Permaculture Basics

Holistic Management Beyond the Pasture

I recently wrote an article (Pigs, Pride, & Permaculture) on the recent re-evaluation of our farm endeavors. Basically, we had become overwhelmed by trying to do too much. On top of that, my wife and two daughters were injured in a farm accident which, thankfully, was not serious.

The culmination of these events made us stop and really think about what and why we are doing what we are doing. I explained how we are using Permaculture as a general lens to evaluate our goals. I hinted at our using Holistic Management, but I didn’t really go into it in that article.

I had an overwhelmingly positive response from that article, and I am so appreciative of that. But I did have one reader ask a probing question. We are planning a Holistic Management course in November, and this reader asked why, if we are feeling so overwhelmed, are we still planning on running a 3-day course?

I thought this was a great question, and I wanted to dive into this a bit more. Let me start with the paragraph I use to describe Holistic Management:

Holistic Management is a systems-thinking approach to managing resources. It is a process of decision-making and planning that gives people the insights and management tools needed to understand nature: resulting in better, more informed decisions that balance key social, environmental, and financial considerations. In the context of the ecological restoration, managers implement Holistic Planned Grazing to properly manage livestock and improve pasture and grazing lands.

This may seem like a really wordy definition, so let me break it down a bit.

Holistic Management was developed in Zimbabwe by Allan Savory to combat desertification… that is, the desert’s expansion into areas that were previously not desert. By learning how to regenerate grasslands, prairies, and savannas, Alan Savory developed a system that can be used to manage highly complex ecosystems. And while Holistic Management can be used on ranches and farms, it can also be used to manage any system with complex socioeconomic and environmental factors such as a family enterprise or business.

The Permaculture Wardrobe

I see Holistic Management as an amazing tool within the “Permaculture Wardrobe”. For those unfamiliar with the Permaculture Wardrobe, let me explain. I first heard the term from Geoff Lawton (current director of the Permaculture Research Institute Australia), and I am not sure if the concept originated with him, but the wardrobe is an idea that describes the knowledge that can be drawn from and the skills that can be applied to a Permaculture project. I drew the illustration above after many years of hearing about the wardrobe. All our tools and methods must agree with, or fall in line with, Permaculture’s Three Ethics engraved at the top of the wardrobe.

Holistic Management is a wonderful system I personally use to implement systems on my homestead and farm. I use it within the guiding umbrella of Permaculture… the Prime Directive, the Ethics, and Principles. Specifically, it provides a framework to implement Permaculture; a way to actually put all of these great Permaculture ideas and ideals into practice.

We have attempted to filter all our farm/homestead decisions through the personal holistic goals we developed. This isn’t some new-age, philosophical, pseudo-religiosity. This is a practical and intentional method to set goals and work toward them. This is the actuality of Holistic Management used in the real world. It has worked beautifully on our pastures, and when we use it, it works beautifully beyond our pastures into almost every aspect of our farm and homestead.

Unfortunately, we stopped using Holistic Management. It wasn’t on purpose. We just drifted away from it. And then things started to unravel. I wrote about this in my article, and I had so many people comment through my website, through Facebook, and through email that I know I am not the only one who has felt overwhelmed, felt over-extended, felt like I’ve got too many things going on, felt like I am spending too much time on things that are not important to me and my family.

So, we are going back to the basics, so to speak. We are going back to our Holistic Management plan. We are going to actively use it to get ourselves back on track.

And this is why we want to bring a Holistic Management course to our area… because we personally see the benefit of using it. Holistic Management is not a cure-all, but it is an amazingly effective tool.

Kirk Gadzia has over 30 years experience teaching the concepts of Holistic Management and has taught over 250 Holistic Management training seminars and workshops internationally.

Ultimately, I feel good about sharing my successes and failures so that others can benefit from them. I am glad to be able to offer a Holistic Management course at our farm, and I am really excited that we were able to book Kirk Gadzia to teach it. Kirk is probably one of the best Holistic Management teachers in the world… and I mean that literally.

I am not a salesman, and I really hope I never sound like one. I strongly recommend taking a Holistic Management course, but I don’t care where you take it. Another course or another location or another date may work better for you. But if our course works well for you, that is great, and I really look forward to meeting you!

In closing, I’ll share a video of Allan Savory’s Ted Talk, the originator of Holistic Management:


Holistic Management in Practice course at the Bauernhof Kitsteiner
Bulls Gap, Tennessee
2-4 November 2017 (Thursday, Friday, Saturday)


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Pigs, Pride, and Permaculture

The pig paddocks have had too much impact!

It was the smell of failure.

Insidious. It seemed to creep up so slowly.

I was standing at the edge of our pig paddock, and all I could smell was the overpowering odor of pig manure.

Actually, I was at the edge of one of two pig paddocks, and we still had a third paddock on the other side of the farm. But these two paddocks had too many pigs on them for too long. Their impact on the land had been too much.

This system was failing. This system was screaming at me to be fixed.

Something had to change.

My wife and two daughters (3 and 5-years-old) were pinned under the four wheeler.

A week earlier, I was travelling back from my brother’s wedding.

The plane landed, and my phone started buzzing with texts sent while I was flying:

My wife and two daughters had been in a four wheeler accident. 

The four wheeler flipped.

All three were pinned underneath.

They were heading to the emergency department.

My 5-year-old was scraped up but doing well.

My wife was bruised and needed CT scans… no significant injuries.

My 3-year-old daughter was complaining of abdominal pain, was vomiting, and had blood in her urine.

She had a CT scan… some significant bruising. Probable kidney contusion. But everything was okay.

By the time I was able get home, the emergency had passed. But the near tragedy was, and is, still fresh.

We have fallen in love with this land, but we were not enjoying it like we should.

We have only been at our farm for two years.

The first year had been wonderful.

But things had changed during this second year.

With the stench of manure in the air and the bruises on my family, I knew something had to change.

The near tragedy shook us out of the routine we had fallen into.

Our Vietnamese Potbelly – Gloucestershire Old Spot piglets.

How had it gotten to this point?

