Monday, March 15, 2010

Landscape Like the Forest Does

 I've been taking this early spring down time to plan for this year's garden. As I cleaned up fallen leaves, I noticed perennials that need to be cut back. Then I thought of the woods and forests.  Who cleans all that debris up?

What if we plan our gardens the way nature does?  Ground covers bloom early when they get the sun before trees leaf out.  Understory shrubs flower in the dappled shade of spring, and vines grow up through the tree canopy to reach the sun.  These patterns of nature are easy to mimic. 

When we design our landscape to  follow natures example, the ecosystem will thrive.  There is little or no stress on plants.  The hormony is high. Each species has specific needs for light, nutrition, and water. When we consider these needs, and plant accordingly, we maximize the natural expression of that plant to survive and reproduce.

Nature is the ultimate recycler.  Everything goes round and round; nothing is wasted.  Everything is a resource. In The Edible Forest Garden by Bill Mollison and David Helmgren, coined the word 'permaculture'.  This idea focuses on the 'permanant' relationship we have with nature.    The spring bulbs need the sun, so early spring before tree canopies erupt is when they perform best. Beneath a copse of trees, the sun will not penetrate to the ground later in the season.  The flowering fruit tree needs to produce blossoms for pollunators to find, to produce fruit. Year after year, this pattern repeats itself. 

Designing a new landscape, or tweeking an existing yard can be daunting.  Just remember the light, water, and nutritional needs of the plants. Group like plants together.  Dry shade plants won't thrive in a sunny moist place.  And plants that need full sun (at least 6 hours a day) will not meet their potential if planted in a shady corner. Put the right plant in the right place. 

Design, plan, and copy nature.  You'll get a lovely yard with minimum aggrevation on your part.  Don't try to force nature to do what you want.  Be creative, sure, but let's respond to gardening knowing we are part of the Earth, not apart from it.

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