Thursday, July 28, 2011

Permaculture Makes the Times

Some quotes from the Times article:
"Yet in recent years, Mr. Mollison’s ideas seem to have bubbled up from underground, into the mainstream. “I just trained the Oklahoma National Guard,” Mr. Pittman said. “If that’s any kind of benchmark.” The troops, he said, plan to apply permaculture to farming and infrastructure projects in rural Afghanistan.

This “guild” of complementary plants is the opposite of annual row-crop agriculture, with its dead or degraded soil and its constant demand for labor and fertilizer. Permaculture landscapes, which mimic the ecology of the area, are meant to be vertical, dense and self-perpetuating. Once the work of the original planting is done, Mr. Mollison jokes in one of his videos, “the designer turns into the recliner.

At the lowest level of a food forest, then, are subterranean crops like sweet potatoes and carrots. On the floor of the landscape, mushrooms can grow on felled logs or wood chips. Herbs go on the next level, along with “delicious black cap raspberries,” Ms. Joseph said.
Other shrubs, like inkberry, winterberry and elderberry, are attractive to butterflies and birds. They’re an integral part of the system, too.

Ruling the forest’s heights are the 40 large pin oaks already in the park, whose abundance of acorns will make a banquet for squirrels."

Some comments:
  • blackberries require work, just as any cultivar does.  In particular you have to fight weeds and prune the canes.  That's from personal experience.
  • also from personal experience: I've nothing against pin oaks; I've got one by my house.  But I can testify along with acorns for the squirrels, it provides lots of shade.  Hostas and impatiens do well, but I wouldn't try growing vegetables under it.  I've never tried carrots or sweet potatoes and I wouldn't; I don't want to waste my effort.
  • the idea of layering carrots, with herbs above, then raspberries is ridiculous, IMHO. 
  • permaculture does offer advantages--less erosion, but the productivity from a unit of area is going to be much less than intensive gardening, whether one uses organic methods or not.  
  • the bottom line: there's no free lunch, ever since we left the Garden of Eden you always have tradeoffs.

No comments: