State of the Homestead: Permaculture

Second in the State of the Homestead series

Permaculture. I attended a workshop by Toby Hemmenway a couple weeks ago, and I think permaculture guilds are my/our next big yard project. Permaculture is the art of planting groups of compatible plants, layered like a natural woodland ecosystem, to provide shade, food, fuel, and wildlife habitat. The goal is to pull together plantings that more or less feed and weed themselves.

We can’t really plant anything until next spring, but that will give us time to assess the yard a bit and fiddle with plans. Thoughts so far include:

  • A horseshoe-shaped fruit grove in the NE corner of the property. It’ll have about 7 medium-sized trees (cider apples, black locust, and other fruits) with shrubs underneath (bush cherries, hazelnuts, etc.) and an understory of compost plants. The inside of the grove will still be grass, and I hope to have enough of a border to keep it looking somewhat neat. I did scavenge a couple bushels of nodding wild onion, spiderwort, and wild strawberries from a local medical center that’s replacing its prairie with grass; those are in temporary locations and will make great groundcover-layer plants as they spread.
  • A grove of taller nut trees in the front yard. Our beautiful flowering crabapple trees must be 20+ years old, and flowering crabs only live 30 years or so. By starting the nut trees now, there will be something in place when the crabs start to come down.
  • Coppice groves. We planted a baker’s dozen red oaks this spring in a closely-packed circle. The idea is to let them get 4-5″ in diameter, then coppice them. We also plan to plant a willow hedge and harvest withes for shredding into mulch and possibly for weaving into fences, root cellar bins, and the like. We’ve also got a fair bit of black locust on the property, which is good firewood (careful of the thorns…) and coppices really well. So, lots of wood regeneration projects lining up in the “possible next projects” queue.


  1. Suzie said,

    June 9, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    That sounds really neat! Especially the nut trees.
    (Keep an eye on the black locust – it can be quite invasive.)

  2. LakeLili said,

    June 11, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    Could you include pictures of your coppices – would love to see how you have done them. Thanks

    • Emily said,

      June 12, 2010 at 11:54 am

      I will when I have something to show! At this point, the only plants in the ground are smaller than my finger. 🙂

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