Tag Archives: tagasaste

Permaculture Plants

All plants are created equal – some are just more equal than others.

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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.

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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.

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We plant hundreds each year so we propagate them ourselves on a regular basis.

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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.

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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.

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Along our stream we are planting  sheoak (casaurina), also called river oak in Australia because of its extensive root system.

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Cabbage trees are a NZ native that also help stabilise stream banks. We’ve planted hundreds over the last 18 months.

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We have found hawthorn growing on our hillsides. It has a number of useful traits.

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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.

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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.

 

Peace, Estwing

Permaculture Four-Dimensional Design Case Study: Creating a Micro-Ecosystem for Avocados in a Marginal Location

Two years ago I started preparing a spot to grow avocados. Last week I planted them.

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That’s planning ahead 24 months to plant a tree. This is how it started.

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This is how it looked last week.

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Why so long? A couple of reasons: Young avos need to be protected from frost and strong sunlight. Older avos will die in poorly drained soils. We have frosts and clay soils, so we built an ‘island’ and planted nurse trees.

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The mound provides drainage and the tagasaste provides frost and sun protection. Additionally, the tagasaste provide nitrogen, ‘chop and drop’ mulch, and bee fodder.

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The other thing that took so long is that our order with the nursery was placed 20 months in advance. The nursery only grafts and grows to order, and makes sure to provide large enough trees of the highest quality.

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Two weeks ago I collected 21 trees: Hass, Reed, Bacon and Sharwill all grafted onto Zutano root stock.

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This all represents a huge investment in time, money and resources. We plan to make it pay off by caring for the trees until they are well established, and then pruning them to maintain a manageable height. We’ve planted them with heaps of compost and a thick bed of mulch to keep them from drying out this summer. As the avos grow up we will progressively prune the tagasaste out of existence.

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We’ve interplanted our A-types and B-types to assure the best cross-pollination. Our family and our interns love avos, so growing our own will represent a significant savings to our grocery bill. We’ll also have surplus to sell locally.

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This long, staged process is what four-dimensional design is all about: looking ahead; making a plan; gathering resources; getting your hands dirty; and, seeing it through to completion. In permaculture one aim is to achieve a yield. We may wait another two years for ours, but it will be well worth it.

48 months for an avocado? You bet.

Peace, Estwing