Edible Ecotones

Designing Permaculture Gardens, Lawns, and Living Spaces

Our Areas of Special Focus

Ecological Health and Restoration

We view ecological health as a combination of healthy soil and a diverse, multi-functional plant canopy and faunal population. A healthy soil, in turn, will be biologically rich and will have "structure" that encourages root growth, and it will be full of live, diverse roots under a rich, diverse canopy of healthy plants.

To measure and analyze soil health we can observe data from various indicators of soil chemistry, biology, and structure, choosing those indicators on the basis of cost and management objectives. For instance, in reference to soil chemistry, soil pH will indicate the base saturation of the soil by metallic ions, specifically calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium. Metallic ions are cations that occupy cation-exchange sites in the soil, and if hydrogen ions occupy those sites instead, making these nutrients less available to the plant roots and to the active microbes that feed these plant roots. In reference to structure, compaction will indicate that soil structure does not allow most root penetration. In reference to biology, abundance of earthworms or aerobic bacteria in the various root-zones (rhizosphere) will indicate an active biology, whereas FIND THIS TYPE OF NEMATODES nematodes indicate the presence of anaerobic bacteria, indicating saturated soils and poor drainage.

To measure and analyze biodiversity, we can observe data from indicators of composition (species), function (productive relations between organisms), and structure (spatial and physical parameters). Again, the practical matters of budget and goals and objectives will guide our choice of indicators. In reference to compositional diversity, a site with many, healthy annual and perennial plants representing several families forming mutualistic associations indicates high biodiversity. In reference to function, symbiotic relationships indicate functional biodiversity - for example, one tree species producing sugars that another consumes via fungal mycelial nutrient transport network. Structural diversity includes spatial and physical parameters like canopy density or leaf-area, so that a multi-layered canopy could indicate structural diversity. (It could also indicate high-risk fire fuel conditions if in an ecotype known for frequent fire.)

Depending upon the current status of the site, managing for ecological health can involve a range of management intensities, from dump-and-scoop compost applications and soil-carbon feature installations (high-cost) to planting perennials and surface mulching. As with measurement indicators, which approaches we use depend upon the practical concerns of goals/objectives and budget.

Bio-Diverse Food Production

For us, bio-diverse food production combines an intensive, diverse "annuals" production (fruit and vegetable) with a rich collection of food-bearing trees, shrubs, and vines. Intermingled with food species are perennial herbs, flowers, and vegetable plants, and ecological support plants (tree, shrub, and ground).

We configure these plants to be mutually-beneficial, but also to make access easy for planting, maintaining, and harvesting. So, among a variety of mutually supporting perennial trees and shrubs, we will have contained, raised bed with a couple of nitrogen fixing shrubs to provide a rich, deep growing space for our associations of annual crops. Designed and constructed in these beds, they are easy to cover with "low-tunnels" when the early frosts arrive, for season extension into the colder days of fall.

Trees, shrubs, and smaller plants are arranged to benefit each other, but also to make identification and maintenance easy for the gardener, which mulch-covered paths and a few readily apparent polycultures associated with each tree.

Adding to the surface diversity are earthwork features, ranging from landscape rocks to swales and dams to simple earthen-mounds covering buried, rotting logs (hugelculture). These diverse features create a complex coverage of natural edges and interfaces - growing spaces - the support a diverse polyculture of microbes, animals, and plants. Water retention is high in these systems, and the need for weeding is low.

Eco-Sensible Residential Site-Development

Our vision of residential site-development integrates the entire land area, inside and outside space, into a thriving, coherent, efficient and productive place to live, work, and play. In this vision, we capitalize on the permaculture framework to optimize labor productivity (in everyday tasks) with ecological abundance. Each space is designed and built to reflect the residents' patterns of living, from personal care, to a cup of morning coffee in a warm nook with a sunrise view, to harvesting today's dinner salad and a bushel of crisp, fresh apples. A variety of indoor, outdoor, and transitional spaces appropriate to a number of tasks and activities contribute to a whole system that mimics ecological pathways while producing surplus for human consumption. Outside space is designed and formed to meet the client's goals and needs with specific attention towards optimizing labor in every task. Food production systems align with ecological pathways to produce a variety of food with a minimum of attention.

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