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Talking to People Who are Afraid a Permaculture Garden Will Look Messy

 
                          
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Am so happy to have found this forum.  Just laying out plans for a permaculture garden and you guys are a wealth of info for me.  Been a gardener in Central Texas life-long, but just begun to understand what a responsibility I have to the future.  Will enjoy reading and gleaning such valuable info.  Blessings to you all for being so willing to share. 
Any goodies you want to pass on I'll take to heart.  Have very dry and hot 5 acres to do something ?? with. 
 
pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Happy to see another Central Texas gardener here. 

My first recommendation is to get Brad Lancaster's "Rainwater Harvesting" books: http://www.harvestingrainwater.com/

Watch his videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2iQ-FBAmvBw

Also, learn about hugelkulturhttps://permies.com/permaculture-forums/17_0/permaculture/hugelkultur

 
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John Polk wrote:
This subject can be a two-edged sword.  In an urban/suburban neighborhood, if we are not in harmony with our neighbors to a certain extent, we are not in harmony with nature.  Being in harmony with the microbes, insects and other wildlife is a mute point if we live in constant conflict with the human element.


.
I don't mean to be rude, but trying to appease the wrong, the vain, the "human element" is worse than fruitless and has nothing to do with nature (unless you think everything is natural maybe). The neighbors should stop wasting resources (land, water, fuel, etc.) instead, then all our lives would improve - and not just in the superficial sense that they would the other way around. Its rather disgusting to think the permaculturist should have to, in part, become wrong to be "right".
 
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Just Google Ross Greasy, her gardens are beautiful. She produces lots of food and even has chickens. All in a neighborhood that is very  upscale. Her book is selling so fast that they are having a tough time printing enough. Not quite Permaculture but very nice. I do not think she is selling out. If she lived in a more rural area I think her gardens would still be works of art and food.
 
Tyler Ludens
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J-gez wrote:
The neighbors should stop wasting resources (land, water, fuel, etc.)



Any suggestions on how to get the neighbors to stop wasting resources?  Otherwise, the suggestion "they should stop" isn't very helpful.

BTW, I think human behavior is "natural" though not always beneficial.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Russ W wrote:
Just Google Ross Greasy,



Rosalind Creasy.    http://www.rosalindcreasy.com/
 
Joe Netzl
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H Ludi Tyler wrote:
Any suggestions on how to get the neighbors to stop wasting resources?



Maybe you could show them how costly poor land management is and how beneficial good land management is. Share the produce and the information behind it. Show them what rich soil looks like, etc.

Folks spend comparable amounts time and money on their yard and have little to show for it. Most don't even use their yards for anything. I see zero-turn mowers everywhere...I say, for a couple thousand dollars you could do a lot better.
 
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I'm very new to all of this, so feel free to take anything I say with a grain of salt.

My wife is very skeptical about permie stuff because she hates 'messy' gardens. So this weekend we were both working on our own separate gardens - she in the concrete paved beds near the house, and me out the front on the road easement.

She spent hours pulling 'weeds' out, breaking up the clumps of soil, and all the usual stuff. At the end of the day she had a few things planted, but had dirt all over the paths, tools and all sorts of fertilizer bags and other additives to pack away, and a mountain of weeds. It looked like a complete mess.

On the other hand, I spent an hour or so gathering up some soil, old cow manure, rotting hay, and other bits and pieces to mix into a sort of mulch/composty hybrid. Then I used this to build up some mounds to plant stuff in, which I placed nearer and farther from the established trees and shrubs so as to get the sunlight about right. Then I planted some seedlings and seeds, and then put some extra semi-green mulch on top of the mounds. I used a shovel, a wheelbarrow, and a watering can. Everything else came from what was laying around the general area, so there was no need to put away what was not needed, because it was already there!

