Garden & Agriculture Archive


Permaculture Q&A: Eric Toensmeier on Aggressive Grass and Partial Shade

Monday, May 12th, 2014

Permaculture questions are being answered throughout the month of May by our expert authors. Submit your questions here and read on to see what Eric Toensmeier, author of Paradise Lot, Perennial Vegetables and co-author of Edible Forest Gardens, has to say about invasive grasses and the best plants for shady spots.

Review previous posts from the “Permaculture Q&A” series here:

Ben Falk Talks Nutrient Cycling
Toby Hemenway on Soil and Natural Patterns

Casey from Idaho asks:
Grass takes over my garden beds each spring. I appreciate the ground-cover function, but it out-competes my preferred annuals and perennial producers. And I trust that the problem is the solution, but I can’t see the solution in a permaculture context. How do I bolster the productive cultures when grass is so persistent and aggressive?

Eric Toensmeier: Hi Casey, we have found there is really no middle ground with aggressive lawn grasses in our perennial plantings. You can have trees and larger shrubs with grass beneath them and they will be pretty happy as long as the grass is routinely cut or grazed. But if you want to get into smaller shrubs or perennials our experience is that you really want to nuke the grass.

In our previous garden we had some beds where grasses crept back in and we ended up having to pull out the desirable perennials, sheet mulch the entire bed again thoroughly, and replant our perennials. After that we made sure to keep a mulched perimeter around our beds so that grass could not creep in. You could try rhizome barriers as well, like installing edging maybe 8 to 10 inches deep (depending on what kind of grass you have).

In another situation we had set up long thin mulched beds with long thin grass pathways between them. This really maximized surface area for the grass to get back into the beds and gave us a huge amount of weeding to do. Note that there are some grasses like some of the fescue’s which are not at all aggressive and make very fine path grasses. In our present garden we thoroughly sheet mulched the lawn (such as it was) in the beginning and have really not had any trouble to speak of with grasses returning.

The other approach is something I’ve seen in a food forest in Mexico. They use African weeder geese at a rate of 10 per acre to thoroughly eat down all of the grass until it is completely suppressed. Then they plant a lot of herbaceous species, and reduce the geese to two per acre. This particular breed of geese, raised and taught that grass is food, eat almost nothing but grass and clover, leaving almost all of the herbaceous crop species alone (with a few exceptions). If you are able to have geese in your garden, this seems like a great way to have happy geese and keep the grass under control.

Killian from California asks:
I’m designing a small, very shaded backyard garden in the Seattle area with Homeowner’s Association limitations. I am not a fan of raised beds unless needed (least change), but am thinking of using them throughout this design to alleviate drainage issues, including planting a number of dwarf fruit and nut trees in them. Thoughts?

Eric Toensmeier: Hi Killian, the first thing you’ll have to deal with is your shade problem. There are very few fruits and even less nuts that grow in full shade in your climates. Currants, evergreen huckleberry, mahonia (sour!), and thimbleberry are among your full-shade fruit options. Can you do anything to increase the amount of sun, like take down some trees or trim branches off your neighbor’s trees that come over your property line? Once you get into partial shade there are a lot more options. Good fruits for partial shade include medlar, quince, pawpaw, super-hardy kiwifruit, currants, gooseberries, and raspberries. Hazelnuts are probably your best option for nuts in partial shade.

If you have drainage problems, you could grow some things that don’t mind wet feet, like elderberries, blueberries, saskatoons, aronia, and quinces. I recently saw a very nice raised berm system at East Hill Tree Farm in Vermont using the hugelkultur system. Hugelkultur involves partially rotten logs and branches to form the base of the berm, packed with soil and compost materials. They mulch and plant right into it even the first year. This is probably quicker to establish then fancy raised beds if you have access to the raw materials. Certainly regular old raised beds should work fine, but fruits and nuts are big plants and would require fairly big beds. Hugelkultur is unlikely to be loved by your HOA, but sometimes they ignore backyards. Don’t negelect the steath edible landscape in the front yard, featuring lovely ornamentals that happen to be edible. See Lee Reich’s Landscaping with Fruit for some ideas.

With all that said, here in our garden in Massachusetts we have been able to grow some food in full shade and an awful lot in partial shade. The areas which were poorly drained due to clay (though perhaps not nearly as badly as yours), we were able to improve using a broad fork and increasing organic matter. Check out this video for a tour of a corner of my garden that includes four perennial vegetables perfect for shady spots.

