9 Easy Permaculture Projects

If permaculture has peaked your interest any initial research can make permaculture seem overwhelming. You’ll quickly learn that it’s more than just some gardening tips. It’s a system that works to build a sustainable life. However  that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t start working on adding some permaculture projects to your garden. These projects don’t require a permaculture design certification or extensive research. They’re just a few easy ways to make a change.

Build a Hugelkultur Bed

Building a hugelkultur bed is an excellent way increase your yields and conserve resources, two important principles of permaculture. Hugelkultur beds are great long term sources of nutrients, help conserve water, and create habitat for beneficial insects, fungi, and microbes. You can learn how to build your own here.

Plant a Fruit Tree Guild

Another key permaculture principle is to integrate rather than segregate. While many traditional gardens separate trees and bushes from other plants permaculture works to integrate all plantings into a more natural ecosystem. The aim of fruit tree guilds is to plant varieties that support your fruit tree. Read our post, Planning a Fruit Tree Guild, to get started on your own.

Start Your Seeds Without Plastic

Trying to produce less waste is always a good idea but it’s also a permaculture principle. Starting seeds without using plastic is a great way to reduce garden waste. Check out our best tips in this post.

Set Up a Compost System

Another way to reduce your waste is to set up a compost system. Whether you use a simple  compost pile or even set up a vermicompost system it will help you turn more nutrients into produce and reduce waste headed to the landfill.

Save Seeds

The permaculture principles also suggest that you use and value diversity. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to purchase heirloom and open pollinated seed and save seed from your plants. By saving seed you’re helping to keep more varieties alive and create strains that are adapted to your local climate. To learn more read our posts, Seed Saving for Beginners and Garden Planning for Seed Saving.

Install a Rain Barrel

While rain barrels aren’t feasible or even legal for everyone they can reduce your need for water from outside sources. Installing one is a fairly simple and affordable project and fits well with the principle, to use and value renewable resources.

Use Companion Planting

If you don’t have the space or desire for a fruit tree guild you can still practice integration. Many plants benefit from being planted with others. A great example of this is the three sisters garden which includes corn, beans, and squash, The corn provides a trellis for the beans which provide nitrogen to the corn and squash while the squash shades out the weeds as it grows.

Go No-Till

No-till agriculture is as simple as it sounds, you never turn over the soil. Instead methods like cover cropping, mulching, and lifting the soil with a broadfork are used. This practice helps keep soil healthy which fits with a number of permaculture principles including using slow methods and valuing renewable resources.

Plan Your Property or Garden with Permaculture Zones

One of the permaculture principles is to design from patterns to details. If you have the opportunity to arrange your property or garden you can use your habits to help you achieve a more efficient layout. You can read our full post on planning with permaculture zones here.

 

While there is more to permaculture than gardening it’s a good place to start. These projects can help you apply a few of the permaculture principles to your backyard. They can help make your garden more productive, sustainable, and efficient.

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The Importance of Thinning Plants

Everyone complains about weeding but that may not be the worst gardening job. There’s nothing I dread more than having to thin my seedlings. Thinning isn’t the most labor intensive job but it feels sad to kill plants I’ve worked hard to keep healthy. However it is an incredibly important step if you want a good harvest.

While you may be tempted to plant to your desired spacing and avoid thinning altogether this is not ideal. First and most obviously, starting more seeds will ensure you get a harvest even if you have less than ideal germination. Secondly many plants thrive with a little competition in the beginning. Thinning is important for plants to grow well but in the beginning competing with other plants can make your seedlings more vigorous.

Ultimately though plants will need to be thinned. As plants grow they compete for resources and this can weaken them and hurt your harvests.

Thinning ensures growing plants have adequate space.

Some vegetables can be grown in small areas if they get enough other resources such as plentiful water and nutrients however there’s always a limit. For example, root vegetable harvests will suffer tremendously without optimum space. Avoiding thinning will leave you with spindly carrots and thumbnail size beets.

It ensures plants have proper air circulation.

If plants don’t have plenty of air circulation they can be prone to pest and disease issues.

Thinning also helps ensure healthy plants.

When you thin plants you should thin any that show any signs of weakness or disease. You want to keep your best plants for a productive harvest and if you choose to save seed you’ll know you’re saving from plants that performed the best from the start.

Plants that are properly thinned will get adequate water.

In some areas you may be able to provide plenty of water to thinly spaced plants however if you experience any droughts it’s always better to have a safety buffer.

Properly spaced plants will get enough nutrients.

While you can sometimes grow plants closer together than recommended if you are meticulous in your soil management and add a lot of amendments it’s not a always a good idea. If your plants have to compete with each other for nutrients they’ll be less productive and more prone to disease and pest issues.

Tips

  • To avoid damaging other plants roots as you thin you can just use scissors to cut your plants off as close to the ground as possible rather than pulling them.
  • Water your plants after thinning to ensure any that may have been disturbed re-establish well.
  • Check out this post to learn about when we thin corn plants.

Thinning plants is never easy but it must be done! Overall the best advice for thinning plants is simply, be ruthless. No one likes to thin their plants but trust me, a poor harvest will be more devastating than killing a few now.

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Homemade Spinach Pasta

One of the best parts of springtime is the abundance of fresh greens that start flooding in from the garden. The lettuces in their wide array of colors, the spicier arugula and milder spinach, and the wild greens like nettles, dandelion, creasy greens, all making a local diet suddenly more appealing than it had been a month ago.

It’s easy to eat tons of salads this time of year but I also try to mix things up. One of my favorite spring dishes is spinach pasta. I cannot get over how easy it is to make gorgeous green noodles. This recipe can be also used with other greens if you’ve got an abundance of something else. I’ve had success using nettles in the past.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 1/4 cup of all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cooked spinach
  • 1 tbs olive or vegetable oil
  • 3/8 cup water
  • spices to taste (ex. fresh garlic or basil)

The first thing you’ll want to do is prepare your spinach. It’s best to give it a light steam or blanching then measure your half cup. You don’t want to cram your measuring cup full, squishing all the spinach but do pat it down lightly to ensure you get a good bit of spinach. 

Next place your spinach, oil, and water in a blender and blend until smooth. While it’s blending place 1 cup of all purpose flour in a mixing bowl. 

Stir the spinach mixture into the flour until it’s well combined and forms a ball. If it’s too dry you can add a bit more water and if it’s too wet add additional flour. Then knead it on a lightly floured surface. It should be a ball of dough that’s tacky but not sticky.

Then using a rolling pin, roll out the dough about and 1/8 – 1/4 inch thick before slicing it into noodles. Alternatively you can use a pasta crank. 

To cook bring a pot of water to a boil and add your pasta. Once the pot returns to a boil cook your pasta for 2-5 minutes to taste. 

Making your own gorgeous green pasta is a great way to make use of the spring abundance. It’s also a great way to show off your gardening and cooking skills if you’re having company over.

 

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Saving the Past for the Future