My area is done, and looks nice. Hers looks like a bomb went off. Mine took less effort, made less mess, cost less money, and looks nice right now. She could argue that hers will look more neat and tidy eventually, but I know from past experience how much work that is to maintain. My area is where grass meets a treeline, so extra plants easing the transition from horizontal to vertical (via pumpkins through climbing beans) will actually form a aesthetic improvement!  I haven't messed with the soil, so there's no reason why 'weeds' should suddenly spring into life - I've just added some new plants to an existing system. She has torn the system out and left lots of places for weeds to get a foothold.

Obviously what I'm doing isn't the work of a level 10 permawizard, but it's a step down that path, and it's allowing me to validate some of the theory I have read before I start in earnest on a larger, more deliberate scale. I guess my advice is that actions speak louder than words, so find case studies that illustrate your point.  Whether it's your own work or someone else's shouldn't matter, so long as you understand enough of the specifics to be able to answer some (possibly pointed) questions about the details, like how much time is spent maintaining it.

Hope that is helpful in some way. It seems lately every post I make turns into some sort of unholy combination of journal entry, fabel, and intellectual enema...
 
Tyler Ludens
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J-gez wrote:
Maybe you could show them how costly poor land management is and how beneficial good land management is. Share the produce and the information behind it. Show them what rich soil looks like, etc.



Looks like pretty much exactly what people were talking about in this thread  None of what you mention above requires the place look like a mess.  I can do those things and be in harmony with my neighbors, in my opinion.
 
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I borrowed a picture book from the library called English Herb Gardens.

I don't think any neighborhood could complain of the beautiful garden designs
that can be created.  They are a lot more work to maintain then, but they can
still contain plenty of permaculture principals in the design and plant choices.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Seems to me there's no reason the designs for herb gardens or such styles as French decorative food gardens can't be reproduced using permaculture techniques, especially since most include fruit trees and shrubs, flowers and companion herbs. 

A famous English example of the French decorative food garden style  is the vegetable garden at Barnsley House, designed by Rosemary Verey. 

The potager at the chateau of Miromesnil  is a very classic example of that decorative style.  Some changes would need to be made to technique (less monoculture, using mulch instead of keeping the soil surface clean) but I think one can get a lot of inspiration from looking at photos of these gardens (or visiting them if you're able!).  http://www.gardenvisit.com/garden/chateau_de_miromesnil

My favorite book for inspiration is "The Art of French Vegetable Gardening" by Louisa Jones. 
 
steward
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I don't see how any neighbor could complain about a well laid out classical English herb garden.

Expansive lawns were first created by the wealthy, landed gentry, as a visual means to prove to everybody that they were wealthy enough to not have to worry about growing their own food. 

The formal herb garden was an expansion of the same theme, with the added benefit of actually producing something of value/use and more eye appeal than a stark green lawn.  Most of these gardens were manicured to perfection by the live-in, hired gardener(s).

Anybody that would complain about such a planting, should, for the same reasons, complain about a large lawn.  They are each a display of wealth (or abundance of free time).

If I have the 'right' to complain about my neighbor's manicured lawn, he has the same 'right' to complain about my 'messy' garden.
 
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I think you'd have to make it messier to make it function like a permaculture garden.  Straight rows or square patches of the same plant are inefficient at capturing light energy, and also require human energy to maintain the order by weeding, removing volunteers, managing insect infestations, etc.  A permaculture planting might use the same plants but mixing them up a bit, and adding in some support species.  I suspect this would take away from the formal look somewhat.  It might tend to look 'wilder' because that's what it is - something that is taking care of its own needs more than requiring human input.  If it requires an abundance of free time or wealth, as John Polk puts it, then I believe it is less likely to be permaculture.
 
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Hugh H. wrote:
I think you'd have to make it messier to make it function like a permaculture garden.  Straight rows or square patches of the same plant are inefficient at capturing light energy, and also require human energy to maintain the order by weeding, removing volunteers, managing insect infestations, etc.  A permaculture planting might use the same plants but mixing them up a bit, and adding in some support species.  I suspect this would take away from the formal look somewhat.  It might tend to look 'wilder' because that's what it is - something that is taking care of its own needs more than requiring human input.  If it requires an abundance of free time or wealth, as John Polk puts it, then I believe it is less likely to be permaculture.