Permaculture Q&A: Toby Hemenway on Soil and Natural Patterns

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

As Permaculture Month continues, we are putting our experts at your disposal to answer your burning permaculture questions. If you have a question to submit, fill out this form.

Below, Gaia’s Garden author Toby Hemenway talks about soil structure and explains how permaculture is based on the replication of patterns found in nature. For previously answered questions about nutrient cycling, check out this post from Ben Falk author of The Resilient Farm and Homestead.

Dave from Illinois asks:
I’m thinking of buying some vacant land in Michigan, about 1/2 mile from a lake. Looks like the soil is sandy, as would be expected. What kinds of strategies would you use to hold water in the soil if you wanted to plant trees and perennial crops? I’m guessing clay would be one strategy, but wouldn’t that seep in fairly quickly?

Toby Hemenway: I would work with the local extension service and other agencies, since they have a great deal of experience in building soil structure. Usually the best course is to plant cover crops appropriate for the soil, as adding organic matter and humus is the most effective way to build water-holding capacity, and it also builds fertility. Proper rotational grazing can also work wonders, but you need to know what you are doing with that technique. I would not add clay, as that creates a very artificial soil structure that will quickly revert to the old soil type.

Jeremiah from Wisconsin asks:
In Bill Mollison’s seminal book, he talks a lot about all sorts of natural patterns such as fractals, wave patterns, etc… Most of it went way over my head. How do you use these mathematical patterns in your actual permaculture designs?

Toby Hemenway: Patterning is a hard concept to grasp at first, and I have several chapters written on a book on patterning in design. Permaculturists look at what functions the design is supposed to achieve—how are we moving people and materials around, blocking wind, creating warm microclimates, etc —and then look for patterns that help do that.

For example, nature uses branching patterns to collect and distribute energy and materials, the way roots and branches of a tree collect and distribute sun, water, and nutrients. If there are places to collect or distribute things in our design, maybe a branching pattern is needed. That’s why many garden paths are in a branching pattern; we’re collecting and distributing water, food, mulch, compost materials, and so on. Mound and lobe patterns can increase surface area and exposure—are there places that we need to do that? Spirals are usually patterns of growth and flow—where are those things going on in the design?

Working well with patterns means understanding how a few basic patterns are used in nature—how is nature working with branches, waves, spirals, fractals, pulses, networks, and such?—and seeing what functions we have going on in our design—are things in the design collecting, growing, strengthening, flowing toward or away from, and so forth? Then see if there are patterns for arranging the pieces of the design that will do that. We let the design tell us what patterns will make life easier, rather than force a pattern on the design.

For more information on how to work natural patterning into your landscape, download this free excerpt from my book, Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture:

 Ecological Garden

Permaculture Special Sale: Ready, Set, Grow!

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

Want a great garden? Take a page out of Nature’s book and you’ll find growing food is easier than you ever imagined.

Just add a permaculture twist to your garden design and you can spend less effort, improve the health of your soil, and enjoy a bountiful harvest.

Chelsea Green has been the go-to publisher for key home-scale permaculture books for thirty years. Learn more about this simple but revolutionary system with these groundbreaking books—on sale for a limited time.

Need a recommendation? We’re here to help. Email us at [email protected].

Don’t forget for the month of May we’re putting our pioneering permaculture authors at your disposal for a month-long Q&A session designed to help you become a better permaculturalist. Read more…


Discount codes do not combine with other offers—our books already on sale for example.
Free shipping for orders $100 or more is applied after the discount is applied. (U.S. Orders Only).

