edible landscaping

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Herb Spirals

The garden spiral is like a snail shell, with stone spiraling upward to create multiple micro-climates and a cornucopia of flavors on a small footprint. Spirals can come in any size to fit any space, from an urban courtyard to an entire yard. You don’t even need a patch of ground, as they can be built on top of patios, pavement, and rooftops. You can spiral over an old stump or on top of poor soil. By building up vertically, you create more growing space, make watering easy, and lessen the need to bend over while harvesting. To boot, spirals add instant architecture and year-round beauty to your landscape: the perfect garden focal point.

One of the beauties of an herb spiral is that you are creating multiple microclimates in a small space. The combination of stones, shape, and vertical structure offers a variety of planting niches for a diversity of plants. The stones also serve as a thermal mass, minimizing temperature swings and extending the growing seasons. Whatever you grow in your spiral, it will pump out a great harvest for the small space it occupies. I’ve grown monstrous cucumbers in my large garden spiral, with one plant producing over 30 prize-size fruits. The spiral is a food-producing superstar!

Stacked stones create perennial habitat for beneficial critters, such as lizards and spiders that help balance pest populations in the garden. The stone network is a year-round safe haven for beneficial insects and other crawlies that work constantly to keep your garden in balance—and you in the hammock. A little design for them up-front pays big, tasty dividends later.

Read more on Ecologia Design

#permaculture #herb spiral #microclimate
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For an ongoing project entitled Minimiam (as in “Mini Yum”) photographers Pierre Javelle and Akiko Ida transform pieces of food into wonderful landscapes populated by miniature people. No food is out of bounds and no activity is too mundane or fantastic.

“This scale is really interesting as it allows you to work in the very small,” says Javelle. “The size of the figurines is perfect for creating surprising scenes with very ordinary elements.”

Sometimes it’s the food that inspires the scenes created by the husband-and-wife team and sometimes it’s the tiny figurines. Batman is summoned by the Bat Signal projected by half a lemon onto a lemon cookie. Golfers tee off using sprinkles atop donuts while workers inflate raisins to construct a bunch of grapes. Astronauts explore the alien interior of a gourd and a HazMat team treads carefully across the molten surface of a dish of Crème brûlée.

Visit Wired learn more about Pierre and Akiko. Then head over to the Minimiam website to check out many more examples of their delightful artwork.

[via Wired and Bored Panda]

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Attracting Beneficial Insects

I’ve written about the many benefits of insect hotels before, in terms of attracting pollinating and predatory insects to your space of cultivation.

As habitats of native bees, beetles, and butterflies are sometimes scarce, or in the way of cultivation, it is important to preserve refuges where these creatures can hide, and continue to symbiotically interact with your local ecosystem.

A number of solitary bees, and beetles like ladybugs–which pollinate fruit crops, and control aphids, respectively–live, have their young, and/or hibernate in hollow biological structures.

A solitary bee species, filling bamboo canes with mud to protect its larvae.

Dried “tubes” can be found all over the place in the spring, and are unfortunately often cleared from cultivated spaces: grasses, rushes, sedges, ferns, and flower stalks often leave behind a reasonably sturdy, dried hollow structure; I’ve also used cardboard tubing. 

These materials can be packed into a frame of sorts (I used a length of PVC pipe), along with things like bark, clay tiles, and conifer cones for spiders, in order to provide an array of habitats.

The insects and arachinids will move in and do the rest.

Beside the home-made “bee hotel” above, I’ve also hung up an old butterfly house. These kinds of structures provide shelter for migrating and local butterflies, and mimic the crevices in trees and rocks in which these insects would normally find shelter.

DIY Butterfly House

Between the bees, beetles, birds, moths, and butterflies, and the worms in my compost system, there is a house or habitat for almost every local beneficial creature: except for bats. As soon as one of my trees reaches a sufficient height, I will be putting in a bat house as well.

The benefits of having a biodiverse forest garden system are manifold: these organisms pollinate, decompose, control pest populations, and deposit both seeds and fertiliser. It is in my best interest to have them around, filling out their ecological niches.


