Top Permaculture Trees

How Do We Compare Trees?

photo taken at australian tropical foods Daintree nursery QLD

Are you searching for your ultimate tree? Do you want the highest yielding, easiest to grow, most multi-functional, resilient, long living, best tasting fruit, most nutritious fruit, best timber, not-too-tall tree with fruit has no pests or disease? The search for perfection for many trees, such as Pears, was at its height centuries ago. Our ancestors had done thousands of years of genetic selection.  But then, in the industrial era, mankind adopted a bland diet where “75 percent of the world’s food was generated from only 12 plants and five animal species”.

Our Winner Is…

mulberry-cheesecake
Mulberry Cheesecake with edible flowers

We like abundant tasty fruit from shady, low maintenance trees. Our favourite is the Mulberry (it is a shrub in cool climates).  The branches are pliable and strong weaving material. In spring, we use the branches as barriers to stop the chicken digging up our seedlings. We also make hiding places for the chickens to escape from dogs or foxes during the day. It apparently has edible leaves, (although we haven’t been hungry enough yet to taste them). They make good fodder for poultry and cattle.  The timber is useful and we use mulberry as fuel in our winter fires. The Mulberry tree is very tough. It can be coppiced or pollarded and happily conforms to the shape you desire. It is self-propagating in a mulched garden and forgiving of most vandal attacks in a city-scape.

A Yummy By-Product

mulberries

Most Mulberry trees are not used for sericulture anymore (its primary farming role).  The Mulberry was carefully genetically selected for over 5000 years to feed silkworms. The biggest advantage of this fruit for our site is that these fruits do not succumb to the destructive native fruit fly. Other wildlife, especially the water dragons, love eating mulberry and will climb the trees or patiently wait for the fruit to fall. Lucky, there is plenty to share.  Be careful not to hang your washing overnight near these fruits because the droppings from flying foxes or birds will stain your clothes. Which brings us neatly into another function – Mulberry makes a fabulous natural fabric dye.

Conservationists warn against ‘Hardy’ food trees

King parrot eating pears

If you live in an area close to fragile native forest, the Mulberry isn’t your ideal candidate because the birds will eat and poop the seeds and it could possibly displace some of your native trees. But if you live in the city and trees are in short supply there, you can enjoy your visits from the birds and know that any food you grow in the city takes pressure off existing native forests which are being felled to make way for farmland.

Prefer Amazing Taste or Amazing Packaging?

pears

Mulberries are sweet and juicy. But why are they not in the shops? They have a big commercial flaw. Unlike some berries, the mulberry requires dexterity to harvest it and the fruits perish quickly.  Today, most consumers choose to buy apples (often these have been stored for years).  But we could simply stop and reach up to pick the fresh fruit that grows on the corner outside old Aunt Dolly’s house.

Multi-function: a Key Permaculture Principle

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Each Element in the design should be used and positioned to perform a range of functions. Each plant in a permaculture design provides food, timber, mulch, shelter for the garden and house, soil conditioning, water harvesting and more.

top10 trees at silk farm NSW AustraliaBeautiful FRUIT Trees:
“So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.”

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Under-Utilised Food Plants

How Good Is Your Food ?

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30% of the world’s population are suffering disease and malnutrition. Most suffer malnutrition whilst surrounded by nutritious food plants. Some drive past perfectly good food plants on our way to the shops to buy less-fresh foods. (Did you know there are thousands of edible and nutritious flowers?)

Malnutrition is a global issue

nutrient_rich_saladNew studies reveal powerful revelations about nutrition and food choices. We celebrate discoveries like ‘1 taro leaf can give enough good food to feed 3 children.’

But let’s be honest about malnutrition. This is not a third-world issue. In fact, coupled with the obesity epidemic, malnutrition could be worse in the developed nations.

It’s all about recognising a good food source when we see it.  Bruce French, founder of Food Plants Int [FPI], first noticed this disconnect in Papua New Guinea.

“It wasn’t that the locals didn’t know anything about their food plants, but there were clearly a lot more edible plants than were readily recognised” Bruce writes.

There are now some comprehensive research databases about food plants. Plants For a Future and Neglected Underutilized Species Scientific organisation have also set out to document the food plants worldwide and run international conferences.

GMO’s Can Give A Great Big Bundle of Nothing

budha citrus fruit

Modern agriculture measures success by volume and not by nutritional value. And so, mechanised farming is geared to maximise the yield. Industrial farming needs predictability and conformity yet healthy societies need variety and nutrition.

Bruce French said “when we breed for yield we get a great big bundle of nothing”.  If we want to get more than just nutrient-depleted fibre, we need to look to food species that grow happily in our bio-region and use farming techniques that care for the soil.  Crops for a future based in Malaysia researches the effects of different cropping systems and under-utilised food species.

Let Us Eat Weeds

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Ugly Choko (Sechium edule) is easy to grow & every part is edible

Bruce met a woman in Cambodia who was weeding out Momienh (Cleome gynandra). She said, “Everyone else tells me it’s a weed. They say pull it out to grow some cabbages and lettuces.” Bruce told her “Momienh is far more nutritious than western vegetables.” She was so pleased. She said, “No-one’s ever told me that before. I didn’t know. I thought it was just a local plant that was very unimportant.”

In her presentation on secrets of humble plants, botanist Gurib-Fakim shows how weeds can feed and provide medicines.

