I did a search and couldn't find anything that matched the question that I have. I have asked a few fb forums for the answer and read several books.
So, I thought I'd ask the experts and experienced here.
There seems to be a contradiction between permaculture and native prairie plants. If I look for planting suggestions, many of the suggestions require changing the quality of the soil in order to have success which in turn pushes out (especially) prairie plants that thrive in lousy soil with varying degrees of root length. I searched for weeks for a list of companion plants for native grapes in my area that were also native/supported native pollinators. This seemed like it should be easy- Mustang and Muscadine grapes aren't like the fussy grape varietals from France, they thrive in our crummy, clay based soil. I couldn't find anything that didn't start with : add compost and mulch and improve the soil.
Am I missing something? Is there a way to combine the prairies that used to be here (which in the Dallas area was a good mix of trees, prairies, and scrub brush plains) with the permaculture ideas of food forests and high quality veg?
Kristen Schroder wrote:
There seems to be a contradiction between permaculture and native prairie plants.
I don't think there's a contradiction. I'm personally very interested in edible native plants and some of them do well in my vegetable garden, but much of my garden isn't improved enough for domestic vegetables to do well. My soil here is clay prairie soil. I think when planting specific plants, we need to look at their specific needs. Native prairies plants do well in native prairie soil. They may or may not do well in composted, mulched soil. So I think if we want to grow native edible plants, we need to experiment to see if they'll grow along with our regular vegetables, or if they need their own unimproved patches of soil.
Perhaps I am looking in the wrong places?
Could you suggest better reading sources?
Another good resource could be the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. They have a large searchable online database of native plants which includes information on growing conditions, often notes if they're edible or good for pollinators, https://www.wildflower.org/plants/ They also have a large archive of public answers to gardeners questions about growing natives. http://www.wildflower.org/expert/
My understanding is that cultivated vegetables need a more pampered circumstance because people where willing to trade their labor in this pampering for the survival of plants that were more palatable to their tastes. With this in mind, plants that focused their development on more survival traits may not be as palatable as you'd hope.
Casie Becker wrote:plants that were more palatable to their tastes. With this in mind, plants that focused their development on more survival traits may not be as palatable as you'd hope.
In my experience, most edible native plants in our region are kind of yucky. I try to include them when possible in my diet, but, blech, not so tasty. Canada Onion, Devil's Claw, Cedar Elm, Cattail, Prickly Pear, Sotol, Persimmon, are some we've eaten. Only Canada Onion has made it as a favored vegetable, our favorite onion. It goes dormant in the Summer.
These are all nurseries that specialize in native plants.
I definitely feel like I am getting better questions through the forum!
Tyler: I'd really like some information on dryland food forests, I didn't even know that was a thing.
Cassie and John and Tyler: I suppose where I'm stumbling is that so often the companion plants suggested for veggies and fruits are more veggies and fruits rather than plants that grow in the area.
Perhaps the dryland food forest as a topic will help with that.
A new question that I have is: does permaculture - as it's currently discussed- function if you have wild areas surrounding your different zones? Or does the soil improvement/water catchment push the wild out?
Here's a thread about a video of a dryland food forest, but this seems to be in a Mediterranean or even sub-tropical climate, so most of the plant choices won't work for Dallas. Some of them might work down here. http://www.permies.com/t/57704/videos/Commercial-Dryland-Food-Forest
The combination of cold winters and hot dry summers is just killer. I would like to see more information about food forests under these conditions. I don't really know where to look for it, or even if many people are doing work in that area. Most food forests seem to be in subtropical or moist climates.
My favorite source for native seeds is: http://www.seedsource.com/
Another source for prairie seeds and plants is: https://www.prairiemoon.com/
Tyler Ludens wrote: The combination of cold winters and hot dry summers is just killer. I would like to see more information about food forests under these conditions. I don't really know where to look for it, or even if many people are doing work in that area. Most food forests seem to be in subtropical or moist climates.
^^^^ Yes! Those were the words that I have been looking for! That is what I have been noticing, too.
A thought that I had was to plant wildflower seeds underneath the volunteer grapes that I've been encouraging. I've let the salvia coccinea grow throughout the vegetable garden area and that area is the only place in my entire garden (including the aquaponics) that didn't have a problem with SVB. I also had decent luck with letting the wild carrots grow throughout the area as well. It killed the grass that was trying to encroach and seemed to attract pollinators and discourage SVB. It also seemed to have captured some moisture into the ground.
Thanks for talking with me, Tyler!
Can you use the companion lists you have and work backwards from the domestic plants to related wild plants? Growing the wild carrots where someone might plant the domesticated variety is a good example. I think there are wild varieties or at least close relatives of every domestic plant.
I should definitely do that.
I think I'll contact the local native plant society and see what they have for reference work.
