Permaculture gardening requires a lot of effort, but the long-term rewards are worth it. Besides helping you reduce your carbon footprint, it ensures that you maximize your space and help the local ecosystem thrive. In Part One of our post, we gave tips for prepping the soil and choosing plants. Here, we talk about mistakes beginners make when growing an edible garden.
Mistake #1: Planting Before Irrigation Is in Place
Don’t plant without planning your irrigation. If you do, you’ll struggle to find the time to put it together since you’ll be doing so much watering. In dry climates, wood chips are insufficient—you need regular watering as well. Always have a watering plan, especially if you live in a place where the temperatures reach the 90s.
Mistake #2: Not Incorporating Aesthetics
Permaculture purists don’t pay much attention to visual appeal. In suburban settings, though, they are a necessity, especially for front yards. Choose flowering and fruit-bearing shrubs and plants, and arrange your plants artfully to make your landscaping just as aesthetically pleasing as the typical kind.
Include pollinators like yarrow and purple coneflower, which are both vibrant and have medicinal value. You could also plant herbs with pretty flowers, which can repel insects and have culinary uses.
Mistake #3: Relying on Woodchips Only
Woodchips are an excellent tool for permaculture gardening, but it isn’t a cure-all. Though they retain water, too much of it could prevent water from seeping into the soil. When there is enough green matter, this material can decompose naturally, but the process takes at least two years.
Ensure that your plants get the right amount of moisture by watering plants deeply and less frequently. Decomposition is slow, so don’t rely on woodchips as nourishment for the first few years. Have at least four inches of compost under the chips and plant biomass crops to nourish the soil.
Mistake #4: Letting Chickens Roam Right Away
Chickens ranging through a tree-lined backyard is the quintessential picture of slow living. Don’t rush out to get chickens for your food forest, though—at least, not while your plants are established. Many plants need to build their resilience over time, and you won’t be helping things if you introduce animals that could dig up the roots. Wait until you have groundcover, so about two to three years. Once you have it, the pecking and scratching will be more helpful than harmful to your plants.
You could also confine the chickens to a small area of dirt—it isn’t an ideal option, but if you already have the birds, it’s a quick solution. The first thing you could do is move your chickens from one area to another with a chicken tractor. Doing this allows you to control what they can access. You can also confine the chickens to rotating paddocks.
A third option would be to protect the new plants and let the chickens roam free. You can lay down chicken wire around the plants and cover the corners with woodchips and rocks. You could also use a barrel with the bottom cut out—place it around the bush or tree.
It takes nearly ten years to cultivate a thriving and self-sufficient food forest. However, if you are determined to learn how to grow your own garden, it’ll be a manageable journey. It also helps to keep reading other references and learning tips from others who have been where you are!
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