|Permaculture bed June 23, 2012|
One of the things that permaculture stresses is to make everything multi-functional, called 'stacking functions'. One example would be to build a trellis over a deck or patio for shade and grow a grape vine on it to provide shade and fruit in summer, as well as bird and insect habitat, while still allowing warm sunshine in during winter when it is welcome.
Another example is to plant a bed with a variety of vegetables, annuals, bi-annuals and even perennials all mixed together. As you harvest the fastest growers you leave room for the other plants to mature.
I experimented with the concept this summer. This small bed in my front yard gets a far amount of afternoon shade, helping to keep it a little cooler than more open areas. In mid-May I planted salad bowl lettuce and some Golden Bantam corn. It was still just cool enough to get the lettuce to sprout. The lettuce acted as a kind of ground cover, helping shade the soil and keep moisture in and gave me several cuts of leaves before it got too hot.
As the lettuce disappeared in the heat I planted some white scallop summer squash. I also allowed a few edible weeds to grow. (I did take out that sunflower in the first picture; this type has tiny seeds which the gold finches love, but it produces a huge amount of pollen that really causes my allergies to act up).
|Permaculture bed Aug 22, 2012|
This bed is not very big, about 34" wide and 8' long, making it less than 24 square feet of growing space. Also it is a fairly new bed so the fertility of the soil is not up to full speed yet.
Despite these problems it has been fairly productive, so far this year it has yielded about 5 pounds of lettuce, 3 pounds of squash (with more on the vine) and 10 ears of sweet corn. In addition it has contributed several buckets of amaranth and lambs quarters to feed the rabbits and chickens. I'll be experimenting with this concept some more next year and in the meantime I'll be working to boost the soil's fertility and organic matter.
To learn more about permaculture, it's principles and ideals and how to apply it to your garden I highly recommend Gaia's Garden by Toby Hemenway