Over the previous few months, I had observed multiple issues with our pig system. It had started moving in the wrong direction. When we first started with pigs, our thought was to incorporate a wide variety of breeds in our herd. I wanted to see what worked best for us and for our land. Included in our herd were a couple Vietnamese Potbelly Pigs. This small breed was very resilient, but it was just too small for what we were aiming for. Unfortunately, I had not separated the boar from our two potbelly sows… I had too many things on my list, and I separated them too late. Well, not surprising, we had undesired litters from each of our Vietnamese Potbelly sows.

So we now had three separate herds: 1) young uncastrated males (we didn’t castrate them, because I didn’t get to it… too many things going on!), 2) young females and older females we didn’t want bred, and 3) our main herd (boar and selected sows). Keeping three herds fed, watered, and on fresh pasture is a lot of work, especially when the weather is getting hot.

The pigs have a heavy impact on the land. We anticipated this, and we had designated an area for us to rotate our herd. Unfortunately, with the extra pigs and multiple herds, the land didn’t have enough time to recover by the time we needed to move the pigs to the next paddock. The result was degraded soil with no cover and an excess of manure building up.

Get to the root cause!

But the pigs were just one example, or better yet, a symptom, of the underlying problem.

I am a strong proponent of getting to the root cause of problems. Finding and fixing the failure is important, but discovering the underlying reason that the failure occurred in the first place is paramount to preventing similar problems in the future.

We needed to search for the underlying cause.

So what went wrong?

First, I know I shouldn’t be too hard on myself. We have had many successes on the farm. With our pigs specifically, I know they were actually in much better conditions than most other pig operations I have seen. But these were my pigs on my land under my management. And this is not how I wanted to raise them.

Second, we lost sight of what our goals were. As a general rule, I don’t publicly share our personal holistic goals, but I can say that our overall priorities are faith, family, homestead, environment, farm, community. I generally aim to live by two guiding tenets:

  1. The Permaculture Prime Directive: The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for own existence and that of our children. A Greek proverb that falls right in line with this is: A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.
  2. “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Third, we over committed. We stretched ourselves too thin. We pushed ourselves too much. I also work off the farm, and so this burden frequently fell on our intern, our WOOFERs, and my family. Instead of doing a few things well, we were doing too many things… some were working great, some were working well, some were not quite working, some were not getting done, and some were failing. Because we were too busy, we were not enjoying the journey. We had stopped doing a number of the things that were important to us. Yes, we were accomplishing a lot, but we were not accomplishing the things that mattered the most to us.

Fourth, I had not heeded my own advice: Revisit the Permaculture Principles on a regular basis. David Holmgren (co-founder of Permaculture) has 12 amazing principles that I regularly use… well, maybe not as regularly as I should have! The following section touches on a few of these principles and how we are using them to get back on track.

Permaculture Principle One: Observe and Interact.
I had observed, but I didn’t interact. We just kept on doing what we were doing. It is hard to take the time to make changes when you are just trying to keep up, even if those changes will make things better in the long run. But we need to take the time to implement changes based on our observations! 


Permaculture Principle Four: Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback.
It is so easy to let our pride get in the way of accepting feedback. It isn’t always arrogance. Too often we will just keep doing the same thing or wasting a lot of energy trying to accomplish something, because we think we are smart enough to figure it out. We tell ourselves, “If we just work on it a bit more, longer or harder, we can make it work!” And we may eventually figure it out, but at what cost? Remember the quote attributed to Albert Einstein: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”


Permaculture Principle Nine: Use Small and Slow Solutions.
One of the first things I wanted to do on our farm was to try a little bit of everything. We would see what we liked, what worked for us, what didn’t work for us, and then we would pare down. Unfortunately, trying to maintain so many systems was overwhelming. Also, trying to pare down is actually a lot more difficult than I was expecting.

We thought we were starting small and slow. Compared to many farming ventures, we were not doing a lot. But for us, it was still too much. Over the last few months, my wife has told me many times, “This is starting to feel too big.” She has more wisdom than she credits herself, and if I was a bit more self-aware, I would have made the connection between her words and this principle.

However, we also need to use small and slow solutions to fix the problem as well. We could have decided to completely give up, sell the farm, and move back to suburbia. I think many young farmers get burned out and then walk away from everything. But that wouldn’t be a small and slow solution. We are choosing to pare down a step at a time… trim back slowly.


Permaculture Principle Twelve: Creatively Use and Respond to Change.
Everything is constantly changing around and within us. This is life. We can passively let these currents push us around. Or we can be intentional. We can use these changes. We can learn from them. We can respond to them. We can also make our own changes to influence those currents.

We found ourselves in a place we didn’t like. While we had systems that were working, we also had systems that were failing. And so we are doing something about it. We are observing, accepting feedback, interacting with our systems, and using small and slow solutions to get ourselves back on track with our personal holistic goals.

We have since made some changes to our pig system. We moved things around and now have two pig paddocks instead of three. By doing this, we have already cut our pig chores by a third. We are also giving the land more time to rest… and the smell is almost gone already! In addition, we took the time to process some of the larger pigs that did not fall in line with our breeding goals. This has cut our feed bill, and we now have some high-quality pork in our freezer and for sale. We will continue to cut back on our pigs until we have a much smaller breeding herd. Our focus is quality, not quantity.

We are implementing a number of other changes. For example, our first batch of broilers (meat chickens) is about 2 weeks from their processing date. This first batch of birds was for our own personal consumption. Last year, we raised a second batch to cover the expenses of the first batch. However, with being stretched too thin, we decided not to raise a second batch this year. That means our chicken is going to cost us more, but we will have more time to enjoy it!

We are continuing many of the things we love including raising our pastured lamb and laying hens. Most of our other changes are small, like they should be. But cumulatively, they will continue to guide us back toward our goals.

We love raising our sheep on pasture.

This Permaculture Life is a process. It is not an endpoint. There is constant evaluation and interaction and evaluation and interaction… and this goes on and on. And it can be a lot of fun. But we must be intentional.

I’ll end with some of my favorite quotes.

Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret?
There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.

– C. S. Lewis

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.
– J. R. R. Tolkien

Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.
– Matsuo Basho

We are what we believe we are.
– C. S. Lewis


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COURSE: Introduction to Permaculture!

Introduction to Permaculture at the Bauernhof Kitsteiner
17 June 2017 (Saturday)
9:00 am – 4:00 pm
*Limited to 30 participants.

