By Heather Jo Flores
It's that wonderful time of the year when leaves are falling, plants are decomposing and moisture is in the air. A perfect time for mulching! There is never a bad time for mulch, but with so much surplus organic matter available, it makes sense to harness those resources and use them to warm and protect your garden for the winter.
Mulch builds humus. The word "human" comes from the same roots as humus, meaning earth, and in fact our bodies do contain many of the same elements and microorganisms as fertile organic soil. Soil health is linked to our own health, and soil communities bear remarkable resemblance to the flora and fauna in our own guts.
A diverse, thriving intestinal community keeps us humans healthy, and the same goes for the soil ecosystem.
A layer of mulch, whether up around perennials and fruit trees or as a cover for next year's vegetable beds, serves several important purposes. Mulch covers topsoil, keeping it dark and moist, which encourages soil organisms to come to the surface where they eat, breed and poop. Mulch provides habitat for worms and larger insects that travel across the garden in search of shelter. If they find your mulch, they'll move in, further increasing your soil diversity and in turn, garden health. All of this micro-activity is akin to having a teeny-tiny compost machine that cultivates every inch of your soil, increasing organic matter and aeration and building a nutrient-rich foundation for the garden.
Mulch retains water. It acts as a sponge, soaking up the rainfall and slowly releasing it into the soil below. Larger mulch piles can be shaped into mini-berms and used to direct water away from the storm drain and back onto your site. Or dig small swales — shallow trenches on contour — and fill them with a thick mulch to create water-retaining borders all around the garden.
Mulch keeps plant roots warm, which is especially helpful for those varieties that do OK in a temperate climate but would probably prefer a slightly warmer climate, like pomegranate, lemon, bananas and many fancy flowering bulbs. For these plants, I like to use larger rocks and river gravel under a leaf mulch. The rocks retain heat, the leaves insulate. But be careful not to pile the leaves too high up the trunk because they can cause rot. Focus on warming the roots just below the soil surface, spreading out from the plant.
In addition to rocks and leaves, there are several other types of mulch that are easily found in the area. Straw bales can be purchased at any farm store, or try the fairgrounds after an event — they often use bales for temporary seating and in parking areas, and you might be able to get them for free.
I like a thick cover of straw mulch over the top of my compost pile and on vegetable beds. I am not crazy about the aesthetics of straw, however, and so I don't tend to use it on perennial beds. It does make a wonderful insulator, because each of those little pieces of straw is a hollow tube filled with air that gets warmed by the slow decomposition. Excellent for covering garlic beds over winter, or around winter brassicas. Don't use hay! Hay is green and has tons of grass seeds that will grow all over your garden! Make sure you ask for "straw."
Cardboard and newspaper can be good options for mulching larger areas, especially if you want to kill grass or weeds. Peel the mulch off in the spring and dig beds, or cover the paper mulch with a thick layer of organic matter (leaves, straw, wood chips, or a blend of them all) and plant right into it. Be careful that you don't mulch over bindweed or Bermuda grass, though — it won't kill them and they'll make a thick mat underneath that will choke out your plant roots later.
Wood chips, sawdust and bark can be beautiful under perennials, but they can be expensive to buy. You can sometimes find free sawdust at a local wood shop. I like to use it for blueberries and strawberries, because they love that extra acid. You can also get free wood chips through www.chipdrop.in, where you can register your house, indicate what type of chips you prefer, and make yourself available as a drop site for local tree services that need to dump their shredded surplus.
A final word of warning: Some mulches, especially straw and leaves, can harbor slugs and snails. So watch out for that, especially around baby vegetable plants. In another post, I discuss natural ways to deter these slimy pests. Until then, happy mulching!
#permaculture #freepermaculture #permaculturewomen #growyourown #foodnotlawns #DIY
By Heather Jo Flores
There are plenty of good reasons to develop a skill set for growing food in small spaces. Maybe you only have a tiny balcony with sun for half the day? Or a hot, paved driveway but no other yard? Perhaps you're in student housing? Or maybe it's more of a time constraint: You'd like to have an expansive garden but you really only want to work on it for an hour a week. Or perhaps you just don't really eat that many vegetables and you'd rather just keep it small and simple.
Thoughtful, specific design is the primary way to get the most yield from the least square feet. Once you understand the principles of building living layers in time, space and function, you will be able to pull more out of gardens of all sizes. When it comes to designing small and/or container gardens, the three most important strategies are using microclimates, creating vertical space and avoiding waste.
Make use of microclimates.
A microclimate is a spot that is hotter, wetter, cooler, sunnier, drier, shadier, more sheltered from the wind or a combination of any of these. This information is crucial to the design. For example, when you have determined where the hot spot is in your space, you will know where to plant the tomatoes and other summer vegetables like squash, beans, peppers and basil. Into the shady, cooler spots will go the peas and salad greens. Spots with mottled sun? That's where I'd put the kale.
Learn the microclimates of your site. Don't assume that a sunny patio is sunny in every spot, or that it's all the same temperature. The shady backside of a large south-facing rock will be a different microclimate than the space on the other side of the rock, and plants of different needs will thrive in each spot. Or not. You can also change microclimates by painting things white (to reflect the heat), or by placing rocks, bowls of water and other sun-absorbing items next to plants. You can make shade or build a wind break. Use your imagination to create new opportunities.
Maximize margins and vertical space.
Google "vertical gardens" for a fun-filled evening of geeked-out garden inspiration. Build shelves, boxes, hangers, free-standing salad walls. Make note of microclimates up high, in corners, hanging from trees. Make vertical plans. Make plans in every direction. That tiny ledge you didn't notice before might be the perfect spot for a pot of oregano.
Think of the garden in 10 layers: roots, ground-covers, annuals, biennials, canes, vines, herbs, shrubs, small trees and tall trees. You don't have to use every layer but it helps to consider them all. Remember air circulation is just as important as soil and water, so don't congest the vertical space, just use it the same way you would a horizontal garden, leaving plenty of elbow room for plants to mature.
If you already have a garden and are revamping it to make it more efficient, clean out as much as you can so that you can come close to creating a blank slate. Be experimental but don't waste space or time. Make realistic attempts to raise food that already grows in the area. Keep the garden weeded, swept and free of clutter that infringes on the growing area.
In an urban area or a college housing situation, you might discover that gardening in built boxes and found containers is the best approach. You can grow food in just about any kind of container, as long as it has drainage and isn't made of something toxic that could leach into your food.
I do NOT recommend growing food in tires, railroad ties, painted lumber or treated wood for that last reason. I also do not recommend using terra-cotta pots unless you paint both the inside and the outside of the pot with a water-based latex. (Spray paint works great.) The clay pulls water away from the plants and, unless you live a super rainy place, you don't want your containers to dry out so quickly.
There are many pros to container gardening. They're temporary and easy to move, they can be done on any porch, patio, terrace, rooftop, houseboat, flatbed or driveway. If you include beneficial herbs and flowers in your containers, they will beautify your life year-round. I don't see any actual cons to container gardening but there are a few important things to consider:
Soil and Fertility.
The more yield you pull out of a section of soil, the more often you need to replenish that soil with fresh nutrients. This is especially true in container gardens because they are isolated and don't have access to the subtle yet powerful and extensive microbial network in the ground. Top-dress containers twice a year with fresh, finished compost and/or composted horse manure, then mulch on top of that with a mulch appropriate to the crop. (See "Mulch Much?" Nov. 26, 2015.)
Container plants need excellent drainage or the soil will get anaerobic. Drill holes in the bottom of the container and spread a layer of gravel to help the water percolate. Then layer in your fertile soil, plants and mulch. Containers dry out quickly, as do hotter microclimates, so keep that in mind and water about twice as often as you would with plants in the ground.
It might seem like you can get away with it, but container gardens that don't get enough water will not yield. Visit them daily with the hose and tune yourself into the needs of your little garden. And that's one of the great benefits of having small gardens: You have the time to really get to know each plant.
Weeds and Companion Plants.
It makes sense to plant a few different things next to each other in a pot, to create growing guilds that complement each other. Try tomatoes, marigolds and carrots together. But keep in mind that too many plants in one pot will cause all of them to suffer. As a general rule, try to provide at least two gallons of soil for each guild of three to four plants, layered in space and time. Meanwhile, all containers should be weeded meticulously so the chosen crops don't have to compete for water and nutrients. We'll get more into guilds and companion planting next month.
#permaculture #freepermaculture #permaculturewomen #growyourown #foodnotlawns #DIY
with Rowen White
Excerpted from our double certificate design course.
The focus of this mini class is to walk through the planning of the seed garden as it is integrated into your larger farm or garden. Integrating seed stewardship into an existing garden isn’t difficult or complicated, but it does take a bit of foresight and planning.
If you are a beginner on this seed keeper path, it is best to keep it simple and make the commitment to grow one or two varieties of seed in the season. I will be offering guidelines today on how to steward varieties with care from seed to seed.
Today, following this worksheet, we will create a constellation of all the considerations that we must understand as we lay the groundwork for our seed crops. Some seed crops are grown in the same manner as their food components. These are crops like tomatoes, peppers, squash, and dry beans. With these crops that double as food crops, the only considerations that you need to make is the timing of planting, to ensure that the seeds ripen in the fruit. You also need to consider isolation strategies that may be needed to ensure varietal purity. I will cover these topics briefly today, but you can dive deeper into them as part of the Plant Midwifery lesson in my season long distance learning module, Seed Seva.
I suggest you pick a seed variety that has special significance to you. This seed work is about restoring relationships, and the process of following a seed crop through the cycle will deepen your connection and relationship to these plants.
Part of drawing out the map of intentions for following a plant through the life cycles is to begin to learn what I call plant midwifery. You will be learning the many layers of the plant’s reproductive cycles, as you work with and help steward life from one generation to the next through the stewardship of seed. You will only touch the surface of these reproductive cycles today. As you plant and move into the sprouting and flowering phases of the season, you will learn more about the diversity of ways in which seeds create seeds from their blossoms, and how we can learn from such expressions and patterns.
But first, I want to walk you through my own process of planning my seed stewardship projects.I would recommend that you get yourself a copy of The Seed Garden by Lee Buttala and Shanyn Siegel, and Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth. Both books will be a great reference for you throughout the season.
