Today, many people have become more conscious of the need to reduce their impact on the environment. Making our carbon footprints smaller is a crucial first step, and it involves a complete lifestyle change.
For example, for people who have gardens, permaculture is a great way to transform your yard—it gives you a food source while ensuring that you maximize your space. Making your space over is easier said than done, though—there are things to keep in mind when learning how to start an edible garden.
Choose Plants for Your Climate and Soil
Picking the best plants for your circumstances is harder to avoid than you think. Besides climate and soil, you also need to consider water requirements. Group drought-tolerant and thirsty plants, and keep the latter in a place with good access to water.
Permaculture allows you to create a self-sufficient ecosystem in the long run. However, adding exotic plants could cause your food forest’s canopy layer to fill in a little slowly. When adding these kinds of plants, don’t make them the mainstay, and be sure you can provide them the care they need.
Use Sheet Mulching when Building Soil
If you have a watering system in place, use sheet mulch to lessen the need for upkeep. Mulching lets you eliminate weeds or keep them to a minimum. It also enables you to prepare a large area and make it easy to tidy up. Note, though, that mulching can introduce more resilient types of weed. Instead of smothering it out, you can use the weed as a resource.
Harvest the weeds and turn them into fermented tea, and apply it back to the area where you’re growing plants. Biodynamic compost preparations in the weed tea balance the soil composition and speed up the process of building healthy soil.
Always Have Nitrogen Fixers
When you learn to grow your own food, you’ll quickly find out that you cannot have just fruit-bearing trees in your garden. You need all sorts of plants, especially nitrogen-fixing ones.
Allocate space for clover, mimosa, Siberian peashrub, empress trees, Goumi berry, or thornless honeylocust trees. Plants become more productive because of nitrogen fixation. When plants don’t have enough of this element, they cannot produce enough amino acids, which help them create proteins for growth.
Leave Enough Space between Plants
Measure the plot where you want your plants. Overcrowded plants are not as robust or fruitful as ones with plenty of breathing room, so make sure you leave enough space between them. You can fill the space with biomass crops like comfrey, alfalfa, and Jerusalem artichoke. Regularly chop down your biomass—at least four times a year—to promote soil health.
You could also plant annuals like melons and squash between new trees. A downside to using annuals is that they will use soil without allowing periods for replenishment. However, you will harvest a crop.
Finally, you could plant a mix of pollinators, biomass, ground cover, and nitrogen-fixing plants. This method requires a woodchip mulch and plenty of patience, but it involves the least amount of work in the long run.
Strategize Well for Thorny Plants
It’s not inherently bad to use plants with thorns in permaculture. However, you need to get around issues regarding harvesting. First, you have to ensure you can approach thorny plants from all sides. If you want to reach into this kind of plant and harvest its fruit, don’t plant it in a corner. Put all your thorny shrubs and plants in a row so you can access their sides easily.
Another issue with these kinds of plants is that they make it tricky to harvest other types. Keep thorny things away from fruit-bearing trees, or plant them close to ones that don’t need harvesting, like nitrogen fixers.
Developing an empty yard into a food forest takes time. While mistakes are unavoidable, you can minimize them and ensure that your plants and trees have the best chance of survival. With dedication, you can grow an edible landscape that’s both beautiful and sustaining.
Finally, watch out for Part Two of this discussion, where we discuss permaculture pitfalls to avoid. You don’t want to miss that!
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