John Kitsteiner will be teaching a 1-day course at their family farm, the Bauernhof Kitsteiner. This course is designed for the person who knows little to nothing about Permaculture. The first half of the course will be lecture based, and the second half of the course will be a guided tour of the Bauernhof where Permaculture design is being put into practice.


Permaculture Basics: Edible Forest Gardens

I have had a number of people ask me for a basic description of an Edible Forest Garden (also known as a Food Forest or Forest Garden). I usually write for people who already have a basic understanding and foundation of Permaculture, and I often jump to that next level in many of my articles. So here is an overview of the concept and practice of designing, creating, and managing an Edible Forest Garden.

I’ll kick this off with the following quote (two paragraphs), used with permission from Dave Jacke, author of Edible Forest Gardens:

The Vision of an Edible Forest Garden:
Picture yourself in a forest where almost everything around you is food. Mature and maturing fruit and nut trees form an open canopy. If you look carefully, you can see fruits swelling on many branches—pears, apples, persimmons, pecans, and chestnuts. Shrubs fill the gaps in the canopy. They bear raspberries, blueberries, currants, hazelnuts, and other lesser-known fruits, flowers, and nuts at different times of the year. Assorted native wildflowers, wild edibles, herbs, and perennial vegetables thickly cover the ground. You use many of these plants for food or medicine. Some attract beneficial insects, birds, and butterflies. Others act as soil builders, or simply help keep out weeds. Here and there vines climb on trees, shrubs, or arbors with fruit hanging through the foliage—hardy kiwis, grapes, and passionflower fruits. In sunnier glades large stands of Jerusalem artichokes grow together with groundnut vines. These plants support one another as they store energy in their roots for later harvest and winter storage. Their bright yellow and deep violet flowers enjoy the radiant warmth from the sky. This is an edible forest garden.

What is an Edible Forest Garden:
Edible forest gardening is the art and science of putting plants together in woodlandlike patterns that forge mutually beneficial relationships, creating a garden ecosystem that is more than the sum of its parts. You can grow fruits, nuts, vegetables, herbs, mushrooms, other useful plants, and animals in a way that mimics natural ecosystems. You can create a beautiful, diverse, high-yield garden. If designed with care and deep understanding of ecosystem function, you can also design a garden that is largely self-maintaining. In many of the world’s temperate-climate regions, your garden would soon start reverting to forest if you were to stop managing it. We humans work hard to hold back succession—mowing, weeding, plowing, and spraying. If the successional process were the wind, we would be constantly motoring against it. Why not put up a sail and glide along with the land’s natural tendency to grow trees? By mimicking the structure and function of forest ecosystems we can gain a number of benefits.

This is designer, teacher, and researcher Martin Crawford discussing Edible Food Forests.


Basics of an Edible Forest Garden

  • Incorporates Multiple Layers. Robert Hart initially described 7 layers of the Forest Garden:
    1. Canopy Layer
    2. Low-Tree Layer
    3. Shrub Layer
    4. Herbaceous Layer
    5. Ground Cover Layer
    6. Rhizosphere or Underground Layer
    7. Vertical layer
Robert Hart's initial 7 layers of a Forest Garden.

Robert Hart’s initial 7 layers of a Forest Garden.

My 9 Layers of an Edible Forest Garden.

My 9 Layers of an Edible Forest Garden.

I have updated the layer system to include the following:

    1. Canopy/Tall Tree Layer (this includes any emergent plants that would tower over the main canopy)
    2. Sub-Canopy/Large Shrub Layer
    3. Shrub Layer
    4. Herbaceous Layer (these are plants that “die back” every year to the ground in freezing weather)
    5. Groundcover/Creeper Layer
    6. Underground Layer (these are plants whose main use/product is formed underground, e.g. potato, ginseng, etc.)
    7. Vertical/Climber Layer (these are vining, rambling, scrambling, and climbing plants)
    8. Aquatic/Wetland Layer (this includes any plants that can tolerate or requires very moist to submerged conditions)
    9. Mycelial/Fungal Layer (includes edible and medicinal mushrooms)

Read more about my 9 layers of the Edible Forest Garden.

  • Incorporates Guilds or Companions. Many people are familiar with companion planting in an annual vegetable garden, such as planting tomatoes and basil together. When it comes to trees and shrubs that will be in place for years to decades, we have to be a bit more intentional. There can be positive, neutral, or negative interactions between plants. For instance, Walnuts (Juglan species) produce chemicals that inhibit many other plants from growing near them, so we need to be sure to put tolerant species near our Walnut trees. Some plants have deep taproots; some plants have expansive, shallow roots. Some plants are tall and thin; some plants are wide and short. Some plants need early Spring sun and then can be shaded out later in the year; other plants need sun all year long. All these things should be considered in your design phase. It makes the planning one big jigsaw puzzle to solve! Click here to download a copy of Midwest Permaculture’s Plant Guild E-Book!
  • Sustainable/Regenerative. This is a system that should be continually building soil, plant, and ecosystem health. This is often translated as being “organic” or using no synthetic/man-made chemicals, and some will occasionally use certain chemicals in an “emergency” situations. But sustainability and regeneration go way beyond this. Each year, we should be seeing more life in our Food Forest. There should be more worms, more spiders, more birds, more pollinators. We should be having deeper and richer soils each year. After a few years, most commonly at about the fifth year, something changes. Permaculture teacher and author Toby Hemenway describes this as when the “garden goes pop!” The Food Forest becomes a vibrant, dynamic place teeming with life. The Forest Garden seems to become its own entity.

    This is an example of a small Food Forest integrated into a suburban lot.

    This is an example of a small Food Forest integrated into a suburban lot.