Wilder doesn't equal messy though, right?
 
Hugh Hawk
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I probably should have said 'less orderly' rather than 'messy'.  I wasn't trying to infer ugliness.  But these types of herb gardens are what they are because of that order that is imposed on them.  You can plant the plants in a permaculture way, but I don't know if it will still be the same thing.
 
Benjamin Burchall
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Hugh H. wrote:
I probably should have said 'less orderly' rather than 'messy'.  I wasn't trying to infer ugliness.  But these types of herb gardens are what they are because of that order that is imposed on them.  You can plant the plants in a permaculture way, but I don't know if it will still be the same thing.



Hey, I agree with you. I think a strictly permaculture garden, at least the way I define it, wouldn't have so much of a 'planned' look. It's one of the problems with doing the community garden thing. In a lot of community gardens, they want your plot to look 'tidy'. Well that's just not how my garden is going to look. You're going too see plants going to seed. You're going to see my crops marching around the bed as the parents drop seed and the babies come up in different places. Out in California, my garden went through the stage I called 'the browning'. That was the time from late summer through fall when warm season crops are going to seed and you'll see plants dying back. People don't like to see that. They want you to chop it all down and make it look tidy. But that is one of the most productive times of the year. Lots of edible seed crops and the plants that love the drought are going strong.

I relish having a garden of my own again. When I finally buy a lot, sure the public facing part may be more conventionally ornamental (with edible plants), but the rest will be pure natural farming. I don't even like to call what I do farming because it doesn't look like a farm and it takes a fraction of the work.
 
Hugh Hawk
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http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2011/sep/21/making-a-stink/

Environmental Court gets whiff of eco-friendly Memphis yard, calls it 'nuisance'
 
Tyler Ludens
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Hugh H. wrote:
I probably should have said 'less orderly' rather than 'messy'.  I wasn't trying to infer ugliness.  But these types of herb gardens are what they are because of that order that is imposed on them.  You can plant the plants in a permaculture way, but I don't know if it will still be the same thing.



A formal style would definitely require more work, and for me, ultimately the goal of a permaculture system is to require less work because the system does the work itself.  However I don't think one should make the perfect the enemy of the good.  If one wants to try to encourage one's neighbors to enjoy and possibly to eventually practice permaculture, working a bit harder to make a less-messy garden would be appropriate.  Plants could be organized in small clumps of the same variety, interspersed with different varieties, so the design would probably be more active rather than the calming effect of large swaths of the same plant.  And/or one could provide a severe design framework with permanent edging plants around active plots filled with a large variety of different plants.  This kind of design shows up in the jardin de cure' or monastery herb garden.  http://www.frenchgardening.com/aujardin.html?pid=1180631017121740
 
                          
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Thanks so much.  I lost 4 huge limbs off my giant Oak tree this year.  Cut them up and stacked, thought I may try some mushrooms on a few.  Had no idea what I could do with the rest.  In this deep sandy soil, this my be my saving grace for water conservation and amending my very fine soil.  This sand is so fine it packs like concrete after a pouring rain.
Still haven't nailed down my choice on how to use this old farm.  60 acres total, 15-20 could be row crop farmed, or whatever.  Remaining is pasture for 5 cows 1 bull.  12 laying hens.
Whatever I do must pay SOMETHING !  SOMEHOW?  All the help you can offer would be so greatly appreciated. 
 
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Hi folks,

I'm constantly being told by my wife and her family that our garden at home looks a state. The straw mulch, the newspaper in the beds, the choice of plants, the supposed chaos, the insects, the lack of lawn etc etc.

Many adults have strong model constructs in their heads about what constitutes a garden. Many have been nowhere near a farm, an orchard or an allotment since childhood. Their minds are stuck on a loop of RHS Chelsea, Ground Force and trips to B&Q. A great many are turned off by science, bothered about the neighbours and plain scared of hassle.

