If you’ve attended any of our landscaping classes, then you’ve probably heard the phrase “Right Plant, Right Place”. This phrase is a simple reminder to research plant growth habits and growing conditions before making selections for your landscape. This not only holds true for ornamental plants, but for edible crops as well. A term used to describe the use of edibles as ornamentals is “Permaculture”. Now this is an extremely simplified definition of the term, but permaculture comes from a combination of the words “permanent” and “agriculture”. The thought behind permaculture is to fashion an edible landscape after a natural ecosystem.
There are a number of strategies to becoming a successful permaculturist. Below you will find a few examples.
- Site Observation and Analysis – The slope, orientation to the sun, and sectors of your yard should all be documented.
- Slope – Identifying the slope of your yard can help you determine the natural flow of water and nutrients. For example, if you have a hill in your back yard you may want to install some plant beds between the peak of the slope and your house. These beds will help absorb water and nutrients before they have a chance to reach the house.
- Orientation – Think about the location, relevant to your house, of each of your edible landscape areas. The eastern side of your house receives morning sunlight, which is much cooler than the western side of your house that receives sunlight in the afternoon. A tomato plant will be much happier if it can avoid the afternoon heat.
- Sectors – While walking your property, you will notice differences in soil texture, soil moisture, and the plants and weeds growing in these different areas. You can divide your yard based on these characteristics along with slope, orientation, and shade percentage to develop sectors of your property.
- Cover Crops and Living Mulch – Cover crops are planted in areas that you would normally allow to go fallow. Living mulches are plants that are planted alongside edible plants to help fill voids. The benefits of both are listed below.
- Weed Supression
- Erosion Control
- Produce and/or Scavenge Nutrients
- Nematode Supression
- Harbor Beneficial Insects
- Space Utilization – The third criteria is to mimic a forest. Just like any good forest, your “forest garden” will consist of different layers of vegetation.
- You can start by planting large deciduous trees such as pecans or pears farthest from the house. These trees will allow filtered light to penetrate the layer below.
- Next, you can plant smaller fruit trees such as citrus or peaches along the understory of the larger trees.
- Then, you can plant your vegetable and herb garden around your fruit tree plantings.
- Finish by planting root and vining vegetables such as carrots or sweet potatoes at the edge of the forest.
We’ve just scratched the surface of the concept of permaculture, but I encourage you to dig a little deeper. What could be the harm with being able to eat your landscape? Just don’t eat too much or you may lose your landscape entirely!
An “Intermediate Permaculture” class is scheduled for Saturday, September 23 at the Jackson County Extension Office. For more information, please call (850)-482-9620 and ask for Matt.
For more information on permaculture please visit the NC State Permaculture Page.
For more information on “Right Plant, Right Place” please visit the UF/IFAS Florida Friendly Living Site.