This is a good time to remind you that there is a lot to learn in this mentorship path of seed keeper. I have been stewarding seeds for 19 years and I still learn every single season. Don’t let the abundance of information overwhelm you. Allow it to seep in slowly, like water on thirsty soil. You may find yourself going back over these lessons and books in years to come, to find new perspective and insight. Be patient with yourself.
Things that may be helpful for you to have as we begin to fill out the seed garden plan are maps or layouts of your current garden or permaculture site. If you are just beginning, just sketch out a dream garden map, as a visual that we will use for this exercise. Get out your garden journal and begin to make a map of your current garden, and where you intend to plant different crops.
It’s also helpful at this point if you have maps of your garden from the last year to refer to so that you can take into account crop rotation. You will want to plant heavy feeding crops in areas where legumes or light feeders were grown last year. Ensure that you don’t plant the same crop type in the same bed or soil the next year to prevent disease and viral buildup.
Please print out your seed garden plan worksheet, and use it to follow along with my inquiry in the video.
The key is to start slow and steady, and to make sure you are always set up to handle stewardship of the varieties you have been given. This is a long-term relationship that you are beginning with these plants, and it’s better to be more focused than to have more than you can handle.
I always begin my planning with my field map, my inventory sheet, and the seed garden plan worksheet. I start with sketching things out, but innovative digital garden planning software is available.
Begin to fill it out with the basic information, including variety, name, etc. I suggest that you put both of these worksheets in a garden journal or 3 ring binder, as you will be referencing this and filling in more areas of the sheet as you go throughout the season.
Don’t skip this step!
This is a good place to catch details you will be writing in your garden journal, and will help you establish good habits around recordkeeping.
Growing for seed and growing for food is sometimes very different. You will be thinking through a number of different variables to assess if there is anything different you will need to do for your specific seed crop varieties. Plants for seed often require more space than for food production.
What is a good population size for healthy seed?
There are a couple rules of thumb for figuring out how many plants of each variety you need for good healthy seed. For seed varieties that are self-pollinated, you need less plants, usually between 1-20 for good varietal maintenance. For cross-pollinated varieties, you need usually between 15-500+ for healthy seed.
Again, you don’t need to worry too much about this at this very moment, and you can see how it's much easier to begin with self-pollinated crops, depending on the size and scale of your garden or farm. With selfers, you simplify and decrease the number of variables that affect your seed. That said, some of my most treasured seed relatives are cross-pollinated, and they are not much more difficult, they just require a little bit more planning.
You can see in the seed garden chart that they have two columns for population size, one for home varietal maintenance, and a higher number of genetic preservation. I would in most cases be guided by the home varietal maintenance numbers.
Do I need to consider varietal isolation?
If your seed variety is a cross-pollinated species, you will need to consider isolation. The simplest form of isolation is to make sure that no other variety of the same crop type is grown in close proximity. For instance, if I am growing a sunflower or a corn variety, I want to make sure they are grown far enough away from another variety of the same crop type.
You will also see guidelines for isolation distance in the chart.
I will note here that these charts are rough guidelines. I can grow two varieties of corn much closer in distance because of tall tree hedgerows which block the pollen drift and also taking into consideration the hillside and the way that the wind blows consistently. I have had great success growing corn only 1000 feet apart, but there are trees and a prevailing wind that goes away from the corn crops and not between them. Over the seasons you will begin to read the lay of the land and see what works well within your landscape.
Another strategy that we use is to space out the planting timing of each variety. We do this with corn, and it works wonderfully.
Ask yourself, do I need to consider how much space each mature seed plant will need?
As I said before, some plants produce edible fruit and vegetable at the same time the seed is ready. Things like watermelon, tomato, dry bean, pepper, etc. These don’t require different spacing for food and seed.
But some seed crops extend beyond the normal stage of edibility, and you may need to increase spacing. For lettuce, I normally plant four heads 4-6 inches between plants, but for the seed phase they need more like 12-14 inches. In this case, I simply harvest every other one, and allow the remaining heads to go for seed.
Seed crops get rather wild and unruly!! See these mustard green seed pods spreading out all over! Note the stakes and trellis twine! We will be learning all methods of handling seed crops as they grow. In your seed garden plan and your seed record, fill out with how many of each plant you will need, and what sort of spacing they will need in your beds.
For your own personal homework make a list of ten varieties of either flowers, vegetables, herbs or grains that you have an interest in learning to grow from seed to seed. Grow things that have been historically grown in your region. Look for heirlooms that have been grown in your bioregion. Seeds are not one-size-fits-all.
Out of the list of ten, narrow down to one variety that you feel drawn to steward this coming season. These may be seeds you already have in your home.
This miniclass is excerpted from the Holistic Seed Stewardship module of our double-certificate design course, taught by Rowen White.
Rowen White is a Seed Keeper from the Mohawk community of Akwesasne and a passionate activist for seed sovereignty. She is the educational director and founder of the Sierra Seeds, an innovative organic seed cooperative focusing on local seed production and education, based in Nevada City CA. Rowen is the current National Program Coordinator and advisor for the Indigenous Seed Keeper Network. She teaches creative seed training immersions around the country within tribal and small farming communities. She weaves stories of seeds, food, culture and sacred Earth stewardship on her blog, Seed Songs.
Further reading on this topic:
Breeding Organic Vegetables, Rowen White. (This is a FREE e-book for you!)
Seed to Seed, Suzanne Ashworth. The seed saver's standard reference that gives information on saving all the common vegetable seeds. An important book to have if you're saving seeds of heirloom varieties.
The Seed Garden, Lee Buttala and Shanyn Siegel. An important book to have if you're saving seeds of heirloom varieties. Published by Seed Savers Exchange.
#permaculture #freepermaculture #permaculturewomen #seedsaving #seedstewardship #seedgarden
with Becky Ellis
Excerpted from our double certificate design course.
The permaculture movement began as a re-imagining of agrarian landscapes but it has exciting emancipatory potential in re-imagining how cities might become places in which humans and nature co-create and co-operate. Urban permaculture allows us to create ecologically regenerative spaces in our individual lives and in collective spaces.
Lack of access to land is often raised as a barrier to participation in permaculture. Land ownership in North America, both rural and urban, is prohibitively expensive for many people. Many permaculture practices are based on land ownership including the creation of perennial gardens, the growing of food forests, major earthworks such as berms and swales and the building cob structures.
In cities, access to land is one of the biggest obstacles for people hoping to practice permaculture. Land in the city tends to be very expensive and zoning rules mean that some practices may be forbidden in certain parts of the city (for example, animals considered ‘livestock’).
In this mini class we will discuss strategies for accessing land in cities.
Although access to land for urban agriculture projects can be an obstacle, people have found a variety of creative ways to overcome this barrier.
Additionally, there is a growing movement around the world for public food forests, community farms and collective apiaries. Collective projects in public spaces can be an important way to begin to reclaim the commons and can help to disrupt the concept of private property. This is an important part of beginning to grapple with what it means to decolonize our cities. We can begin to shift our language and practice from one of ownership of land to one of care-taking and attachment. I have found it very useful to, while retaining my community activism and grassroots organizing, find some allies within city governments whether that be staff or city councilors.
Now that we’ve discussed strategies for accessing land in cities it’s time for you to explore these strategies first hand. A recommended way to start would be to find an urban permaculture project and volunteer for one hour. Do whatever is needed but be sure to talk to people about their experiences while you work alongside them. If you can’t find an urban permaculture project, find a community garden or urban farm.
This miniclass is excerpted from the Urban Permaculture module of our double-certificate design course, taught by Becky Ellis.
Becky Ellis is a permaculture educator and community activist in London, Ontario, Canada. Becky is a PhD candidate in Human Geography at Western University. Her research project is focused on the relationship between people and urban bees. Becky maintains the blog Permaculture for the People https://permacultureforthepeople.org and regularly gives workshops and presentations about urban permaculture, community gardening, and gentle beekeeping. She embraces the challenge of bringing permaculture (and honeybees!) to the suburbs.
Further reading on this topic:
Thomas, Pandora and Starhawk. “Black Lives Matter: A permaculture perspective”. Permaculture magazine. July 11, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2017. A statement of solidarity with Black Lives Matter activists. A must read.
Flores, Heather. Food not Lawns: How to run your yard into a garden and your neighbourhood into a community. Chelsea Green, 2006. A fabulous, in-depth guide to permaculture, especially focused on cities by our very own Heather Jo Fores. This book has a very good focus on community organizing - unlike some permaculture books it does not simply focus on transforming private spaces. It’s so inspiring that it spawned, Food not Lawns activist groups throughout the continent.
Piven, Frances Fox and Richard Cloward. Poor People’s Movements: Why they succeed, how they fail. Vintage Books, 1977. This is another older book that is a classic. In this book Piven and Cloward examine movements of and BY poor people. This book has been deeply influential and also puts forward the argument that poor people’s movements must be self-organized not implemented for them by well-meaning (or not) do-gooders. One of my favourite activist organizations is part of this movement - the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty.
#urbanpermaculture #communitylandtrusts #guerrillagardening #publicland #freepermaculture #permaculturewomen #foodnotlawns
The following article was originally published in Permaculture Design Magazine’s Issue #102 Plants & Propagation. November 2016.
There is nothing more life-affirming than witnessing a seed sprouting in the garden that you didn’t plant. An old gardener friend once told me, “Life wants to live, ” and I believe that cultivating self-seeding in the garden is one of the best practices in trusting Nature’s ability to self-organize and thrive.
Allowing and encouraging plants to self-seed is a practice of resilience for the permaculture garden farm, and offers many benefits in addition to many avenues to explore. Below, we will look at why cultivating self-seeding is a form of resilience, how to encourage it happening in the garden, and some edible and medicinal self-seeding plants with which to consider making an acquaintance.
There are so many reasons to cultivate self-seeding varieties of flowers, herbs and vegetables in the garden. In addition to getting to know the nature of the plant in its fullest expression, you can save tremendous amount of time by working with nature, as opposed to against it.
Perhaps I am a lazy gardener, but this is one of my top reasons for cultivating self-seeding varieties. I also enjoy the surprise, and play of chance; as what emerges is a dynamic process outside of my control. Planning and maintenance are interlinked, and a cultivator of self-seeding varieties works with a design of the garden that is more free form allowing for plants to move around the garden at their own volition, as opposed to expecting plants to stay where we put them.