  • Holistic. The first goal is always on total forest health. The byproduct is a useful yield. By focusing on total forest health and increasing variety (with guilds), an Edible Forest Garden will be managed in a more holistic manner than a conventional orchard or garden. Conventional agriculture will use pesticides to target pests but end up killing the majority if the insects in the garden/orchard; we will attract beneficial insects, birds, and other predators of our pests to deal with them. Conventional agriculture will use herbicides to get rid of “‘weeds” and unwanted grasses; we will encourage a wide variety of “weeds” for their composting benefit, culinary and medicinal uses, and ability to attract beneficial insects. We will use mulches to smother “weeds” and build soil in the process; we will use covercrops and groundcovers to outcompete “weeds” and build soil or harvest a yield in the process. Conventional agriculture will use fungicides to prevent loss of plants and yields from fungal infections, but will destroy the majority of the fungus in the garden/orchard; we will encourage a healthy population of beneficial fungus in the soils, roots, and plant surfaces of our Food Forest that increase nutrient availability to our plants, improve their ability to ward off and defeat harmful fungi, and provide us with culinary and medicinal mushrooms. We will accept some loses on occasion by learning to work with nature instead of fighting against nature.
  • Low-Maintenance. This is not a NO-maintenance system. Don’t let someone tell you otherwise. Edible Forest Gardens require regular work to keep it from progressing to an unproductive system. A person can significantly reduce their work with some good design, but there is a fairly consistent work input to yield output ratio… in other words, if you do perform regular maintenance and management, you will likely obtain higher yields.
  • Cumulative Yield. Tying right into the point above, the cumulative yield is where Edible Forest Gardens excel over conventional agriculture. But you can’t quite compare apples to apples here. For instance, a conventional apple orchard will have a higher yield of apples per apple tree when compared to apple trees in our Edible Forest Garden. That conventional orchard will have trees spaced 8-12 feet apart, at a minimum. There may be some grass growing under the trees, but nothing else. However, in our Forest Garden, right under and near our apple trees, we can grow strawberries or blackberries or hazelnuts or culinary herbs or medicinal herbs or mushrooms… maybe all of them together! Our apple tree may decrease its yield by up to 50% due to some competition of soil or nutrients or light, but all the other fruits, nuts, herbs, etc. will increase total yields of that area to more than a monocrop system could every consider. When you add up all the individual yields over an entire Edible Forest Garden, the total yield can be significantly higher per area than a conventional system. Another way of saying this is that we can produce significantly more calories per acre than conventional agriculture by using this approach.
  • Produces the 8 F’s. Each Food Forest has its own goal and purpose depending on who is designing it. No two are identical. But we have the potential to produce all of the following:
    • Food
    • Fuel
    • Fodder (feed for our animals)
    • Fiber
    • Fertilizer
    • Farmaceuticals (plant derived medicines)
    • Framing (timber materials for building)
    • Fun


History of Edible Forest Gardens

The concept of an Edible Forest Garden is not new. Many peoples in tropical climates have used mixed plantings and animal systems as common practice. There has been a more recent understanding of how indigenous peoples have “managed” wilderness for thousands of years across most continents of the world, and I am sure there have been many other mixed planting systems which have been lost to history. The majority of these systems have been in tropical, Mediterranean, and non-Western parts of the world. Here are a couple videos showing old Edible Forest Garden systems:

Here is Geoff Lawton describing a 2,000 year old Edible Food Forest.

Here is Geoff Lawton visiting a 300 year old Edible Food Forest.


Bringing Edible Forest Gardens to the Temperate Climate

J. Russel Smith published a book in 1929. It was titled, Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture. (I highly recommend this book. It is as revolutionary as it is readable, and it is still pertinent today.) In his book, Smith documented numerous trees that could be used for perennial cropping to replace annual agriculture which destroys topsoil and depletes agricultural land. This book inspired Toyohiko Kagawa, a Japanese Christian evangelist, scientist, novelist, poet, linguist, political reformer, and one of the founders of the Japanese trade union movement. Kagawa spent many years in prison, was nominated multiple times for both the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Nobel Peace Prize, and Robert Hart spoke of him stating he “will surely come to be acknowledged as a universal genius on a par with Leonardo da Vinci”. Kagawa implemented a system he called Three-Dimensional Forestry or Forest Farming which was used in the Japanese uplands to reduce erosion.

J. Sholto Douglas met Kagawa in Tokoyo and then began implementing Kagawa’s 3-D system in southern Africa in conjunction with UNESCO. Douglas went on to author Forest Farming: Towards a Solution to Problems of World Hunger and Conservation in 1978.

But it was the work of an Englishman, Robert Hart, that brought the concept of Edible Forest Gardening to temperate climates in the Western world.  Hart was caring for his brother who was born with a severe learning disability when he came across an article written by Douglas. He was inspired to use take this concept from broad scale agriculture to his smallholding (small farm). He created a a 0.12 acre (500 m²) Forest Garden, and then wrote a book titled after the phrased he coined, Forest Gardening.

Bill Mollison, co-creator of Permaculture, visited Robert Hart and his Forest Garden in 1990. Mollison quickly incorporated this system into his teaching. Subsequently, Edible Forest Gardening has been closely associated with Permaculture.

Here is a video tour of Robert Hart’s garden, produced by Malcolm Baldwin. As you watch this video, note that more recent research has strongly suggested that Hart’s plant spacing was too close. A Food Forest in temperate climates will be significantly healthier and more productive if the trees are spaced further apart, so that the entire canopy is exposed to sunlight and significant sunlight can fall on the sub-canopy and shrubs underneath and around the trees. This video also shares the work of Ken Fern, founder of Plants for a Future. This is a fantastic resource I frequently use. 

Martin Crawford, manager of the Agroforestry Research Trust in Devon, England, began planting his 2 acre Food Forest in 1994. He now has over 400 species of plants on this plot, and he continues testing and sharing the results of his research on Forest Gardening. He is also the author of a fantastic Food Forest book I’ll discuss below.

Here is a video tour of Martin Crawford’s Food Forest.


Getting Started!

There are a number of books on the subject of Edible Food Forests.

Forest Gardening: Cultivating an Edible Landscape. Robert Hart. This is a good book for what it is, the first Food Forest book for temperate climates. It is rather revolutionary, and it is an enjoyable read, but I would not use this as a guide for creating an Edible Food Forest.

How to Make a Forest Garden. Patrick Whitefield. This is also a good book, but not one I would routinely recommend. It also is an enjoyable read, and I am a big fan of Patrick Whitefield. It was the first book to really give a “how to” on Forest Gardening. However, I do believe that more recent research suggests better design options than outlined in this book.

Creating a Forest Garden. Martin Crawford. This is an excellent book for planning, designing, planting, and maintaining a Forest Garden. I included a tour of Martin’s Food Forest above. He has one of the oldest, continually managed Food Forests in the Western world, founded in 1994. I highly and routinely recommend this book to those interested in getting started with Forest Gardening.

