Farm, Garden and The Land > Permaculture, Land Management and Foraging

Zone 7 permaculture newbie looking for advice

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Hello everyone,

I have been listening for about a year and tried growing some of the heirloom plants that Jack talks about on the podcasts with great success.  I have been looking at overhauling my yard in some places so I can make it feed me.  I have plans to put in some hugelkultur beds and perhaps an herb spiral this year, but wanted to know what people suggest.  I've got nothing but red clay and rocks to plant in.  Any suggestions as to what to plant for a zone 7 start up?  I would like some shrubs that will feed me too.

So glad to hear you have had success.   ;D   Love the idea of having your yard feed you.  That way it gives back instead of water mow fert repeat money out energy out.  This way you will get energy out and energy in money out money in.  In the best case more will come in to you than go out. 

I would love to help out but not really sure what you are looking for.  Name of plants to plant?  Zone 7 hardiness zone where you live or permaculture zone.  What herbs to plant in your spiral or bushes for food?  How to help out rocky clay soil? 

Here is my stab at it soil amend with a combo of sand compost maybe some peat moss manure start your own compost pile 

Herbs plant what you like to eat or turn in to tea.  Most herbs don't like to have their feet wet but can stand poor soil.  I like the song herbs parsley sage rosemary and thyme also oregano chives cilantro I use basil the most fennel and diil oh mints oh chamomile oh just plant what ever you can find.  Can you tell I am crazy over herbs.  I just can't get enough.  They grow so easy smell so good and have so many uses.

bushes for food besides berries I am not so sure what to tell you not familiar with much .   Space wise maybe not really a "bush" but bushy artichoke or asparagus.  I guess the main this is you really should plant what you like to eat.

When I go grocery shopping I put every thing I could do myself through the check out firs then ask the clerk to hit sub total.  I keep the receipts and go over them.  The most expensive items I circle and then I tally the most often bought items.  That gives me a starting list as to what to grow or produce first. 

In our case meat and eggs are number one in cost and most frequently purchased the greens and tomatoes.  So to save money I started a smaller garden of salad greens and planted a gob of tomatoes then focused all energy and monies on meat production. 

That is how I came up with my starting out list.  I know it might be crazy but it worked for me.  I can't think straight when I get looking at garden book / catalogs seed packets or lord a nursery.  My eyes glaze over and I can't hear people talking to me.  I am so addicted to that stuff I loose all concept of reality and it would be nothing for me to blow tons of $$$ just because.   Hubby has to go to the store with me and hold my hand and then we shop off the list. 

Good luck wish I could have been more helpful.

Hi Roundabouts - Your suggestions are excellent.

Hi Antowas - How did your backyard overhaul project go? I recently spoke to an online garden coach ( who had similar suggestions as well. I wanted to learn more about how your project went before we start moving in that direction.

Hello,  It has been a while since I have posted here but there are a couple of old threads on my permaculture garden my husband and I started 5 years ago.

I would start by looking at your yard and what foods you eat. 

How much space do you have that is full sun? 
How is the property orientated based on the sun.  Is the best place for growing food in the front yard or backyard?
Can you add trees and shrubs without shading out the rest of your growing space?
How does water flow through the property?

How will you water your plants?

How will you protect your plants from critters?  Critters of all kinds love our garden and I lose 20% to 40% of my garden to them every year with fencing around the garden.

Next up is what foods do you eat.  While it is really cool to grow a bunch of unusual plants it is best to start with the ones you regularly eat. 

When helping my friends design their gardens I always have them make a list of all the fruits, veggies, and herbs they eat.  I have them list everything and we go through the list and figure out what on the list they can grow.  I recommend the easy stuff that is a good ROI.  Once you know what you will eat you can figure out how much room you need for the plants.   You can use the trees and shrubs as landscaping.  My front of the house bushes are blueberries with strawberries as ground cover.  My fruit trees and shrubs are mixed with flowers and herbs so they look more like a garden than food production. It is really important to my husband and I that the front yard garden be pretty while being productive.   

Do you just want fresh produce during the growing season or do you want to preserve and long term store food too. 

Do you have the skills to deal with large harvests of a single crop?  I am really glad I started learning food preservation before I planted my first large garden.

Start finding local/regional seed suppliers and nurseries.  They often have the varieties that work best in your local area. I have had much better luck with the plants and seeds I sourced from my growing region. 

How will you garden? I recommend not making any of your garden beds more than 3 feet wide if you have any children or a short significant other. Make sure everyone in the house can easily work in the garden or take care of the animals is really important if you should ever be sick, injured, or want to take a vacation. 

 In my case we had to redesign our annual raised garden beds  so I could garden sitting on a stool. I needed to change they way I gardened due to health reasons and now my beds are all 2 to 3 feet wide and 9" to 12" with at least 18" between the rows so I can sit and work and easily reach the center of the beds. 

Also plan your infrastructure to make doing daily chores easy.  We keep our chicken coup in the back yard and fairly close to the house. It is near the spigot on the back of the house and you have to pass the shed and the trash cans to get to it.  This makes it easy to take care of the morning chores in one run and minimizes the  shoveling we need to do when it snows. 

We made hugel beds and they filled up with voles and moles.  I couldn't grow root crops for the first 3 years. While it was a good way to get rid of a bunch of stuff we cut down if I had to do it again I would bother and I would have wood chipped everything.  We use cardboard and wood chips between all our beds to suppress weeds and retain moisture since we are on glacial sand on the side of a windy hill.   

Plan for things to change.  Start small till you can figure out how much you can handle.  You can always expand next year and it sucks to lose a bunch of plants because you bit off more than you can chew. Also not everything will make it so plan on trying a bunch of different plants and techniques to see what works for you.

I love my Meadow Creature broad fork. It has been great at loosening up our rock filled glacier sand that we have for soil.  I am in the Granite State so I understand rocks in the garden. I am pretty sure it would be helpful dealing with heavy clay soils.

We buy compost by the yard and have it delivered.  Both sandy and clay soils benefit from compost. 

I hope this helps. 


So glad to see you back, Porcupine... Thanks for sharing your experiences... sounds like you've done a lot of good things. Good to know how the hugel beds worked out for you. After the 3 years, were you able to use the beds more effectively? And what made that possible?


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