Prairies are used for excellent pest control

Prairie gardens can be described as natural, native gardens. They are pleasing to look at because they include flowers, grassy textures and you will always see wildlife. Subconsciously, the human eye understands that it is looking at a healthy ecosystem and that these plants grow where they belong. Prairies are used for organic, natural pest control because its design attracts, deters and takes care of every possible problem known to that area.

To get a prairie right, you have to ideally copy what grows there naturally.

The latest trend in organic, perma-cultural, regenerative and even mono-crop farming includes environmentally friendly pest-control methods – which are in fact as old as the hills. Biological pest control methods involve planting wild flower strips (let’s call them bug highways) around their crops. The plants attract pollinators and beneficial insects to take care of pests. Herbs are especially successful in both attracting the right insects and yet deterring pests. Thus rendering the use of pesticides useless. As pesticides impact on bees negatively (to name one terrible side effect), planting prairies only makes sense.

Check out this list of pollinator-attracting plants https://gardeningeden.net/2019/10/30/bee-gardening/ and the companion planting list will show plant combinations that deter pests and what https://gardeningeden.net/2019/10/28/companion-planting/

A good tip is to plant 1 third grasses and 2 thirds perennial flowers. These plants should be planted in clumps of 7 each (i.e 7 grasses next to 7 flowers of one kind and also 7 of another – and repeat as you i.e plant your border around the veggie patch). Include bulbs for your under-planting and you will have a great-looking mini-prairie in no time. Look at your nearest botanical garden. What mid-size flowering perennials and ornamental grasses did they include there? Those are good choices to go on the list. Make sure your soil is well draining and fertile by adding compost and mulch. Adopt no-dig principles and let the mycorrhizal fungi settle.

Prairies are used for their many benefits: mainly-indigenous prairie gardens are mostly maintenance-free, attractive and highly beneficial in terms of inviting back wildlife and restoring ecosystems. They act as mega supermarkets to pollinators and birds, reptiles and other critters that was part of the once natural balance.

Indigenous wildflowers, grasses and bulbs are conditioned to thrive where they are from and thus have lower water and feeding requirements, but higher resistance to disease and pests. They cause soil improvement, prevention of erosion plus higher yields of food crops.

Prairies are used for farming and food gardens where natural methods are practiced. Purely indigenous is not where the focus should be but rather everyone lives by the golden rule of diversity above all else. If great diversity can be achieved through indigenous choices, that is of course best and also the main idea behind permaculture. We can only benefit by honoring this all-inclusive method, and our planet’s health will be restored in no time.

Farming in small backyards: Urban homesteading.

Farming in small backyards vs growing gardens simply for ornamental reasons, which are now as outdated as owning a Prince Albert tea set that may almost never be used. Farming in cities and towns, known as urban agriculture, is the future and possibly the planet’s saving grace.

Where to start when considering farming in small backyards?
Combine edible and ornamental plants, insect and animals and micro-climates to create a sustainable ecosystem. The outcome should be a beautifully space to harvest food and also relax in.

Edible and ornamental plants are grown side by side as companions (see https://gardeningeden.net/2019/10/28/companion-planting/ ) to attract beneficial, and deter harmful pests. This really works! Your need for pest control will drop dramatically. Always plant successively so that you harvest today, next week and the week after from the same type of plant by sowing plant types 10 days apart.

Container gardens are a great consideration in regards to farming in small backyards: turn a little (possibly rented) outdoor space or window area into a small urban farm. This is an easy and cheap answer to most people.

Most importantly, the focus needs to be on polyculture (a word to describe growing many different plant types together) which will maximize yields. Combining climbing plants on a corn plant (which acts as a trellis) with pumpkins at their feet (to shade out weeds and help with water retention) is a great example. In order to do this successfully, you will need to feed your soil with compost. This is a great opportunity to stay within your own loop and use your own kitchen and garden waste to create soil food (see how to compost easily: https://gardeningeden.net/2019/11/06/diy-compost-easily)

Animal inclusion does not come easier than keeping quails (for smaller gardens) or chickens. Quails can be kept in a mobile upside-down chicken-wire “box” that allows them to move on bare earth but be protected from predators. They can thus be constantly moved to new spaces. Make sure the size of this wire-basket is big enough to allow their bodies to take up only 10% of the entire space and the rest is for moving around. Provide water and top-up food. Chickens and quails provide free pest control, fertilizer and eggs. It’s a win-win situation.

