Saturday, September 7, 2019

Permaculture is not zero effort gardening

I've been thinking about the different ways people garden.
To break it up broadly.
Vegetable gardening. In plots of usually a single annual crop per
plot. multiple plots for food variety.

Ornamental gardening. Mixed perennials for visual effect.

Farming. Mass monoculture for ease of harvest and production.

Now permaculture leaps in...
and it has aspects of all of those.

Permaculture gardening:
Mixed plantings of perennials and annuals. Mixed for food variety and companion planting effects. Optimised for small scale continual subsistence labour with minimal inputs.

If closest to anything it is classic ornamental gardening.
But most people come to it from an annual vegetable gardening background.

This can have consequences in initial planting and preparation and especially in continual maintenance.
At the start of a cycle in spring. An annual gardener tends to clear the bed completely, weeds or previous planting. Maybe mulch it to suppress weeds and improve the soil. Then planting into a clear area with seeds or mass seedling.

A mixed garden will have plants already existing to maintain. They may be younger perennial plants that need mulching around, pruning, clearing competition away.
They may be established plants that need maintenance, especially pruning. Which often means getting a resource. Such as cutting back perennial basil so it doesn't overrun the garden, also means you are harvesting a bulk amount of basil that can now be processed by drying or making pesto etc
Some pruning may be needed for the health of the plant or to direct competition but the output use for it is just bio mass. Mulch or hugelkultur structure.

As people are newly introduced to perennial plants, they can have trouble with their 'weed' aspects. Mint has a terrible reputation as weed. It spreads, lives in conditions other plants can't cope with. Which really just means it's hardy. A good aspect for our plants. But we do need to control it. But that is observing and interacting a little bit as required. Most mints and family, perennial basil, lemonbalm etc can usually be kept in control by harvesting. Harvest the plant as hard as is needed to keep the plant in control. Maybe not a thing for a Zone 3 or 4 where it may escape and become a weed but perfect for Zone 1.

With planning these competitive plants  suppress the weeds you don't want. Your weeds that fill gaps are now edible. So you need to weed as a task less and less.

Annual planting almost becomes as simple as, is this different to last few years? and is there room and a reasonable environment for this year.
As the garden is established a seed bank of mixed, successful self seeded plants will populate the garden.

The effort for a permaculture garden is different to a classic vege garden. It is more continual and observation based and less in set seasonal cycles of weed, plant, weed, harvest, clear.