Permaculture Sale until June 1st
The Resilient Farm and Homestead
Retail: $40.00
Sale: $26.00
Edible Perennial Gardening
Retail: $22.95
Sale: $14.92
Integrated Forest Gardening
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Edible Forest Gardens (2 volume set)
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Gaia's Garden, 2nd Edition
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Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist
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Paradise Lot
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The Permaculture Kitchen
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Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land
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Sepp Holzer's Permaculture
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Grass, Soil, Hope
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Perennial Vegetables Set
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Edible Cities
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Food Not Lawns
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The Small-Scale Poultry Flock
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The Holistic Orchard
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Top-Bar Beekeeping
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Natural Beekeeping, Revised and Expanded
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Permaculture in Pots
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Letting in the Wild Edges
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Earth User's Guide to Teaching Permaculture
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Sowing Seeds in the Desert
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Outdoor Classrooms
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The Earth User's Guide to Permaculture
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People & Permaculture
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The Basics of Permaculture Design
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Desert or Paradise
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The Woodland Way
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Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond Vol. 1
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Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond Vol. 2
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Permaculture
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Permaculture Pioneers
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The Permaculture Way
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The Earth Care Manual
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The Permaculture Garden
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The Uses of Wild Plants
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How to Make a Forest Garden
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Permaculture Plants
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Permaculture Design
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Permaculture in a Nutshell
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Getting Started in Permaculture
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Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally
Retail: $49.95
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Holistic Orchard with Michael Phillips
Retail: $49.95
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Perennial Vegetable Gardening with Eric Toensmeier
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $19.47
Natural Beekeeping with Ross Conrad
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $16.22
Top-Bar Beekeeping with Les Crowder and Heather Harrell
Retail: $14.95
Sale: $9.72

Discount codes do not combine with other offers—our books
already on sale for example. Free shipping for orders $100 or
more is applied after the discount is applied. (U.S. Orders Only)

Permaculture Q&A: Ben Falk Talks Nutrient Cycling

Monday, May 5th, 2014

Happy Permaculture Month!

Throughout the next few weeks, we are putting our pioneering permaculture authors at your disposal for a month-long Q&A session. If you are looking to become a better permaculturalist, there’s still time to participate! Submit your questions here.

Below, award-winning author of The Resilient Farm and Homestead, Ben Falk talks about the importance of harvesting and cycling nutrients.

Keira from British Columbia asks:
What has been the most important thing you’ve learned from indigenous food (fibre, fuel, etc) systems?

Ben Falk: I’ve learned that even degraded and inherently challenging landscapes can be regenerated and maintained as highly productive, low-input, no-till, perennial agricultural systems offering yields of fruit, nuts, fiber, fuel, meat, milk, perennial grains, and vegetables.

In America, we have few examples of such systems and therefore need to look elsewhere to find truly sustainable cold-climate agricultural systems to replicate and adapt. Permaculture with its emphasis on low-input, self-fertilizing, diverse crop arrangements (otherwise known as “guilds”) and no-till approach is particularly suited to producing food and fuel crops on degraded and sensitive landscapes (which is most of America). An important concept to remember is that land design needs to be continually adapted to accommodate America’s hill lands, cold-climate, and abused soils.

Your land’s ability to produce is dependent upon its ability to capture sunlight, rain, snow, wind, atmosphere and other forces and transform those forces into food, medicine, fuel, and other yields. That transformation depends on sunlight being processed through functional water, soil, plant, fungi and animal systems. The most important thing I’ve learned working with these systems day in and day out is how crucial it is to conserve, harvest, and cycle all nutrients. Examples of nutrients are manures, urine, crop residues, woody biomass, food scraps, rock minerals, and sand. Even though nutrients can also be referred to as “wastes,” they certainly should not be allowed to go to waste and flow off site. Nutrient conservation is key.

By combining nutrients with subsoil, atmosphere, water, sunshine, and some human ingenuity we can develop strategies to rapidly produce fertile topsoil. I review several of these strategies and how we are utilizing them on the Whole Systems Research Farm in my book, The Resilient Farm and Homestead (Chapter 4: Fertility Harvesting and Cycling)

Vance from Ohio asks:
Is it safe to use human urine as a fertilizer and if so, what is the best way to go about using it?

Ben Falk: Speaking of cycling nutrients, harvesting urine is one of the best ways to feed back into the system that feeds you. Human urine is completely sterile and safe to use as a fertilizer, unless you are very ill. You can urinate right at the base of fruit and nut trees. Or to water vegetables, you can save your urine in buckets then water it down 10 to 30:1 or so. If used properly, urine is a perfect plant fertilizer with many nutrients and nitrogen. However, be aware that urine becomes highly active and odorous once it leaves your body. Your best bet is to use it fresh while the nitrogen content is at its peak.

Check out this excerpt to read more about my experimentations with urine on the Whole Systems Research Farm

The Resilient Farm Homestead: An Innovative Permaculture and Whole Systems Design Approach by Chelsea Green Publishing

Food Justice: What it Means and Why We Need it

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

By Elizabeth Henderson, longtime sustainable agtivist, Chelsea Green author (Sharing the Harvest: A Citizen’s Guide to Community Supported Agriculture), Farmer at Peacework Organic Farm and co-Founder of the Agriculture Justice Project.