Ornamental plants are grown to attract pollinators or feed your bee hive if you have one. Group larger numbers of flower plants and herbs together because insects need spot these plashes from far away or they will fly to your neighbour’s. Would you like to see a plant list of pollinator attracting plants? Check these out: https://gardeningeden.net/2019/10/30/bee-gardening/
Alternatively, keep your own bee hive. It’s never been this easy. Check out the mason jar method: https://gardeningeden.net/2019/11/25/is-mason-jar-beekeeping-method/

What are Keyhole Gardens? Pretty and practical

“…we should not confuse order with tidiness. Tidiness separates species and creates work (and may also invite pests), whereas order integrates, reducing work and discouraging insect attack.” (Bill Mollison: “Introduction to Permaculture”)

Every heard of, and wondered what are keyhole gardens? Keyhole designs are ideal for smaller food-gardens.

What are keyhole gardens good for except convenience?

These designs include a composting centre. This clever concept allows the surrounding plants to draw food from compost as it becomes available. Alternatively, the centre can be a tree, insect hotel or other feature.

Mandala is a sacred geometry pattern and in some cultures it represents the universe and the idea that life is never ending while also all-connecting. For some, this may be purely decorative but for others it illustrates a spiritual journey. Mandala gardens should ideally incorporate a keyhole design for easy movement, better usage of planting space due to less pathways and easy accessibility to all the plants.

-As with all our raised, no-dig designs, we start with marking the shape and size out with our frame-material. Recycled bricks, wood, stones or even hay bales can be used. These materials may produce wonderful habitats for insects – make sure to consider this as a good bulk of your pest control and pollination will come through insects.
-Once the shape is in place, we follow with our favorite no-dig, lasagna layering method. To create a sheet mulch bed, one must start with plastic-free cardboard. Water the area first, sprinkle some compost to attract worms, follow with cardboard. Lightly water again.
-Now layer with green mulch, then brown materials, compost and newspaper.
-Repeat this process until you have a 35cm high bed, ending with a 10cm layer of mulch such as straw, bark or wood shavings.
-Water moderately until moist but not sopping wet. Keep the area moist over the next 2 months.
***Do you know what plants are considered green or brown materials? Check out the composting materials for a comprehensive list of nitrogen and carbon examples: https://gardeningeden.net/2019/11/06/diy-compost-easily/

It may take about 2 – 3 months for the layers to decompose and turn into a planting heaven.
This is the perfect time to plan your planting list and layouts. Honor the decorative aspect of Mandala Design and the ecological logic of Permaculture by incorporating:
1)Diversity in your keyhole garden design
Secure a stable ecosystem by planting different species together and inviting a variety of beneficial insects to help with pollination and pest-control. Bio diverse polycultures are resilient due to the number of harmonious relationships between the different species as time passes.
2)Decorative keyhole gardens
While a healthy Eco system is our first and most important priority, we’re going to simultaneously aim for a visually pleasing planting scheme. The idea is to imitate the conversation between many different species.
3)Plant Guild Placement
-Make sure to understand the characteristics and needs of your plants. Consider needs and characteristics. Create for example micro-climates where needed by planting wind-hardy half moons around fragile plants that need protection. Group heavy and light feeders together to avoid soil depletion. Place together companion plants that help protect each other from pests or offer their extras in the form of mineral exchange. Peas and grains swap nitrogen and carbon and literally thrive when planted near each other.
-‘Three Sisters’ Guild is a Native American Indian guild that inter-plants corn, squash and beans together by planting corn in the centre of a mound of soil, surrounded by beans and squash on the outer edge. The corn provides a natural trellis for the beans to climb on. Beans will improve soil fertility by fixing nitrogen and releasing it through Rhizobium bacteria in the roots. Squash plants create a green cover crop that will prevent water loss and weed competition.