As authors Jonas Reif, Christian Kress, and Hank Gerritsen write in their book Cultivating Chaos: How to Enrich Landscapes with Self-Seeding Plants(1), “seeding is a vital way in which plant communities thrive and survive … a way of the garden becoming an ecological system.”
Many people refer to self-seeded plants as “volunteers,” and that is because the self-seeding plants emerged because they have something to offer and the conditions were right for them to offer it. Take the self-seeding dandelion.
Dandelions growing in a vacant lot with hard, compacted soil demonstrate one of the highest benefits of “volunteers,” because they can provide a direct ecological function and service. The strong taproots of dandelions work hard to break up the compacted soil, draw water and minerals from soil sublayers, and work to restore and regenerate the land upon which it is growing.
Self-seeding dandelions also provide a hardy and nutritious, quick-turn-around pollen source for pollinators in an area of land where many other plant ecologies have not yet been established. In this way, I see self-seeding “volunteers” as offering to us some form of restoration, and renewal at a higher level of knowing than we might see at initial face value.
Self-seeding “volunteer” plants typically beat me out to the garden to plant seeds in the ground. In this way, “volunteers” save garden-farmers time by initiating the growing cycle when the conditions are right, as opposed to having to wait till the garden-farmer can get around to planting them. The self-seeding seed has an intelligence that waits for just the right conditions- just the right soil temperature, moisture, nutrients, and get the growing started. It never ceases to amaze me how borage is already a few inches high before I set out sowing in the Spring!
Self-seeding varieties that have early germination periods, and therefore an early on-set of flowering, can be a crucial pollen and nectar source for beneficial insects. The benefit of food and habitat for pollinators and birds continues throughout the life cycle, as many seeds left on the plants become forage for garden friends. Food and habitat for beneficial insects is a primary way in which self-seeding plants transform the garden-farm into an ecological system, and works with nature so that the garden-farm can create resilient ecological relationships.
Cultivating self-seeding is in direct opposition to the segregated model of agriculture which imports its seed, sows it when the farmer is ready rather than when the seed is ready to grow, harvests the plant for its crop, and then clears the field before the plant can set seed, and repeats.
In permaculture, a key principle is “integrate, not segregate” and cultivating self-seeding into the garden integrates the sowing, harvesting, designing and planning, as opposed to segregating those acts into isolated moments of human intervention.
Which brings me to a primary benefit of self-seeding varieties, and that is seeds! As seeds develop on a plant, they are adapting to the specific microclimate of your garden, and will produce more resilient off-spring for the next year. Barbara Pleasant in her article “Self-Seeding Crops You’ll Never Need to Replant”(3) says “one of the characteristics of a truly sustainable garden is that it produces at least some of its own seed.”
By cultivating self-seeding in the garden, you are allowing for your plants to produce more resilient future generations, as well as, producing more seeds in general. When I allow my greens to go to seed after I have harvested them, I end up with exponentially more green seeds, and in turn more potential plants than I started with.
Not only can the garden-farmer use these seeds in the garden, but also the wildlife, as mentioned above. While some farmers may view letting plants going to seed to be a waste, the permaculture garden-farmer sees the myriad of benefits to letting a plant live out its full life cycle, encouraging niches to the overall benefit of the ecosystem.
Finally, the cultivated chaos of self-seeding is extremely beautiful and life-affirming. While the garden-farmer plays a role in creating the garden plan, as a self-seeding cultivator, the interaction is primarily centered on observing Nature’s beautiful design layout, without constant intervention, and making choices to encourage what you find beautiful with the goal of encouraging more beauty. Could that be more life-affirming?
HOW SELF-SEEDING WORKS
The practice of cultivating self-seeding in the garden begins with observing a plant’s full life cycle of birth, death, and decay as it transitions from seed to germination to leaves to fruit to seed to dropping its seed, to wilting, and the forthcoming birth of the next generation. This observation process is a constant reminder, and a vital way to tune into the cycles of Nature.
The more you become aware of the plant’s life cycle, you also start to notice its habit and shape. Does it send out runners, form a mat, sprawl, clump or climb? It is possible to do some background research(2) into the habit and form of the self-seeders of interest, but what is most informative is the hyper-localized observation process of watching the growing patterns of self-seeding plants on the land where you are.
Whatever you learn about growing you are learning about growing where you are. This is true because of microclimates, and the fact that each piece of land has slightly different soil, wind, water, and sun exposure. So what might thrive in one place, doesn’t in another, and visa versa. The best bet of someone who wants to cultivate self-seeding in the garden is to dive right into it. One encouraging thing about the practice- there’s no such thing as failing! Whatever grows grows, and lessons can be learned!
There are different elements in self-seeding plant communities of which are worth paying attention that will support the cultivation of a desired design outcome. For example, what is the population density of the “volunteers” like: is it thick, sparse, or sporadic? How quickly after germinating do they set seed (note: many varieties will set seed quicker when the temperature rises, or they are grown in very close proximity to other seeds)? What is the dispersal pattern of the seeds (do the seeds drop straight to the ground, are they moved by animals or the wind?)?
Having a sense of how specific self-seeding plants grow in your garden allows you to make more informed decisions when intervening. Intervention in the self-seeding garden-farm including select weeding and thinning plants you don’t want to make more space for those you do, and supporting the spreading of plant communities either by dropping the seeds yourself in weeded soil. If you are cultivating self-seeding flowers versus self-seeding greens, you may have different approaches. For example, with self-seeding greens I may start by seeding them heavy like a carpet in a bed in the Spring.
After harvesting baby greens for a few yields I will allow them to go to seed (the stress from space competition increases the speed at which most greens will go to seed). By end of summer, I will have another round of greens sprouting up with little to no work.
On the other hand, if I was cultivating self-seeding flowers like calendula or borage, I may thin or transplant “volunteers” to their suggested growing space to allow each plant to reach their maximum growing expression. It is really up to the garden-farmer as to what is your highest priority: is it leaves, greens, seed, color, or something else? With those design goals in mind, intervention is simply a curated process.
It is important to understand that there are self-seeding annuals, self-seeding biennials, and self-seeding perennials. What this means is that how long the individual plant lives depends on its life cycle. For example, a self-seeding annual will grow its full life out, flower and set-seed in one year, and that’s it; that exact parent plant will not grow back the following year. So a self-seeding annual has brand new plants that come up every year.
The general growing location of that plant variety may be in a similar location, but they are new plants. Self-seeding biennial varieties take two years to reach their full maturity and set seed. Depending on what you want to use the plant for, self-seeding biennials may require a little more patience with one year not being as productive as others.
Self-seeding perennials are plants that will continue to grow every year, going through their full flowering & seed cycle every year, and also set seeds for new plants to grow. Self-seeding perennials may require more thinning or transplanting in the Spring, but also not necessarily. Different plants grow at different rates. Also, some plants may be a perennial, but in colder climates they are treated as an annual. It helps to understand if they are self-seeding annuals, biennials or perennials, as each one requires slightly different care.
Finally, the only way that self-seeding works is if you let plants live their full life cycle all the way through the wilting. While many gardeners feel it is a necessity to “clean up” the garden at the end of the season, leaving many plants standing in the garden-farm long after they set fruit can be the most important moment when self-seeding happens.
Again, this is why it is so important to understand how the self-seeding plants you want to encourage seed themselves. For example, I always leave the sunflower stalks standing in the garden through the snowy months. Typically the seeds are gone by late Fall, but I leave it to the birds to eat and distribute the seeds for next year’s sunflower crop. Leaving sunflowers to stand in their wilted state supports their self-seeding.
WHERE TO START
Below are a few of my favorite edible and medicinal self-seeding varieties, with a little about how they can be used in the various parts of their cycle.
There are so many herbs that will happily self-seed in your garden-farm. Calendula, chamomile, chives, fennel, borage, oregano, basil, cilantro, dill, parsley, and horseradish to name a few. Some are self-seeding annuals, other self-seeding perennials, and it is useful to know the difference. Either way, herbs are often times the big heavy hitters for attracting and supporting pollinators. Some self-seeding herbs is a must in any garden-farm.
Perhaps one of my favorite, because they seem so happy to sow themselves. With edible seeds for humans and birds alike, immense beauty, cutting flowers, healthy oil producing potential, edible baby sprouts, and consistent food for beneficial insects, sunflowers can’t be beat!
Once you start growing potatoes, it can be hard to stop growing them, unless you find every single little potato that was growing in that soil. Forgotten potatoes are one of the best ways to start next year’s crop early. It is important to watch for blight, and not let any potatoes stay in the ground if they show any signs. Also, in order to get optimal growth of each plant, I occasionaly will transplant them in early Spring to give them a little more space, and get their growing more aligned. This great source of Vitamin C is one of my favorite!
Unless you keep an immaculately clean garden, and pick up every single fallen vegetable and weed, you probably have encountered the “volunteer” tomato. One thing that makes for an interesting self-seeding tomato plant is that it already has done the work for you of saving some its most viable seed from the year before; so in theory, your self-seeding tomato is going to be produce some of your most resilient varieties for your particular climate. Another note about self-seeding tomatoes is that since self-seeding borage is such a great companion plant with tomatoes, the two plants can continue to re-seed themselves in partnership.
There are so many tasty and nutritious greens that are self-seeding. Arugula, chard, collards, kale, lettuce, mustards, spinach, and sorrel are just a few of the awesome options of self-seeding greens. I like to add self-seeding radish and turnip into my bed of baby greens as well.
Seeding a bed early in the Spring, taking a few harvests before letting them go to seed, will provide a fresh bed of baby greens come late Summer/Fall. And depending on how densely you seed the initial bunch, you may be able to eat some of the spicy flower heads. For the ones that set flower, you will see many beneficial insects coming to share in a harvest while you admire and wait for the next crop.
Anyone with a compost pile who has put the remains of a squash in it have probably experienced the awesome self-seeding potential of the squash. I have seen many a compost pile that just leave the squash plant growing right out of the pile all season. I have also experienced building a lasagna bed using some 80% finished compost where squash came up in the beds. I’ve left it’s sprawling vines as a ground cover to keep out the weeds till the other things I’ve planted get more established and able to shade out the weeds.