Edible Forest Gardens (2 Volume Set). Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier. I call this the bible of Forest Gardening in temperate climates! It is the most thorough and robust book on the subject. If you want to go deeper than picking a few trees and shrubs, than I cannot recommend these books enough. Be warned, these are thick, information dense books. But I have read them cover to cover, more than once. They are readable and enjoyable.

Farming the Woods. Ken Mudge and Steve Gabriel. This is an interesting book that is focused more on products that can be grown in an existing forest. I think there is a fantastic ability to translate this information into a designed Food Forest.

Perennial Vegetables. Eric Toensmeier. This book is focused more on individual plants than putting them all together, but that is definitely included. The only problem with this book is that the many of the vegetables listed are not for truly colder climates. I say that because I know some people who have been frustrated with this. However, I do still think it is a great reference for temperate climates, and I definitely recommend this book.

The Holistic Orchard: Tree Fruits and Berries the Biological Way. Michael Phillips. As I said before, the more work you put into your Food Forest, the more yield you will harvest. But how do we do this? How do we prune? How do we handle pests and diseases, because they will come. I do not think they will be nearly as bad as a conventional orchard, but they will come. We can just accept it, and probably lose some plants and lose some harvests, and this is a valid option. But if we are going to try and increase our yield, we need a solid plan that works with nature instead of against it. I believe Michael Phillips has put together about as good a plan as they come.

Restoration Agriculture. Mark Shepard. This book is mostly about broadacre Permaculture for farmers; however, many of the principles outlined in this book readily apply to Food Forests.

Landscaping with Fruit. Lee Reich. This book is more focused on homestead plantings, but it also provides a lot of good information on common and less than common fruiting trees and shrubs.

There are many online videos about Forest Gardening, and I have included many of these above. I will also highly recommend Geoff Lawton’s video: Establishing a Food Forest the Permaculture Way.

Promo of Geoff Lawton’s Food Forest DVD.


Online Resources.

The Temperate Climate Permaculture Plant Index. This is my own listing of plants that gives very detailed information on the species, history, planting, care, and uses of many plants I plan on including in my own Food Forest.

Plants for a Future Database. I highly recommend this site. I use it often. Probably the most complete online resource for the widest variety of useful plants.

Apios Institute. Their site states “The Apios Institute is a collaborative network of farmers, gardeners, and researchers focused on integrated perennial-crop agroecosystems (variously known as homegardens, food forests, and forest gardens). There are critical knowledge gaps regarding the design and management of these systems. Our website is a crowdsourced research platform for sharing experience and knowledge about perennial crop polyculture systems for all climates.” This site has a lot of promise to be a fantastic resource.


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    Why I will not teach a PDC Course… well, not for a long time.

Why I will not teach a PDC Course… well, not for a long time.

I am a huge proponent of Permaculture. That will not change. But it doesn’t mean that I am a blind follower. I try to balance my absolute wonder with the natural world and the power of regenerative agriculture with my skeptical personality. Permaculture has its detractors and critics (it had them from the start, and it has had them all along), and while I feel that some of the critiques are justified, I do think it is up to us within Permaculture to honestly assess the criticism and to develop solutions (Holmgren’s Permaculture Principle Four: Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback).

My latest thoughts have been on the topic of teaching Permaculture which is routinely done through the PDC Course. This foundational course has received its share of praise and attacks.

The Permaculture Design Certificate Course (also known as the PDC Course) is a 72-hour educational experience based upon Permaculture’s co-founder Bill Mollison’s 14-chapter textbook, Permaculture, A Designer’s Manual. Bill Mollison initially set up this training program as a way to teach Permaculture around the world. There was no “official” governing body. One only had to take a course, based on the original material, and the graduate was issued a Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC). With a PDC in hand, a person could use the word “Permaculture” to promote themselves or their business for design services or implementation… or teaching. Yes, teaching. If a person has a PDC, they are able to, according to Bill Mollison’s original model, start teaching PDC Courses immediately. I believe Bill Mollison did this intentionally to prevent Permaculture from becoming institutionalized. It has kept Permaculture a true grass-roots effort.

However, this freedom from institutionalization, as with most anti-establishment ideas, has some issues. Here are a few of the problems I see with this model:

1. It allows people with no practical experience to give advice to others with no experience. Wrong information or techniques are promoted and propagated. This allows certain dogmas to be perpetuated without anyone ever asking if the information is correct. (For one example, see my article on Dynamic Accumulators.)

2. It allows teachers to include additional information and/or requirements to the PDC. This can be out of good intentions (usually) or malicious ones (rare, but very damaging). Those with good intentions will think they are helping, but in reality, they are adding unneeded information that strays from the brilliance of the original 72-hour course. Some will add course material in an attempt to influence the students toward a particular mindset, worldview, or social/political ideology. This is disgusting and manipulative at best.

3. It allows teachers to treat the PDC Course as a means to an end, i.e. they see dollar signs with every potential student. Individuals with dynamic people skills and an entrepreneurial spirit will capitalize on this. These are the network marketing type individuals… every person is a “mark”, and they will try to teach until the “well runs dry”. These individuals will either run out of work, put themselves out of work, or continually move to new locations for new targets. The reality is that it takes a lot of time and money to put on a quality PDC Course. If you are “doing it right”, teaching these courses are exhausting and not exactly lucrative. This is why bad teachers put on really poor PDC Courses; they want to make money without the work or attention to detail needed for a quality course.

4. It allows individuals to teach a PDC Course with no formal education or teaching experience. This is a sticky topic within Permaculture. There are those who feel the requirements to teach Permaculture should not be changed; if you have a PDC, then you can teach. The students will decide. Good teachers will rise to the top. Bad teachers will be out of a job. It is now even easier to separate the wheat from the chaff in our modern era of social networking and instant online feedback. However, there are others that feel there should be a governing body for Permaculture. (Ultimately, this debate drives to the real question of “Who is in charge of Permaculture?” I wrote an article about that very question, and you can read it here.) There are other organizations who have decided to fight these problems by creating institutions that provide credentials for those who wish to teach Permaculture. While I still don’t know what I think about this approach, I entirely understand their reasoning. I think they have good intentions, and it looks like they are off to a pretty good start.