Permaculture-friendly plants to keep in mind:

-Regenerating food forests are best, and so perennials are preferred over annuals.
-Natural fertilization is key and legumes will fix nitrogen in your soil for other plants. Grow beans and peas up trellises with perennials around them on ground level.
-Deeper rooted plants will bring nutrients from deeper soil levels upwards while loosening the soil at the same time.
-Fast growing plants can be used for cover crops that can be chopped and dropped for ground covering. We do this to add to soil health, shade out weeds and help retain water.

Lastly…
Work out a symbiotic companion plants list and place them on your paper design to cover one quarter of the circle. Imagine a pizza slice. Sun needs, wind tolerance and feeding needs should guide you. When you are happy with your composition, repeat the same design on all 4 quarters. Incorporate insect-friendly hotels, for the insects are true gardening experts whom we need more than we give credit to.

“…we should not confuse order with tidiness. Tidiness separates species and creates work (and may also invite pests), whereas order integrates, reducing work and discouraging insect attack. European gardens, often extraordinarily tidy, result in functional disorder and low yield. Creativity is seldom tidy. Perhaps we could say that tidiness is something that happens when compulsive activity replaces thoughtful creativity.” (Bill Mollison: “Introduction to Permaculture”)

Plants that attract bees for regenerative gardening

Regenerative, thriving gardens include plants that attract bees and butterflies. Photo by Emiel Molenaar on Unsplash

The secret to growing a regenerative and ecologically-successful garden, is diversity in plantlife, inclusion of wildlife and plants that attract bees and other pollinators. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. Plant as many different varieties of as many different ornamentals, vegetables, fruits and grains as you possibly can. Cover the soil with a cover crop so that the soil can recover and return to health. Insects, birds and critters, animals and reptiles all play a role in either boosting growth or controlling pests. Copy nature… it is that simple.

A site that has dead soil and nothing going on, can literally be turned in a regenerative food heaven in 3 years and by year 7, if you encourage all animals and insects to play with, you will have a space that can look after itself.

To do this, you need to start with the soil and I have discussed in https://gardeningeden.net/category/soilhealth/ how to easily create soil health.
Create swales where you need them so that water can be directed where you need them.
Plant the biggest variety of plants available to you.
Encourage insect life and allow wildlife. Included below is a list of plants that will attract the most important pollinators.
Lastly, remember that all challenges are simply dealt with by shuffling details around. For example: if you have too many snails, consider getting ducks as they love hunting for snails all day long. Invite owls to keep rodent numbers in check as bigger birds also deter starlings and other fruit-loving birds that my become a problem. Dead soil and a lack of bees can simultaneously be fixed by planting a wildflower meadow as cover crop and also providing cover in the form of insect hotels for example. And always, ALWAYS stay organic.

Flowers and plants that attract bees and butterflies:
Alyssum
Aster
Bee balm
Butterfly bush
Calendula
Cosmos
Daylily
Delphinium
Dianthus
Fennel
Globe thistle
Goldenrod
Hollyhock
Lavender
Marigold
Musk mallow
Nasturtium (Kappertjies)
Oregano
Phlox
Purple coneflower
Queen Anne’s lace
Sage (Salvia)
Scabiosa
Shasta daisy
Stonecrop
Verbena
Yarrow
Zinnia
Plants that attract butterfly larvae:
Borage
Fennel
Grasses
Hollyhocks
Lupine
Milkweed
Nettle
Thistle
Willow
Plants that attract bees:
Allium
Aster
Basil
Bee balm
Bergamot
Borage
Cosmos
Flax
Gaillardia
Geranium
Giant hyssop
Globe thistle
Goldenrod
Helianthus
Hyssop
Lavender
Lupine
Marjoram
Mint
Mullein
Paint brush
Poppy
Rosemary
Sage
Skullcap
Sunflower
Thyme
Verbena
Wallflower
Wild rose
Zinnia
Trees, Shrubs and Fruit that attract butterflies and bees:
Almond
Apple
Blackcurrant
Cherry
Gooseberry
Hawthorn
Linden
Pear
Plum
Raspberry
Strawberry
Wild lilac
Willow

Have you got any tips for attracting bees, moths or butterflies? Please share in the comment box.

