By Debbie Goodwin
Turn a labor- and resource-intensive landscape into a beautiful and bountiful place with relatively little work, harvesting the fruits (and vegetables) of your labor simply by working with nature instead of trying to manipulate it. This concept is called permaculture meaning “permanent agriculture” coined by Bill Mollison, an Australian ecologist and his student David Holmgren. Permaculture uses the inherent qualities of plants, animals and the natural environment, combined with human needs to produce a self-reliant, life-supporting system using the smallest practical area. It’s principles can be applied to almost any setting from farm to suburban backyard, from schoolyards to businesses; 1) ecologically sound and economically viable, 2) provides a portion of its own needs, and 3) does not pollute or exploit its setting. Once a landscape is modified to incorporate these principles you have created a closed system that is non-polluting and does not import or export materials therefore self-sustaining.
Some basic permaculture ideas for your makeover:
- Use pathways for composting: Pathways do double duty as big, long compost areas—you just deposit clippings and other composting materials on the paths right next to where you are working, the stomping around you do on the paths aids the formation of rich topsoil.
- Plant narrow or keyhole shaped beds: These bed layouts allow easy access to plants that have long harvesting periods like perennial culinary herbs and ever-bearing strawberries, and annual peas and lettuce, and also provide the most exposure to sun.
- Plant herbs under trees: The areas under fruit and nut trees are ideal for planting comfrey, fennel, chives, bee balm, and other aromatic herbs. These herbs provide important nutrients for the trees, attract bees and other beneficial insects for garden pollination and as predators to harmful insects that will feed on your garden plants.
- Use trellises and fences: Plant-supporting trellises are space-saving devices for both urban and rural gardens and when covered with perennials vines such as hops and grapes they can shade the house, porch, or patio. Fences are usually needed in Central Oregon to keep the deer out but they also create very fertile zones on either side. Birds perch on fences “poop” out seeds they have eaten with fertilizer planting a diverse array of plants along your fence.
- Create an herb spiral: An herb spiral can accommodate all the basic culinary herbs on a mound of earth that’s 6 feet wide at the base and rises 2 feet high in terraces which can be created using some of our native rocks. One sprinkler, placed at the top will water the entire herb spiral. For the herb spiral’s sunny dry spots herbs such as sage, thyme, cilantro, and rosemary can be planted and the moist, shady spots are great for mint, parsley, chives, and basil.
- Refer to the “Permaculture Before and After Makeover Plan” for further ideas.
You have the ability to create an environment that is healthy for you and the natural environment in which you live.
Debbie Goodwin is a gust contributor to the Green Spot blog. She is a Garden and Permaculture Designer at Heart Springs Design and Nursery, a regionally inspired and value based landscape design firm for active Central Oregon lifestyles. “We strive to create exciting livable landscapes that live lightly on the planet.”