Here is the text from one organization that has established teaching credentialing, the Permaculture Institute USA in Santa Fe, New Mexico:

At a minimum, any certificate course shall meet the following criteria:

– The lead instructor is an established Permaculture teacher with a Diploma in Education (beginning in 2015) or equal credentials . Lead instructor is present throughout the entire course and course certificate bears his/her signature.

– The course provides a minimum of 72 hours of direct contact with instructor(s), in addition to group design time, homework assignments, self-study time, hands-on projects, visits to demonstration sites and other learning activities. Courses shorter than 12 contact-days are generally not offering sufficient time for learning and should be evaluated by potential students for their validity.

– Course material is inclusive of, but not limited to, all subjects listed in the PDC Outline.

– Course includes at least one design project exercise or multiple design vignettes.

Currently, there is no unified oversight for the multitude of permaculture courses offered globally. We encourage prospective learners, if in doubt, to request course syllabus from the lead instructor and compare it against criteria listed above or contact us with further questions.

 I bolded and italicized the last sentence because it is so important! If every potential student did this, then I think the need for teacher credentialing would be nil.


Our farm

Our farm, the Bauernhof Kitsteiner, where I will be implementing my design and efforts.

With all this said, I know that I want to be part of the solutions, not the problems within Permaculture. I want to be clear that I have no issues with any particular teacher, nor do I have any issues with those who want to be teachers. That is just not for me at this point. I am not trying to be pious about this, but I know I will not teach a PDC Course for a long time. I have studied Permaculture for well over a decade. I have written many articles about Permaculture. If you read through my articles, you will see that I have worked hard to only share verifiable information. I am a physician and have a background in Biology and have participated in bench work research as well as literature search research. I am pretty good (not perfect!) at sorting through information, identifying the facts, and condensing it into a readable article. But I don’t feel I have enough on-the-ground experience to formally teach Permaculture yet. After moving every 2-4 years for the past 18 years, we have only just settled down on our own farmstead five month ago. How can I speak on the long-term application of Permaculture when I have yet to do it myself?

What I will do is continue to share my experiences. I will share my successes, and I will share my failures. I will be as transparent as possible. I will continually strive to keep Permaculture pertinent, relevant, reliable, and reputable. For that is what I feel Permaculture is. And I believe that is how we will positively move Permaculture forward.


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  • Our farm photos belong to us. Please ask if you would like to use them.


Designing A Custom Native Plant List

The first Permaculture Ethic is Earth Care. This can be realized in many different ways depending on appropriate context. Personally, as my family is preparing for our move to the farm, I have been in massive planning mode. For us, one aspect of planning for Earth Care will be the planting of native plants. There are a number of reasons for planting native plants including:

  • Restoring a native ecosystem
  • Increasing wildlife habitat
  • Increasing wildlife food sources
  • Pollen and nectar source for native pollinators
  • Pollen and nectar source for beneficial insects
  • Pollen and nectar source for honeybees
  • Ancillary forage source for domestic animals on the farm
  • Sources of herbal/plant-derived medicinals

Again, there are a number of things to consider when compiling a list like this, and I thought I would share how I built my list. I wanted plants that are:

  • Native. These are plants that should, typically, be designed/well-suited for my climate and grow the best. Of course, this is not always true with how the land has been used/abused/cleared.
  • Commercially Available. Yes, it is possible for me to find wild specimens and collect seed, divide, etc. But this is significantly less practical right now. I may do this in the future, but for now I will need to purchase these plants. Ideally, I will be able to get seed for these plants.
  • Attract Beneficial Insects, Pollinators, and Honeybees. This was described above, but it is important enough to reiterate. These plants provide food sources for birds, bats, native bees, bumble bees, parasitic wasps, predatory wasps, predatory insects, etc. All these animals greatly reduce pest damage (and many diseases by reducing the pests that introduce the diseases) and increase pollination rates. This equates to higher yields with less damage. It also increases general biodiversity with its many known and unknown benefits.
  • Non-Toxic… mostly. When I started looking through all the plants that met the above criteria, I decided to eliminate certain plants that were known to be highly toxic to people or livestock. Plants like White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima var. altissima), Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberose), and Green-Headed Coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata), to name but three, attract beneficial insects, but can also kill a cow or a child. That is not compatible for us. There are a number of plants I did chose to keep that are potentially toxic to horses, but since we don’t plan on keeping horses, these plants fit within our context. In addition, there are other plants, Black Cherry (Prunus serotina) is one example, that is known to have toxins in pretty much all parts but the fruit; however, the birds and I enjoy the fruits so much that I thought I would keep this one on my list. Finally, I kept a number of plants that have “some reports of toxicity”. This may mean that if a plant or person eats too much of it, they can get sick, so keeping a wide variety of plants mitigates this risk. I believe that many plants are harmful if eaten in excess, but a cow taking a nibble once in a while may have a health benefit – the plant may be slightly anti-parasitic, or it may contain certain trace nutrients an animal needs in very small quantity. I do know that these plants existed with grazing and browsing animals for a long time before we got rid of them, so it stands to reason that if a plant is not deadly toxic in small amounts, it likely deserves a place on a regenerative farm.
  • Non-Invasive. This can be a little controversial. I will likely be adding some plants to my landscape that some people would not because of a “risk of invasiveness”. I believe many “invasive plants” are only invasive because we have degraded the land so much that these plants are the only ones able to grow on it anymore. If we are dealing with healthy soils and pastures and forests, then many (NOT ALL) of these invasive plants are not a problem. With that said, I will not actively be planting Ironweed (Vernonia spp.) or Trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans).
  • Finally, and this is more of an organizational method, I wanted a variety of plants that would flower throughout as much of the year as possible. You will see below how this works.

Let me know walk you through how I created a list of Native Plants for a Tennessee Permaculture Family Farm. How do you start?

You may happen to live in an area where someone has already created a seed mix. Peaceful Valley has a seed blend for California called the Good Bug Blend. For the rest of us, we need to make our own list and obtain our own seeds.

One great resource for lists of North American native plants that attract pollinators is the Xerces Society. Their site has a List of Regional Bee-Friendly Plants. Find your area and start a spreadsheet or list of plants for your area.

Another amazing resource (if you live in the USA or Canada) is the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center of The University of Texas at Austin. They have an extensive listing of native plants that are commercially available. There is a listing for each plant that also provides its blooming time. I recommend you find your state or province on their Collections Page. Add this list to your master list.

