Sunday, March 24, 2013

Thinking Native With Permaculture

Permaculture means various things to various people. To me, it means using perennial plants, shrubs and trees to provide your food. I suppose livestock can fit in there, too, if you’re careful, and don’t wish to limit yourself to native animals.

That being said, it would seem logical to use as many species as possible that are native to your area. After all, they’ve grown as volunteers for thousands of years, so they’re certainly acclimated to that region. In my mind, there’s another reason of growing importance to “go native.” Honeybees in this country are suffering huge down-turns in population. Disease, parasites, cell phones and insecticides are all being blamed, and probably with good reason. Hard winters can make matters worse.

Luckily, native species don’t require honeybees, since they developed without their help. Though many folks don’t realize it, honeybees emigrated from Europe, along with the white man. In fact, there are mentions of American natives calling them “white man’s flies.” Bee and bug populations are quite varied and a surprising number are pollinators. Just for the record, there IS a native species of bee (Mason Bees) that can pollinate the same range of blossoms as honey bees, and some folks are inviting them into their gardens with ready-made bee condos. If you aren’t handy, you can even buy the bees and bee condos.

A great variety of common garden plants don’t need honey bees anyway. Squash, pumpkins, gourds, corn, beans, tomatoes, potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes all come to mind. If you didn’t notice, those are all plants native to the Americas, and there are probably dozens or even hundreds of others that would lend themselves to simple cultivation. Combined with native trees and shrubs that produce fruit and nuts, I believe a person could eat quite well without honeybees. All things considered, I believe more effort should be put into native species for that reason.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to disparage anyone from having honeybees; I used to keep bees myself, and may again someday. I really enjoyed them and still LOVE honey. However, just to play it safe, I’m starting to accumulate some native plants and shrubs in my yard. I own several acres of woods behind the house that has White oaks, walnuts, hickories and paw-paws mixed through it, so I’m in fair shape already.

Give native permaculture some thought; after all, it worked for the natives. © 2013


Sixbears said...

Good advice. This year I'm planting everything I know does well around here. Making use of more wild plants too and encouraging them.

Gorges Smythe said...

I'm planning on adding poke, purselane, day-lilies and Jerusalem artichokes as I get time, Sixbears. I've got a cultivated version of the latter ordwered, so I know that I'll at least get it in this year.

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

I want a paw paw tree so badly but I'm up high and dry. My neighbor has some small ones down by the creek so I hope they fruit, I've never tried them before.

Many of our nurseries (Missouri)have Grow Native plants. The initiative is by the Missouri Prairie Foundation

Sixbears said...

I've had Jerusalem artichokes for two years now. They produce like crazy. If slow cooked over a long time,(6 - 8 hours) they don't cause gas. They add a lot of flavor to soups and stews. Very good sliced thin and dried.

Crystal Mary said...

We are blessed to have the weather that supports many varieties of natives and fruit trees. Our honey bees are disappearing also. But there is still home hives. Honey can be used for many things, and I love the taste especially on Hot Cross Buns.
Have a nice Easter. We have a solemn morning at church on Good Friday. The whole church gets darkened. Later we have drinks of tea or coffee and hot cross buns. Its a public holiday and always a very quiet time for everyone.
All Christians here eat fish on that day.

Gorges Smythe said...

Try them anyway, Kathy. Maybe you can plant them where the house-gutters drain (or just below your septic field).

Thanks for the info, Sixbears.

It's nice that you have so many usable natives, Crystal. I hope you all have a blessed Resurrection Day.