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.

What is urban farming? A solution!

What is urban farming and its benefits? Growing enough food in the garden for one, or many families, to survive on. Urban agriculture saved Cuba from going under, and it can save the world from looming food challenges.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union 30 years ago, Cuba lost its main food provider and were thrown in the deep end. This was the time of dig-deep and stand together.

Their plan of action however proved successful and the world can now benefit from their lessons learned. Cuba looked at available land and started growing food as fast as possible. Rice, citrus, tomatoes and greens, potatoes and bananas are the crops they focused on (which replaced the once all important sugar cane mono crop).

What is urban farming in terms of effort and planning? We have outlined the basic how-to’s of urban gardening here https://gardeningeden.net/2019/11/26/farming-urban-backyard-homestead/ with very easy to follow guidelines and how to create your own successful allotment.

Due to a lack of synthetic control measures, Cuba had to (fortunately) resort to biological control including compost (https://gardeningeden.net/2019/11/06/diy-compost-easily), companion planting (https://gardeningeden.net/2019/10/28/companion-planting/) and attracting beneficial insects (https://gardeningeden.net/2019/10/30/bee-gardening/).

About 5 years after their food imports came to a halt, Havana itself had 25,000 family-and urban cooperative tended vegetable allotments.

Thanks to constant soil improvement (see these easy tips on improving soil health: https://gardeningeden.net/category/soilhealth/) and regenerative and permacultural gardening (https://gardeningeden.net/2019/11/04/permaculture-abundance/) methods, these allotments soon produced food all year round. Single crop (mono culture) spaces such as sugarcane farms, largely came to an end, to make way for organic food-producing land.

We need to remember that all climates differ and growing according your climate can easily be summarized as follows:
-Grow most leafy (salad) greens and vegetables during a warm summer when sunshine is available.

-Fruit (shrubs, creepers and trees) are best planted in the early spring in a moderate climate. 

-Root vegetables such as beetroot can be planted at the end of summer for maturing during autumn/fall.

-High-yielding winter grains like rye is best grown in cold, wet climates. Corn and rice for example are better suited to warm, moderate climates.

“For other countries vulnerable to sudden loss of food supplies, Cuba’s experience suggests that urban farming can be one way of staving off potential famine when imports are restricted, expensive or simply unobtainable.” By Climate News Network, 13 Nov. 2019.

This wonderful video should be titled: what Cuba can teach the world about organic farming

D.I.Y Keyhole Garden Guide – all you need to know

What is it?
A keyhole garden is a 2m-in-diameter circular garden bed with a compost tube in the middle – an absolutely brilliant method. See further down where we provide your D.I.Y Keyhole Garden Guide.

This concept was developed in Lesotho by the Consortium for Southern Africa Food Security Emergency (C-SAFE), originally and specifically, for individuals that find it challenging to garden traditionally. A solution to food security. The garden has a opening in the front, so that the composting pile can be turned easily. It includes a drainage layer, a growing-soil layer, and the planting area which, together, combines in a perfect all-in-one growing space. (Taller permaculture keyhole gardens are known as banana circles.)

Why do I want one?
This raised garden is constructed for an easier gardening method due to its easy plants access. The constant compost run-off and nutrient-availability makes for thriving plants and because they hold water it is also an obvious solution for drought-stricken areas.

Want to build one? Follow these 7 steps on you D.I.Y Keyhole Garden Guide:
1) Build a 2m in diameter and 1m high round wall with materials such as stones, wood or bricks. In the case of using wood (and thus incorporating a bit of Hugulkultur), please keep in mind, it is less permanent than stone or brick for example.
2) Create the composting bin in the centre (30cm in diameter and 30cm taller than the outer circle) with chicken wire which can be bought at a builder’s warehouse.
3) Open the outer wall by removing a length of about 45cm materials. Build a connecting wall on each side, to tie together the open points and the central composting bin. (Tip: The shape to aim for is a round pizza with one slice removed).
4) Using plastic and chemical-free cardboard or newspaper, line out the walls and ground inside the outer walls. Follow with a layer of green (nitrogen) materials, such as leaves and soft stemmed twigs, grass clippings or chicken manure. Sprinkle a little soil over this layer. Next, add wood chips or straw, also with a little soil and moisten. Repeat the layering (including the paper layer) and end off with good potting soil and compost (deep enough for planting).
5) Build these layers to form a hill with the highest points at the compost tube so that it slopes down to the outer walls. In time, this surface will have to be topped up with a soil/compost combination as you can expect the level to drop.
6) Fill the compost bin with green (nitrogen) and brown (carbon) materials. (For the easiest composting-how-to, see https://gardeningeden.net/2019/11/06/diy-compost-easily/)
7) Place your fruits and vegetables according to their sun requirements and height differences (highest at the back, medium heights in the middle and low-growing plants in front of the sun angle.