I come to my understanding of Food Justice from the perspective of my life as an organic farmer since 1980. Access for inner city and low-income people to healthy, clean, nutritious food is what you hear about most in news about food justice. According to USDA Economic Research Service in its annual report for 2012 on food security – nationally 48.9 million people live in households that are food insecure. In NYS 13.2% of all households are food insecure and 5% suffered “very low food security,” with more severe problems, deeper hunger, cutting back and skipping meals on a regular basis for both adults and children. 21.6% of all children live in food insecure households. Despite these distressing statistics, both houses of Congress agreed to cut the funding for nutrition programs in the Farm Bill of 2014.

Three Aspects of Food Justice:

  • Access to healthy, locally grow, fresh, culturally appropriate food
  • Living wage jobs for all food system workers – farmers, farmworkers, restaurant, food service, processing plant. . .
  • Community Control through cooperatives, faith-based initiatives, community organizations

In Central/Western NY, where we have rich soils and many extremely productive farms as well as gardens, there is no shortage of food.  Hunger comes from poverty.

Every bit as crucial as food access is just treatment and living wages for the people who grow, wash, cook, transport and sell our food.  Over 17% of the jobs in this country are food related.  If everyone who touched food (including both farm workers and farmers) made enough money to pay for high quality food out of their wages, our food system would be on its way to greater fairness and long-term economic viability.

Race Gender Wage Gap

Our society as a whole looks down on jobs that get people dirty.

Vocational studies are for youngsters who do poorly at academic courses. We call picking vegetables “stoop labor,” and the majority of the people who do this work are undocumented migrant farm workers whose average annual wages amount to less than $13,000 a year, according to the United Farm Workers. NYS law requires farmers to pay hired workers minimum wage, soon to rise to $9.00 an hour, and federal law requires paying legal H2A “guest workers” $9.60 an hour, but there is no requirement for time and a half for work over 40 hours a week, and even if you work 60 hours a week year round, minimum wage is poverty pay.

And there is no protection for farm workers who want to organize.

The National Labor Relations Act excludes two groups of workers – farm workers and domestics. Farm workers are not covered by the limited protections afforded to other workers by the National Labor Relations Act, particularly the right to form unions that is so much under attack these days. And protections for farmers in negotiating contracts with buyers are lacking too. The reality is that both family-scale farmers as well as farm workers in this country are in desperate need of fair trade.

Farmers Share Retail

My work as a farmer has largely focused on developing the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model as a way to ensure a decent living for family-scale farmers based on a fair contract with the people who join the CSA and agree to share the risks with the farmers. We started Peacework, the first CSA in western NY, during the winter of 1988-89. This season is our 26th. My involvement led to writing Sharing the Harvest: A Citizen’s Guide to Community Supported Agriculture (Chelsea Green, 2007) which tells our story based on interviews with hundreds of CSA farmers and organizers.

Members and farmers harvest greens together early in the season at Peacework Farm.

Peace work Farm

An aerial view of Peacework Farm, Welcher Road, Newark, New York

What the CSA model offers is a steady source of revenue and the chance to negotiate with your customers (buyers) to get a fair deal – pricing that covers the farmer’s full costs and pays the farmer a wage and even benefits such as health coverage or a pension fund. That is not profit – but it is a lot better than most ag deals or we would not have lost 4 1/2 million farms since I was born.

Carlos Petrini, founder of Slow Food, points out that farmers and their customers share a common fate. Petrini calls for food that is “good, clean and fair” and urges consumers to become “co-producers” with their farmers. Direct sales through farmers markets, on farm markets but especially CSA gives us the opportunity to transform the relationship between farmers and consumers. By sharing the risks of farming, consumers become co-producers in Petrini’s sense.

But what about food that you purchase in a store, restaurant or food service?How can you influence fairness in mainstream markets?

I have been representing the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) in an effort to answer this question by creating a social justice labeling program: Food Justice Certification. A sprinkling of farms and businesses has already been certified in Canada, Oregon, the Upper Midwest and Florida. In January, Swanton Berry Farm and Pie Ranch became the first farms to be Food Justice Certified in California. And in April, the Agricultural Justice Project (AJP) will announce the first three certifications in New York State – West Haven Farm, Green Star Coop and The Piggery Eatery and Butcher Shop, all in Ithaca.

