Category Permaculture Plant

Irish Strawberry Tree

Irish-tree

The Irish strawberry tree (Arbutus Unedo) is named for the plant’s prevalence in Ireland, although it grows across much of Europe, and the resemblance of its fruit to (you guessed it) strawberries. A member of the heath family, along with blueberries, the Irish strawberry tree has been culturally and historically important in many European growing regions.

The scientific name, Arbutus unedo, references Pliny the Elder, and is commonly thought to refer to the fact the fruit is not as delicious as a strawberry (unedo is a contraction of Pliny’s ‘unam tantum edo’, translated as, ‘I only eat one’). Don’t let the name put you off – the fruit are quite palatable and very fuss-free to grow.

Growing

These medium-sized evergreen trees are long-lived, grow well in a wide variety of soils and will tolerate the extremes of drought and frost; although variable weather can impact on successful fruiting. Sweet, nodding,

Permaculture Plant: Globe Artichoke

artichoke

Striking, hardy and delicious, globe artichokes fill many roles in any permaculture-savvy garden. Once established, they survive with minimal attention and create a silvery-green focal point in all food gardens. They make an excellent hedge or windbreak planted close together and provide a unique and pleasing addition to the spring and summer table.

The globe artichoke, a member of the asteraceae family, is actually a thistle. If you see one in bloom it will be obvious because the flower head looks like a super-sized thistle head! Originating in the Mediterranean, they grow well in warm, dry climates. They are a perfect plant to fill a hot, sunny corner of the garden and will grow well with a regular deep soaking of water to help them become established. Just allow them plenty of space as they mature up to 1 m wide and 1.5 m tall.

Permaculture Plant: Yarrow

yarrow

Yarrow Achillea millefolium is a tough, perennial herb with multiple permaculture uses.

It is a low-growing, spreading, rhizomatous plant with fernlike leaves and clusters of small flowers making up a larger composite flower.

In permaculture systems, yarrow is commonly used as an understorey in food forests and orchards. It could also be grown as part of a dedicated herb garden, a pretty but practical perennial flower garden, or incorporated into pastures and poultry systems. It can also be part of a mixed herbal lawn tolerating moderate foot traffic and occasional mowing, though if it is kept low, it will not have the opportunity to flower.

Permaculture plant: Broad Bean

Broad beans (Vicia faba) are prized as much for their fleshy beans as they are for their potential use as a nitrogen-fixing cover crop. This ancient food of early Mediterranean civilisations is still widely cultivated across the world today. Sometimes known as ‘fava beans’ (fava from the Latin word for bean), they’re a popular staple across the Middle East and Africa, and are commonly eaten as a snack across virtually every continent.
Growing

They may not grow to Jack and the Beanstalk proportions, but broad beans are almost as easy to grow as those fabled magic beans. Pop them in a sunny spot come autumn (in temperate regions—they’re not suited to tropical climates) and see them burst forth with vigour, quickly overtaking other plants you’ve mollycoddled through seedling-hood.

Permaculture plant: Coffee

flower

We all love coffee, but often the beans have travelled a long way to reach our cup. Is it possible to grow it yourself and cut down on those food miles?

Generally, coffee is grown in warmer climates. In Australia, this means from Northern NSW, South East Queensland and the Atherton Tablelands. The theoretical lower latitude is 30º (about Grafton), but it could be grown further south if protected from frost in suitable microclimates.

An attractive and ornamental plant, coffee (Coffea arabica) belongs to the same family as gardenias and citrus. It has glossy dark green leaves and a covering of fragrant small white flowers, followed by green berries and bright red cherries. It is a very robust plant, with few pests and diseases.

The greatest production of beans comes from well-fertilised bushes growing in full sun, however they are also shade tolerant and grow quite happily under or with other trees and bushes. This makes it a suitable plant to be used as an understory or windbreak.

Permaculture plant: Buckwheat

Despite its name, buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) is neither a grain nor is it related to wheat. Originating from Asia, this fast growing annual is most closely related to sorrel and rhubarb. It’s most prized for its triangular edible seeds which have a long tradition as a staple in many countries from Japan (as soba noodles) to Russia (as kasha). They are having a small revival in modern times due to the fact that buckwheat is gluten-free, despite its confusing name for wheat-avoiders.

Permaculture plant: Perennial Onions

onion

Despite their name, the only thing potato onions have in common with spuds is the way in which they are planted. While potato onions can be grown from seed, they are most commonly grown by sowing a bulb of the previous season’s crop, in the same way that potatoes are grown from a previous season’s tuber.

Also known as multiplier onions, pregnant onions and a variety of other names that allude to their almost magical ability to grow a clutch of baby onions from just one bulb, potato onions are a valuable addition to a permaculture garden or food forest. This is because unlike biennial onions, they do not need to be grown from seed each year.

GROWING

They like free draining soils, so growing in rows on a mound is a good idea. They don’t mind a bit of crowding with their fellow onions, but dislike jostling with competing weeds, so weeding rows well is essential. They are a little less fussy about planting time than many other alliums and can be sown either in autumn or spring, though harvests from the former are more bountiful.

Permaculture Plant: Mulberry

mulberry

Mulberries are a wonderful example of a multifunctional permaculture plant. Most well-known for their abundance of delicious and nutritious berries, they are also a great shade plant, providing shade in summer and allowing sun in during winter.

They provide us with deciduous leaves for compost, and healthy teas to drink. When they are pruned (during autumn after the leaves have fallen), their branches can be cut and used to make durable baskets. Mulberries are also the sole food of the silkworm, an educational and child-friendly pet which creates precious silk, ready to be turned into something beautiful.

Permaculture Plant: Peanut

peanut-hand

The peanut (Arachis hypogaea) is a herbaceous annual that can grow 30–50 cm tall by approximately 1 metre wide. Being a member of the Fabaceae family links them to other legumes such as peas and beans. Peanuts are a fantastic plant in any garden, but particularly for an intensive permaculture system, as they provide both food for us and food for the soil.

Growing Conditions

Peanuts originate from the northern parts of South America so they prefer a warm climate. The more temperate and tropical northern regions of Australia are best suited for peanut growing, but don’t let that put you off, people of southern Australia. The key is to make sure they are always warm. Peanut seeds (nuts) are planted in a full sun aspect during spring and harvested when the plants begin to yellow in late summer. If unsure, start growing your peanuts in a hothouse during spring and plant out into the garden long after the risk of frost has passed.

Peanuts require a very well-drained soil, so if in doubt about your drainage, plant your peanuts into the top of a small mound. This assists drainage and minimises the chance of fungal infestation.

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Permaculture Plant: Raspberries

raspberries

There is nothing quite as exquisite as fresh homegrown raspberries. Tasting a homegrown plump and juicy berry, you realise that the supermarket raspberries you have tasted just don’t compare. Bought raspberries are expensive and have often been sprayed with chemicals and travelled hundreds of kilometres to get to you, leaving them lifeless and lacking in taste.

The good news is, raspberries are easy to grow and can be grown in any backyard as you don’t need lots of room. Raspberries can be grown in a range of climates but prefer cooler temperatures.

PREPARING THE SOIL

Raspberries need to be planted in rich soil that provides good drainage and has a pH of 5.5–6.5. Depending on the variety, the pH may need to be adjusted to accommodate the specific requirements of the plant. Try using pine needles to prepare the soil and reduce the pH, placing the pine needles around the base during the warmer months. This can also act as a mulch.