"The garden produces the gardener, not the other way around."
- Alan Chadwick
Plant choice is only one of many aspects used in permaculture design. For a more thorough treatment on this subject, we first turn to the work of Australian farmer, inventor, and engineer, PA Yeomans.
He is best know for developing Keyline Design and the Scales of Permanence. These tools help us to observe our land first in a strategic way before trying to impose an arbitrary idea on it. We sing about it on this webinar to remember all the elements that go into good garden design.
Choosing the plants to grow in your yard comes after observing what already grows well in your particular climate. So it is perfect to start with observing your garden before you choose your plants.
Nine Steps to Choosing Your Plants
- Observe Your Garden.
- Visit other gardens and farms to see what grows naturally and what others are growing with great success in your region.
- Do your Internet research on native species you can use as perennials to anchor your design. Natives are no-brainer choices. Since they are naturally adapted to your region, they are sure to thrive without much work on your part. They will also support the local animal populations that would support your vegetable garden.
- Research heirloom varieties of crops with high-yields or pest-resistance.
- Conduct a food audit. Look at your grocery receipt every week and ask yourself:
- How much of which fruit or veggie do you find yourself buying?
- How much would growing it save you in terms of gas mileage, grocery dollar, time, energy, and medical bills?
- Find out what to grow for a considerable ROI. Here's a blog on High-Yield Crops.
- Consider the seasons. What season are you planning your garden for? Remember that in temperate climates, the crops we like to grow and eat are seasonal.
- Based on this data, make your initial plant list.
- Take notes during the growing season and improve your plant choices in the future.
Sometimes, the plant chooses us. It pops up in our yard, unwanted, and we call it a "weed."
The Benefits of Weeds:
- To hold together ground that is too crumbly
- To break-up soil that is compacted
- To mine nutrients from the lower, inaccessible layers of the soil
- To filter out harmful chemicals and remediate the soil
- To tell us what our soil lacks in terms of nutrients. (Here's an affiliate linked book to help in that regard)
Just as you have decided you would like to grow a specific variety of cucumbers for pickling instead of snacking on, weeds, too, have a purpose.
Sometimes, as in the case of jewelweed beside poison ivy, weeds balance things out.
(Jewelweed is a remedy for poison ivy and is often found growing close to it.)
But we do not typically plan to plant weeds.
What we do want to cultivate intentionally: our beans, our tomatoes, our squashes, we must strategically decide on first.
Choosing your plants ahead of time is one of the many secrets and joys of gardening. So do not skip this step.
You may never achieve the perfect garden design, but you will be drawn to improve your plan year after year.
Plan before you plant.