Food Justice Certified

AJP is a program jointly sponsored by four not-for-profits that work on behalf of farmers and farm workers. Since 1999, NOFA, CATA (the Farmworker Support Committee, Comite de apoyo a los trabajadores agricolas), Florida Organic Growers and Consumers (FOG) and Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI-USA), have been engaged in a stakeholder process to write standards for fairness in the food system.

The program is designed for all agricultural production systems, fiber, and cosmetics, as well as food. Candidates must meet high bar standards that have been negotiated among food system stakeholders including both farmers and farm workers.

The standards (which can apply to farms, buyers, distributors, processors and retailers—every link in the supply chain from farm to table) include:

  • Fair pricing for farmers
  • Fair wages and treatment of workers
  • Safe working conditions
  • Fair and equitable contracts for farmers and buyers
  • Workers’ and farmers’ right to freedom of association and collective bargaining
  • Clear conflict resolution policies for all throughout the food chain
  • Clean and safe farmworker housing
  • Learning contracts for Interns and apprentices
  • A ban on full-time child labor together with full protection for children on farms
  • Environmental stewardship through organic certification

The goal is to change relationships so that everyone benefits. More information, including contact information, is available at: www.agriculturaljusticeproject.org

By purchasing food with this label, consumers will ensure that farmers receive a fair percentage of the “food dollar”, allowing for a stable and dignified life for the farm family. Farmworkers will receive a living wage, and be able to adequately provide for themselves and their families. And the broader community will develop a bond with those who work the land, support the economic well-being of farmers and farmworkers, and gain access to food produced in accordance with their principles and ethics.

Such a model would be one concrete step in progressing toward a more sustainable food system, in which, as stated in the principles of the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements, the “entire production, processing and distribution chain [would be] both socially just and ecologically responsible.” In this alternate vision, farm work would be valued by the larger society in direct proportion to the importance of food in peoples’ lives, thereby allowing family farmers to remain on the land, and farmworkers and their families to live a full and healthy life.

If we are to have a local food system that reliably provides most of the food needs for the population of our region, we must shift our spending priorities. The people who grow our food, farmers and farm workers, must get a fair share so that they can go on producing and lead decent lives. They do not need or even want to live like corporate CEOs. Many of the organic farmers and homesteaders I know would be happy to serve as models for a living economy based on the principle of ENOUGH. The Nearings, Helen and Scott, projected an ideal of four hours a day for bread labor, four hours for creative and artistic activities and four hours for conviviality.

Because of economic pressures, these days, people trying to make a living farming are so far from that ideal it is not funny. But if we at least begin demanding that farmers and farm workers should make a living wage with full benefits, (health care, compensation for injuries and unemployment, and retirement) from a 40 hour week, we may start moving towards true food justice that will sustain us into a future worth living.

Join the 2014 Local Food Enterprise Summit

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

As a part of Permaculture Month, Chelsea Green is proud to sponsor the 2014 Local Food Enterprise Summit, to be held May 31-June 4 in Miami, Florida, featuring two of our noteworthy authors: Eric Toensmeier and Judy Wicks!

Save $80 off registration. Register here and use discount code CHELSEA.

During this five-day intensive convergence hosted by Earth Learning and the Financial Permaculture Institute, you will learn from community investment and financial experts, permaculture designers, and sustainability entrepreneurs to begin building resiliency in your own community.

Economic and ecological challenges of the twenty-first century will be addressed, as you work with the experts to design forward-thinking businesses that optimize local, natural systems and human capacities to implement models of regenerative business and local resiliency.

Meet Our Authors

Eric Toensmeier has spent twenty years exploring edible and useful plants of the world and their use in perennial agroecosystems. He is the award winning author of Paradise Lot, Perennial Vegetables and co-author of Edible Forest Gardens with Dave Jacke. His current project is promoting perennial farming systems, including agroforestry and perennial staple crops, as a strategy to sequester carbon while restoring degraded lands, and providing food, fuel, income, and ecosystem services. Read more…

Judy Wicks is an international leader and speaker in the local-living-economies movement and former owner of the White Dog Café, acclaimed for its socially and environmentally responsible business practices. With her memoir, Good Morning, Beautiful Business, she tells her story of stumbling into entrepreneurship and ending up reviving a community and starting a national economic reform movement. Read more…

 

Don’t miss your chance to learn directly from these local food economy experts at this year’s Local Food Enterprise Summit! Space is limited. Register now using discount code CHELSEA.

