edible landscaping


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


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

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.


  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

A healthy, yummy and cheap way to start your edible landscape and contribute to sustainable agriculture!

For $20 USD, you can become a member of the Arbor Day Foundation’s Hazelnut Research Project. You’ll get three hazelnut bushes and an opportunity to contribute to ongoing research.

Hazelnuts are delicious (Nutella!) and high in protein. They capture more carbon from the atmosphere and require less tilling than annual crops, They even have the potential to become a viable bioenergy source.

Become a member or learn more.

***Caveat: Check your zone, we’re zone 10b(HOT) and our first three bushes didn’t make it through the summer. But those in cooler places should be fine.


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.


  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

A Top Bar Honeybee Hive (a.k.a. the “Honey Cow”)

I’ve been building all sorts of beneficial insect habitats and hotels over the past few months, as I finish installing a food forest design. One of the last components of this little edible ecosystem I am going to add is a top bar beehive.

This subset of beehive designs is one of the oldest modes of beekeeping, and mimics the way bees build their combs in nature. A beeswax-coated bar is placed over a protected cavity, and the bees build the rest in the form of the vessel.

Short top-bar hive from Greece, as depicted in 1682: Wikimedia Commons

It is both a productive, and apicentric mode of beekeeping. Designs can be adapted to account for what materials are locally available, and the system can thrive with little to no upkeep. 

An interpretation of “The Honey Cow,”
by James Satterfield in Canton, Georgia, USA

My father-in-law works at the municipal recycling station, so I am going to try build a simple small top bar hive with a window, using what recycled materials and timber he can find for the project. After which time, I just need to come into some European Honeybees!

Images:  Medina Beekeepers User: Mike Rossander/Adventures with a Top-Bar Hive; Talking with Bees

Watch on thesustainablelife.tumblr.com

PERMACULTURE TRIO: Forest Gardening, Edible Landscaping, Urban Permaculture

This is infact three short (about 15 minutes) documentaries! 1) Robert Hart’s Forest Garden Find out loads anout what forest gardening is, and how to make your own! 2)Edible Landscapes Second is an amazing case study about Rural Permaculture in Britain, showcasing loads of amazing edible plants adn aquaculture and flowers, as well as fantastic medicinal plants. Look out for a cure for female infertility that’s dropped in here! 3) Urban Permaculture This is a brilliant and inspiring documentary of permaculture techniques used effectively in an urban back garden. WIth little more than 2 hours of work a week, this couple produce about a fifth of their food intake!