I’ve also eaten self-seeding squash. The trick about self-seeding squash is that the fruit that grows very well may be a hybrid of different squash if their parent plant was grown within a close proximity to a different variety of squash, causing for cross-pollination. Check out seed-saving distance requirements to get a full-bred variety so that you can plan for how to best space and cultivate your self-seeding squash patch.
7. Wild Edibles
And where would we be without the wild ones? The wild self-seeding plants are some of my favorite because they are so incredibly informative about the needs of the soil and what the next stage of ecological succession looks like. Wild edibles are often medicinal or provide high nutrient levels. Good examples of self-seeding wild edibles that you may consider cultivating in your garden-farm are dandelion, burdock, wild lettuce, lambs quarter, purslane, and plantain to name a few.
The above list is just a selection of self-seeding possibilities and by no means exhaustive. There are so many more flowers, vegetables and herbs that will make a happy home in your garden-farm if you let them. Once you get started you can experiment with more and more. Nature is abundant, and life wants to live! Growing self-seeding varieties will keep your garden going long after you are sowing, and with a little cultivation and attention, it can be one of the most resilient and productive gardens possible. Happy self-seeding!
1. Reif, Jonas, Christian Kress., and Hank Gerritsen Cultivating Chaos: How to Enrich Landscapes with Self-Seeding Plants. Timber Press. 2015.
2. Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier’s book, Edible Forest Gardens, Volume 2: Ecological Design and Practice for Temperate Climate Permaculture. 2005 is a great resource for gaining additional insights into plant’s ecological behavior, and consider how best to cultivate their nature. See the “Architecture” (Appendix 1) and “Form & Habit” (Appendix 3) sections of the tables included for more insight on this matter.
3. Pleasant, Barbara. “Self-seeding Crops You’ll Never Need to Replant.” Mother Earth News, August/September 2010.
Diana Sette is a visionary leader with a diverse range of experience from designing home ecologies to leading expansive community-oriented permaculture projects. Diana is Certified Arborist through the International Society of Arboriculture as well as a Certified Permaculture Teacher and Designer. She is the co-founder of an intentional community in Cleveland, OH, works as an educator, a green infrastructure consultant, and is a published writer covering ecological design and the intersection of art and politics. She is currently working towards a certificate in Ecopsychology and is a practicing interspecies communicator, mother, artist, musician, poet and speaker who enjoys sharing the magic of the plant and animal world with others.
Diana is a part of an international team of more than 40 women from 13 countries who recently launched an online Permaculture Design Certification Course with Advanced Training in Social, Emotional and Cultural Transformation. Learn from and study with Diana here: https://coursecraft.net/courses/z9Thn/a/cpmYFEtTT
#beneficialinsects #seeds #freepermaculture #permaculturewomen #selfseeding
This article was originally published in The Healthy Planet Magazine
The Autumn Equinox sends a signal to the backyard gardeners’ cerebral cortex, gently reminding us that the harvest season has arrived and that now is the time to be preserving and putting up food for the winter. Within just a couple of short months, the garden will once again die off for the year, becoming dormant and barren, giving the soil a time to rest.
An avid gardener’s greatest bounty occurs at this time of year. The seasoned homesteaders and canners have it down to a science, putting up multiple jars of canned tomatoes, sauces, salsas, fruits, vegetables, jams and jellies. Hats off to those folks. Becoming skilled in this age old hobby requires knowledge of safety measures and temperature regulation to prevent risks of botulism and temperamental pressure canners. I would recommend taking a few classes through your local Extension Office before delving into the art of pressure canning. For beginners, it is best to stick to the basics such as hot water bath canning and freezing.
Freezing is an underutilized and excellent way to preserve your garden bounty — and it’s virtually fool-proof. Below are 4 simple suggestions:For squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes or eggplant, fully cook or blanch and freeze them in a freezer bag for quick meal additions.
For vegetables such as peppers, corn or onions, just chop and freeze them to later add to omelettes, quiches, stir-fries, or other meals. This will make meal preparation more convenient too!
With your harvest, cook large batches of soups or stews and freeze in freezer bags to thaw and heat in any amount you desire.
Make batches of sauces or salsas and freeze in individual labeled freezer bags.
Grill a large quantity of veggies at a time, cut into strips, and freeze in labeled freezer bags to have the taste of summer any time of the year.
Herbs are one of those garden glories that often get overlooked during the frenzy of harvest and canning season. Culinary herbs are not only flavorful, but are very nutritious and often highly medicinal. Common herbs and spices contain a plethora of medicinal qualities including antiseptic, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties.
Fresh herbs of course should be properly identified and researched before being ingested medicinally. There are many contraindications such as during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Consult an herbalist to discover an herbal regimen that suits your needs.
In the meantime, start preserving your culinary herbs! Most of the herbs are at their prime right now. Don’t miss the chance to preserve that beautiful fresh herb flavor to use in all of your culinary creations throughout the winter months.
Here are some simple ways to preserve your herbs:
Either hang bundled herbs upside down with a string in a dry place, or buy a food dehydrator. When the leaves are crisp and dry, remove from stems and store in labeled glass jars. Be sure to include the date. Once you have multiple dried herbs, you can create custom spice blends. Create a handmade label and give as gifts to friends and family.
One of the easiest ways to capture an herbs essence is to simply cut fresh herbs with a pair of scissors and freeze them in ice cube trays. Use fresh herbs. Cut the leaves from stems. Fill ice cube trays with water, and then place herbs into each cube space. Freeze overnight. Place frozen herb ice cubes in labeled freezer bags. These work well for adding to soups, stews or sauces.
Herbal Vinegars & Olive Oils
Simply place clean, dry herbs in a jar of either vinegar or extra virgin olive oil. Store in airtight, labeled jars. Hardy herbs such as rosemary and thyme may stay in the jars. Remove leafy herbs such as basil and parsley after 1–2 weeks of steeping. Be sure to include the date on your label. No need to refrigerate. Use within 6 months.
Pesto is a simple way to prolong the freshness of herbs. Pesto can be made with any leafy herb. The basic pesto recipe is:
2 cups of fresh herb (leaves only)
1/4 cup of nuts (any nuts will work.
You can also use sunflower or pumpkin seeds)
1/4 cup of olive oil.
A pinch of salt
A tablespoon of lemon juice to preserve freshness.
Combine all ingredients in a food processor until you reach desired consistency.
Pesto can be made from basil, parsley, cilantro, chervil, dill, mint, lemon balm, as well as from lettuce, arugula, kale and chard. Pesto can also be made from wild edible weeds such as lambs quarters and chickweed. Freeze excess pesto in labeled freezer bags or in ice cube trays which can be stored in freezer bags when frozen.
Create your favorite herb combinations. Remove herb leaves from stems. (Use stems later in a broth.) Chop herbs finely. Melt a stick of butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Sauté herbs gently and remove from heat. Pour the melted butter in baby food jars. Stir while the jar is cooling. Once the butter has cooled, place in the refrigerator. If you desire whipped butter, simply whip the melted herb butter in a food processor and store in baby food jars in the refrigerator.
#foodpreservation #herbs #freepermaculture #permaculturewomen
It’s not too late to join La Vista CSA Farm, just in time for Harvest Season! Prorated shares are still available. Convenient CSA pickup at Garden Heights Nursery 1605 South Big Bend Blvd. Visit www.lavistacsa.org to sign up or to find out more about Community Supported Agriculture.
Happy Harvesting & Preserving!
By Heather Jo Flores
We can't grow chocolate or avocados in most places, but of all the ways in which we indulge in imported resources, these are two of the most nutritious, delicious and versatile treats. Combine them, toss in a few more ingredients and you get: vegan, raw, gluten-free, sugar-free, high-protein, antioxidant avocado chocolate pudding!
Say it three times without stopping — that's how long it will take you throw together this tasty and healthy family favorite. I invented it while trying to eat healthier a few years ago. It's just about 300 calories per serving, packed with protein and other nutrients. Eat it for breakfast or as a dessert. I know you'll love chocomole as much as I do.
Ingredients and method:
¼ cup unsweetened milk (almond, coconut, cow or goat)
¼ cup maple syrup or honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons powdered hemp seed
2 tablespoons almond, hazelnut, cashew or peanut butter (try different versions and see what you like best)
Optional add-ins: flax or almond oil, dates, walnuts, sunflower seeds, mint, coconut, cinnamon
Place all ingredients in a blender (my Mini Magic Bullet works well) and blend until smooth.
Add more milk as needed, incorporating one tablespoon at a time so the mixture is loose enough not to clog the blender. If you want a smoother pudding, add more milk, or try flax or almond oil. For a chunkier treat, fold in finely-chopped dates, seeds or nuts.
Pour the pudding into small bowls and serve. A dollop of yogurt or a sprinkle of coconut or cinnamon make nice toppings.
More in the mood for a milkshake? Starting with the above recipe, omit the nut butter and use a full cup of milk. If you're feeling really frisky, add a scoop of chocolate-flavored Coconut Bliss. Blend until frothy and serve with a straw.
#permaculture #freepermaculture #permaculturewomen #growyourown #foodnotlawns #DIY
Most of the challenges we face in the world today, including climate change, diminishing resources, loss of biodiversity, food and water shortages, are the result of the wasteful practices of our modern society. Clever technologies conveniently remove the burden of dealing with the consequences of waste by distancing us from them, at least temporally. But invariably the impacts just cycle back somewhere or sometime else, often dumped on future generations. Tossed plastics don’t just disappear in the dump, the carbon dioxide from our industry and cars reaches out to the poles, waste cycles back to us, because we are part of a closed system, a beautifully complex web of connecting and cycling feedback loops. The impact of wastefulness goes beyond the material costs, something more profound is lost; the gift of wisdom that comes from insight that these feedback cycles offered us, an awareness of the value of our interconnection.
More and more people are joining a movement for a different kind of society, one based on the same ethics that guide permaculture; care for the people, the earth and future generations. People are claiming back their lives from mindless consumerism, debt, and wastefulness, to a life of awareness, self reliance, community and enjoying quality time. Taking practical personal steps, can be empowering in our own lives and lead to wider community level change, that ultimately leads to a profound cultural shift. In many communities such change is already in motion.
