I’m addicted to gardening shows. During one watching spree, I tuned into what the gardener was saying, not only what he was doing as he strolled through the pathways and trails in his backyard urban-lot garden. I realized that his garden’s organized chaos was kind of like mine. He used the word permaculture to describe the plan behind his horticultural chaos. What is permaculture anyway?
Permaculture has five principals to achieve a harmonious integration of landscape with people, and it dawned on me that I had accidentally adopted these five tenants in my own garden!
1. Closed Looped System: any system that provides for its own energy.
Rather than importing fertilizer, I used home-grown compost from chicken waste, shredded paper, kitchen trash, and garden clippings.
2. Multiple Function: every component of a structure or landscape should fulfill more than one purpose.
My raised beds were designed so that I, as a person with physical disabilities, could sit on the edge of the retaining walls that were built to contain soil erosion and water retention. Also, my curving pathways served to lead people towards different garden destinations as well as mimicking the curves and lines naturally found in nature.
3. Perennial Crops: plants that return each year and preserve the soil’s ecosystem since the dirt doesn’t need turning over annually to accommodate new plantings.
Most of my flowers are perennials. They attract pollinators, who in turn pollinate the vegetable garden.
4. Eco Earth Works: water conservation constructs.
I have several rain barrels to collect as much rainwater as possible, and I built a dry creek bed to direct excess water flow towards a specific destination instead of eroding the soil in its run-off path.
5. Let Nature Work for You: work with the natural forces of wind, sun, and water.
My yard-long green beans that produce all summer need a trellis on which to grow. My chickens need extra shade to shield them from the hot Texas afternoon sun. Therefore, I placed the trellis so that as the green bean vines grow, they form a sun barrier for the chickens and meet the needs of the yard-longs to grow upright in full sun.
With these five guidelines, I’m honoring the cadence of life, whether resting under the shade canopy of a tree or harvesting a crop from my full-sun raised beds.
How are you honoring life’s flow in your garden?
And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.