Grounds For Good Food

World Bank & UN stated that Genetic Modified crops, aiming for higher yeild, are not the way to address world hunger. What we do need is to maintain healthy soils.  Intelligent and educated farming can preserve the nutrients. Healthy Soil  a living, dynamic system.  We now know that the old subsistence farming method of ‘slashing and burning’ destroys the natural fertiliser. Nitrogen and Sulfur are lost – going up with the smoke. Only potash is left.  There is no quick answer. The methods need to fit the situation. But the best step is education. When we make nutrition our goal, we find ways to hold nutrients in the soil, in our food and cycled it back with care.

Bring in the evergreen revolution. Permaculture design invests in sustainable food growing practices in it’s ethics to care for people and care for the environment.

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Permaculture Community Garden Design

have a giving spirit

Permaculture Design For Community Garden by A. Sampson-KellyBuilding Blocks of Permaculture

There are two basic goals in a permaculture site plan: Use natural energies to increase our productivity and make the key features serve multiple functions. A permaculture design for a community garden would address some key steps to build resilience and long term success of the community garden:

  1.  Choose a site with a good position. Check there is a gentle slope.  A slope that greets the morning sun can provide lots of growing time. If there is too much sun, shade plants will help to reduce the glare.
  2. Ensure the entry has good visibility. Make signs and gates that look welcoming.
  3. Plan and implement good water filtration and re-use.
  4. Include strategically placed perennial food plants for windbreaks, privacy screens and shade in hot summer months.  A typical western community garden has a lot of annual plants. Aim to include carbon-sequestering perennials. Perennials need less maintenance. These food plants are good structural plants and last for several years and sometimes decades. The space will mature and be enhanced as it ages.
  5. Native animals and insects would be encouraged to help with pest control and increase biodiversity. Position some big trees on the far corners of the sun-less side of the site. These trees will trap condensation. They will also provide tinder for cooking, mulch for the garden, sticks for small trellises or plant ti-pis, a shady corner for nursery plants and habitat for wildlife.
  6. Encourage participants to learn to cook and eat what grows easily rather than force the landscape and climate to grow what they are in the habit of eating.  The notion of re-educating our palette can be very helpful for us to cope with climate uncertainty.

Strengthening Community Heart

Include spaces to enhance the social unity in your community garden.
Create spaces to:

  • meet andHello there! exchange ideas (this can also be a stage) Northey Street City Farm has a small outdoor stage under a mature tree.  For decades this space has served as a great space to hangout day and night.
  • share tools and enjoy harvests together
  • Entertain one another and have fun. In our recent design here for a Permaculture community garden we have made the whole site in the shape of an amphitheater. This demonstrates the true creative spirit of permaculture – to serve many functions!

Stacking The Action

A multi-functional community space like this can run events throughout the seasons and at different times of the day. This is the stacking principle taught by Bill Mollison. When we stack different plants together we utilise the vertical space and when we put things into the space at different times of the day or year, we are utilising the 4th dimension – time.

 

 

 

Freedom From Obsession

Who wouldn’t want freedom from economic slavery? What would a world of economic honesty look like? Many of us sing: “I OWE, I OWE IT’Schook-on-computer OF TO WORK I GO”. In reply to this mournful choir you may hear voices offering hopeful refrains. Ted Trainer urges us to explore simple living. His is an alternative to the obsessive consumer slavery.

Here’s the good news! It costs nothing to aim for lower expenditure. There is no risk of failure in our quest for freedom.  Challenging the economics of global consumption can benefit us in surprising ways.  We can stop to smell the roses, enrich our social interactions, question what we really need and reduce our waste.  Some of us will develop creative, productive habits. Others might explore green technologies. We can all build lifestyles that work toward physical and mental health and a healthier, more peaceful Earth.  “What people must see is that ecologically sane, socially responsible living is good living; that simplicity makes for an existence that is free.” – Theodore Roszak

Playful productivity

Dr Ted Trainer is a visiting Fellow chicken-diggingat the University of NSW. He invites us to go one step further than the noble pursuit for freedom from economic slavery. He suggest we turn work into fun.  Much of Ted’s work is invisible.  He explores the intricacies of social connections and aims to find ways to support inventive and creative thinkers.

On his alternative lifestyle education site at Pig-face Point, Sydney, Ted has a playful approach to food production. He shifts the focus from a sense of work to a sense of exploration and creation.

Ted says “Work doesn’t feel like work when you’re having fun”.   Part of his site was designed for fun (bridges, arches, islands, caves, etc.) and other parts have purpose (dams, rammed earth shed, cob oven, and home-made furniture from found branches.  He uses his site as a model to show people how to create an interconnected, well-resourced and equipped ‘village’ or housing complex.  Here is one of his students 3D models where we can see retrofits of whole suburbs to better connect the community, reduce waste and increase local production.demonstration model before & after peak oil

Creative adaptation

Ted is like a happy nutty professor escaped from the lab!   He has a lot of energy experiments (tidal energy, water wheels, methane gas, composting toilets, etc.) For years I had believed someone else that said that a methane converter couldn’t work in our cooler climate. Now I know that to be untrue.  Simple bio-gas chambers off composting toilets can work in warm-temperate zones.  Ted had one working off his toilet. If Ted, hadn’t bravely tried this, I wouldn’t have seen it for my eyes. He also had some low-tech stuff which demonstrated in a fun way, like a simple hose coiled to pump water as you turn it.

Essentially his experiments are not just about the individual successes or failures.  His efforts show that is worth trying new things and not just believing other people’s assertions. Ted has an inspiring attitude.  Some of Ted’s writings are available online at social sciences at University of New South Wales and at the simplicity institute.

This Video is a Ted Trainer Interview on ‘The Simpler Way’