As we tend our fenced annual vegetable garden, fighting bugs, watering and weeding so that these delicate plants we love to eat will grow, there is another, larger part of our yard outside the fence that is more or less on its own.
I’ve had a longtime interest in Permaculture ideas, and we have slowly transformed parts of our 1/2 acre yard from lawn into an edible forest garden. I had the idea of growing more of our own food without all the labor required by an annual vegetable plot. I also wanted to follow the methods of Nature and build in fertility, ecological balance and low maintenance — like a forest.
Over the years we have planted perennial vegetables like sea kale and ground nut, sunchokes and asparagus. We have added fruiting bushes like nanking cherry, blueberries, raspberries and juneberry. A hardy kiwi vine, groundcover alpine strawberries and three pear trees also grow in our front yard.
At a Transition Amherst skill-sharing event called “Permaculture Design: Connecting you with your Backyard Landscape,” I met the three partners in a new design cooperative, Broadfork Permaculture: Evelyn Lane, Ashley Schenk and Llani Davidson. They came to our yard for a consultation in April and yesterday came back to do a rough design of this jungle-like part of the yard that we look at as we eat dinner every warm night.
In three hours Llani (shown at left) and Evelyn (shown below) scoped out the area, flagged appropriate locations and spacing for blueberries, elderberry and aronia berry plants, for gooseberries, marsh mallow, and comfrey plants. They pointed out where we could best plant trees like quince and mulberry, a pawpaw patch and a hazelbert thicket.
The lowest wet spot will become a rain garden full of flowers that tolerate “wet feet.” A curving path starting at the patio steps will take us to a small sitting area and bring us near the plants for harvesting their fruit.
Evelyn sketched up the design, which provides us with a long-term plan for developing this jungle-like area into a beautiful garden full of fruit, flowers, and fertility – my idea of a Garden of Eden.