Practicing permaculture to save the Earth is a big undertaking, but we can do our part by creating gardens built on the principals of diversity, stability and resilience.
Contra Costa, Calif., Master Gardener Marian Woodard says backyard gardeners focused on permaculture – a practice that seeks permanent cultural changes in how we interact with nature – can lead the way in the effort of bringing the planet back into balance.
Permaculture is a concept that looks beyond a single plant, garden or agricultural endeavor, and instead looks at the whole circle of life and what is needed to sustain it.
In backyard gardens, that means growing plants that help each other as well as feeding the gardener, and recycling water, eliminating waste and working with instead of against nature.
Here are her tips for creating a balanced garden.
Be clear about what you want your garden to be and do, and when making decisions ask yourself three questions. Is it good for the environment? Is it good for the people? Can your reinvest the dividend? If the answer isn’t yes, rethink your garden plan.
Take a long walk in your garden, looking at it as if you’re seeing it for the first time. Look at what is working and what isn’t.
Research the problems in your garden and the solutions.
Sketch out a plan noting the sectors and vectors – all the things that affect your garden, both positively and negatively. Sectors are the energies that move through and to your garden, such as wind, rain, sun and hardscape. Vectors are the negatives or restrictive things. Think about how you can work with the sectors and mitigate or address the vectors.
Think about zones. The first zone would the area closest to your backdoor. In this zone, you would grow plants that need the most attention. The farther out, the less involvement is required.
Build plant guilds. These are plants that support other plants. For example, if you have an apple tree, think about what you can do to make sure the tree becomes the best it can be. It will need pollinators, so grow plants that will attract bees. It will need nutrients, so grow plants that will put down deep roots and bring up macronutrients in their leaves, which can then be mulched to feed the soil, and the tree, when they drop.
Look at ways to reuse and recycle the water coming onto your property.
Don’t rototill the soil. It destroys microbial life below the surface.
Compost and mulch with abandon.
Observe, correct and repeat. Don’t think of your garden as seasonal, but one that goes on year after year.
Next time in the garden, no-till gardening.