I recently bought a 12.5 acre homestead. I use "homestead" loosely because it's a great place for a homestead, but really it's just a house with a big yard that has not been utilized the way I plan. It comes with 2 acres wooded, which I will leave untouched for now, and about 8 acres of open pasture with a pond. Then there is about 2 more acres of what is more of a traditional lawn near the house, which I plan to start my permaculture design on this upcoming year (as soon as I move in!).
I was originally planning on setting up a bunch of 4'x10' raised beds (a lot of them) for all kinds of annual vegetable growing. But the soil is pretty good here in central Kentucky, and it got me thinking that perhaps I should avoid the raised beds and just start designing my ideal permaculture setup consisting of trees, perennials, and annuals all together. The reason I was leaning towards raised beds and annuals is because its easier for me to start on since I've been doing traditional gardening for a few years now, and with the uniformity I could also setup standard winter protection to cover the crops and get a longer growing season. But if my long-term goal is to have a mature perennial/permaculture design, then should I skip the raised beds and just start on my larger design? Will the raised beds just get in the way later on?
I imagine some people started with one thing and switched to the other... What did you learn? What would you do differently to ensure a smooth and easy transition?
Hey dean, I think some permaculture designs will include raised beds close to the house to grow veggies and 'kitchen garden' stuff, Where as some designs will have no use for them. There are pros and cons to raised beds that are well documented, that will apply to each climate and scenario different. I choose to plant straight into the ground because making the raised beds, filling with soil, watering all the time is a ton of energy I can use elsewhere. I bet you could get some annuals growing pretty quickly directly in the ground if you just clear off the lawn, throw in some trees too. It could even remain small while you get other things setup around your property, and hatch the big ideas.
I would definitely do annual beds kitchen garden. All the same size beds. In my climate and soils raised do much better, but I don't have frames. Dig the dirt from the path and border, toss it into the bed, then add amendments and prep the bed. Fill the path with woodchips. In a couple years when the chips have turned to soil, toss them into the beds and repeat. Much easier if you have a rotary plow, but can be done by hand.
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I'd say do a bit of both. I worked on setting up 5 acres last year and I had a few raised beds in the mix for various things. My asparagus are in a raised bed because I don't want to forget where I put them. Strawberry's were put into a pyramid type bed. I suppose I did my perennials in raised beds. But again, I'm forgetful so chances are good if I'd put them in the ground they'd have been forgotten and run over with the lawn mower. It has happened! But I also planted a lot of stuff straight into the ground. The majority straight into the ground really. I'll be doing tomatoes in raised beds forever I think because they are so hard to do here. Anyway, do a mix as you see fit.