I don't mind about harvesting grains?

Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney,

I like Daikon radish, Rape, Carrot, Turnip and beet for growing to just let rot if the animals don't pull them up to eat, the deer love to clip off the tops and for most of these that means they aren't going to grow anymore but decompose into humus.

Legumes are great too, I like to make up a mix of root veg and clover, peas, grasses and spread that over the soil, pressing the seeds in with a roller gives the soil contact needed for good germination and I'm done.

I don't water, instead I plan the seeding for when our rainy season comes (two times a year).

La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11

I have read that carrots have 2 meters deep roots! I have a local long pink radish instead of daikon, and rewildered parsnips. I was worried to be allowing too many root eating bugs feast and reproduce too much with root veggies... So you do not think it is a problem? Part of the root is outside and very accessible. Yes about animals.... after finishing oranges, rats start to dig ...carrots. So I go there in the morning and get the still fresh leaves for the cuys! Of course they love beetroots too.

Here my favorite root crop that I don't dig is SWEAT POTATO. The advantage are:

tubers grow deeper than patatoes would.

Also it spreads through natural airlayering.

Leaves are edible and loved by cuys.

no problem to have them growing under trees = green mulch.

quite drough resistant.

La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11

and we also have naturalized tetragon, the new-zealand spinach. and crithmum maritimum.

We have other chenopodiaceae than beta, like australian rewildered! and chenopodium, salsola... But most of this family is not in the island where I live, and mostly nearer to the sea.

Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil

You can determine the root mass by observing the branch mass and spread of a tree, those that grow in an umbrella shape or with very tall trunks will the have the most root mass.

We dig and eat our sweet potatoes (planted in large containers) since they will last us all winter once they have been cured. We also cook and eat the leaves.

I love to plant these along the edge of our forest then I just bury the vines as they grow along, makes a lot of sweet potatoes (these I leave in the soil)

Parsnip is almost the same (soil health wise) as daikon radish.

Carrots, when left in the ground, produce seeds the second year, this allows us to get a crop and then get seeds for planting in later years.

I much prefer to have as many different species and families growing together as possible. It makes for better diversity both plant wise and soil organism wise.

La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11

cucurbita foetidissima... the Texas watermelon... I think it is very good for fixing carbon! But invasive and in some places I think it is going to bother me... well, the planting! Grows quick when settled which can take more than a year. big root, so burries matter. but does it die!?!?!?!!! Dormant in winter.

Also, it is less food than planned, as you need to extract the starch, and the root isn't edible. the seeds are, but they do not tell you they are small.

Super great cover anyway... And you can see it hanging from the wall into the way. The stems also do root!

La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11

Xisca, can you tell us more about the legume that climbs trees? Is it something unusual?

It is the reverse, the tree legume is the support for the climbing plants! Very good idea also for passionfruits.

I do this for all climbers: air potato, basella, cucurbs like bitter melon and achoa or cucumbers....

Passion fruit needs a big tree so I also put a piece of fencing for them. I had one in a mango, and the mango could hardly produce! (this year with no passion vine, it seems to be the most charged in fruits!)

Chop-and-drop can be done on the large scale - this is often referred to as green mulch. Here is a great resource on growing your own green mulch.

Grow your own mulch article

Location: Portugal

Our land has low levels of nitrogen and we are looking to fix this without the use of chemical fertilizers. Our land is already growing nitrogen fixing plants (Clovers, vetches and bird foot) trees (mimosa) and shrubs (broom). So it seems that nature naturally fixes itself if left to its own devices. However we want to speed this up by growing a lot more green material for mulching as well as fixing nitrogen into the ground. These are called cover crops, green manure or green mulch.

This will not only give us a better supply of mulch for composting and planting but the plants will fix nitrogen into the ground. As we usually like to mulch around our plants with a layer of green mulch followed by a layer of brown mulch, we will continually grow these nitrogen fixers in half of our annual garden every year to have green mulch readily available.

If you’re new to this, here is some terminology for the following article:

Cover crops: Annual plants such as clover that you plant on a resting field or bed to prevent soils drying out, washing away and to fix nitrogen into the ground.

Mulch: Organic biomass that is used to cover the soil to prevent soils drying out, prevent weeds from growing, stop top soil washing in rain and to provide nutrients to the microorganisms in the soil (e.g. hay)

Living green mulch: For example: clover can be grown around plants to act as a living mulch to prevent soils from drying out, hold off weeds and fix nitrogen

Green Manure: This is cuttings of cover crops that can be used in compost piles or as green mulch (see mulch above). Green mulch is higher in nitrogen than brown mulch (e.g. dry leaves, straw or hay)

Annual nitrogen fixing cover crops:
Listed below are the ideal times to plant cover crops that fix nitrogen in the soil. However I am sure most of them can be planted at different times just with a lower yield. There are many other cover crops that bring up nutrients (dynamic accumulators) and create biomass (lots of green mulch) that can be planted but this list just refers to nitrogen fixing cover crops. There are also other crops that produce a large amount of biomass (e.g. radish) and accumulate minerals (e.g comfrey) but these will be included in another blog.

English name (Latin name / Portuguese name) – note there are many varieties for some of these but we have listed at least one

Spring Planting:

Chickpeas (February) (Cicer Arietinum / Grão de Bico)
Clovers (Trevo) Subterranean Clover (Trifolium Subterraneum / Trevo Subterranean) – availible in organic bulk seeds at the local agrological shop in Portugal. A advantage of this is that it is self fertile, however it does not attract as many pollinators as other clovers.

