Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Permaculture Plant Guilds - My own learning and planning of our tree guilds

Welcome to another episode of the Be Prepared Channel. Today I am thinking about the next steps as I am thinking through the planning and placement of beds, plants, trees on my little postage stamp lot. Permaculture is new to me and really only heard about it somewhat a year or so ago on Jack Spirko's show The Survival Podcast. Jack does an awesome job every day and brings a lot of great content to the community. Knowing how much work it is to do a simple podcast, or to put up some video is really overwhelming and Jack somehow manages to knock it out every day. Well Jack was the one that really brought permaculture into my own world. I was already focusing and learning all I could about organic gardening and just getting my head wrapped around that shift in thinking. One of the things that becomes obvious as you look at organics and trying to integrate conventional wisdom of growing things with organics is that we honestly create a great deal of work for ourselves. We transport in materials, and soil supplements, we spend a lot of time and effort trying to create soil and an environment for growing plants that requires a lot of work. Jack said one day on his show... STOP DIGGING! And that we are just creating work for ourselves. That got my attention, but didn't really push me to the next steps of understanding more fully what that meant.

So here is the podcast for today's topic. See some of my notes and ramblings below and some of the video clips that might make permaculture clearer if it is new to you.

So finally I did watch Geoff Lawton's Greening the Desert and the follow up videos posted on this permaculture experiment that transformed a desert space into a growing, thriving microclimate in the desert. That really got my attention and then I started digging for more videos on YouTube to help me crash course on this concept. Here is one of those videos on greening the desert:

Bill Mollison the cofounder of Permaculture did this show called "The Grave Danger of Falling Food" that was also an eye opener. Here is part 1 of 5 of that show:

Now once you get your interest up and start thinking about it then it starts to make you realize that conventional wisdom on how we plant and grow things might just be a bigger part of the problem than we realize and that in order for nature to be sustainable there are stacking functions of plant, animal, bacteria, micro organisms, insects, people, and the environment that make things work. In other words everything requires something else as a helper, companion, supporter in order for things to work and work effectively. Our conventional way of thinking in mono crops, or single plant species is not duplicated often in nature and with good reason. So today I want to talk about what I am learning and attempting to understand which is call plant guilds. In this case I am specifically focusing on tree guilds for my own lawn space. There are lots of conversations about this topic on, and you can get a crash course primer in the book called Gaia's Garden. I don't pretend to understand a fraction of what I need to know on this topic and one of the biggest challenges I face is the very limited land space I have to put these guilds. So I am still trying to figure out tree spacing, and that will dictate on my little landscape the location of these trees.

Lessons from the 3 sisters(or is that 4?):
Honestly I can vaguely remember being taught something about the 3 sisters guild and that native Americans taught settlers about this relationship of plants. The 3 sisters are corn, squash, and beans. This intentional design offers several things to each plant. First corn offers shade, and a trellis for climbing beans, and it has been discovered that the roots of the corn release compounds into the soil that actually feed the bacteria that the beans use to accumulate nitrogen. Squash also provides weed suppression, shade, keeps the soil cooler, and helps retain moisture. Now it has been found that there might have been a 4th sister in this planting arrangement. The 3 sisters brought in animal, plant, and bacterial elements, but the 4th sister introduces beneficial insects. This forth plant is the Rocky Mountain Bee Plant. This plant is found near Indian Anasazi settlements and many have noted that anyplace you find this plant it is near former human settlements. So it is believed that the use of this plan is wide spread. It is a tall purple flower that attracts pollinators, the leaves, flowers, and seed pods are edible. The Inca and other new world peoples used the plant Amaranth as the 4th sister. The stacking, inter-relationships that these plants represent make each plant stronger. A university study of the 3 sisters showed that when calculating caloric production of a mono culture of corn vs the 3 sisters that the 3 sisters produced 20% more calories for the same space. So we start to see how a monoculture of plantings strips soils of nutrients, the plants do not get the help that they need, and aren't as productive as if we combine them with complementary plants.

To be honest as I read this in Gaia's Garden it just clicked and makes sense. The challenge in my space is to figure out how many different ways we can use guilds, and complimentary plants in a limited space. I do plan to have some conventional raised beds this year for growing things, but I will be starting the experimentation with guilds in various places in my landscape. The combination of these guild relationships can reduce the work needed, improve growing and fertility for the plants involved, and hopefully start to form a sustainable food forest in the process.