Here are Twelve+ Rs to help guide you on your way to cutting down on waste. It may seem a simple goal, but it can be eye opening, and have surprising repercussions in all aspects of your life. While acting in your own life, you will be joining with other people all around the world, participating in becoming part of the positive solution to the bigger global challenges facing all of us.
Refuse: To cut down on waste-simply refuse to receive unnecessary items (even if they are free) or buy stuff that is not reusable, compostable or recyclable. Say no to plastic bottles, and bags, to package goods, to unnecessary items like junk mail, and stuff with high embedded costs. What we don’t take we don’t waste. There are movements like the Voluntary Simplicity Movement and Minimalism that aspire to cut back on waste. As the name implies the Zero Waste Movement takes it one step further-reducing waste to particularly zero.
Reduce: We can reduce what we do bring into our lives. Declutter. Conserve. Simply buy, own, and use less; water, fossil fuel based energy, chemicals, appliances, and stuff in general, etc. Lift the burden of stuff off your back and livelihood. Reduce what you thought you needed to own, clean, maintain, and replace. Step lightly into a new life where you accumulate less stuff and appreciate what you have.
Repair: Fix things rather than tossing them and buying new ones. Buy things you can fix. For example Fairphones is making phones with parts that can be replaced when broken so the whole device does not need to be tossed. People are coming together in “repair cafes”, where they can share repair skills so items can be fixed and reused.
Reuse: Buy second hand when you can: clothes, furniture, appliances… everything. When you are done with something, give it a new home rather than throwing it away or even recycling it. When you buy, buy things that are well made and will last, that can be reused for generations. I still wear my dads old shirts that are about 30 years old and my 25 year old bike still works great. Antique furniture is cool and valuable and can often be found inexpensively at swap sales and flea markets — IKEA just doesn’t make things like that now.
Plus, used items can be passed on with a story of care and respect. Reuse is not limited to stuff. For example greywater can often be reused through a simple design to water trees. Using your imagination and permaculture design many items can be creatively reused multiple times.
Repurpose and Upcycling: Here is where people get really creative; turn pallets into furniture, a cigar box into a guitar, cut wine and beer bottles in half to make drinking glasses. There is a whole movement of reusing spent cooking oil to run cars. If you like crocheting, you can take 500 plastic bags like my sister Nina did, and crochet them into a bigger, stronger, better bag. People are building whole houses with “junk”, using everything from tires to plastic bottles (check out the earthship movement). You can make beautiful art, musical instruments, new clothes from old ones, old clothes into other useful stuff, (felting old sweaters into blankets). The examples are endless. Be creative, have friends help, throw an upcycling party.
Regenerate: Compost organic waste in worm bins, backyard compost piles or through community composting programs to regenerate soils. Your organic waste problems become the solution. When you do buy, try to buy items that are compostable such as paper packaging rather than plastic. Buy clothes made from organic cotton, bamboo, or wool rather than polyester. Consider what items are made of, and choose biodegradable wherever possible.
Recycling: Is what you do, only if you can’t do the other R’s. It’s a last resort and it has to be done right otherwise it’s just “wishful” recycling. If we toss recyclables improperly into the bin like people do with garbage that’s what it might become. You may need to wash off food, separate by type, and bring things you want to recycle to certain drop sites. If you do buy, buy things made from recycled materials. Our plastic bucket is made from recycled plastic, the paper I print on is recycled paper. Buying recycled products reduces the extraction of more raw materials and helps close the loop for materials that are non biodegradable like plastics.
Rethink: Is there another way to get this item rather than buying it, even if its recycled? Could I borrow it? Lend it? Swap it? Share it ? Communal ownership of tools, bikes, cars, land, homes, boats, washing machines and more.. is an example of rethinking consumerism. Here is another opportunity for creativity and building community. Our reliance on brain numbing convenience has really taken a lot of creatively and fun out of collaborating and sharing. And it’s not limited to stuff; transportation, services, work, projects, meals…all these activities, when shared, can build relationship webs of interdependence that create vibrant and caring communities.
Redesign and reinvest: Innovators and regenerative product designers that are inspired by natural cycles have created a circular economy movement in which long-lasting product design, maintenance, repair, reuse, remanufacturing, refurbishing, and recycling are encouraged and rewarded. Taking it even further economists such as Kate Raworth, in her book “Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist”, suggests we redesign our economy so it is based on earth and people care instead of one based on endless growth where costs are externalized. We can support these movements politically and as investors and consumers. Reinvest your money in your community and where your values are. More and more people are turning to alternative value base currencies.
Resource and resilience: Reduce your waste resource footprint and create a more resilient lifestyle by growing and making your own resources. Growing some of your own food and herbs, even in small quantities, will lower your waste footprint. What you can’t grow resource locally at farmer markets, thereby reducing waste from transport and packaging. You can also resource your own toothpaste, shampoo and cleaning products using a few simple organic ingredients that are biodegradable and need no packaging. (The Internet has loads of recipes. I can pretty much take care of all of these with a kit of vinegar, baking soda, white clay, citrus peels, olive oil, and a bit of homemade soap).
Relax, reflect, and recharge: Wastefulness is often the result of a rushed, over-extended lifestyle. Slow down. Take time to remember do things the way you want to, smell the flowers, play, reach out to friends, and act with care. It is indeed a shame to waste life’s gifts of time, opportunities, and people.
Recognize, revere, and reward: The opposite of being wasteful, could be described as recognizing and appreciating what life offers us. The twelve +Rs can become a part of our daily practice that reflects and builds on our values to cherish life. From this orientation we are simply less likely to make choices that lead to waste. And more likely to recognize and enjoy what we have, in our lives, communities and the world. Our collective actions can reclaim a shared reverence for life. Acting together we can co-create deeply rewarding feedback loops.
Want to learn more and join a vibrant community on this path? The Permaculture Women’s Guild Online Permaculture Design Course, created by 40 international and expert co-facilitators offers a unique, meaningful, and in depth learning experience for people wanting to take part in creating a more resilient and sustainable future, click on this link for the complete information.
#waste #repurpose #minimalism #zerowastemovement #permaculture
By Heather Jo Flores
"Weeds are weeds only from our human egotistical point of view, because they grow where we do not want them. In nature, however, they play an important and interesting role. They resist conditions that cultivated plants cannot resist, such as drought, acid soil, lack of humus, mineral deficiencies, as well as a one-sidedness of minerals, etc. They are witness of man's failure to master the soil, and they grow abundantly wherever man has 'missed the train' — they only indicate our errors and nature's corrections. Weeds want to tell a story — they are nature's means of teaching humanity, and their story is interesting. If we would only listen to it we could apprehend a great deal of the inner forces through which nature helps and heals and balances and, sometimes, also has fun with us."
— Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, Weeds and What They Tell.
I once asked a mentor to name his 10 favorite plants. He laughed and told me it was like asking him to name his favorite finger. He reminded me that our own attachment to the idea that one plant is better than another stalls the creative cycle that builds and maintains fertility of thought and action. The primary emphasis should always be on biodiversity: Use diverse strategies, experiment with diverse plant material, and work with a diversity of people. Do this, and your projects, both in and out of the garden, will undoubtedly thrive.
The best way to improve our garden soil is to diversify the living community within it. How to diversify it depends on what is already there, and what the soil needs to achieve optimum balance and fertility. There are a number of good ways to help determine these needs, from simple pH kits to expensive laboratory soil analysis. These store-bought solutions are effective in some settings, but unnecessary for most home gardeners.
Before you spend money on soil testing, go out into your garden and look at what's already growing there. For centuries, organic gardeners have relied on the plants to indicate soil conditions, and common weeds provide excellent clues for how to improve your soil. By learning to recognize weeds (and what they tell) we can learn about our specific soil conditions and take action accordingly. We can also plant relatives of the wild plants that will thrive in the same soil conditions, or replace unwanted weeds with our preferred cultivars.
Here is a quick-reference guide to a few common weeds. Unsurprisingly, most of these plants are also edible and/or medicinal, but for now we will focus on what they tell you about your soil. If you don't know what these plants look like, take some time to find out. As a rule, I never pull a plant I don't recognize, and neither should you.
Yellow dock & horsetail.
Soil is acidic or increasing in acidity. Plant cover crops, improve drainage, add non-acidic organic matter like straw and lime (but not wood chips.)
Morning glory/bindweed, wild mustard & pennycress.
Formation of surface crust or hardpan. Plant deep-rooted cover crops such as ryegrass and daikon. Allow dandelions, burdock and other tap-rooted weeds to remain, as hey will help break up the compacted subsoil. Add thick mulch and consider tilling/digging less often.
Lamb's quarters, buttercup, pigweed, teasel & thistle.
Too much tilling and cultivation. Gardens that need a break will put out a lot of spiky and aggressive weeds. If it feels like you are constantly battling thistles and losing, consider letting that section of your garden fallow for a year or two. Sheet mulch with cardboard, straw and wood chips, and plant a cover crop of fava beans, vetch or ryegrass. Or, if you have the space, replant the area to perennial herbs, berries and trees, and start up a new veggie patch in a spot that isn't so overworked.
Sweet peas, clover & vetch.
Sandy or alkaline soil, needs nitrogen. These weeds are an excellent cover crop. Leave them alone and let nature do the work for you. When they start to bloom, cut them down and mulch over, then plant your veggies on top.
Wild lettuce, lemon balm, self-heal, cleavers, chickweed & plantain.
Soil pH is balanced and/or ever-so-slightly acidic, soil is well-drained and fertile. Congratulations! These are the green-light weeds in your garden! This spot is ready for a fresh crop of vegetables. But be careful not to overwork, over-till, over-fertilize or add too much acidic material. Consider a careful rotation of crops to give your soil a chance to recover and re-adjust to the varied things you grow, and above all, enjoy yourself!
#permaculture #freepermaculture #permaculturewomen #growyourown #foodnotlawns #DIY
By Heather Jo Flores
There is nothing more frustrating than bounding out to your garden in the morning to see your baby plants and discovering that they have been devoured by slugs and snails. A few simple tricks can help avoid these horrible moments.
Trigger warning: In this article I advocate for the massacre of large numbers of plant-eating mollusks. These methods are all organic and they work but, yeah, sorry PETA.
Iron Phosphate, aka Sluggo.
