Challenges of Permaculture

by Heinrich Salzmann


The Seed to Table student club runs a permaculture garden behind Commons College on Campus. The idea of permaculture captures food production in a setting where plants live multiple years opposed to the common annual growing cycles. In theory, this concept has a high potential because the ground is constantly covered with plants and the sunlight is used efficiently year around compared to conventional methods where large portions of the soil are left exposed until the crops grows to size. However, currently the garden is overgrown by weeds and not in nice shape. One problem currently with the garden might be, that even though the plants are permanent, the garden needs continuous attention and is indeed not permanent in its shape. Hence, part of a solution to make the garden a more enjoyable space for students includes attention and efforts from students.

Another aspect of the garden, besides being a beautiful space for students, is to produce food. As for now, most plants in the garden are berry bushes and perennial trees. The area below and the trees and bushes needs to be utilized because weeds are taking over. The challenge is to find plants that are weed competitive and last multiple years. So far, only mint, chives, and rhubarb grows there and show these qualities. However, these plants are not harvested during the school year. So, what the garden needs are plants that can be harvested during the school year to be beneficial.

I am still wondering how to incorporate annual plants into a permaculture garden. In my view, annual plants have a value because of the varieties of produce. But to have annual plants they need to be propagated yearly. This stands in contrast with the idea of permanently cultivated plants but it allows to have more variety to be harvested during the school year. One possibility would be to have plots of annual plants surrounded by permanent bushes and trees.