The word permaculture comes from “Permanent Agriculture.” Permaculture is a regenerative farming approach that takes clues from nature to create self-sustaining garden and livestock ecosystems.
How do you apply permaculture at your farm?
We don’t spend time tilling the earth, weeding our gardens, growing crops in rows, or harvesting with machines.
Instead, we grow over two hundred plant species by hand within a half-acre that includes fruit and nut trees, berry bushes, flowers, vegetables, and herbs. Most of our plants are natives that are highly resilient. The entire garden is mulched with compost and wood chips, and plants are free to migrate to the locations they like best.
This integrated design behaves like a self-sustaining ecosystem, freeing us from unnecessary work so we can spend more time enjoying bountiful harvests. The garden works with fungi, birds, and animals to reseed itself, regenerate soils, prevent erosion, recycle nutrients, increase plant immunities, capture sunlight on multiple levels, repel pests, conserve water, and support wild pollinators.
Yes, it does all that on its own!
This permaculture approach allows us to raise crops that are essentially wild, high in nutrients and low in maintenance.
You can see our medicinal and culinary herb availability here!
It minimizes the work needed to plant and care for a garden, as the (mostly) native plants reseed themselves and have the support of healthy soils.
Since the plants are allowed to migrate to the locations they like best, they are very close to wild, with lots of nutrients and minerals.
It greatly minimizes the waste common to farms (topsoil erosion, runoff, fossil fuel usage, insect sprays of any kind), rehabilitates the soils rather than exhausting them, and supports pollinators year-round.
Permaculture is uniquely suited to herbalism. Both see nature as a partner. Both recognize the value of all plants, not just those that offer food or beautiful flowers. Both appreciate the ways that nature creates abundance by mixing chaos with order.
Native medicinal plants tend to be highly virile, growing very well with little interference from humans. They are excellent companion plants that do well in a diverse garden, especially aromatics and colonizers that repel insects and replenish soils.
What are the challenges of permaculture?
We feel that permaculture is an excellent option for individuals and businesses that wish to grow herbs. It offers high-quality herbs that grow well with little oversight.
The challenge for a business is balancing garden diversity and chaos with the need for efficient harvesting. A large, diverse permaculture garden cannot be harvested as easily as a row-cropped field.
- Come take one of our classes! They are designed to help gardeners implement permaculture principles. We cover everything from mushroom inoculation, to beekeeping, to permaculture series that meet over the course of an entire growing season.
- Start with a small garden plot. Even a 4’ by 4’ square can produce lots of herbs.
- You can sheet mulch right over what is already there (even a lawn)! Lay down some cardboard and cover it with nitrogen layers (grass clippings, old leaves, nutrient rich loam) and carbon layers (hardwood chips, fallen sticks and branches, newspaper). The layers will enrich the soil as they break down. The more layers you add, the more nutrients you offer to your plants. Aim for at least a foot deep.
- Pick two or three herbs to begin with.
- Don’t start with exotic, sensitive herbs that you will struggle to raise. In fact, don’t start with non-native herbs at all. Start with plants that are ready to set down roots and come back year after year. Most native medicinal herbs are so lively they only need some early watering support to take off. Examples: Lemon Balm, Comfrey, Stinging Nettle, Catmint, and Mullein. Buyer beware: These herbs are vivacious. Place them in a location where you are happy for them to grow uninhibited, not in the middle of your favorite flower bed.
- Let your little garden bed be an experiment. Allow a little chaos. You may find that one plant LOVES the location while others don’t last. That is alright. Find a neighbor who wants to trade for their extra herbs!
- The most important principle is to enjoy the process and get some seeds in the ground!
You can also visit their website at: www.ifarmboxford.com.