Sluggo and Escar-Go are the main two organic slug baits that contain iron phosphate and they can be found at any garden store. They are safe to use around pets, but non-organic slug bait is definitely NOT, so make sure you buy one of these two brands. The mollusks eat the bait, then they decompose into nutrition for your soil. These products aren't cheap, but they are organic and they work.
Keep your garden and greenhouse clean.
This especially goes for the greenhouse and nursery areas. All of those pots and tables make for a zillion places for slugs and snails to hide and breed. Get in there once a year and clean it all out well. Be sure to flip tables over and check under the lip of every pot and tray. They are adept at hiding so the hunt is time well spent.
Keep an eye out for eggs.
When you're out in the garden, always be on the look out for the clusters of shiny white eggs. At the farm we used to call this "fool's caviar" because they almost look like they could be on a plate with some fancy crackers. Often they are just under the soil, pushed up against a small piece of bark or a rock. Smash them with your shoe or a garden trowel.
You've probably heard this one before. I like making traps out of recycled salsa tubs. Cut the lid into a t-shape by removing four wedges and replace it on top. This makes it easy for the slugs to get in but also easy for you to carry the trap, dump and refill it. Fill the tub with beer and place in strategic locations throughout the garden, such as near piles of big mulch and around plantings of delicate annuals. All that beer can get expensive, so ask at the local bar if they'll give you the leftovers from the tap trap that they pour into a bucket every so often. We did this in our neighborhood and got more beer than we could handle.
I have had excellent success with sprinkling tiny circles of black pepper around baby plants. The snails and slugs won't cross the line. Salt works, too, but I prefer pepper because it doesn't salinate the soil. This doesn't kill them, however, so the problem with this method is that the hungry mollusks will just go elsewhere and eat something else.
Wood and cardboard.
Lay down large pieces of wood and cardboard in parts of the garden that seem to have the most slugs and snails. An hour after sunrise, go out and flip the boards over to find a big, slimy slug party. Use a sharp knife to cut them all in half or smash them with your boot.
Slugs and snails will crawl right up inside inverted citrus rinds placed in the garden. Then you can just scoop them up and throw them in your bucket of soapy saltwater.
Put on your headlamp and go hunting in the night. Look under mulch, wood and anything else that provides moist shade. Look in your garden beds for the iridescent trails and follow them to the source. A few days of diligence can make a huge difference.
I have heard that copper wire stretched around garden beds will deter snails and slugs, but I haven't tried it. Sounds expensive.
Ducks love slugs.
They also love baby plants, berries and tiny vegetables, however, so graze your ducks in areas where perennials are well established rather than in annual vegetable beds.
You probably don't want to pick up the slugs with bare hands, and the slime will quickly turn any pair of gloves into the grossest ones you own. Try using chopsticks or tongs instead. Or just skewer them with a sharpened stick. If you're not comfortable skewering them or slicing them with a knife, try just tossing them into a bucket of hot soapy saltwater. That will do the trick. Dump the nasty results somewhere outside of the garden though, because the soap and salt isn't good for your soil.
Good luck and happy hunting!
#permaculture #freepermaculture #permaculturewomen #growyourown #foodnotlawns #DIY
There is no doubt that over the past decades, permaculture has grown tremendously in popularity. Permaculture Design Certificates, books, movies, meetings, convergences, teachers’ groups — all have seen an increase. I would argue that Permaculture has grown into a bonafide, international, globally connected movement. For enthusiasts such as myself, this is generally great news. However, with popularity, also comes analysis and responsibility.
Permaculturists such as Heather Jo Flores, Kim Del Valle Garcia, LisaDePiano, and Silvia Di Blasio have all contributed analyses which point to the fact that there is certainly a large deficit within the permaculture movement in terms of understanding how oppression is systemic in nature, and how permaculture without awareness of this can perpetuate racism, sexism, classism, cultural appropriation and other forms of discrimination.
I think that the current work on decolonizing permaculture has a wealth resources to offer and this article is my humble attempt to add to that body of knowledge. This is a piece for folks who see the need to implement decolonization and social justice within permaculture but who might be left wondering what to do first in order to transition towards a more conscious and just permaculture practice.
For instance, I might be interested in stopping the appropriation of knowledge, but I might not know the right words to use to give credit to local indigenous peoples in a way that is not only respectful but that also acknowledges the histories of violence and oppression that have lead to me, a white woman living in Canada, being able to do something like appropriate indigenous knowledge and not even be aware of it in the first place!
To help me contribute to this conversation, I think it would be useful to situate permaculture within a general context of social justice. When I use the term ‘social justice’ I refer to the acknowledgement of existing inequalities in terms of the distributions of power and privilege amongst social groups, as well as the work being done to address these inequalities.
These inequalities stem mostly from historically rooted social and economic systems that perpetuate violence, oppression, and discrimination based on intersections of race, gender, age, class, education, gender, sexual orientation, able-bodiedness and more.
So, what are some ways that the permaculture movement can engage better with social justice? Below are a few practical tips for reflection and action that could be useful for permaculture practitioners.
Actively make room in permaculture for people who may have more difficulty than others participating in the movement
Permaculture is often marketed as a movement that is ‘open to anyone’ or ‘doable by anyone’, but often we do not address the fact that some folks, while on board with permaculture ethics and principles, might not feel comfortable, or might not have resources to participate to the extent that others are able to.
First, think about this: who is usually present at permaculture gatherings, courses, and meet ups? Do you see any trends in terms of things like gender, skin colour, class or education level when thinking about who is out there teaching permaculture?
I was privileged enough to be able to attend and volunteer at the 5-day long European Permaculture Convergence in Bolsena, Italy in 2016. I was also happy to see presenter Pandora Thomas from the United States talk about social justice and her permaculture training programs for empowering youth at risk and formerly incarcerated folks with permaculture training. Still, Pandora was the only person whose workshop I attended in the convergence to address permaculture through a critical social justice lens and to actually have created a project around it. She was also one of very few people of colour to hold a workshop.
Given their importance, the kinds of initiatives that Pandora is a part of should have a much larger presence in meetings, convergences, and published material about permaculture; so why don’t they? Perhaps because when the organizers of an event, project or course come from a place of privilege, it is easy not to have to reflect on those things which don’t affect them. So, research and reflection are the first step.
What are some simple things to implement? If you run a permaculture course or workshop, make sure there are gender neutral bathrooms, make sure it’s accessible, and let everyone know! Make sure that participants know that you will be addressing the issue of how folks with more resources in the community can “redistribute the surplus” (one of the core ethics of permaculture) more equitably within their communities, and invite speakers who might be best qualified to discuss this to participate in your workshop/course. Include topics that are locally relevant for marginalized communities. In Canada and the United States that might be something like: How can we work with indigenous communities to support them in their efforts to protect their lands and resources or in current struggles they have with the government?
Obtain Anti-Oppression Training — Don’t Just Read About it!
In order to better understand the concrete ways in which permaculture can be colonizing and generally problematic within the context of social justice, it is important to get the facts from a reliable source i.e. someone with experience in conveying and working with these kinds of topics.
I firmly hold that all Permaculturists need to cultivate an understanding of systemic oppression and colonial history in order to be better equipped to articulate why permaculture practices can contribute to ongoing colonization and to understand on a deep and meaningful level, why this needs to change.
Permaculturists, permaculture teachers or business owners could all benefit from attending workshops with facilitators trained in anti-oppression and social justice work. These can be found in most small and large cities or online. In Canada for instance, we have the PIRG’s — the Public Interest Research Groups — which are student-run bodies that provide support, services and training around issues of environmental and social justice. They will often have facilitators that can provide this kind of training or at least be able to help direct people to organizations or individuals who can. In the States I know about AORTA (Anti-Opression Resources Training Alliance) and Movement Generation who are also doing amazing work.
Design For Processing Discomfort When Faced With Uncomfortable Topics
This ties in closely with the point above. Facilitators who provide social justice and anti-oppression training are also great at helping folks work through the inevitable discomfort that talking about things like power and privilege can cause for many people.
Folks who hold more privilege and power in a given society will often need to process reactions such as guilt, shame, and defensiveness when they come to understand that they have grown up and in, therefore participate (though perhaps unintentionally) in a system that is oppressive to others.
In 2015 I wrote my masters thesis about this same phenomenon happening in the transition towns movement — a sustainability movement closely linked to permaculture — and how these feelings of discomfort around privilege sometimes perpetuated alienation between the movement and others trying to participate.
Through my thesis-writing process I found that I underwent much of the expected feelings of shame and defensiveness as I reflected on the harmful ways I myself had participated in permaculture-based projects. In my permaculture experience, teachers often urge students who anticipate a problem to “design for that”, i.e., to correctly anticipate or identify an issue and use resourcefulness to consciously mitigate it. Having read lots of material on social justice and being connected to activists and facilitators who could help me, I was able to design for having these difficult feelings and was able to get support in processing them.
I have to say that the experience was transformative for me, I am so happy to have gone through it and to be now able to participate in permaculture in a way that better aligns with my views of the world.
Actively Support Social Justice Groups and Activists in Your Community
In my experience, permaculturists often exist in a kind of social bubble. I think this happens when folks looking for more sustainable ways to live come across like minded individuals in the form of students, teachers, or connections they make at permaculture networks and events.
The bonds formed between permaculturists can be very strong and lead to the desire to collaborate solely within these networks. There is nothing wrong with any of this, however, indirectly it can cause a sort of bubble effect that can lead to permaculturists closing in and focusing on building their projects from scratch while simultaneously being oblivious to work already being done in their communities that they could support.
Of course, without reflecting on histories of colonialism or systemic oppression, it’s understandable that permaculturists who hold more privilege might not see the connection between their sustainable homestead (perhaps located on unceded Indigenous territory) and local Indigenous communities fighting for land rights.
However, once the consciousness is there, I do think that the desire for meaningful connection and collaboration comes. One thing to do, is to research your community, go outside of the ‘permabubble’ and offer your skills as a volunteer or show up at events hosted by local organizations and activists who are working towards justice and equity.
There are also ways to exist outside of the bubble within the permaculture community. For example, if permaculturists own a large acreage, why not offer some of that land to use for free to a local social justice organization which may not have such access? Why not invite activists from other groups to come and teach workshops or modules within your permaculture programs? Why not provide scholarships to participants in your partner organizations to attend your permaculture courses? Taking one step will lead to the realization that there are so many avenues for collaboration.