Related: Insect Hotels

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Hi Tumblrs! Happy Sunday. I haven’t been posting a lot of food pictures and recipes lately because I have a job now. I’m a landscape designer and installer. I’m growing more food than ever though, at 4 different houses including my own. It’s the best job I’ve ever had. This is my work from the past month. These photos are of a back yard garden makeover. My crew is doing an awesome job. They’ve been working so hard and so have I. I built the brick labyrinth patio in the center mostly by myself. My friend Sarah helped me with a few rows of bricks, as did the homeowner and her friend Courtney. My crew installed all the DG, the bender board and hardscape lines, framed out and installed the big pavers for the dining patio, created drip irrigation everywhere, helped me plant everything, and made me laugh a lot which makes the day go by fast. 

In the first picture is a huge raised vegetable garden, one of two. These vegetable beds have really taken off! We’re growing peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, basil, squash, cucumber, malabar spinach, arugula, thyme, and beans. Yum! I also planted California native plants and succulents in garden beds throughout the yard, and big drought tolerant shrubs and trees in pots. The second set of pics you can see the property before, it was basically a big rectangular dirt patch with a massive stack of bricks in one corner. The picture next to it is after the hardscape elements were finished. We used the bricks to create a labyrinth-esque patio around the fire pit. You can actually walk this labyrinth, I made a bunch of turns in it. Now it’s after the after there’s furniture everywhere and a few more plants. I love the way this garden looks and feels. In the last set of pics is a green frog fountain that was sitting in three different pieces scattered about the yard. My crew set it up and we bought a small pump and got it working. My crew is amazing. I have to go there today to plant a vine and check on things. I can’t wait. I love my job! I would do this for free. Don’t tell any of my clients I said that.

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If you feel inspired to build an Herb Spiral, don’t limit yourself to using the materials and designs I did!

Bricks were just what I had on hand, but I’ve seem them made from wattle, bottles, roofing tiles, wood, and piping.

Images:

  1. Source unknown: found at The Micro Gardener
  2. Source unknown: found at The Micro Gardener
  3. Joan Baron, documented at Pheonix Permaculture
  4. Wolf Beach Farms
  5. The Wild Reed
  6. Wildwood Education
  7. Elizabeth and James Samudio, documented at PermacultureProject
  8. PH Community Garden
  9. Pod Collective
Dear Seattle,

A team of awesome individuals and I are creating a map of forageable sites in Seattle neighborhoods. The idea is to connect with home and business owners to gain permission for a team of volunteers to harvest their viable produce-bearing trees, vines, etc. and donate what the owners don’t need to those in our community who need help getting fresh produce.
Also seeking folks who will let us plant edible landscaping in their yards/parking strips for the same purpose.
Are you into it? Know anyone who is? Connect me!

Spread this idea around, share it however you see fit. This is an important project! We can help our local homeless and impoverished in huge ways with a little effort and teamwork!

ALSO: those who already have gardens and actively harvest their permaculture, please consider letting me know if you have excess you want to donate! Someone from my team will come pick up, or we can connect you with a list of drop-off points.

And gang, this is a project that I am personally spearheading. If you want to be involved, contact me! If you have any input, let me know!

Thanks, you are all champions!

Love,

Friday

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theemilysquare said: I always see literature about putting a little pond at the bottom of an herb spiral but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one with a real working little mini pond in real life.

I’ve seen a number of illustrations that suggest that as well, but I see very few people incorporating it into their designs.

The designs above incorporate a pool, but honestly, having a little plastic tub at the end sort of spoils the appealing organic design in many cases. I also don’t think ponds should be an afterthought: they are breeding grounds for bugs and disease if not taken care of properly

I, for one, didn’t use that design, because mine flows out into a rain garden bed that is full of water-loving herbs. There are lots of things that can live in wet soil, so I’d rather have overflow going to a rain garden than a little pond. I am also loathe to have standing open water, because it rains 170 days of the year in the Copenhagen-area, and I live near a wetland, so mosquitoes are already enough of a problem.

The rain garden, before the herbs germinated.

The rain garden, after the herbs germinated.