Try to just focus on one small element of your garden when talking to people. Like a guild. Explain what it does, why it's there and what you get out of it. Then point out that you've got little projects like this all over the garden. Slow and small solutions. Let it dawn on them. People prefer to twig things than be told them. Kids are cool in this respect because they're naturally keen to work things out. They work things out every 5 minutes.

 
Tyler Ludens
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I think if one is concerned about trying to influence family or neighbors, working somewhat within their mental framework can be helpful. For instance, one could design a garden with a very small central lawn which could be managed using permacultural ideas http://www.richsoil.com/lawn-care.jsp yet still have the effect of a "normal" lawn. Around this central lawn feature one could have beds of perennial edible plants and annual vegetables, as well as fruit bushes, all designed as though it is a traditional mixed border but using edible plants instead of merely decorative. Avoid floppy or messy mulches (no newspaper or chopped and dropped weeds visible). Yes, this will be more work (possibly a lot more work) but it may influence people better than a no-hold-barred wild Food Forest.

Example of decorative tiny food forest: https://permies.com/t/14906/permaculture/Jeanine-permaculture-projects

 
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Benjamin Burchall wrote:

H Ludi Tyler wrote:
Or you might need to be extra creative in designing your permaculture garden.   



I'm all ears!  Let's say you live in a subdivision that only allows your front yard to be lawn no higher than 3" tall and maybe a tree (which they specify the types that you can choose from).  Ok, let's give a little more latitude. The C&Rs allow for you to have a some ornamental flowers flanking you front door. How would you permaculturize (Is that a word?) that other than maybe picking some ornamental flowers that are edible? Crack that nut!  

Don't forget...a sometimes the C&Rs tell you what kind of grass are allowed too. I would so never live in a place like this! Nah ah...no...never!



Graze your "pet" rabbits on the lawn.
 
pollinator
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Personally I think my yard and gardens look nice but I got the I-dont-want-the-yard-to-look-messy comment from hubby today

The front yard is a stereotypical front yard - I have not bothered to post pics of it. Lawn, curved line of boxwoods with some lavender, rosemary and oregano snuck in there - well I did put some blueberries in too.

But even in the back where there are turkeys, chickens and assorted garden areas I still think it is fairly attractive but all the same.................some people just can't get out of the golf course mode. I just decided to create a his and hers yard; his out front and mine out back.

Thanks Tyler - I just saw where you included my link. Makes my day since I was still stinging from the 'messy yard' comment here at home.
 
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Benjamin Burchall wrote:
I know.  This is something that a lot of people struggle with. I have come across anything like a comprehensive resource of ornamental edibles. If there is one out there I'd like to know about it. If there isn't one, maybe we can just put together a list of all the edible ornamentals we know as a resource.



My adventure in gardening began a few years ago with a book entitled Landscaping with Fruits and Vegetables, by Fred Hagy. I knew nothing about gardening, but being an engineer-type, I like for everything to be practical, so I only wanted "practical" gardens. I even went so far as to rip out all sorts of existing landscaping on our property if it didn't have a purpose of which I was aware! Anyway, the book obviously covers many fruits and vegetables, with beautiful drawings and hints on designing for an "attractive" look. It also includes a list of "Attractive Ornamentals for Culinary Use". Here is the list, although I think a few may be toxic in large quantities (possibly true of anything):

TREES:
Black Gum
Hackberry
Chinquapin
Heartnut
Shagbark Hickory
Japanese Walnut
Sugar Maple
Crabapples
European Mountain Ash
Cornelian Cherry
Buffaloberry
Nannyberry
American Highbush Cranberry
Oregon Hollygrape
Dwarf Oregon Hollygrape
Southern Magnolia
Some Oaks
Carolina Silverbell
Eastern Redbud
English Hawthorne

SHRUBS:
Shrub Rose
Spice Bush
Rose of Sharon
Nandina
Myrtle
Cotoneaster (??)
Pyracantha
Evergreen Barberry
Snowberry
Evergreen Hollies (use leaves for tea)
Dwarf Cotoneaster