The beauty of permaculture is its amazing versatility as a holistic design system. A meaningful connection to the land can be regenerative to both the land itself and to the people stewarding it, but this connection needs to happen with a deep understanding of the inequalities currently present in our local and global communities. It is necessary to carry out a careful insertion of permaculture projects and practices into the existing matrices of power and privilege in our communities in such a way that these projects contribute to empowering and supporting the work of those folks who could benefit the most from them.
Want to know more?
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post! If you are interested in learning more about the social dimensions of permaculture as part of the first online Permaculture Design Certificate taught by a group of 40 women from around the world, check out THIS LINK.
My name is Lucie and I live in Kelowna, Canada, where I run a permaculture group and work as a coordinator in a non-profit organization that empowers community members facing hardships by teaching cooking, farming, and employment skills. I have a masters degree in the social dimensions of sustainability from Lund University and a background working in social sustainability, community building, writing and mixed media art. To find out more about me and what I do please visit luciebardos.net.
#decolonizingpermaculture #social justice #permaculturewomen #freepermaculture #socialpermaculture
with Saskia Esslinger
Excerpted from our double certificate design course.
Anything that can help you achieve your goals can be considered a resource. Resources may be visible or invisible. You may have a lot of resources on and near your site that you don’t even know about. Taking stock of existing resources can help inform your design and enable you to see solutions. You can also identify what resources you will need. Perhaps you need fencing materials, or a mentor. By identifying things you will need, you will recognize them when they show up!
In this mini class we will focus on helping you identify all of the resources you have at your disposal.
Many of the sectors moving through your site are also resources that can help bring your site into harmony with nature. Designing ways to harness them turns problems into solutions.
The people who benefit from a design are generally the largest and most steady source of energy into and out of it, and that energy needs to be mapped, diverted, and included in the design itself. This can come in many forms:
What resources will you need to acquire in the future? How will you get them?
This miniclass is excerpted from the Boundaries and Resources module of our double-certificate design course, taught by Saskia Esslinger.
Saskia Esslinger is a certified permaculture designer, teacher, and regenerative entrepreneur. She believes that growing food is a key element in a sustainable lifestyle and trains people to teach gardening in their own community through her website teachgardening.com. Saskia recently returned to her roots in Alaska after traveling over land and sea for two years with her husband and two sons.
Further reading on this topic:
Bloom, Jessie. Practical Permaculture. Oregon: Timber Press. 2015. 72-80. Resources on base mapping and sector analysis.
Macnamara, Looby. People and Permaculture. England: Permanent Publications. 2012. An excellent reflection on boundaries as they relate to people.
#freepermaculture #permaculturewomen #invisiblestructures
By Heather Jo Flores
I am primarily a food gardener, but there are a handful of flowering medicinal plants that I always include in my garden. Not only useful for home remedies, they provide beautiful cut flowers, improve soil and attract beneficial insects. Many of the plants listed here are commonly bred and cross-bred to produce ornamental variations, so be sure to note the species and choose the non-hybrid option.
Here are my 10 favorite medicinal flowers and some tips on how to grow and use them.
Angelica (Angelica archangelica)
A tall, self-seeding biennial that smells amazing and puts out thick stalks with clusters of tiny flowers. Angelica has a wide range of uses, from tummy aches to menstrual issues. The large umbels attract beneficial wasps that will eat more troublesome insect pests. It grows easily in part shade. Give it some room on the edge of the garden so it doesn't crowd out your other plants.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
I scatter calendula seed around the garden wherever there is bare soil. It grows almost anywhere and is easy enough to remove when you decide to put something else in its place. A common ingredient in salves, calendula is known to heal the skin from sunburn, rashes and scrapes.
Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea)
A gorgeous biennial aromatic, clary sage is one of my favorite plants of all time. The smell is said to help cure depression and the long stalks of purple flowers are beautiful in a vase. Attracts bees and hummingbirds.
Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)
Known as a powerful antibiotic and antiviral medicine, echinacea is an easy-to-grow perennial that puts out large purple flowers for several months a year. If you start it from seeds, be sure to cold-stratify them by putting them in the fridge for a couple of weeks before planting. Bumblebees love it!
Elecampane (Inula helenium)
A large, leafy biennial that produces yellow daisy-like flowers. Elecampane is known for medicinal properties that help with lung problems, congestion, colds and the like.
Hops (Humulus lupulus)
Not a traditional cut flower, but try some vines of blooming hops in a flower arrangement. They look amazing! This is one of my favorite plants to make into tincture and use as a sleep aid. Plus, you know, beer.
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)
Another wonderful sleep tincture, passionflowers also attract a wide range of beneficial insects. The flowers are stunning and the perennial, evergreen vines grow easily on a fence or trellis. The plants can be slow to start but once they take off, watch out!
Rose (Rosa canina)
Also known as "dog rose," this is my favorite species to use for rose hips. Rose hips are rich in vitamin C. Mix with apple peel and vanilla bean to make a delicious tea that is safe for children and the whole family.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
No garden is complete without a patch of valerian. They prefer sun but will do fine in part shade as well. The flowers smell delicious — not as pungent as the roots, which are the part that is most commonly used as a medicinal. Valerian root is used as muscle relaxant, a calming herb, and in folklore is commonly said to help cure heartbreak. Cut flowers also look wonderful in a bouquet.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
If you cut yourself in the garden, grab some yarrow, chew on it for a minute and put it on the wound. It will help stop the bleeding. I like to harvest the leaves and flowers, dry them, powder them and keep in a jar to use as a styptic.
Finally, please remember that I am not an herbalist nor am I a doctor, and so I'm indicating common usages for these plants, based on my personal knowledge and experience. But don't just take my word for it! Take an herbal medicine class, do your own research and/or consult with your doctor.
#permaculture #freepermaculture #permaculturewomen #growyourown #foodnotlawns #DIY
On Teaching Permaculture: Tips for Evolving and Enlivening the Education Paradigm (and why you need to take a Permaculture Teacher Training!)
The magic in teaching
is the questioning mind (JH),
or as Socrates said,
“education is the kindling of a flame
not the filling of a vessel.”
by Jude Hobbs of Cascadia Permaculture
This article comes from the perspective of my guiding the process through which aspiring Permaculture teachers gain the confidence and competence to share Permaculture strategies, principles and processes to a wide variety of audiences in a variety of educational settings: from 2-hour “Introduction to Permaculture” talks at local libraries to full 72+-hour standardized Permaculture Design Courses.
Since 2001 I have taught the Permaculture Teacher Training over thirty times and have not taught it the same way twice. I am continually adjusting my teaching approach to incorporate individual needs, participant feedback and new pedagogical techniques. To me, this is the art of teaching: always growing and changing what I teach and how I offer a course by exploring varied teaching strategies with a primary focus on the active learner via a transformational learning process.
This article offers some ideas on how to effectively share information and empower individuals to discover their own teaching styles, along with some of my personal philosophy about evolving and enlivening the educational experience.
How many of you have felt safe in a classroom setting? Did you trust your teacher —their abilities to guide you with accurate information presented in ways you understood, in ways you found both accessible and inspiring? Did you trust your teacher to not roll their eyes if you gave the wrong answer to a question? Have you experienced an instructor being ethically inappropriate with you or with others? Unfortunately, these scenarios are very common in some educational situations. Cultivating a learning community by setting the tone of a safe environment for the “peer culture” of a classroom is also imperative since many students are as afraid of being embarrassed in front of or by fellow students as in front of or by the teacher.
Co-create a safe learning environment by setting clear intentions.
Write about it. Compose a “Memorandum of Understanding” (MOU).
The morning after our evening course opening, which involves participant introductions, the class reviews a Memorandum of Understanding, which was mailed to everyone pre-course. The MOU provides a common set of intentions on how we plan to interact as a learning community working collectively to support one another.
The MOU focuses on the following:
Talk about it.
We review the MOU as a group with the opportunity to discuss any questions and /or concerns and/or needed additions. During our course introduction we set the tone for people to be comfortable, stating that all questions are honored, inviting people to place anonymous suggestions in a specially designated basket, and employing a variety of techniques to help participants get to know one another.
Additional ways to set the tone and build trust:
Co-create Effective Learning & Learning-to-Teach Environments.
Learning environments are considered “effective” if learner outcomes, individual and collective, are achieved for each module. As an example, in teaching about roof water catchment, will the learner be skilled in sharing the steps in order for participants to design and install this type of whole system? In working together as a class can they achieve this goal in hands-on practice?
Explore multiple pathways for-co-creating effective learning environments:
Finally, how can you tell this is working?
I offer Permaculture Teacher Trainings all over the world. Here's the flyer for my next one:
Why Guide Permaculturists, and Others, to Teach Permaculture?
Permaculture Education as an Extension of Permaculture Principles
As a Permaculture teacher, my goal in guiding others to teach Permaculture is to encourage and inspire them to discover and celebrate their own unique strengths and abilities as educators, and to empower them with the confidence and tools they need to effectively communicate Permaculture principles, inspire change, and transform the way people everywhere value and apply true sustainability practices. As co-creators of the Permaculture Teacher Training learning environment, and through collaborative, dynamic interactions via group projects, participants build a strong social community and form resource networks to support one another and maintain lasting friendships.
I actively support the next generation of Permaculture trainers with the philosophy that sharing meaningful knowledge is regenerative, empowering and part of the Permaculture solution….“kindling (and strengthening) the flame” of Earth Care, People Care and Future Care.
“Jude creates a course that finds the perfect balance between creating a safe comfortable learning environment and a place to push your comfort zone and to grow.”
