Bee’s Friend

Lacy phacelia
Phacelia tanacetifolia
BORAGINACEAE, The Borage family

Erik Blender opened his garden this evening for a permaculture meet-up and this was one of the many of the beneficial insect plants growing there. Like mine, his food forest/garden system is in its third year. He had some compacted soil and slopes to deal with in the small space but has established fruit, berries, perennials and reseeding annuals with an emphasis on medical plants. It was interesting to see the medicinal products he has made: rosemary oil and tincture, comfrey oil for traumatic injury, St. John’s wort oil, fireweed tea and others.

Like many permaculture gardens the process leaves a messy look. Diversity is high and is not yet balanced with order or a design sensibility. This sometimes evolves as gardens mature and sheet mulching and raw soil gives way to more ground cover and cleaner, more refined surfaces. Reseeding and spreading plants are edited or keep in check by fuller permanent plants.

In my garden I have moved away from composting at one site as I have more biomass to process and am mulching many weeds and trimming near the source. By chopping these up fairly finely they are more attractive and more readily available to soil organisms. Permaculture is a paradigm shift and I often feel like I work in the balance between the cultural contexts of ornamental gardens and eco-system models. For instance, what is the difference between hugelkulture and a brush heap in your front yard? Intention and whether or not your neighbors call in a complaint.

Luckily Erik has interested and supportive neighbors and his little farm is thriving. He has three wonderful black chickens whose pen and coop he moves seasonally and makes a new garden bed where it had been: a slow moving chicken tractor.  Unlike many urban gardeners, his aim is not to grow all his own food or to focus on annual vegetable production. Since his space is limited, he is happy to support local farmers when he buys vegetables and invest in long-term production and medicinal plants on his property.




About Mulysa

I love my work as a landscape designer and artist. When I'm not planning homesteads or working in the studio, you'll find me hiking, photographing, gardening, baking, cooking vegetarian meals with friends, reading and working on sustainability issues...with my baby on my hip in Portland, Oregon.
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