Plants that are Companions thrive together

Smart, not hard

What you plant now, you will harvest later. Much like people, plants that are companions thrive together. Bad companionship will be inhibiting. Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

The benefits of the right matches made in the plant kingdom are endless if you are looking for a healthy pollination system and pest control. Plants that are companions thrive. The reasons are often incredibly simpleand our micro-managing pests and feeding is usually uunnecessary. Marigolds are everyone’s friend and favorite as a popular pest-control and pollinator-attractive cover crop

Below are easy-to-include suggestions for the general veggie grower. It is by no means conclusive, but a start-here list. Please comment your own tips below this piece for us to also learn through your experiences!

Asparagus – After harvested asparagus hills can be planted with tomatoes and/or parsley on both sides.

Beans – Beans (as all legumes) love being near a grain as they exchange nitrogen with carbon and both plants will thrive. Additionally, they make best friends with carrots, beets and cauliflowers cucumbers and cabbage. Keep away from gladiolas.

Beets – Beets love corn, onions and kohlrabi, beans and ornamental garlic or even lettuce and brassicas.

Cabbage – Cabbage, kohlrabi, spinach and broccoli, brussels sprouts and kale, collards and turnips love being neighbours – especially when planted near aromatic dill,chamomile, sage or celery, peppermint or rosemary. Avoid beans, strawberries and tomatoes.

Carrots – Carrots benefit from being planted near sage, wormwood and rosemary as they repel carrot fly and also loves being near onions and leeks.

Corn – Sweet corn thrives near peas and beans, potatoes and cucumbers, pumpkin, and squash. Cucumber, melons, squash and
pumpkin like the shade provided by corn and peas and beans can use the corn to climb into.

Cucumbers – Cucumbers can be grown near nasturtiums, corn and radishes, but not near aromatic herbs or potatoes.

Lettuce – Lettuce thrive near carrots and strawberries, cucumbers, radishes and lettuce.

Onion – Onions love all members of the cabbage family, beets and tomatoes, strawberries and chamomile. They do not get on with peas and beans.

Sweet Pepper – Sweet Pepper and basil are a good match.

Squash – Squash get on well with radishes and nasturtiums (a good idea is to plant them in each hill for pest control)

Tomato – Tomatoes love cabbage and chives, onion, parsley, marigold, nasturtium and carrot. Garlic planted between
tomato plants protects them from red spider mites and don’t want to be near potatoes and fennel.

Next I’m going to talk about pest control, the natural way.
Please add to our knowledge. My truth + yours = the actual truth. Comment below with your experiences and what you have learned so that we can gain from each other.

Plants for Regenerative Gardens and growing

Plants for Regenerative Gardens is all about Plant regeneration – definition: Plant regeneration refers to the physiological renewal, repair, or replacement of tissue in plants.

On the list of gardeners and plants for regenerative gardens are examples of magic, and believers in magic. To see a small dice-size sweet potato sprout turn into a crop that never runs out… that is magic!  “Eventually, my eyes were opened, and I really understood nature. I learned to love at the same time.” – Claude Monet 


How magic are these TOP 10 plants for regenerative gardens. They literally re-grow themselves. Two for the price and effort of one!

