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What Does Permaculture Mean to You?

Beginnings of the South Facing Garden, 2015

When I moved here, I had NO money and the soil was horrid -- pure sand.  People told me I couldn't do permaculture in this tiny space, but I didn't listen. I did what I could, using what I had, and what I had was leaves. With lots of large trees around the complex, I started raking and piling them up on the beds in the winter, nothing else, just leaves. I would literally go back to the woods behind the complex and trim the weeds and bushes for chop-and-drop in the warmer months, because there was no room for a compost pile. Earthworms came, ate the leaves and left lots of worm poop. It took awhile before I had a bed where I didn't have to fertilize anything at all, but now I have three, and I still pile leaves on them every year.

My friend came to dig some bulbs the other day, and she kept talking about how great the soil was. If she could have seen it 5 years ago, she would have said it was hopeless. 

I have one area where I tossed all my kitchen scraps all year, and leaves in the fall/winter. My banana grows there. I never fertilize it because it's literally growing in compost. Someone came to dig a pup and asked if he could take a few of the earthworms. I wasn't paying attention, but I looked down and there were literally BALLS of them around that plant. Of course, I shared.

Don't let people tell you what you can't do. Maybe you can't plant a food forest, or build large compost piles, or do Hugelkultur, but if you look at what Mother Nature does, how plants grow in the wild, how the leaves fall to cover the ground and protect the roots and how the earthworms, soil critters and mushrooms all work together to decompose the leaves and dead foliage to feed the trees and other plants, you'll see that if you are patient, you don't need loads of money. Nature provides everything you need.

Below are pictures of that same South Facing garden from 2019. I no longer have to fertilize it. The earthworms and a network of mushroom mycelium take care of that. All I do is water as needed, which isn't very often.  In the background, you can see that banana that only gets fed kitchen scraps.

This is what permaculture means to me. I just mimic nature, like my grandmother taught me, and with patience, all things come together. I think that's what most new gardeners are missing -- patience. Nature works at her own pace. You can rush her with chemicals and poisons, but you do harm that takes years to undo.

This year, I'm taking out most of the south-facing bed because it has gotten out of control, but I won't have to amend the soil for the new seeds and plants I'll grow there. My earthworms have been chomping on leaves all winter and they are ready to go to work.