Permaculture 101: Ask the Experts

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

This May, in honor of Permaculture Month, we’re putting our pioneering permaculture authors at your disposal for a month-long Q&A session designed to help you become a better permaculturalist.

What is permaculture? In essence, permaculture is a system of designing households and communities that are productive, sustaining, and largely self-reliant, and have minimal impact on the environment.

Chelsea Green is proud to publish some of the most recognized, and award-winning names (both present and future) in permaculture, and we’re making several of them available to our readers to answer any and all permaculture-related questions.

The participating authors are: Ben Falk, author of the award-winning The Resilient Farm and Homestead, Toby Hemenway, author of a perennial Chelsea Green bestseller Gaia’s Garden, Eric Toensmeier, author of the award-winning Perennial Vegetables and the latest Paradise Lot. Joining this trio will be Wayne Weiseman, Daniel Halsey, and Bryce Ruddock, authors of the forthcoming book Integrated Forest Gardening, the first book to delve deep into plant guilds and polycultures, as well as Michael Judd, whose book Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist, we are distributing in our catalog.

Ben Falk Toby Hemenway Eric Toensmeier
Wayne Weiseman Dan Bryce Ruddock Judd

Do you need to learn more about a specific design you have in mind? Or are you just getting started and want to know how to best evaluate your backyard or homestead? Whether you’re tackling edible garden spaces or farm fields, our expert authors are prepared to answer your questions on permaculture design, edible landscaping, plant guilds, perennial plantings, as well as the economics and social impact of permaculture.

To submit your permaculture question, use the form below and either put your query to the attention of a specific author (if you have a question about something you’ve read or tried in their book), or ask a general question and we’ll direct it to the right author to respond.

Keep checking back throughout the month as we’ll not only be posting answers, but excerpts and other information to celebrate permaculture month. And, all our permaculture titles will be on sale for the entire month of May.

Get digging!

Fill out my online form.

Hemp is on the Horizon! Get Ready for America’s Next Agricultural Revolution

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

You can eat it, drink it, read it, tie it, wear it, drive it, live in it, and make money growing it, all while saving the soil and protecting the climate.

What is it? Hemp. That’s right, hemp.

Hemp is on the Horizon! Just this year hemp was approved to be cultivated for university research – a huge first step in hemp’s domestic comeback as the crop of the future.

Author Doug Fine is ready for that future. In his latest book, Hemp Bound: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the Next Agricultural Revolution, Doug explains why one of humanity’s longest-utilized plants is poised to rejuvenate the U.S. economy and help save the planet.

Hemp Bound is on sale for 35% off. But hurry – it only lasts until 4/21!

Whether you are a farmer, entrepreneur, investor, or just a curious reader, this book could turn you into the next voracious hemp consumer and leave you wondering why we ever stopped cultivating this miracle crop in the first place.

Happy reading from the employee owners of Chelsea Green Publishing

P.S. Wondering how a single plant can possibly live up to all this hype? Click here to test your hemp knowledge with our Hemp Pop Quiz and to dig even deeper into the History of Hemp.


*Discount codes do not combine with other offers—our books already on sale for example. Free shipping for orders $100 or more is applied after the discount is applied


Hemp Bound

Praise for Hemp Bound

“The issue is simple: farmers need hemp, the soil needs hemp, forests need hemp, and humanity needs the plant that the good Lord gave us for our own survival—hemp. . . Hemp Bound tells us with detail and humor how to get to the environmental Promised Land. Doug has created a blueprint for the America of the future.” —Willie Nelson, songwriter, president of Farm Aid -

“Fine’s style and storytelling ability make this one of the most fun books you’ll ever read about the future of farming.” —Joel Salatin, author of Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal 

“A short, sweet, logical and funny argument for the potential of one of the world’s most dynamic cash crops.” — Kirkus Reviews 

Growing Your Own Herbs in 6 Easy Steps

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Author Didi Emmons understands it’s intimidating to work with unfamiliar herbs. In her book, Wild Flavors: One Chef’s Transformative Year Cooking From Eva’s Farm, she takes the simple approach that herbs, like any other plant, need good soil, water, sun, and air to thrive. Just vary the amounts of these four life-giving resources for each plant variety and you’ll be able to tend to the freshest of herbs anywhere, anytime.