  • Romain lettuce and Bok Choy will regrow when you add the stump to a glass and fill with water to the shallow depth of about 1cm. Refresh with new water daily and watch how it’s growing on. It’s that easy.
  • A sweet potato can be kept in a plastic back at the back of a cupboard to allow for side shoots to form. Cut a little chunk off the tuber, around from where the vine grows from. Plant these slips in the soil and watch it all unfold. You will wonder why you have ever bought sweet potatoes.
  • Spring onions are at the top of the easiest list. Pack the little bulb ends in a glass together, so that they fit snug enough not to fall over. Fill the glass with 1cm of water and make sure you replace this water with fresh water every day. Expect new plants within a week.
  • Sprouting garlic bulbs will provide you with greens for your salads and sandwiches that are packed with flavor. They have furthermore amazing anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. Additionally, one cup of chopped greens can give you a whopping third of your daily Vitamin C needs. So we can see that immune systems will be boosted and so will your dish. Place the cloves in a class, packed (like spring onions) together firmly. Fill the bottom centimeter with water and refresh daily.
  • Ever considered growing carrots for their greens? Place discarded carrot tops in a dish with you their stumps just covered with water. Replace and refresh water as needed. Carrot leaves are not only edible but will give you at least 5 times more vitamin C than the root, while also rich in other vitamins, minerals and protein, calcium and potassium.
  • Celery and lemon grass can both plants for regenerative gardens and can easily
    be grown from their bottom stumps by the same method of standing in shallow water.
  • Love onions and like the idea of never having to buy them again? The bottoms that are usually thrown away can be planted in well-draining good soil and covered with a 2cm layer of soil. Make sure to first dry this piece for a day or 2. Within a week or 2, leaves will poke above the soil. Remove from the soil at this time together with shriveled skins. Take a sharp knife and cut the bottom into sizable pieces, each with their own roots. Replant in good soil and cut back the top two thirds of the leaves as this will help bulb formation.
  • Pineapples are fantastic plants for regenerative gardens and heads should be re-planted! Remove the bottom leaves so that a slender crown is left. Plant the bottom in soil, firm down around the crown and forget about it. The new pineapple plant needs patience and will only grow a new fruit in about 2 years. Pineapple plants are great for those areas in the garden that little else works for.

Please send us your pictures, challenges and success stories so that we can all learn together!

Evening Primrose Plant Uses and Care

Evening Primrose Plant Uses and Care: Oenothera biennis at a glance: Indigenous to USA; 50cm – 2m
Planting position: Full sun.
Suitable for all growing regions without humidity.
Requires a little watering during ongoing dry spells.
Sandy soil.
Watch out for fungal diseases, snails and aphids.
Propagate from spring-sown (in situ) seed.

Truly a biennial, but treated as an annual this species produces fragrant yellow flowers, which open towards evening, thus the name. These summer flowersare hibiscus-like and its foliage is prominently mid-ribbed.
O. macrocarpa (30cm) is a smaller variety with yellow summer flowers.

This 1 – 2m tall plant lives 2 years, but self-sows and is perfect for dry, open soils in full sun. As Evening Primrose Plant Uses range from edible to medicinal – this plant is a must have, especially in coastal drought-stricken gardens. It does not need a lot of water and needs to be left alone.

Evening Primrose seeds can be sown in sown in autumn or very early spring.

The yellow spring- and summer flowers only appear at night or on overcast days and each flower lasts a single night. These flowers can be smelled from afar as they also have a strong lemon scent. The small seed pods appear at the end of summer and contain many red seeds.

Evening Primrose Plant Uses: food

All of the Evening Primrose is edible.
– The highly nutritius (pre-flowering, early spring) Evening primrose leaves contain tannins, flavonoids, mucilage and sugar, resin and phytosterols. Add them to your diet and menu as you would baby spinach.
– Evening Primrose seeds are high in proteïn, oil and essential amino acids.
– The (young) stems are peeled first and then eaten raw, steamed or fried.
– The fruit, or seed pods make a good flash-fried snack with dip.
– The edible spring and summer flowers are sweet and can be added to deserts, salads or as garnish.
– Treat and eat the roots like any root vegetale. Roots from pre-flowering young plants are best.

Evening Primrose Plant Uses: Medicinal

The flowers and seeds are harvested during summer to be dried for teas or to extract the oils. The entire plant can be dried in autum, after flowering, for herbal use later.

Evening Primrose seeds are known for their amazing oil – which has been used to treat eczema, the Sjögren-syndrome, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and menopausal symptoms, polyarthritis and multiple sclerosis.

The Native Americans traditionally boiled the entire plant as a tonic tea for energy. They also recommended the roots as an external treatment for piles and boils.

Medicinally, Evening primrose can be consumed as dried – in the case of leaves and flowers – as well as oils – and capsules is the most common form.

Experts advice should always be seeked before self-medicating and recommend dosage amounts should strictly be kept to.

Caution should especially (but not solely) be taken by:
– pregnant and breastfeeding mothers;
– people prone to epilepsy, seizure disorders, schizophrenia or mania;
– patients with bleeding disorders or taking medicine that may increase bleeding as Evening Primrose can increase the risk further.

