Saturday, September 17, 2016

Permaculture-companion planting on steroids

Sunday, September 18, 2016

You may have heard something about permaculture.  The book “Gaia’s Garden” brought this type of gardening to many.  What is it?

Permaculture is creating a synergistic garden; one that is symbiotic and supporting.  It includes enriching the soil, planting for nutrients, planting for shade, planting for food, landscaping for water, planting to attract beneficial insects, planting to repel bad bugs, planting to optimize your harvests.  It is all of this combined.

You need to look at your site to determine what it needs.  You can go big and do it all or start small and work your way into more of a self-sustaining garden.
For prepping the soil, start with sheet mulching Put in a new garden bed the easy way-really   You are basically composting in place, building incredible rich soil, alive with microbial and worm activity, which provide all the nourishment plants need to thrive.  The great thing about this technique is that no tilling is required!  Prepare in the fall and by spring, the bed is ready for planting.  Weed free, self fertilizing, till free garden beds
Before I heard about permaculture, I started by doing a soil test, adding the nutrients it indicated, and composting.  I added first herbs, then vegetables amongst my flowers.  Get the most from your space-plant intensively!  I am a big fan of interplanting in the mulched flower beds.  
A good thing to do is to look at how your water drains.  Create small swells/berms to move the water to where you want it to go-like your vegetables.  This will significantly reduce your watering needs.
Add shade to reduce your utility bills and give relief to your plants.  In the spring, all of your vegetables love the sun.  Come summer, many appreciate some shade and cooler temperatures, particularly greens.  Even peppers get sunburned when temps get in the 90’s in full sun all day.  Some relief from afternoon sun is appreciated.
The beneficial, pollinating insects love the herbal flowers and the ornamental flowers.  The pollinators insure the vegetable flowers are pollinated to produce their fruits.  If the flowers are not pollinated, they will just fall off.  We garden organically and only use organic insecticides in dire times.  Insecticides don’t know the difference between a good bug and a bad bug; it kills them all.  If you can wait, the bad bugs will attract the good bugs that eat them.  Then, you will have balance.  The first year, I bought insects that feed on the bad insects (lady bugs, parasitic wasps, and preying mantis).  It takes them a year or two to get established.
You can plant flowers that naturally repel the bad bugs like nasturtium and wild marigold (tagetes minuta).  I put nasturtium in pots and circle the bed with marigolds.   Mosquito repellant plants & natural trap
Planting trees and bushes provide shelter for birds that love to eat insects.  Look for trees and bushes that provide food for the birds, including winter berries.  Birds help to keep the garden in balance.  Don’t forget a water source so they can get a drink.  Make sure the water stays clean or the birds can get sick.

You can also add perennial vegetables, fruits and herbs to bolster the self sustaining garden.  Perennial veggies in the Midwest garden
Also interplanting vegetables and herbs that support others is a win-win.  An example is placing “nitrogen fixers” next to plants that love nitrogen.  You can also place nitrogen lovers in the spot the nitrogen fixers were.  Well known nitrogen fixers are peas and beans.  Clover also does the job and it is edible.  Companion planting
A couple of common plants that bring an assortment of nutrients up from deep in the soil is mustard and dandelions.  If you want a larger leaf dandelion, the French dandelion is the ticket.  You get great salad greens even in the heat of summer and an auto nutrient fertilizer.  Grow Cultivated Dandelions
There are even plants that are good for breaking up your soil.  These are ones that go deep, like daikon, chicory, dandelion, and mustard.
This is just some of the highlights of “permaculture” to give you an idea of what it is about.

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