Friday, September 27, 2013

Easy Garden Changes Tip #7: Use More Layers

This post is part of a series of Easy Changes to Make Your Garden Act More Like Nature.  For the full story, start at the beginning with Tip #1, Get Rid of Bare Earth.

Tip #7: Use More Layers

This gorgeous cherry tree "guild," which here means
"a bunch of things planted together to their mutual benefit"

This one is pretty self-explanatory.  I think the average veggie garden uses three layers: the "herb" layer, or typical veggie-sized plants, the vine layer (climbing beans or squash), and the root layer, like potatoes, carrots, and turnips.  But thinking outside the "veggie garden" box allows you to grow in all plant sizes, and use trees, shrubs, "herb" sized-plants, ground covers, roots, and vines together.  I am just getting started with this in my own garden, but I dream happily of the day when my strawberries grow in the part-shade of a zucchini plant, which has a bean vine growing up it, while blackberries happily clamber up the trunk of an apple tree.  You get the idea.  If you don't get the idea, here is a great visual at the Permaculture Research Institute website.

This type of gardening is idyllically called a "forest garden" by many permaculture-type people.  It also extends into silviculture where forests are managed for their produce, or in conjunction with raising animals.

My favorite example of using multiple layers is Mark Sheppard's book "Restoration Agriculture," which describes his savannah-type farm, where productive nut trees grow between fertile grassy areas, and cows, chickens, and hogs range, living entirely off the produce of the forests.  It is like a Joel Salatin style grass-based farm, plus huge, awesome trees to create shade for animals and food for both animals and people.

So, those are all the incredible, life-changing tips I have to offer you at this time.  I hope at least one of them has been as helpful to you as it has to me!

I saw the tagline "recreating agriculture in nature's image" somewhere, and I like it so much, especially as opposed to the opposite, which would be, I guess, "recreating nature into our plan for agriculture."  Even better, I find that the more I follow nature's example, instead of fighting it, the less work I have to do!

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