This year I tried a permaculture approach to the garden. I have hops, viola, and tomatillos vying for space in a single bed while across the boardwalk, there’s squash and red cabbage throwing around with tomatoes and potatoes. Walk a way down and I find asparagus poking through the long tendrils of the leek bedded down for winter. I look over the garden from the asparagus and notice the peppers peering around the eggplants and what’s left of the cauliflower. One bed has a few kale plants readying themselves for winter; the rest of the bed being laid fallow, compost and manure being soaked in by the soil and the worms wiggling around in it.
The garden is unorganized, unplanned and well, messy looking. But a walk through it and I find that the plants are thriving, healthy, and somewhat natural looking in their environment. However, this is not the English garden that so many have in mind. Recently, I’ve been reading about permaculture and the idea that we should learn from nature. I’ve found much of permaculture is permeated with types of new age thinking, but this is not the permaculture that I recognize.
There is nothing new about permaculture. In fact, it is as old as the earth itself. Permanent agriculture, the full name, refers to a train of thought that is Zen like in its simplicity, but takes the patience of a saint and the wherewithal to understand that such agriculture is not measured by profit or product, but by quality and produce. It may be that this way of thinking is not profitable. But, it is sustainable, which in this day and age we are finding to be more and more necessary.
One thing that I must come to be accustomed to is the aesthetic of permanent agriculture. First, I learn that I must relinquish control. Secondly, I must learn that such agriculture is time-intensive and in a time when attention spams are measured in minutes, permaculture can seem very unappealing. Lastly, I am learning to take chances and to trust what I have put into motion. Put in and step back is my new motto.
The consequences are messy and disorganized. However, at this late date in the season I’ve found a certain beauty and even pride in the necessity of stepping over vines and cabbage leaves to get to the tomatoes buried among the basil and asparagus. Time, I think, is something that we have available to us, but to take the time often messes up our lives. We have come to like efficiency and modern cleanliness. Permaculture is not that efficient and is certainly not appealing to the hard line English gardener. However, the permanence of permaculture is an acquired taste; a taste that given our environmental problems and looming changes is necessary.
So, give up the ghost to a natural and often fun way of gardening: permaculture. I think you’ll find that permanence is a lot more fleeting than you may think!