Next, I evaluated each species for invasiveness and for toxicity to humans and livestock. I utilized a number of sites for this including the NRCS Plant Factsheets, the Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health, and Cornell University’s Plants Poisonous to Livestock.

Using the above resources, I created a list of plants that met my criteria (yours will probably be different). I then made a table where I highlighted the months when the plant blooms. Next, I rearranged the table so that the plants were listed in order of bloom time. In addition, I left a blank for additional notes, and I color-coded the plant name based on its growth habit (Vine, Herbaceous, Shrub, or Tree).

This is the result:

Microsoft Word - Design Your Own Good Bug Blend - 4.docx

Microsoft Word - Design Your Own Good Bug Blend - 4.docx

Microsoft Word - Design Your Own Good Bug Blend - 4.docx


Click to download a PDF of this document: Native Plants for a Tennessee Permaculture Family Farm

I hope this article provides you with some tools and motivation to produce a custom native plant list. While it takes a bit of research and time, this list will be a reference for your land forever. To me, that is time well spent!


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Bruce Lee would be a Permaculturist

Bruce Lee was a genius. Unfortunately, many people only know him from his martial arts movies, which can be a bit cheesy by modern standards, and most people have never even seen his movies and only know him by his reputation as a martial arts actor. In reality, he was probably one of the most influential martial artists of all time. Personally, while I am not a martial artist by any means, although I have dabbled with karate and taekwondo a bit, I have always been a fan of Bruce Lee for his creation of Jeet Kune Do.

Jeet Kune Do, sometimes known as “the way of the intercepting fist”, is a martial art and philosophy that Bruce Lee created in 1967, just  years before his death. In very basic summary, Lee was frustrated with how martial arts, and fighting forms in general, had become more about form than function. Starting a fight is never the goal, but if a fight comes to you, winning is what matters. Knowing fancy moves that can be applied in very few settings are impractical. Bruce Lee looked across the world and through history to see what fighting techniques actually worked and really made sense. He borrowed the best from multiple Asian martial arts, boxing, and even fencing. He unchained himself from tradition, and he stepped out on a new path that made practical sense.

To me, this is exactly what Permaculture does. We study as widely as we can, and we incorporate the practical. Ingrained techniques and methods need to be questioned. We need to take what works and discard the rest.

This first quote is from Bruce Lee sharing his thoughts on Jeet Kune Do in 1971. If we substitute “Jeet Kune Do” with “Permaculture”, I think you will see why I feel Bruce Lee would be a proponent of Permaculture.

I have not invented a “new style,” composite, modified or otherwise that is set within distinct form as apart from “this” method or “that” method. On the contrary, I hope to free my followers from clinging to styles, patterns, or molds. Remember that Jeet Kune Do is merely a name used, a mirror in which to see “ourselves”. . . Jeet Kune Do is not an organized institution that one can be a member of. Either you understand or you don’t, and that is that.

There is no mystery about my style. My movements are simple, direct and non-classical. The extraordinary part of it lies in its simplicity. Every movement in Jeet Kune Do is being so of itself. There is nothing artificial about it. I always believe that the easy way is the right way. Jeet Kune Do is simply the direct expression of one’s feelings with the minimum of movements and energy. The closer to the true way of Kung Fu, the less wastage of expression there is. Finally, a Jeet Kune Do man who says Jeet Kune Do is exclusively Jeet Kune Do is simply not with it. He is still hung up on his self-closing resistance, in this case anchored down to reactionary pattern, and naturally is still bound by another modified pattern and can move within its limits. He has not digested the simple fact that truth exists outside all molds; pattern and awareness is never exclusive. Again let me remind you Jeet Kune Do is just a name used, a boat to get one across, and once across it is to be discarded and not to be carried on one’s back.
– Bruce Lee (September 1971)

Here are some additional quotes from Bruce Lee. His philosophy aligns perfectly with Permaculture.

If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.

If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.

Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.

A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.

The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering.

Ever since I was a child I have had this instinctive urge for expansion and growth. To me, the function and duty of a quality human being is the sincere and honest development of one’s potential.

To hell with circumstances; I create opportunities.

Take things as they are. Punch when you have to punch. Kick when you have to kick.

Man, the living creature, the creating individual, is always more important than any established style or system.

Obey the principles without being bound by them.

All fixed set patterns are incapable of adaptability or pliability. The truth is outside of all fixed patterns.

Real living is living for others.

It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.


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Don’t say the “P” word

“I wish we could avoid the “P” word.”

“I practice Permaculture, but I never use the word.”

“If you mention sustainable agriculture, agroforestry, ecology, and so on, you are fine. But as soon as you say ‘Permaculture’, they will ask you to leave, shut the door, or hang up the phone.”

I have heard variations of these statements for years. The people who make these statements are typically individuals who are working closely with those in mainstream agriculture. They may be conventional farmers or ranchers who have discovered the science of Permaculture and have converted their operations. They may be first-generation Permaculture farmers/ranchers who are positively involved with their community. They may be consultants who help well-established or brand new farmers/ranchers develop more holistic, sustainable, and regenerative management systems. The bottom line, though, is that these people are speaking from experience. They have had the door slammed in their face when the land owner hears the word “Permaculture”.

I want to dive into this issue. I am sure there will be people who disagree, in whole or in part, with my take on this topic, but I believe we need to be talking more openly about this issue. Because it is an issue in the Permaculture world. Ignoring it will not make it go away. Talking about it, working through the issues, and being open and honest about it are the only ways to resolve it. So let’s start…

I believe, as I have said, that the people who make these statements are telling the truth. I do believe they have had positive experiences with certain individuals until the word Permaculture is used. Then they are shut down. It is important that I am clear. This does happen. However…

I believe that these experiences occur way less, and are often significantly less dramatic, than it appears. It is human nature to remember, and tell the story of, negative experiences. These are the stories that stick with people. They have a big impact on the person who experienced it and on the person who hears the retelling. This is true in any industry from restaurants to cell phones to medicine. It takes dozens, or more, positive experiences to undo the damage of one, single, negative experience. I have been studying and talking about Permaculture for over a decade, and I have never had one of these experiences. I have spoken with many, many farmers and ranchers about Permaculture. While they don’t always agree with my assessment, we at least have a decent conversation about it, and some have been very interested. To be fair and honest, I am not a consultant, and I have yet to practice Permaculture on a broad scale (which is a significant issue I will talk about next), so I am not in the same position as some of those who have had these negative experiences. However, I would love to know, from these individuals who have had these negative experiences, how many times they have had a negative experience versus how many times they have had a positive one. I think this is a very important part of the equation.

