In my search for a better way to grow organic food, I’m meeting lots of locals who are gracious in sharing their Permaculture expertise. I never knew there were so many people living sustainably in my little community. I’m finding a wealth of information and support. I’m so proud to call North Florida home!
MY MASTER PLAN
I’ll gradually transition my entire yard into an edible paradise. This fall (2011) I started by:
– Mulching over the grass in half my backyard to plant fruit trees, veggies, herbs and native flowers. I’ll leave the St. Augustine grass in the back half, for now.
– Installing the hardscape. For me, that’s a grape arbor, a bird bath, stone pathways and a chicken coop. Yes, there are farm fresh eggs and homemade wine in my future!
– Building my first Permaculture gardening beds. I relocated perennial herbs from my old raised beds and have sown seeds for my favorite winter veggies.
In the front yard, I planted citrus and fruit trees around the perimeter and mulched around them. I left some grass in the shaded areas where it grows without watering.
MY GRAPE ARBOR
I love the look of the cedar arbor. As the grapes grow, surrounding gardens will get some needed shade. Although Muscadine Grapes are the authentic native plants for North Florida, I’ve chosen hybrids. Yea, I know – that’s not true Permaculture. But this is my yard and I don’t like thick skinned Muscadines. So I’ve chosen varieties of California table grapes that thrive in our North Florida heat. I’m planting Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.
MY CHICKEN COOP
My new Rhode Island Red hens, Mona and Lisa, now have a safe, secure home. We closed in half the crawl space under my back deck to create their playpen. We buried aluminum sheets four feet into the ground and closed in the sides with wire to make sure no critters get in. Then we erected a tall area outside the deck where they can roost and get sun. I call it their high-rise condo.
We created ladders and various levels of roosts. They sleep on the tallest one. It’s fun at dawn to watch them make their way up the levels to bed down for the night. We built nest boxes near the outside wall with a small wooden door for easy egg collection. They love their home, but still prefer free-range time to hunt for bugs.
My new pest control system is hard at work. I let them out to hunt for bugs once they lay their eggs. My thinking is – do your chores, then you can go out to play. I don’t want an Easter Egg hunt every day. I like having them in the garden with me. They’re friendly and adorable. I had no idea hens were such great pets. They even tolerate me picking them up to pet them. I love how they coo so sweetly at dawn.
Here’s my first fresh, urban farm egg! While most people raise chickens for the eggs, I got Mona and Lisa mainly to eat bugs and provide free fertilizer. No more hauling in expensive bags of Black Hen! So far my only challenge is they like to eat my veggies. Oh well, small price to pay for all the benefits. I’ll plant plenty for all.
This article is part of a series documenting my transition from organic gardening to sustainable Permaculture. Click here to read Part 1.