Evening Primrose Plant Uses: Permaculture
– The night flowers attract night time pollinators
– Considered to be allelopathic to weeds by interfering with  the germination and growth of weeds.

– Because of the above reason, this is an excellent addition for a garden as cover-crop.  Match it with a legume as it needs a bit of nitrogen.

Other Common Names and Synonyms:
Fever plant, great evening-primrose, kings-cure-all, night willow-herb, scabish, scurvish, tee primrose, sun drop, suncups,
Brunyera biennis Bubani,
Oenothera chicaginensis
Oenothera chicagoensis,
Oenothera grandiflora,
Oenothera muricata,
Oenothera pycnocarpa,
Oenothera renneri,
Oenothera rubricaulis,
Oenothera stenopetala,
Oenothera suaveolens,
Onagra biennis,
Onagra muricata

Plant Solidago Goldenrod herb for food & medicine

Plant Solidago Goldenrod herb

Indigenous to N. America; 1 – 1,5m
Plant Goldenrod in the right  position: Full sun. Suitable for all growing regions, with additional summer watering when needed. Provide wind-protection where you Plant Solidago Goldenrod herb.

Requires regular watering. Well-draining soil. Spring application of complete fertiliser.Cutting back of stems after flowering.
Propagate from division after flowering, every two years.

Solidago, or known as goldenrods, has between 100 and 120 flowering species in the Asteraceae (aster) family. These plants grow so srong that they are both considered a sign of good fortune or seen as invasive weeds. Plant Solidago Goldenrod herb for permaculture and medicinal uses, to ensure you experience their good fortune.

These perennial plants love to grow in meadows, prairies, and savannas and Solidago species grow from rhizomes.

The summer and autumn / fall flower heads can easily grow 30cm long, with bright yellow daisy-like flowers. The growing shape is upright and bushy with narrow leaves.

Excellent companion plants include (imagine a wild pollinator-attractive border):
– Perovskia atriplicifolia – Russian sage
– Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ – Montbretia
– Helenium ‘Waltraut’ – Sneezeweed
– Sedum ‘Herbstfreude’ – Autumn Joy

Plant Solidago Goldenrod herb for permaculture and medicinal uses – and besides, they are edible! Edible parts include the young leaves and seeds of some species. Herbal teas are sometimes made.

Medicinal properties and uses also include a mouth rinse for inflammation of the mouth and throat. Topically it is applied directly to the skin to treat eczema, wash wounds and improve healing.
Goldenrod herb is used to reduce pain, swelling and inflammation, as a diuretic, to treat muscle spasms, gout, rheumatism and arthritis.

Frequent contact with goldenrod can cause allergic reactions for some.
Please always seek professional health advice before self medicating with herbs. Caution should especially be taken by pregnancy and breast-feeding mothers.

Organic farmers love to Plant Solidago Goldenrod herb for permaculture benefits. Goldenrods are extremely popular nectar spots for bees and butterflies. These plants stabilize soil and grow very strong- they do not require any attention.

Goldenrod species are used as a food source by the larvae of many butterfly species. A great idea to nake this herb work for you, is to plant a border, or prairy frame, a little out of the way. This will be a nursery for butterfly pollinators and a nectar pitstop for your bees.

Woodpeckers are known to also frequent goldenrods as their supermarkets. Rhey feast on insects inside the gall centers. And woodpeckers of course add to your natural and free pest control.

Common names, synonyms and cultivated spesies are: Aaron’s Rod, Baguette d’Aaron, Canadian Goldenrod, Early Goldenrod, European Goldenrod, Gerbe d’Or, Herbe des Juifs, Solidage, Solidage du Canada, Solidago canadensis, Solidago gigantea, Solidago longifolia, Solidago serotina, Solidago virgaurea, Vara de Oro, Verge d’Or, Woundwort,
Actipsis Rafinesque,
Aster Linnaeus subg. Solidago (Linnaeus),
Leioligo Rafinesque, Solidago bicolor, Solidago caesia, Solidago canadensis, Solidago cutleri, Solidago riddellii, Solidago rigida, Solidago shortii, and Solidago virgaurea