What has me bothered?
Small space and trying to shoehorn big things into it! So my big focus at the moment is trees, shrubs, and bushes in this landscape and making guilds part of that makeup. Then once I have the placement, and large plant choices made then I will know what other space I will have to work with as this layout develops. So I am thinking about trees and common guilds.

So it appears when teaching permaculture the common thing to teach on these guilds is to start off with something simple so as to explain it more clearly. This starting point is typically an apple tree guild. What is an apple tree guild? It is a tree and the companion plants that one should grow around a tree. Each one providing that stacking function of supporting and enhancing each other.

Your basic elements of a apple tree(or substitute any fruit tree here) is:
1. Central element(apple tree)
2. Grass supressing bulb plants
3. Insect and bird attracting plants
4. Mulch plants
5. Nitrogen accumulators
6. Nitrogen fixers
7. Soil fumigants and pest repellants
8. Habitat Nooks

So as we begin to assemble our first guilds here on my urban homestead we will try to share some video and explain what we are seeing and learning in this process. I hope you find this interesting and helpful as we will continue to share what we are learning as we put together some of our own plant/tree guilds.

In the News:
Well my intention for the news section was to draw some attention to some of my favorite sites and maybe send some traffic their way since my goal with this blog is to only inform and help people, and share my experiences along the way. My intention isn't to be a "news" site, but a how to, show it, demonstrate it, review it, and of course laugh at it blog. However it appears that some folks felt that even though I was crediting sites for the great news content, providing the URL's, and promoting my favorite sites that I was somehow stealing even though this is a not for profit blog and there is no business entity involved. So I decided to modify my code and just start grabbing public domain URL's with the news and will not credit anyone and avoid the worry completely. I can grab the news from all over the web and boil it down to post it here. This avoids any further worries of theft since I am not republishing any content from other sites, but simply posting the URL's which anyone can find anywhere on the internet. I hope this satisfies those that contacted me concerned about stealing and theft. Here is the newly boiled down list of headlines without any distinction of where it comes from or any redirects to other sites. It is sad that I am apparently not allowed to promote places I enjoy and hope that you will too, but I guess that is the strange world we live in today.

A Look at Case-Shiller, by Metro Area
Where Are Americans Most Miserable?
Broke And Getting Broker:
Home Price Declines Deepen in Major US Markets
More on How Inflation Turns Us Into Con Artists
The Inflation Knuckleball
March LPS Mortgage Monitor Report:
World War II Did Not End the Great Depression
11.4% of all U.S. homes are vacant
Consumers jittery about inflation and income
Utah: Forget dollars. How about gold?
Home prices near a double dip
The Unites States Possesses the Largest Energy Resources on Earth
Hedge Funds are About to Undress
At Plant, a Choice Between Bad, Worse
Allies Intensify Call for Gadhafi to Step Down
Amid Rebels, 'Flickers' of al Qaeda
How Can America Create Wealth If Our Industrial Base Is Destroyed?
Will Financial Problems In Portugal
Wow That Was Fast! Libyan Rebels
The Libyan Folly
Next U.S. Terror Attack Might Come From New Toys:
US house prices continue dramatic fall
Obama not ruling out Libya arms
Buffett Says Buy Businesses Over Long-Term Bond
Criticism of Fed Easing 'So Yesterday' as G-20 Meets in Nanjing
Dying Banks Kept Alive
Gold and silver consolidating at new highs
Radiation, Japan and the Marshall Islands
Obama Raises American Hypocrisy to Higher Level
Greenspan warns on Dodd-Frank reforms
Home prices fall across US
Opec set for $1,000bn [One TRILLION dollars] in export revenues
Long-Term Bearish on China and the US
Gaddafi issues defiant challenge to Libya conference in London
Japan may have lost race to save nuclear reactor
Syrian president sacks cabinet in effort to quell protests
US consumers use savings to pay for basics
How China Manipulates Its Currency
Republicans Don't Want the Deficit 'Crisis to Go to Waste'
Roy Moore Runs for President
Drop in home prices in January raises fear of double dip
Wisconsin judge halts state from moving forward
Cash for Clunkers 2: The Return of Government Motors
'Freelance Jihadists' join Libyan rebels
Housing-bust damage spreads
Team Obama, world police

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