Sorrel in the rain garden.

The late-season herbs, and a wattle retaining fence.

I think it’s a matter of climate and preference though: I just know it would not be a very good permacultural strategy for my biome.

Photos:

  1. The Micro Gardener
  2. Permies.com (DIY photoset)
  3. noreen lucic
  4. Scott Akerman
  5. Grow-Ni.org
  6. Permaculture Global
  7. The Little Eden Hill Urban Farm (DIY Tutorial)
#herb spiral #permaculture
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Potato Planting

These organic potatoes sprouted on our counter, there are two varieties here, Russet, and waxy red. Home grown potatoes are delicious, easy to grow, and harvesting them is so much fun. The first thing I do is cut them apart to create more “seeds” so that you get more plants growing. I cut them into big pieces, with one or two sprouts on each piece. Let them dry a bit and callous over, just overnight, so they don’t rot in the ground. These will get planted at the bottom of a 5 gallon fabric pot, with the sides rolled most of the way down, in organic potting soil. As the potato plants grow up and get leggy, you need to “hill them up” or add more soil. This is where the soft sided fabric pots come in, because they allow you to keep hilling up the potato plants, unrolling the sides of the pot and adding more soil as the plants grow taller. You hill them up because the stems will turn into roots, and more potatoes will form along those new roots. I usually unroll the sides of the pot and hill the potatoes up 4 or 5 times in the course of a 2 to 3 month growing season. I add a thick layer of straw mulch on top to keep the sunlight from hitting the potatoes on the top layer. Sunlight is what turns potatoes green, and green potatoes are toxic. When the plants start to die back, you just dump the pot over and harvest your potatoes.

The last 2 pictures are potato plants growing in our garden and potatoes we harvested. Yum!

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If I could, I would replace all my grass with thyme.

I have seven different cultivars growing now, with outstanding features like lemon and pineapple flavours, variegated or brightly-coloured foliage, and creeping or bushy habits. I can really never have enough thyme.

Thymes (Thymus spp.) are in the mint (Lamiaceae) family. They’re beautiful, small-leafed plants that attract all sorts of pollinators with countless small blossoms.

I take chunks off of the thyme plants I have growing in the herb spiral to start areas of groundcover elswhere in the garden. They form patches easily from a small rooted stem.

I plant strawberries in a bed of thyme to repel pests, which allows the fruit to lay on soft, hygienic leaves, instead of soil.

My plants that need a little winter protection over the root ball are often planted under a bed of thyme, allowing them to be insulated during the colder months: tarragon, for example, springs up reliably every year from underneath a patch of golden thyme.

Under foot and between paving stones, thyme holds weeds at bay, and releases a sweet scent into the air when stepped on.

In essence, it’s a perfect permaculture plant, because it fulfills numerous functions: it’s edible, aesthetically-pleasing, labour-reducing, and insectary.

Strawberry & Garbanzo Bean Salad

This salad was inspired by my friend Jen who said she forgot a salad just like this on her kitchen counter when she left for work. I’ve been thinking about a healthy strawberry and garbanzo salad ever since.

Most of the greens in this delicious slaw salad were grown in our front garden. We have Romaine, green curly kale, Lacinato kale, Radicchio, and strawberries growing up there. I like to grow a variety of greens because if one of them bolts and becomes bitter, I still have others I can enjoy. 

I harvest two or three outer leaves from each plant, leaving the center leaves growing for next time. Kales and lettuces grow pretty quickly and if you have a lot of different kinds of plants growing in your garden, you can harvest from one day to the next without running out of fresh greens.  

Harvest wash and spin any greens you have growing. Rub a salad bowl with a cut garlic clove. Make a dressing by combining 2 tblsp. red wine vinegar, the juice of 1 tangerine, ¼ tsp dijon mustard, a big drizzle of honey, a pinch of dill, celery salt and pepper, and olive oil. Toss the chopped garden greens along with any other fresh vegetables you have on hand. I used shredded carrots and green cabbage from the crisper drawer. Add 1 can rinsed and drained organic garbanzo beans. Garnish with sesame seeds and strawberry slices. Yum!