We need to address why these negative experiences do occur. I believe, based on the stories people tell, that these negative experiences are a direct result of prior Permaculturists who are, to be honest, complete idiots. Every field of study, every area of interest, has their share of idiots, and Permaculture is no different. Imagine this scenario…

Imagine you are a conventional farmer. You truly believe you are helping to feed the world. Yes, you do think there are some significant issues that should be dealt with, but you are doing what father and your grandfather have done for decades, and it works. You provide “food for the world”, and you provide an income to care for your family. Then one day, someone shows up at your farm or at the farm store or randomly on the street in a chance conversation. They tell you that you are destroying the world. They tell you that you are the cause for climate change (which you are not really sure you believe is occurring anyway)… oh, and you should become a vegetarian, too. They tell you that you need to change what your family has been doing for generations, and do it now, to save the planet. They tell you that you can actually make more money with only a fraction of the work. They tell you that you can create Utopia on Earth, and Gaia will reward you for it. They tell you to embrace Permaculture. Then, if the conversation hasn’t been too confrontational yet, you ask about their experience history. They look a little confused for a moment, a little unsure of themselves, and then they tell you they have never actually farmed. They tell you they have only just started a garden this year for the first time, but they have a lot of great tomatoes. They tell you they have no idea how to transition from a farm with a steady cash flow to a Permaculture paradise while still being able to provide for your family and not lose the farm. But they did take a 72-hour course that involved mud baths and drum circles, and they are confident that it will work.

Yes, I took a little liberty in making this a worst case scenario… sort of, because this is not that far from the stories I have heard. It appears that most of the time it is the well-meaning, but inexperienced, new Permaculturist who is motivated to change the world that is causing these problems. In this scenario, other than making other Permaculturists look bad, no true harm was done. The real damage is done when an inexperienced Permaculturist convinces a farmer to make significant changes… and things fail.

But we need to be level headed about this. This occurs in mainstream, conventional agriculture all the time, but because the recommendations were given by an agricultural extension agent or a university, all is forgivable or at least accepted. And let us not forget that these mistakes have been made by the best Permaculturists as well. I vaguely recall a story Bill Mollison told where he is compared to public enemy number one in a certain town. He recommended, and implemented, the large-scale planting of a tree with large thorns (if I remember correctly) that ended up being the bane of any wheeled vehicle in the entire area. He relates how they curse his name to this day!


The Permaculture Wardrobe

The Permaculture Wardrobe – this is how Permaculture fits into my worldview.

Permaculture is not just an alternative approach. I have heard people say, “I use Permaculture when it fits, and I use other methods when they are more appropriate.” This is fundamentally different than my view. Permaculture is a filter that all methods, interventions, and actions pass through before being implemented. The specific parts of the filter are Permaculture’s Prime Directive (The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for own existence and that of our children.) and Permaculture’s Three Ethics (Earth Care, People Care, and Return of the Surplus). As a physician, I have the privilege to practice the only other ethical science that I know, medicine. The ethics of medicine (Hippocrates’ charge: First do no harm) guides how medical providers should approach every decision with their patient. Permaculture is the same. We may use any method or action as long as it passes through Permaculture’s ethical filter. There is not a specific “Permaculture” method or system. I created the image above, based on Geoff Lawton’s description of the Permaculture Wardrobe, to illustrate how all methods, actions, and fields of study or design fits within Permaculture.

Avoiding the word Permaculture is the wrong approach. I also don’t think we need to use it excessively either. However, if what we are doing is, indeed, Permaculture, then don’t be afraid to use the word. Permaculture is a science, a design science. Engineers do not avoid using the word Mathematics. Astronauts don’t avoid using the word Astronomy. Why should we, as Permaculturists, as planet regenerators, avoid using the word Permaculture? Because some people don’t like it? Really? We need a unified approach in my opinion. How about we use the word, use it often, use it appropriately, and then implement it with excellence!



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The illustration above is mine. Feel free to share it, but please don’t change it. If you would like to use it for a publication or project, please let me know!


The Permaculture Wardrobe

Permaculturists frequently speak about the Permaculture Wardrobe. I first heard it from Geoff Lawton, but I am not sure if the concept originated with him. The wardrobe is an idea that describes the knowledge that can be drawn from and the skills that can be applied to a Permaculture project. I have seen the wardrobe in my head for years, and I finally decided to put pen to paper.

If we will have a chance of turning things around, everything we do must agree with Permaculture’s Three Ethics engraved at the top of the wardrobe.

I purposely do not have the doors opened all the way. This serves two purposes. First, it provides space for all the information, skills, design methods, etc. that I could never really fit in a drawing (especially that one topic that you think I left out!). Second, for me it represents that there will always be more to discover behind that door; how exciting that we never stop learning!



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The illustration at the top of this article is mine. Feel free to share it, but please don’t change it. If you would like to use it for a publication or project, please let me know!


Infographic – Pioneer Species for a Temperate Climate

I compiled information on Pioneer Species and Succession a few years ago, and I posted it in a series of articles:

A friend (Jake) suggested I make an infographic. That thought was in my mind for the last few years, and I finally took the time to do it.

Click here to download the high-resolution PDF.

For a quick review:
Pioneer species are plants, often considered weeds, which nature uses to transition from bare soil to a climax forest. They cover the soil quickly and reduce erosion. They often have deep taproots that pull nutrients from the depths. They can thrive in drought, full-sun, and bare soil conditions, and they pave the way for slower growing plants that need more moisture. The first pioneer plants are annuals and herbaceous perennials. Eventually shrubs and then trees appear. Pioneer species can be all of these types of plants, but the larger shrubs and trees often take many years to appear.

By using pioneer species with modern forest garden, agroforestry, and permaculture techniques, we can speed up the natural succession process to develop (or redevelop) sustainable and regenerative ecosystems for wildlife, agricultural, or personal use.

This infographic provides key information on growing conditions, attributes, and edible parts of many important pioneer species.



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