All plants are created equal – some are just more equal than others.
For those who practice permaculture, certain plants are key elements for regenerative design, serving to: build soils; provide wind breaks as well as fodder for stock and bees; protect other plants from frost and excess sun; hold stream banks and hillsides; serve as firewood; and of course provide food.
Tree lucerne (tagasaste) is a prime example of a permaculture plant. We use it on our farm to: fix nitrogen in the soil; protect young avocado trees from frost and sunburn; provide wind protection for the market gardens; feed bees and hungry mama goats.
We plant hundreds each year so we propagate them ourselves on a regular basis.
Another example that many farmers in our hilly region use is poplar in the form of 3 metre poles. They are used in slip-prone areas to stabilise slopes while stock is still present. Cows should be excluded for 3 to 4 years. The regional council subsidises the cost of them and offer free advice and which varieties to plant for different conditions.
Poplars can also be used as wind breaks. We planted these just over a year ago between two paddocks. Those are willow wands planted around the duck pond.
Along our stream we are planting sheoak (casaurina), also called river oak in Australia because of its extensive root system.
Cabbage trees are a NZ native that also help stabilise stream banks. We’ve planted hundreds over the last 18 months.
We have found hawthorn growing on our hillsides. It has a number of useful traits.
And finally, Jerusalem artichoke is another great permaculture plant. It’s an edible perennial that also produces a lot of organic matter above ground each year, which dies off in the winter. The tuber is the bit that’s eaten.
Favouring perennials over annuals is central to permaculture design. While we also have market gardens, I find it more fulfilling these days to be working with perennials.