026 – Listener Permaculture Questions

Paul Wheaton and Jocelyn Campbell answer the questions asked in the “tinkering” forum at permies.com. Jocelyn explains that on permies.com in the tinkering forum there is a thread where anyone can post some questions or subjects that will eventually be answered in a podcast, or taken as the subject for one. The questions answered in this podcast, as Jocelyn puts it, could nearly all be single podcasts.

Jesse Tack asks a question on: large scale permaculture and finding funding for projects. First one has to understand if we speak of grants or public funding, and Jocelyn recalls the great work of Michael Becker finding public funds, or on the other hand private funding like loans or mortgages. Paul says he’s not too keen on mortgages and loans, and if one can’t buy the land prefers thinking of leasing land. On the other hand one could think of local community funding for specific projects, but in this last case the sums one can rely on are smaller. Jocelyn point out that this is really no problem because one of the permaculture
principles is to start small and grow slowly, build a track record and build your reputation in the community and you’ll grow and find funds.

Jesse asks another question on fruit tree guilds that Paul and Jocelyn consider. Paul is clear: one can’t answer this question because it depends. There are many things that can grow well together and form a guild. We use in permaculture comfrey, dandelions, sometimes legumes, but it really is a very personal experience based initiative. Jocelyn points out that it depends on your climate region, on your soil type, on your water systems. Jocelyn reminds everyone that on permies.com one can, and should, use the box where you put under your name the region you live in that’s already a good start so we can know where you live and what
you can actually plant. They recall that on permies.com there are a lot of threads where people give there one experience and really permaculture in many ways is try, try and observe.

Paul takes a break with Jocelyn to speak about permies.com and how the community is not easy to regulate sometimes, Paul says clearly he has had to ban people from permis.com cause they were just not accepting that there is a way of participating to the community.

Caleb Larson asks about food forest for Montana on a plot that no soil. Paul explains that a food forest without soil is a long but possible achievement. First thing one has to build soil from scratch, and a way could be planting in islands that while they grow will slowly become larger. Paul gives some advice on plants one could grow that give more organic matter then others. And refers to Sepp Holzer’s idea on crater gardens, and explains how they function.

Second question for Caleb is on growing perennials in the cheap and propagation. Paul loves the idea of growing perennials from seed. With very little money one can grow 500 trees and they are stronger. So for sure backs the idea. There are catalogues where they give you all the information on how to get the seeds to germinate and once you start, you won’t stop. Paul dedicates some thoughts to the relation between taproots and seed growth or cutting propagation.

Caleb’s last question is on permaculture and weeds as indicators, and the suggestion of a good resource. Paul says it’s a huge topic. Really though there is not a single book one can refer too. Paul recalls Sepp’s book. Paul sums it up citing Michael “Skeeter” Pilarski’s idea: every weed tells us a story, every weed has its space.

Brian Gallimore asks how people should be treating each other. Well the best way to understand what Paul thinks on this concept is to look at permies.com and how he tries to make it evolve. If we think of building a sustainable community you have to actually work on finding people with similar ethics.

Joe Pacelli asks information about companion planting, or how he put it symbiotic polyculture plant combo’s. Jocelyn thinks we’re actually speaking of guilds or going in that direction. Huge topic it could take more than a podcast to speak of this or just recall three points: it depends on what you are looking for, pollination, where you live, the climate region, and your personal preferences. It really can’t be brought down to I tell you what to do and you do it, but it has to be do it with what you have, and try. Sepp comes in aid for explaining Paul’s view. Sepp mixes thirty seeds and just throws them on soil, covers them just a little and sees what happens. The resources to learn more are for Paul: Dave Jacke’s Edible Forest gardens, and Toby Hemenway’s Gaia’s garden. The two books are both great and focus on what acreage we are speaking about. Large plots Jacke’s book, smaller plots Hemenway’s. Another resource could be, as Jocelyn says, to take a Permaculture Design Course.

Brian Nichols asks where does one start in permaculture. The questions are getting bigger and bigger as for the answers they need. Paul is clear on this: if one has no real gardening expertise start from reading square foot gardening written by Mel Bartholomew, grow organic and while you watch your garden grow the first summer, read permaculture books starting from Gaia’s Garden.

Paul and Jocelyn end reminding everyone how many threads there are on permies.com that touch all the questions asked by the listeners, just browse through the forums, they grow every day. And remember to start small, simple and follow your personal likes.

Relevant Threads

Square Foot Gardening
Science Behind Companion Planting
Building Soil Faster Than Nature
Beginner Permaculture Questions

Credit: Lorenzo Costa

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