Save Dallas Water - Native Plants
This one might also be of some value:
Utilizing xeriscape principles using native plants
This link is to a discussion on Natives and vegetables: Texas Organic Vegetables and Edible Landscaping is a book about food crops for Texas including vegetables, fruits, nuts, herbs and edible landscape plants. The author is the man behind this web site, Howard Garrett.
Dirt Doctor - North Central Texas
Your best bet might be to look for heirloom seeds and see if they are native to Texas or North Central Texas. When we lived in the area I had the best luck with Champion Tomatoes, but I don't know if they were a heirloom variety.
there's a lot in this section that is unraveling the ideas of supporting native plants at the exclusion of other plants that i'd had.
i suppose the answer to my initial question is: you're right, but hopefully this will offset the need to plow under that meadow with the endangered frog.
Kristen Schroder wrote:i also found a description for our climate- humid subtropical with dry summers and wet winters. which is definitely the opposite of what much in the literature i've found speaks to
I certainly never thought of the Dallas area as humid subtropical as that sounds like Alabama or Florida, but NOAA says that is the case.
Tyler said: "If the yard is small, a little area can be set aside for native plants and wildlife. If the yard is larger, a larger area can be set aside. Every garden can have an area for Zone 5, in my opinion."
I agree. We have our native plants in an area frequented by wildlife.
I like the book's description, but I have not read it:
Gaia’s Garden sparked the imagination of America’s home gardeners, introducing permaculture’s central message: Working with nature, not against her, results in more beautiful, abundant, and forgiving gardens .... Best of all, once it’s established, an ecological garden will reduce or eliminate most of the work that’s needed to maintain the typical lawn and garden.
You’re getting great input here, but I just have to put in my 2 cents, too.
I found the idea of native plants before I found permaculture, and I still think there is value there. The seminal book on native landscaping in Dallas, and the rest of Texas, is “Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region” by Sally Wasowski. It’s from 1988/1991, and should be in the public library and is on amazon. She’s not really a permaculturist so her terminology is different, and most of the plants are not human-food-producing, but it is a beautiful book if nothing else, and I think you will learn a lot from it. The regions referred to are actually soil types, and the plants that will grow are different per soil type. The Dallas/Fort Worth metro area straddles soil-type boundaries, so you need to know where you are.
In another thread, you mentioned having a yard full of post oaks, so you probably have Eastern Cross Timbers soil. Mustang grapes also prefer this sandy-clayey soil, but are more adaptable. That may help you with more specific web searches or plant database searches. I also have Cross Timbers soil. I notice goldenrod, lambs quarters, blackberries, mulberries all volunteer here. For squash borers, I have a friend who swears that interplanting squash with lantana repels them. I love lantana anyway. Don’t neglect the cool season plants, either.
A few of Wasowski’s plants for Cross Timbers are mulberry, virginia creeper, yaupon holly, coralberry, eastern red cedar, possum haw, smooth sumac, beauty berry, yucca, butterfly weed, spiderwort, mexican plum, phlox, redbud, violet, plus typical wildflowers (reseeding annuals).
A more shotgun approach to plants, especially in prepared beds, would be to visit Marshall Grain’s nursery in Grapevine. Buy lots of bedding plants and see what survives. They have quite a bit of natives, and a lot of the herbs they have grow well here in relatively poor soil. You may find someone knowledgeable about organics and natives working there. I haven’t found permaculture there so far.
Also, many permaculture teachers caution against too much emphasis on natives-only. There are many plants that are not, strictly speaking, native to here, that still do well here without a lot of fuss and are very useful. Why would you avoid using such plants? You don't like peaches? I think it is good to help the natives, as Tyler said, because the mainstream is so against them. But we needn’t limit ourselves to only those.
About soil improvement…. Permaculture people almost always start with human damaged land, not with wild land. Intact native prairie soil is teaming with life, plant roots, fungi, and other organic matter. It is *not* poor, or crummy, or “just dirt”. But of course, those are good descriptions of what we find here and now. Our burned-out, abused, compacted soil can hardly support life, and soil must be alive to support the plants you want. Depending on the history of your land, you will likely have to do some remediation to get even native plant diversity to thrive there again, and you will likely have to baby many of them for the first year or two. So adding compost and mulch is not just for Portland—it is the fastest way to remediate and bring the soil back to life. Don’t worry that the amount of compost or wood chips you could practically add will turn your yard into deep forest duff covered in ferns—it won’t. You won’t even be able to find it a few months later . Permaculture talks about using human intervention like compost and mulch to speed up natural processes. The land would repair itself eventually, if humans just quit messing up the process, but it might take 200 years. With compost, mulch, some minimal aeration, some temporary irrigation, maybe some animals, a good permaculture designer can get it going in just a few years by mimicking natural processes, but speeding them up.
I suggest going through Gaia’s Garden very thoroughly—several times through. You will be richly rewarded. Do that before spending a lot of time on Google, and you’ll get going much faster. The forums here are great, too, and there are a lot of good books. But Gaia is a great place to start. Plus observation, of course.
All the best!