Beginning

There’s nothing more powerful than beginning. In a few short years, you’ll look back and be amazed by what you’ve accomplished. 
The picture above shows our first steps at Lillie House. We began with 3 strategies at once. 
First, we created our first “zone 1” garden area, a guild right outside our front door, with a few favorite annual vegetables, and a collection of important perennials, including our favorite Egyptian walking onions. We planned out this guild in detail, prepared the site, contoured the beds to collect water, dug a trench to collect water from our down spouts, planted and mulched. Since then, this part of our yard has required almost no additional maintenance, while it has provided much of the plant material we’ve used to transform the rest of our property. 
At the same time, we planted out most of the woody perennials for our hedgerow. Slowly we added perennial vegetables to the hedgerow as we had time and plants to do so. We guilded each tree with garlic, walking onions, and a few other spreading perennials, to help reduce the work. We would “spot mulch” parts of the hedgerow as necessary, with woodchips or whatever else we had on hand. Jerusalem artichokes filled in the spaces between the plants in the second year, and since then, it has continued to grow and mature with just small inputs and additions. 
In our backyard, we planted out our major “over-story” trees in the first Spring. If necessary, we could have waited, but it’s always good to get trees in early if possible. We transplated some blackberries and black raspberries and let them go to town! They have provided a major yield in the early years, and they’ve died back as the system has filled in, which is what they generally do in nature, as “pioneer species.” 

In our backyard, we planned out our main permanent paths and we stopped mowing everything else. The second you stop mowing and spraying lawn, nature gets right to work enriching your soil and your yard, and you have more time to help her out. We’ve slowly added to each little guild, replacing “weeds” that had done their hard work on the soil for us, with species that were of more value to humans and wildlife. Thistles became cardoon. Dock became various garden sorrels. 
“No till” potatoes became a common transitional plant, as it’s easy as pie to “chop and drop” a bit of unmown grass and “weeds,” plop an extra potato down on top of them and add some compost and more mulch on top of that. Many of these patches have perennialized, giving us potatoes for many years, while creating fantastic garden soil. I can create a new potato patch in about a minute, that will give potatos for years. 
And at each step, it has been as important to ask, as “Natural Farming” author Masanobu Fukuoka did, “what can I NOT do?” as it has been to “get stuff done.” 
If you over-do the “inputs” as you create your garden, you tend to create systems that require continued intervention and work. But if you let nature do as much prep work as possible, you tend to end up with systems that take good care of themselves. 
Working in that way, with nature, things will transform much more quickly than you’d believe. 
All it takes is to get started. 
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Tour/Introduction to Permaculture, Saturday May 21st 3:00 PM

Come see Lillie House! Get a tour of our Permaculture Forest Gardens at Lillie House, along with our Introduction to Permaculture class. It’s a chance to observe a variety of classic Permaculture techniques, polycultures and guilds, learn about the classic Permaculture water-harvesting strategies, and discover a variety of perennial crops like Turkish rocket, sweet rocket, a dozen varieties of perennial alliums, and a huge variety of beautiful perennial edible landscaping plants. 
Tours are free, but print materials and resources are available for a suggested $12 donation. 

Space in our urban garden is limited, so please reserve a spot by emailing me at lillie.house.kzoo (at) gmail.com.
We hope to see you then!

April Harvest Totals

April was a good month in the forest garden. Since the begining of the month, something from the garden has been on the plate every day and practically every meal at home. We’ve purchased almost no vegetables, except for a few pounds of potatoes, with most of our produce coming from the garden. Of course, we’re still addicted to oranges and bananas, drenched in oil and shipped from far-off lands, but our first fruit yields will start coming in soon. In a few years time, we’ll hopefully be producing enough storage fruit to keep us through to June. 
Our total time spent doing gardening work was about 20 hours, and our yield was a minimum value of $1,200, earning us an hourly rate of over $50/hour for our work, and really, really cheap “prices” on amazing organic produce. And these are often “bargain basement” idealized prices, sometimes 1/10th of market rate for similar items, such as on the sunchokes, roses, and potted plants. At actual local market prices, that rate would probably be way higher, close to $100/hour, but since I haven’t actually got a market for those products, I’ve used much lower numbers. 

(Dense edible ground covers of self-sown annuals and perennials is up and ready before most people have put in their gardens. Imagine if we had a market for all the food you see in this picture!) 

Money for your time – this is where forest gardening really shines, compared to conventional gardening, where my time would probably be worth $3/hour and produce is extremely expensive, with actual prices for garden produce being comparable to the famous $30/tomato one journalist who tracked his garden inputs grew. It’s just nearly impossible to grow food for less than market rate using conventional gardening, making normal gardening an expensive hobby.    

April yields:
16 lbs spring root veggie blend, jerusalem artichokes, evening primrose root, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, crosnes, daylily tubers. 

6 Mixed Greens Salads

7 packages spring green onions
1 packages chives
5 bulbs spring garlic, with greens

6 lbs of spring greens 
5 boxes arugula
1 box Mache
2 small fennel bulbs
1 lovage stalk
2 dozen large asparagus spears
20+ kale broccolis 
2 dozen+ fresh winecap mushrooms

1 Bouquet Daffodils

Approx Minimum value: $200
plants:
20 blackberry
10 elderberry
3 rosa rugosa rubra and Frau 
10 anise hyssop
10 monarda
10 Oregano
10 yarrow
2 chives
10 mint
5 chocolate mint
7 turkish rocket
7 brown-eyed susan
4 bellfowers
2 dozen sunchokes 
Aprox minimum value: $1,000 April 26th. 
Total Minimum Product Value: $1,200


Maintenance work total 14 hrs 
2 mows, lawn-mower maintenance, potting and transplanting plants, bed preparation and spot mulching. Minor weeding. Bed edging. 
New infrastructure set-up work. 
16 hours.