--J.D., Course participant, 2017
“This course is a living example of Permaculture Design. The design of the course itself, the course location, the learning environment, and the total delivery embody the principles, ethics, and functional application of Permaculture Design for place, people, and evolution. This course has empowered me with the knowledge, strategy, tools, techniques and ability to empower others through teaching.” --C.S. (2016)
“This course is a week-long intensive for Permaculture designers and educators who are interested in honing their craft as teachers/presenters. It has been transformative and valuable beyond measure. Jude has a lot of wisdom and knowledge to share and is great at drawing out our strengths. She helped facilitate learning peer to peer and has helped me grow as a Permaculture designer and educator. Jude herself is an amazing resource, and the bulk of my learning came through her ability to tap into the wisdom of the group and inspire thoughtful reflection.” —T.M. (2018)
“[After this course] I feel like I could put together a weekend Intro to Permaculture course no problem. I gained valuable friends and colleagues here. I also feel stronger, refreshed, more confident in myself, and refocused on my path.” —J.S. (2018)
Jude Hobbs is an internationally recognized Permaculture educator and designer with 35 years’ experience in the design and teaching fields. Her focus is whole systems thinking to generate environmentally sound solutions that inspire sustainable actions in urban and rural settings.
As an educator, she conveys her passion for permaculture by providing curricula developed to encompass diverse learning styles with teaching techniques that are accessible, inspiring and information rich. Jude tends Wilson Creek Gardens, a 7-acre homestead and demonstration site located in Cottage Grove, Oregon, U.S.A.
Listen to Jude's interview on The Permaculture Podcast, describing this course and more:
“What Permaculturists are doing is the
most important activity of any group in the world.”
The permaculture movement began as a re-imagining of agricultural, rural landscapes but it has exciting emancipatory potential in co-creating cities that are filled with multispecies abundance. Urban permaculture allows us to create ecologically regenerative spaces both individually and collectively.
People have lived in cities — large, permanent settlements — for thousands of years. Since the turn of 20th century, the rate of urbanization has increased steadily throughout the world, with an especially intense growth after the 1950s. Currently, the majority of the world’s people live in cities, a trend that is expected to continue into the future which makes the potential impact of urban permaculture huge and far-reaching. There are multiple problems with cities but at their heart they are dynamic, vibrant, and diverse. Cities have the potential to be destructive and to increase people’s sense of alienation from each other and non-human nature. But they also have the potential to be lively and vibrant places filled with collective innovation and creativity. Creating ecologically regenerative and socially just cities is one of the most important tasks of permaculture.
Although urban permaculture can be limited to private, backyard spaces, many practitioners either have no access to private property or, want to extend beyond the limits of their property to collectively envision and create vibrant and revitalized collective spaces.
Benefits of Permaculture in cities
The flourishing of urban nature
While cites are sometimes dismissed as concrete jungles they are in fact filled with an abundance of non-human nature. In fact, some animals and plants thrive in cities. Recent studies by entomologists, for example, have found that some species of native bees prefer cities to the countryside due to the presence of less pesticides and more floral and habitat diversity. When we consider that many rural areas are filled with oceans of monocultures with islands of intense animal agriculture, it makes sense that many animals and plants flourish in cities.
Urban permaculture is especially important in co-creating spaces in which non-human urban natures thrive alongside people. The regenerative urban ecosystems we create will be filled with an amazing variety of insects, mammals, birds, and a wide diversity of volunteer plants.
This relationship is not one-sided — we can also benefit from the diversity of non-human nature in cities. For example volunteer plants — commonly known as weeds — can be important sources of food and medicine.
Access to Resources
Cities are wonderful places to practice permaculture because they contain a wide variety of resources, sometimes in the form of other people’s garbage. In many ways cities epitomize the permaculture principle that the problem is the solution. The things that people consider garbage — or sell cheaply at garage sales and thrift stores — may prove to be very useful in permaculture projects. For example, all kinds of containers useful for gardening can be found on the curb on garbage day.
Cities also contain other resources that are under-utilized. For example, cardboard boxes can be used for sheet mulching, newspapers can be used for vermicompost bedding, and leaves make perfect mulch.
Lastly, cities contain anywhere from thousands to millions of people. Many people have both resources and skills to share. This has led to the development of a true sharing economy with the creation of little free libraries, tool libraries, seed libraries and co-operatives of all kinds. Although still on the edges of mainstream society, people have experimented with the sharing of skills in a variety of ways including community resource mapping and bartering networks.
Communities of difference
One of the most important benefits of creating permaculture projects in cities is that urban neighbourhoods can more easily develop into vibrant communities based on difference.
This reaffirms one of the most important principles of permaculture — that diversity creates resilience. Perhaps the most exciting thing about permaculture in cities is that it allows us to collectively imagine a different kind of world, one that is ecologically regenerative and socially just. Join the permaculture movement and actively create a regenerative future shared by all.
Thanks for reading!
I'm a permaculture educator and anti-racist, feminist activist in London, ON, Canada. I am currently a PhD candidate in Geography at Western University, where I study the relationship between people and bees in cities. My M.A. in Anthropology, also at Western University, focused on gentrification and belonging in a community garden in Toronto. I live in a suburban permaculture sanctuary with my family, two dogs, three cats, two bunnies, and thousands of gorgeous, busy bees. I maintain the blog Permaculture for the People.
Want to know more?
I am so excited to be teaching urban permaculture as part of the first online Permaculture Design Certificate taught exclusively by women. If you would like to know more or would like to have me as your permaculture design reviewer, please check out my blog and get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
#growyourown #foodnotlawns #urbanpermaculture #permaculture
with Ridhi D’Cruz
Excerpted from our double certificate design course
We often think about permaculture as the noble practice of regenerative land management. But as I’ve walked this path, I have also realised that collaborating with land is a source of deep healing for people that is differently accessible to people. For healthy human and ecological communities then, we must look at the barriers of access to land and creative solutions to equitable distribution of resources and opportunities.
Some groundbreaking work that I’ve had the opportunity to participate in is my work in Portland with City Repair. We work hard to increase opportunities for stewarding land in urban areas in unconventional ways. City Repair has facilitated over 500 projects in the public right-of-way, or on private land but for public benefit, through education all over the city of Portland. In this way we are able to cater to both landowners and renters. Projects have included over 50 intersection paintings, over two dozen earthen buildings and various gardens.
The main idea behind these projects is to revive the urban commons by reclaiming street intersections with public art, ecological landscaping, earthen buildings and other community amenities that invite hyper local community building and resilience. These projects are scalable to meet the needs, desires and capacities of the communities themselves. In fact, project proposals come from the communities, and City Repair just supports these initiatives with our experience and social capital.
We focus on the commons because it is an integral piece of a regenerative culture that often gets lost in big cities. In most of contemporary society, economic capital is valued so much more than social and ecological capital that we often make decisions that fray the complex web of relations that support a healthy place. Our creative placemaking initiatives are an attempt at physically and psychologically re-patterning cities with a more sustainable culture by giving people the opportunity to have power in their places irrespective of whether or not they ‘own’ it.
People have gone on to make various community amenities including cob ovens, benches and kiosks, permaculture gardens from parking strips to community orchards, little free libraries and intersection paintings that tell the unique story of that place and its inhabitants.
The Dialogue Dome cob bench in the background is one of the main reasons I ended up choosing to pursue my Masters degree at Portland State University (PSU). There is something profoundly powerful about an earthen building in a public space in the middle of downtown Portland, adjacent to our student union building. This picture was taken at the end of the Village Building Convergence (VBC) 2014, where the last day of the 10-day urban permaculture festival was hosted by us students at our cob oven just to the right. Due to fire-related issues, the cob oven was removed in 2017.-- Photo by passerby, 2014.
A colleague at the Student Sustainability Center (formerly the Sustainability Leadership Center) had worked out an agreement with our State Department of Transportation via the Adopt a Highway Program. We made an agreement to steward the strangely triangular shaped plot of land adjacent to the freeway as a community orchard and gathering place. For our opening of the space, we inoculated mycelium into cardboard and embedded them into the soil. Photo taken by campus photographer, 2011.
We hosted a VBC placemaking site at PSU and built a Peace on Earthbench in our new community orchard. The site has had challenges in terms of activity with transient folks that we are still trying to work out. My dream is to integrate a program that includes transient people into the site’s stewardship, turning a problem into a solution..
This parking strip food forest designed by fellow permaculturalist Marisha Auerbach has transformed my understanding of urban food production. We collaborated with our sister organization Communitecture, and harvested pounds upon pounds of fresh delicious fruit every summer when we were renting our shared office space there.-- Photo by passerby, 2016.
In 2017, we won a grant through the Bureau of Environmental Services to install pollinator-friendly species on parking strips adjacent to intersection repairs. This is a picture of us installing a pollinator parking strip at SE 11 & Clatsop by Ayomide’s rental home. With limited financial resources and as a renter, these small interventions substantially impact the lives of our community members.-- Photo by one of our City Repair volunteers, 2017.
First created at our campus garden is the Grazing Garden, adjacent to the cob oven and dialogue dome on campus. This public altar was the culmination of us reviving the garden after it had been lying dormant for a few years. One of the biggest challenges with the commons is creating a resilient culture of stewardship that maintains its health along with the neighboring communities’ health.
Painting the street outside my current residence, Portland’s second mid-block street painting. The mid-block painting was an amendment we made in 2015 to our intersection painting ordinance from 1996 to ensure that one of our community members was able to breathe life into the vision of her community.-- Photo by Ridhi D’Cruz, 2015.
A suggestion for how you could tend the Commons in your area would be to volunteer with an ecological restoration project including: water commons (river/beach clean up), nature commons (invasive species removal in a park), food commons (work parties at community orchards/ food forests).
This miniclass is excerpted from the Placemaking module of our double-certificate design course, taught by Ridhi D'Cruz.
Ridhi D’Cruz is one of three co-Executive Directors of City Repair, a Portland, Oregon based nonprofit working on community development, permaculture and urban design. As an intercontinental cross-pollinator, sociocultural anthropologist, and permaculture educator who has been living in Portland since 2010, Ridhi participates, facilitates, and supports various initiatives in the areas of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Placemaking, Capacity Building, Houseless Advocacy, Native American Allyship, Cultural Sustainability, and Social Permaculture. She is also a passionate herbalist, urban wildcrafter, natural building and participatory technology enthusiast, animal lover, and urban permaculture homesteader.
You can reach her at email@example.com
Further reading on this topic:
Kaddachi, Aurore and Sapru, Tanviya. Vruksha: Bangalore’s tree doctor is determined to save the ‘Garden City’ of India.
Citi Io. Our Modern Grid Design for Cities: Not so modern after all.
#urbancommons #urbanpermaculture #freepermaculture #permaculturewomen
#streetpainting #foodforest #foodnotlawns
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