EDIBLE FLOWERS AND ORNAMENTAL VEGETABLES:
Tea Rose
Creeping Bellflower
Balloon Flower
Pot Marigold
Ornamental Kale
Ornamental Eggplant
Ornamental Cabbage
Ornamental Cauliflower
Nasturtium
Primrose
Oriental Poppy
Ice Plant
Caladium (tubers)
Hollyhock
Garden Huckleberry
Aster
Bee Balm
Asiatic Lilies
Siberian and Japanese Iris
Day Lilies
Impatiens
Bachelor Buttons
Peony
Tulip
Edible Chrysanthemum
Oxeye Daisy
Butterfly Weed ( I thought pretty toxic, but I the author says cooked shoots are OK)
Ornamental Pepper
Jerusalem Artichoke
Sunflower
Dahlia
Fall-blooming Crocus

VINES WITH EDIBLE FRUITS:
Five-leaved Akebia
Climbing Roses
Variegated Actinidia
Asparagus Bean
 
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The solution I intend on pursuing to deal with neighbors that get cranky when everyone else isn't as miserable as they are is to construct a Hugelkultur wall of flowers. If I shut out their ability to see what I'm doing, they don't know to complain.
 
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I am currently designing and laying out my permaculture garden and yard area. My entire goal is to make the entire place attractive, accessible, and educational all while being super functional.
A few of the ideas I have are,

I am planning a walkway with a arched trellis that will have grapes, string beans, and flowering plants. It will also have a few other mixed varieties of plants but it’s how I plant to incorporate them all which will be the best part of it all.

I am also planting a small orchard that will have raised beds between each tree and these raised beds will all have trellises and serve several different types of plants. My idea here is that as you walk down the rows of the fruit trees in between the trees will be small raised beds of like Tomatoes or other types of plants. The uniformity and layout will make it all work together and provide me space to grow both the trees and the various other items I want to grow. This will also free up the isles for walking and or accessing everything while keeping it all neat and clean looking.

I think laying out everything so there is consistency and uniformity will be beneficial in achieving a nice looking garden.

For me the most important aspects of my project are accessibility and appearance, while all serving the function of making everything easier to attend.
 
pollinator
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I thought I would bump this up again, since it is an important topic. I will be trying to fit my permaculture yard into standard models more or less: English cottage garden, cactus garden, raised beds, etc. I especially like the cottage garden idea, since in these gardens, as long as there is some sort of organizing element (brick wall, paths, clipped hedge) things can get quite "wild"

This subject can be a two-edged sword. In an urban/suburban neighborhood, if we are not in harmony with our neighbors to a certain extent, we are not in harmony with nature. Being in harmony with the microbes, insects and other wildlife is a mute point if we live in constant conflict with the human element.



I think this is a great quote, and pretty much sums it up.
 
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I agree, this is an important point of discussion.

I'm all for the permaculture concepts and theories. I don't live in an HOA so no nazi's to nit-pick my yard's appearance. Instead, I have my elderly mother's aesthetics to attend to an since it is HER home (I have lifetime rights) I need to appease her aesthetics. Mother wants "pretty". She wants lots of flowers and general "tidiness". She is fine with me replacing the "lawn" with garden just so long as it "looks pretty". So, I have to consider how everything looks from her perspective as I'm planning my permaculture takeover of this .6 acre property.

Back before my stepfather's tenure of care, this property was cared for by his mother. It was all roses and flowering bushes and from what I'm told was a sight that brought people driving by just to admire. Stepfather ripped out all but one rose bush and let the grass reign supreme -- and used lots of Round-up and other chemicals. Now that I've got tenure to care for this property, I am striving to return it to a showpiece worthy of Sunday afternoon drive-by's by the community with a "secret" element of massive food production that isn't so obvious to the casual observer. That's the goal, anyway. I'm a total rookie at gardening and permaculture so I've set my goal quite high for myself!
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