"Better than any argument is to rise at dawn and pick dew-wet berries in a cup." Wendell Berry
Permaculture, quickly becoming Andy’s passion, is a system of agricultural design principles centered around utilizing the patterns and features observed in a natural ecosystem. The term permaculture (as a systematic method) was first coined by Australians David Holmgren, then a graduate student and his professor, Bill Mollison, in 1978.e
We simply call it permanent agriculture. This system of planting utilizes layers of perennial crops. Its basis is found in the seven layers of a natural food forest, which is a part of permaculture. The first layer consists of the canopy layer, and is made up of full-sized fruit, nut or other useful trees with spaces between the trees to allow plenty of light to reach the other layers. Then comes the shade tolerant trees. These can be some of the same trees as in layer one, but grafted onto dwarf or semi-dwarf rootstock, or simply naturally smaller trees. The layer that follow are then the shrub layer and includes things such as blueberry, hazelnut, butterfly bush and Siberian pea shrub. The herbaceous layer comes next and is made up of non-woody vegetation such as culinary herbs and vegetables. The fifth layer is the vine layer where plants such as kiwi and grape use the trees as their climbing frame. Next comes the ground layer and is made up of low ground hugging plants that preferably offer food or habit such as strawberry, clover, and creeping thyme. Then comes the root layer. Included in this layer are garlic, onions, and Jerusalem artichokes.
We began implementing this method in 2015 by reinventing the idea of our home orchard. This process began with building an eight foot fence around the remains of this orchard. I say remains because white tailed deer had wreaked havoc on many of our fruit trees over the years. We began sheet mulching the areas to be planted. We used what was already planted in this orchard as our pattern and just started filling in the spaces. Every year, new plants are added or grafted in.
We have been amazed at the number and variety of plants that we are able to fit into a relatively small space. We are still filling in and have plenty of area to go! We are just beginning this journey and are beyond excited to consume the results!
What we have done
We continue to add to our home orchard. We have added approximately 25-30 new perennial plants species and more waiting to be planted this year. We have also created various fruit and nut guilds within the garden.
What we are doing
We are continuing to add new varieties every year. Andy has grafted several different trees this year that will be added to the food forest. We are still studying to make the best guilds by learning what makes the best companions for our nut and fruit trees. But we don't think it’s a mistake to plant any tree, any time!
What we plan to do
We strive to make our forest garden a habitat for beneficial insects and pollinators through planting the species that attract these helpful supporters. We plan to increase the beneficial ground cover in the garden as well. We will continue to add to the seven layers, including last year’s grafted trees! The most exciting thing we plan to do, however, is to eat the fruit that is expected to finally begin to bear this year!