Keyhole kitchen gardens provide an ideal growing space because of its constant (compost) nutrient supply and producing nutrient-dense food. Crops can be planted in succession for all year food production and spaced intensively (when plants are planted together closely to maximize production) – but avoid tomatoes and other plants with bigger/wider root systems. Lastly and importantly, don’t restrict yourself to just one. And of course, share this D.I.Y Keyhole Garden Guide with friends- it’s a step in the right direction for many reasons! Happy gardening.

What is Permaculture Gardening?

I have a dream. I dream of a world where the environment needs no protecting.

Our planet’s future depends on certain changes and permaculture is one of them. o Surely we have a responsibility to leave for future generations a planet that is healthy and habitable by all species – Sir David Attenborough (Photo by Paige Cody on Unsplash )

To explain what is permaculture gardening, one has to consider being more resourceful and self-reliant through an ecological design system that helps find solutions in a natural manner, not just for the humans but also for our wildlife.

“Permaculture, originally ‘Permanent Agriculture’, is often viewed as a set of gardening techniques, but it has in fact developed into a whole design philosophy, and for some people a philosophy for life. Its central theme is the creation of human systems which provide for human needs, but using many natural elements and drawing inspiration from natural ecosystems. Its goals and priorities coincide with what many people see as the core requirements for sustainability.” – Emma Chapman

This is a low-maintenance design-option (sounds good right?!) and works solely with what is naturally there and includes a design that mimics nature in the natural growing and interaction between plant, animal and insect species, so that no fertilizers or pesticides are needed. Sunlight and water patterns are first observed and which then decides the placements of beds. Designs work with the wind, sun and water, provides food and shelter for insects, birds and wildlife and makes use of compost to feed the soil. After all, soil is life.

First things first…. designing your permaculture garden starts with getting familiar with all things indigenous – the plants, predators, pests and benefactors in your area. Rather than going on a whim, take a moment and see how your most natural, untouched and thriving local area works. Think about how you can use that knowledge.

Next, the sun is king. You need to find an area that gets at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily.

Start working on a list of your favorite plant wish-list. Group them according to their needs and compatibility. Requirements include sun and water plus neighbours that should get along. See this list of companion plants https://gardeningeden.net/category/uncategorised/companion-planting/

Ideally pollinators should love your plants, pests should be directed away and a barter system between plant talents should be encouraged such as nutrient exchange (example: growing grains next to peas). Check out this list of pro-pollinator plants! https://gardeningeden.net/2019/10/30/bee-gardening/ Tallest sun-worshipers should be at the back, such as trees, with shorter shrubs in front of them and small plants in the front row. ***Create a sowing calendar. Make sure to sow new plants halfway through existing growing plant cycles. A bed should have babies, teenagers and adults at all times.

Regenerative gardens are the best https://gardeningeden.net/2019/10/08/growing-a-regenerative-garden-in-eden/ <<< you may wonder why you have not converted much earlier.

After considering your plants list, how big should your beds be?

Raised beds are great choices and they should be wide enough to fit double plant rows and narrow enough to work on both sides from the path in-between. Soil is life. See how to build up layers inside these beds to ultimately create a no-dig soil environment. I have tried it and will never go back to old ways.

