The Perks Of Permaculture

By Teresa Iqbal

March 18, 2015 6 min read

If you're looking to start a garden in the near future, why not create one that will require very little maintenance and resources, including time? It may sound too good to be true, but the explanation is simple. Permaculture is a practice of agriculture that takes advantage of the natural ecosystems and habits of nature. Because using this method allows plants to use resources more efficiently, you can save precious resources while creating a garden or landscape that is long-lasting and abundant.

One of the best approaches to take when establishing a system of permaculture in your home is to choose to grow perennial flowers and other perennial plants. Perennial plants return year after year with little to no maintenance. This means that you only have to plant them once to reap the benefits for a lifetime.

There are lots of perennial flowers available to choose from. Hydrangeas, lavender and peonies are all examples of flowers that will continue to bloom each year. For homeowners, perennial flowers can prove especially enticing, as they help to establish a beautiful landscape that will accentuate a home for many years to come. Many potential buyers see landscaping as a large expense, so having a garden full of perennial flowers would be a great added feature to calculate into the value of any home.

For those who choose to utilize their outdoor space as a vegetable garden instead, there are many vegetable perennials to take advantage of, as well. Artichokes and asparagus are two common perennial favorites. Although they make take a few years to get established, they will indeed produce every year once they are mature enough. There are several hardy herbs, such as rosemary and sage, that also require very little maintenance. They can be easily harvested and used to add variety and flavor to many different dishes.

The moringa is a tree popular among health nuts and is another example of a perennial plant. It is praised for its nutritional content, as it produces highly nutritious leaves that are packed with protein. The blog How to Grow Perennial Vegetables, which focuses on teaching readers about perennial vegetables, explains that most perennial vegetables are very nutritionally dense, considering that they "have some of the highest protein content, lowest sugar, and tons of minerals. Tuber crops from Groundnuts have over 17 percent protein." Jerusalem artichokes "produce inulin which is a prebiotic that maintains healthy gut flora, and the spinach/kale crops are high in iron and calcium." So if you're looking for plants that are both healthful and easy to maintain, perennials are the answer.

When it comes to preparing the gardening space for your perennial plants, sheet mulching is a useful permacultural practice to consider. Sami Grover, a writer for TreeHugger, explains the usefulness of mulch: "Mulch is a central tool for keeping weeds down, keeping water where it's needed, and keeping work to a minimum." This environment is similar to the natural ecosystem of many forests. Sheet mulching (also called lasagna composting) consists of several layers of organic materials. It's a process that is best done in advance of any planting so that the materials have time to adequately break down. You want to begin with a layer of cardboard or newspaper, which helps to keep weeds from penetrating into your garden. Then you will need to cover this layer with about an inch of nitrogen material. This can include vegetable scraps, used coffee grounds and fresh grass clippings. Next, add an inch of carbon material, which could be leaves, wood chips or more newspaper or cardboard. Continue to layer an inch of the nitrogen and carbon material one on top of another until the desired height is reached.

Chop 'n' drop is another form of permacultural mulching. Similar to sheet mulching, chop 'n' drop helps to keep soil healthy by conserving water, preventing weeds and providing it with beneficial nutrients. Fortunately, it is a very easy process, consisting of simply letting the pruned leaves of plants fall to the ground. This creates the layer of natural mulch. It's important to choose only specific plants when using this method. Some of the best choices include species that will regrow several times during the year. Nitrogen-fixing legumes, such as alfalfa and soybeans, are another good choice, as they help to fertilize soil especially well. The only important consideration is to keep the droppings away from the roots of trees so that they don't attempt to compete with each other. Beyond this, chop 'n' drop is a simple and effective way of reusing resources to create healthy soil that requires very little maintenance.

Deciding to plant low-maintenance vegetables and flowers in a natural environment is one of the wisest decisions that any gardener can make. Less time and money spent on watering, planting and pulling weeds means more time spent on enjoying homegrown vegetables and beautiful flowers that can easily last for decades in your garden.

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