In the following excerpt from Wild Flavors, Emmons turns to her expert gardening friend, Kelly Lake, for six easy steps to growing your own herbs. From choosing the right location to harvesting and maintenance, this overview will help you plan your herb garden.

If you really want to make herbs your next backyard project, check out this tutorial about how to build an herb spiral. This beautiful, year-round focal point is sure to be the envy of all your neighbors.

How to Start a Traditional Compost Pile in Your Yard

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

As a society, we make a lot of waste, especially in this culture of on-the-go single-serve disposables. As we work toward the Zero Waste Solution with Extended Producer Responsibility and other government mandated universal recycling of solid waste in the works, there is plenty you can do to reduce the amount of waste you send to the landfill.

Use less, recycle and reuse packaging materials, and compost your organic waste. And if you’re a gardener, there’s no reason to throw away this beneficial (and cheap!) source of nourishment for your soil. Compost is the key to a flourishing garden. Easily turn your kitchen scraps and yard waste into food your garden will love.

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The following is an excerpt from Fresh Food from Small Spaces: The Square-Inch Gardener’s Guide to Year-Round Growing, Fermenting, and Sprouting by R. J. Ruppenthal. It has been adapted for the Web.

If you have enough space to start a compost pile in your yard, make sure your local city and county ordinances permit it. Some of them have restrictions because open piles can attract rodents and create odors. Assuming that your area allows open-air composting, consider whether you can fit three piles in your yard: one for new compost, one for aging compost, and one for the finished stuff that goes back on your plants. If you just have room for one, that is fine, but in order for your pile to fully break down, you will need to stop adding new material at some point and let it decompose.

Some compost piles are hot, while others never get very warm, and this is a function of the biological activity in the pile while the organisms do their thing. Getting your pile to heat up naturally depends on a long list of factors, including pile size, materials, layering, moisture, external heat, and other variables. But even if it does not heat up much, sooner or later the stuff will break down and you’ll have some good dirt to use on your plants.

Cold compost is perfectly acceptable stuff; it just takes a bit longer to make. Some gardening purists hold that the nutritional content of hot-cooked compost is far superior, but if you are using it as more of a soil amendment than a fertilizer, then this should not matter much. If you want to follow the pure wisdom, then the minimum size for a hot pile is about 4′ x 4′, which will allow enough internal space to create the proper conditions for this biological activity to take place.93 In lieu of this, any untidy heap will break down at its own pace.

Compost Bin

What should you put in your compost pile? Will it stink? Do you have to turn it regularly? The answers are: anything organic, a bit, and not really.

Dead leaves, lawn clippings, food scraps (except meat or fat), newspaper, cardboard, and manure are all organic matter and will break down in your compost pile. Ideally, you want to add a diversity of ingredients.

The pile will break down faster if you add both “browns” (dry ingredients such as dead leaves, newspaper, and cardboard) and “greens” (wet stuff such as food scraps, lawn clippings, and fresh manure).

“Greens” contain plenty of nitrogen while “browns” have more carbon, and your pile needs both. Conventional wisdom holds that the proper ratio is 2 parts “browns” to 1 part “greens,” but you can vary this ratio somewhat. Just remember that a pile of 100 percent leaves takes a lot longer to break down, and 100 percent food scraps may turn into a very wet and slimy mess long before it breaks down. Also, the more diverse sources of waste you add, the better its nutritional output will be for your soil.

Your new pile will stink a bit at first, but if you have never composted before, then you will be pleasantly surprised. It’s not as smelly as you would think. In its early stages, you can cover the compost pile with burlap, a tarp, or a layer of “brown” ingredients such as leaves or cardboard, which will help seal in the moisture and limit any odors. As the compost ages, it begins to smell more earthy, a fragrance that some actually enjoy.

Your compost is finished when you can no longer recognize the individual materials that went into it.

Aerating the pile is optional, but it may speed up the process by delivering oxygen where it’s needed. Use a pitchfork to turn the pile and make sure that both air and moisture are reaching each part. You can do this weekly or less often. And, if you do not want to turn the pile, then it will aerate naturally with time as the layers break down and settle.


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