“Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labour; of looking at plants & animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single-product system.”
Permaculture is a ‘do no harm’ approach to farming. It is a method of farming in which all things are taken into consideration when planting from the root layers all the way up to enivornmental impact. I became interested in permaculture when we moved to our property which was once an apple orchard. We found the soil was in very poor condition. Pests were a major problem, but we knew we didn’t want to control pests with chemicals. We needed a better solution; one that worked to improve the soil while supporting a variety of species that might provide food, shade, medicinal value, etc.
After first reading about permaculture, our family was on a hike out a the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore. My children and I ate berries right off the bushes, enjoyed the high canopy offering shade overhead and never once saw an infestation of any kind along the entire stretch. In nature, diversity creates stability. Where one system fails, another is there to step in and fill the niche. The raspberries grew so well because there was enough habitat for a variety of other beneficial species that these kept the real “pests” in check and enough was grown to sustain hikers, birds and even a few insects.
In the “edible forest garden” these same rules apply. We rejuvinate the soil by adding a rich layer biomass (composting material) and then plant in diverse layers mimicing habitat found in a mature ecosystem. In the permaculture orchard, fruit trees are planted in guilds. Within a guild we plant companion groupings that will not compete at root level with the tree, but also benefit the tree by suppressing grasses and deterring deer and rodents (as daffodils will) or mining down below the root level of the tree and holding nutrients at leaf-level (comfrey, chicory, dandelion), but also serving humans and providing habitat for birds and the 90% of insects that are either harmless or beneficial.
A shrub layer, woven within the orchard, serves a number of purposes: It becomes a natural habitat and food source for birds, humans and the like, a windbreak, and a way to guide people through the orchard.
As these layers mature, they find balance and order. The human becomes less important in the maintence of the orchard while at the same time enjoying the fruits of their initial labors for many years to come.
Welcome to Healing Tree Farm!