Permaculture: A Perfect Mess

Permaculture was “founded” in Australia by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the 1970’s. It combines age-old indigenous wisdom with new insights emerging in Indiana.  It is my intention to embrace nature’s dynamic, eclectic, and creative discipline.   Here are my principles in motion.

Permaculture Principles in my garden at Gateway South

  • Observation – Gateway South is an urban environment on the near South side of Indianapolis. There is under two acres because of the residence on this urban homestead.  This is the high point of the community the land drains to the North.  There is an inactive well on the property.
  • Native Plants – Since native plants are bested adapted to and integrated within the my micro-ecology they include .
  • Perennial Plants – At U-Relish Farm perennial plants are favored over annuals as they can become long term members of an urban plant community and generally require less labor and resources than annuals. Annual vegetables and herbs, however, also have an important place in our sustainable food system.
  • Relationships – Diverse plants with companion relationships are desired. These relationships will create a “synergistic” effect, creating a thriving ecological community. Etc. Borage by the Peach trees and rhubarb with the strawberries.
  • Elements – U-Relish Farm has two peach trees, one apple and one pear.  The ramps are being cultivated near a beech tree, while the the herbal potager screens the street.  The raised beds is fenced on two sides and is the location for annuals.  The raspberry canes are in a line along with currants, asparagus and an active strawberry patch.
  • Functions –. Many different plants will be used to attract a variety of pollinators and other beneficial insects. Water will be harvested and retained in a variety of ways, thereby reducing demand on city water and ensuring that the system will continue to thrive during times of drought.
  • Zones – As a tool for site analysis and planning, permaculture considers every system to be comprised of five “zones”. In brief, “Zone 1” is closest to the house and includes those elements that are needed most on a day to day basis (i.e. kitchen herbs and vegetables) . Zones progress away from the house to less intensively cultivated or harvested elements all the way to Zone 5” which is “wildland” left for birds and other local wildlife.
  • Resource Use – Permaculture systems strive to use as few external “inputs” as possible and to produce as little “waste” as possible. Natural resources such as sunlight and water are absorbed and maintained within the system as long s possible. Composting and mulching are used extensively to maintain and increase soil fertility. When outside “inputs” are required, they are preferably sourced as locally as possible and are ideally “waste” from the surrounding environment.
  • Stacking – Plants incorporated into a permaculture landscape are “stacked” both in space and in time. Plants will be chosen to occupy the following 7 layers; below ground (i.e root crops), ground cover, herbaceous plants, shrubs, small trees, tall trees, and vines. Similarly, thought should be given into the long term development of the landscape over time, ensuring that the system will be thriving many years from now.

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