Sustainable Gardening - Old Concept, New Twist
- by Regan Carney
While my husband and I were sawing and lopping and clipping away a rampant clump of tall privet, wisteria, smilax and dewberry canes, I was thinking of the permaculture idea of a “food forest” or “forest garden."
In just three years, the privet had grown to 15 feet, the cherry tree was about 4” in diameter and was now taller than the privet and the wisteria climbed all the way to the top of the cherry tree. The canes around the edges were thick and quite prolific. I will admit that the reason for cutting this all back (we kept the cherry) was so that the satellite dish which connects us to the internet and the TV could once again see the mother ship.
The Town Green
This is not new. It has been and is being used by peoples all over the world that live on small plots of farmable land. The land can be extraordinarily prolific if all the needs of the plants can be met. Once that happens, there is little for the human to do but harvest and replant. A good example of this is Native American use of corn, beans and squash or the “Three Sisters:. The corn is planted first and once it has reached a certain height, the beans are planted and then a bit later, the squash is planted. The corn acts as a pole for the beans, the beans fix nitrogen in the soil, and the squash leaves keep the water from evaporating too quickly and shades out most of the weeds.
What is new is the use of technology and architecture and social concepts . I am not going to pretend that I understand all of this, but I can give you a reading list and encourage you to go to the next meeting of the sustainable agriculture group that has sprung up recently. Sustainable agriculture is a more understandable and concrete term than permaculture.
Oh yeah, that is very intellectual stuff. But we have to start somewhere, so sustainable agriculture is a good starting point. If you are interested in alternative materials for building a house, here is the resource. Have you thought of turning your pond into a fish farm that feeds lettuce that then feeds the fish? Here is where the ideas meet up. Just do a Bing search of Permaculture or Food Forest videos to become really excited by the tangible results that are possible in your backyard.
Bill Mollison: Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual, Tagari Publications (1988)
David Holmgren: “The essence of Permaculture”, Holmgren Design Services (2006)
Robert Hart: Forest Gardening:cultivating an edible landscape, Chelsea Green Pub. Co. (1996)
Geoff Lawton: geofflawton.com/sq/15449-geoff-lawton