Spring is finally upon us and it’s time to start preparing our gardens! This is one of my favorite times of year. I absolutely adore shopping for seeds and planning the garden. All of the abundance that comes from the tiny seeds – food, medicine, and life – is like magic to me, every single year.
There’s a method of gardening and farming that’s gotten pretty popular in recent years called permaculture. The idea behind permaculture is to grow a variety of plants together in a way that encourages and adapts to life itself. This means trying to work with nature, instead of trying to fight it.
The very first principle of permaculture is to observe. Observation, listening, and learning from the environment itself is key to creating a healthy and vibrant garden. Increasing biodiversity is perhaps at the very heart of permaculture – an intention to create richly textured landscapes that host a variety of flora and fauna.
Below I’m going to share three groups of plants that you’ll want to add to your home landscaping, garden, or farm. Adding one of each of these is a super easy, but impactful introduction to permaculture gardening.
These plants have long roots that pull nutrients from deep down in the ground and store them in their leaves. Then when the leaves are added to compost or shed and biodegrade back into the soil, they release these nutrients into the upper soil layers for other plants to utilize. Not only do they share this nutrition with other plants, but they oftentimes also provide nutrient-dense greens for wildlife (of the four-legged and two-legged variety).
Plants in this group include: Borage, Yarrow, Nettles, Comfrey, Dandelion, Hemp, Mullein, Chicory, Blackberry, Raspberry, Cleavers, and Chickweed.
These plants are rich in nectar and pollen for various pollinators, including butterflies, bees, ants, birds, bats, beetles, and more. These plants provide both food and habitat for the many pollinators that are vital to every garden. Consider planting a variety of pollinator-friendly flowers of different shapes, sizes, and colors to attract a variety of insects and critters. Include both native and non-native plants, as they will cater to different species. Bumblebees and other native bees tend to love native flowers, while honeybees seem to favor many introduced varieties!
Plants in this group include: Borage, Red Clover, Mimosa, Comfrey, Poppies, Motherwort, Tulsi, Mint, Rue, Sage, Echinacea, Chamomile, Lavender, Rosemary, Linden, and Alfalfa.
These plants have symbiotic relationships with nodules of bacteria that live in their roots. The bacteria pull nitrogen from the soil in a form that isn’t usable by the plant and then converts it to a form that plants can use. This benefits not only the plant with those nodules, but also plants growing nearby.
Plants in this group include all Fabaceae family members, such as: Red Clover, Mimosa, Rue, Alfalfa, Fenugreek, and Peas.
If you’d like to try adding some of these lovely plants to your home garden, first find out what growing zone you live in. Research when your last frost date is so you know when it will be safe to start planting outdoors. If that sounds like too much, go check with a local nursery to see what your options are. I recommend finding a small, locally owned nursery, as the health of their plants tends to be much greater.
Pick one plant from each group, purchase a potted plant, and simply plant it in your garden! Be sure to pay attention to how much sunlight and shade it will be getting, and water regularly. Remember that the #1 rule is observation, so be attentive to the little guys! I promise they will reward you 🙂
If you cannot find any of these medicinals at your local nursery, try shopping online at Strictly Medicinal Seeds. They have plenty of the plants I’ve mentioned and are of superb quality and health.