Since discovering Permaculture a few years ago our eyes have been opened to a very different way of growing. Permaculture is an amalgamation of ‘Permanent’ and ‘Agriculture’ but is not just a system of gardening. The original vision of sustainable agriculture has evolved to one of sustainable culture, encouraging us to move from being dependent consumers to responsible and productive citizens.
As horticulturalists our interest is in experimenting with sustainable food production at a domestic scale and naturalistic planting. We have researched various Permaculture techniques and whilst they seem good in theory, we have found little evidence of which ones really work.
One of the ideals is minimum input for maximum output (less pain, more gain). In terms of producing food this means working with, rather than fighting against, nature. Polycultures as a theory are ideal. Instead of growing mono-cultures of one crop, a mixture of crops (poly-cultures) are grown together. This has been shown to increase yield and improve the health of crops.
Forest gardens, a woodland polyculture, are gaining popularity and are the ideal low maintenance, sustainable way to cultivate land. We believe more of our land should be turned over to forest gardening, but there is still a need to cultivate our more common vegetables. We will be experimenting with sustainable annual and perennial polycultures to find more successful ways to grow organically, whilst minimising inputs such as water, fertiliser and labour to make the best use of the land available.
We are currently developing a forest garden at Fern Cottage and are planning further research into sustainable vegetable production.