Make sure you honour your soil appropriately. Successful gardens have one thing in common: healthy soil. Soil should be covered like the human skin. Mulch is a good place to start as it prevents weeds while also feeding the soil. This makes the use of awful weed killers, fertilizers and herbicides unnecessary. Now you have saved money and avoided making the mistake of using such awful synthetic killer products. Don’t till your soil. Period. Popular and effective mulches include wood chips and although they initially remove some nitrogen to break down, this only happens during the first layer. After that, all the nitrogen goes back into the soil, plus much much more. More on soil health here: https://gardeningeden.net/category/soilhealth/

What is permaculture gardening without recycling garden/kitchen waste back into the system as compost? Create a composting system from green waste products (uncooked food scraps, weeds, dead plants, leaves) with brown waste products (paper scraps, sawdust or wood pruning material) is a simple method that works successfully.

Finally, make sure you are setting up a low-waste watering system through for example drip irrigation, swales, Hugelkultur (see: https://gardeningeden.net/2019/10/02/growing-back-the-garden-of-eden-with-hugelkultur/ ) and collect water run-off from gutters.

This video above is probably my favorite permaculture youtube vid. I hope you find good inspiration in it too.

Back to Eden method explained

“Go out to where nature has not been disturbed, look at what it is doing and copy it!” – Paul Gautschi.

Growing back the Garden of Eden with the Back to Eden method:

The basics of permaculture, regenerative growing and the back to Eden method is basing all practices on Nature’s own way.

If you are starting a new bed, imagine making a garden lasagne and start with a layer of cardboard or newspaper. Then add your layer of compost (about 8cm / 3″ thick), followed by the same amount layer of wood chips (about 8cm / 3″ thick) and finally animal manure (due to being heavier, keep it to the same weight amount as your previous 2 layers). Repeat. Resist the temptation to work or mix, prepare or till your soil throughout the process.

To existing beds, simply add a covering layer such as composted wood chips. Always make sure to clothe your soil – as you would your body. It wants suncover, warming layer in winter and being able to retain moisture.

Planting seeds in a Back to Eden method:
If you are using straw or raw wood chips, pull them open so that you can plant in the material below the wood chips (this would be the soil or compost) and you can add to this nest with growing medium. Keep a little space open around the germinated seeds so that the wood chips don’t touch the stems of seedlings (this can cause rot and other problems).

Feeding your Back to Eden plants:
Yellowing leaves is a sign of nitrogen deficiency, so during the first year of your Back to Eden bed you may need to use an organic fertilizer such as blood meal to replace nitrogen lost to the decomposition of the wood chips. Additionally, every time it rains, compost tea is entering into the soil. At the end of your growing season, reapply a new layer of your covering.
See below: Paul Gautschi, Founder of Back to Eden Gardening explains it well.

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

Back to Eden Gardening informally

Think different and make lasting changes.

In back to Eden gardening, growing food based in natural principles is the way forward for our planet’s and it’s people’s health. Respect nature, copy its ways and let it happen.

Hello Gardening Friends, what is growing on your side? I have swung 180 degrees from a horticulture to back to Eden gardening permaculture gardening angle. (Perma refers to permanent.)

Cool, but what does that mean and why tell us, you ask.

Healing, thriving and surviving, whether for the individual or planet, depends on us to

  • understand nature;
  • respect nature;
  • copy nature is the simple most important aspect of back to Eden gardening;
  • provide a habitat and eco-system that includes, protects and promotes;
  • grow nutrient rich, healthy foods.

By ignoring the natural cycle, and trying to synthesize and control mother Nature, we have created a loose-loose situation where we have to

  • work hard the whole time;
  • manage a system that excludes, sterilizes, fakes and kills – a costly process;
  • loose soil, and our own health due to poor nutrient density.

When we lean towards back to Eden gardening, Mother Nature offers her services free of charge. Every challenge you may imagine, has a natural and easy solution.
When you focus on plant diversity and companion planting, soil building through layering, excluding digging/tilling and providing biomass, nature will do absolutely everything else for free. Bees and butterflies, beneficial bacteria and fungi all come together to work for you – happily so. They are the experts and they exist only to play their roles. Our jobs are not to sterilize and control, but to develop and provide (for) healthy ecosystems.

We will discuss permaculture methods and share our successes and challenges, tips and stories in our quest to grow a garden in Eden.

Gabe Brown summed it up wonderfully for me:
“If you want to change in a small way – do big things;
if you want to change in a big way – think different”

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