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Permaculture gardens

PETER ALEXANDER
special to the daily

According to Nikki Phipps, who wrote “The Essence of Permaculture Gardening”, permaculture gardens use techniques and practices that combine the best of wildlife gardening, edible landscaping, and native plant cultivation into one low-maintenance, self-contained and productive ecosystem.

With increased awareness of sustainability, creating a garden that closely mimics nature is the idea behind permaculture, and creating a landscape that uses space wisely and recycles material is a guiding principal for this gardening method.

One type of permaculture is called a Keyhole Garden. Keyhole Gardens work well in small spaces and are generally shaped to provide easy access from all sides, such as a horseshoe or circular garden bed. Raised beds are a common practice here because bending over or stooping to maintain the garden is kept at a minimum. To build a raised bed, stake where you want the center of the garden and measure out to a distance that, from any side, you will have access to the whole bed. If you are going to put the raised bed on a part of the lawn, first put down some wet cardboard or newspaper on the ground in the shape of the bed. This will help to keep unwanted vegetation from entering the planting bed and the paper and cardboard will eventually break down and provide nutrients for the soil.

Another permaculture practice, and keeping with using available space, is vertical gardening. You can use trellises for this or you can create a hanging garden. The idea here is to use every space available, and keeping the plants you will use the most, or that require regular maintenance, within easy reach.

A permaculture garden is usually small, and the soil is an important aspect. Worms help keep the soil loose and, along with beneficial insects, will aid with the overall health of the soil.

Waste generated from permaculture gardens can be used for compost that can be used later for fertilizer or for amending the soil. As with any garden, water plays a major role in keeping the soil moist and the plants hydrated. A bird bath, or a small pond, can also be used to bring wildlife to the permaculture garden which helps mimic a natural setting by encouraging insects, birds, frogs, and other small wildlife to visit your garden. Incorporating a small water feature will also eliminate the need for pesticides as the creatures attracted to the water will feed on the pests in a peramculture garden. Using what is called companion planting can also help to keep pests away from your garden. A lot of plants have elements in their roots or flowers that either attract or repel insects, and using certain plants together can actually enhance the flavor or growth of other plants in your garden.

Less maintenance is required of a permaculture garden, and, after establishing itself, a permaculture garden only needs harvesting, water, and some occasional mulch or working of the soil. Once you’ve spent the time getting your garden going, it can essentially take care of itself.

For more useful information on starting your own permaculture garden, visit http://permacultureprinciples.com/resources_holistic.php

This article was written by Peter Alexander of Neils Lunceford Landscape Design/Build (www.neilslunce ford.com). Peter can be reached at (970) 468-0340, or at peteralexander@neilslunceford.com


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