Permaculture and Natural Ecosystems; how to get started.

Permaculture is defined as a way of gardening or planting that works with nature, as opposed to against it. While this can mean many things to many people, here at Happy Hollows we practice it in a few special ways.

Last spring we planted several fruit trees along our lane. Like most people, we planted these as stand alone trees, but have now developed these into our permaculture garden.

Here’s how we did it.

We started with something called “sheet mulching”, which is a neat name for placing cardboard on the ground instead of digging up the earth. Why dig something up, just to mound it up later with more soil and mulch? Seems like a lot of extra work.

Back to our plan…

We laid the cardboard out, 5 feet wide and 20 feet long, between each tree in the line. We then added a weed barrier fabric over this (not necessary, but we had it anyway) and them placed a combination of earth and rabbit manure over top of all of this. We then headed out to our local eco-center and loaded up the Subaru with mulch that is freely available to everyone. We layered about 4 inches of this over everything. This helps control weeds, but also absorbs moisture to keep the plants well watered after it rains. The mulch also breaks down in about 3 years, adding more organic matter to the soil.

Next was the planting of companion plants beneath the trees.

Companion plants are ones that benefit others; either as pest control, nitrogen fixers or simply shade plants as protection from the noonday sun. We used perennials that come back every year, and sprinkled these with a few annuals for quick color. And don’t forget to add vegetable plants as well….they do amazing in a permaculture garden. Just remember to use companion vegetables that like each other. For example, zucchini, tomatoes and pumpkin love being close to nasturtium, onions, peppers, chives and parsley, but they don’t like being close to dill, fennel or potatoes. We made certain to mix our vegetables with flowers, rhubarb, gooseberries and currents so as to have a nice mixture. We repeated the plantings to add some symmetry to the beds, and voila, we have our permaculture garden. Try your own mix, and let us know what your favorites are, but above all, have fun and let nature help you make the most out of your garden.

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