White Clover (Trifolium Repens) – Shorter and spreads more than red clover, so it is better to plant as a green mulch around plants

Red Clover (Trifolium Pratense) – Taller than white cloverso it is better as a green manure

Alfalfa ( Medicago Sativa / Alfalfa)
Mustard (Sinapis hirta / Mostarda)
Sorghum (Sorghum Bicolor / Sorgo)
Oats (Avena Sativa / Aveia)
Rye (Secale cereale / Centeio) – Lots of biomass in spring
Peas (Pisum Sativum / Ervinhas)
Lupins (Lupinus / Tremoso)
Phacelia (Phacelia Tanacetifolia / )
Vetch (Vicia cracca / Ervilhaca) – Naturally occuring on our land

Summer planting

Cow pea (Vigna unguiculata/ feijão frade) There are many examples of summer beans that can be planted

Buckwheat (Trigo Sarraceno)
Yellow serradella (Ornithopus Compressus / Serradela) – Occurring naturally on our land

Plus most of the plants included in the spring planting above, if you have sufficient water to irrigate

Autumn planting

Clovers (Trevo) – Naturally occuring on our land
Subterranean Clover (Trifolium Subterraneum / Trevo Subterranean) – availible in organic bulk seeds at the local agrological shop in Portugal. Its good as its self fertile, its bad as it does not attract so any pollinators

White Clover (Trifolium repens)
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)
Alfalfa ( Medicago sativa / Alfalfa)
Rye (Secale cereale / Centeio) – Lots of biomass in spring
Ryegrass (Lolium / Azevém)
Oats (Avena Sativa / Aveia)
yellow serradella (Ornithopus compressus / Serradela) – Naturally occuring on our land, can withstand heavy gazing

Vetch (Vicia Cracca / Ervilhaca) – Naturally occuring on our land

Winter planting

Fava Beans/Broad Beans (Vicia Faba/ Fava)
Peas (Pisum Sativum / Ervilha)
Chickpeas (February) (Cicer arietinum / Grão de bico)

How do they fix nitrogen?

On the roots of these plants lives a nitrogen fixing bacteria (rhizobium and others). This bacteria takes in nitrogen from the air within the soil and the nitrogen is then available from the plants roots, leaves and stems.

To fix this nitrogen into the ground, the plants should be either:

Chopped before they go to seed and allowed to decompose in the ground, a technique called ‘chop and drop‘, then one should ideally dig the green mulch into the ground or cover it with an additional layer of brown mulch, to ensure the nitrogen isn’t released into the atmosphere but sequestered back into the soil.

Allowing animals to graze it and recycle it is a less efficient way of fixing the nitrogen because some nitrogen from urine and manure will volatilize (passed off as vapour) as ammonia and is lost from the system

Add the green mulch to compost piles

Add the green mulch around plants in other areas of the land (then cover the green mulch with brown mulch)

Don’t forget to let some go to seed so you can replant in the next season.

Mulch layering

We usually use a little compost or aged manure, which is then completely covered with green mulch (you should not be able to see the compost or manure). We then completely cover this with a thick layer of hay and then a thin layer of straw (again the previous layer should not be visible). The hay has a higher nutritional value for the soil than straw but can harbour seeds from weeds so we cover it with straw which does not contain weed seeds and stays dryer so does not act as a medium for weeds to germinate on. The straw we use has grain seeds of plants which are nitrogen fixers so often a further green cover crop is grown from these seeds that can be chopped and dropped for further nitrogen fixation.

Interplanting with annuals

We have been planting clovers around our trees and annual plants as these fix nitrogen and stop weeds growing in beds. There are different theories on when to plant the cover crops around different annuals, but I would suggest doing it a few weeks after you plant annual crops such as cabbages and corn for less competition .

Below, you can see that the bed in one of our annual gardens is covered in green. In this small bed we had summer crops of tomatoes, cabbage, peppers, brussel sprouts, leeks and onions. The broccoli leaves are still growing and being harvested for the chickens and salads. It has a variety of herbs to attract beneficial insects and to repel pests. It also has the complete area covered in a variety of clovers which we allowed to go to seed. We have been collecting the seeds for the past few weeks. This week I will pull out all of the plants which will either go to the kitchen or to the chickens. I will cut back all of the clovers and leave the leaves in the bed (chop and drop) and dig them into the ground with a little bit of compost and cover with hay and straw. Ideally some of the clovers will find a way to grow back from the roots and seeds to fix more nitrogen, I will then leave this bed to rest for one year. During this time I will continue to chop and drop the clovers.

Mulch in Portugal

Perennial nitrogen fixers

Growing annual nitrogen fixers is a quick method to get nitrogen into the soil. There are also nitrogen fixing trees and shrubs that can do the job year after year without maintenance. These can be planted in between nitrogen demanding trees, around annual beds or in pasture fields as a lot of them also act as fodder crops providing more sustainable food for livestock as well as shade. I will write about these in a future blog. However until these are established, the quickest way is with the annual cover crops mentioned above.


Berkshire County, Ma. 6b/4a. Approx. 50" rain

I recently bumped into a talk by Elaine Ingham on youtube. Her premise is that a lack of balance between fungi and bacteria in the soil can favor weed growth, and lock up "nitrogen" in the soil in the form of nitrate, in our annual gardens. A fascinating and easily digestible take on soils science.

She definitely has encouraged me to experiment with inoculating my soils with stropharia rugosoannulate.

Email Professor Colby Glass, MAc, MLIS, PhDc, Prof. Emeritus