By Gretchen Morfogen


There are several terms that I have come across lately that relate to a deeper overall understanding of what can be accomplished in a small garden environment. It also relates to a bigger picture once several of these ideologies merge in a community setting. I sense a trend along some of these lines as our planet’s pain becomes more evident and the healing process continues to expand to the consciousness of society.

Permaculture is an emerging but not so new ideology coming out of the eco-demand for social solutions to the preservation of community- in a nut shell. What this means is that more people are embracing the concept of permanent agriculture and approaching to design human settlements and living systems that mimic the relationships found in natural ecologies. The intention is to follow a set of principles in which self sufficiency is the end result so that we can no longer rely on the industrial systems that wreaked havoc on the Earth’s natural ecosystems. It is intended to retain the balance that had been lost. A contrived, but proper environment for human sustainability, similar to what forty centuries of what China, Korea and Japan had been practicing naturally.       Permaculture stresses the value of low inputs and diverse crops. The model for this was an abundance of small-scale market and home gardens for food production, and a main issue was the miles food had to travel to get to the home market- an unnecessary and destructive methodology. Modern permaculture is a system design tool it is a way of: looking at a whole system or problem; observing how the parts relate; planning to mend unhealthy systems by applying ideas learned from long-term sustainable working systems; identifying connections between key elements.

Polyculture is agriculture using multiple crops in the same space, in imitation of the diversity of natural ecosystems, and avoiding large stands of single crops, or monoculture. It includes crop rotation, multi-cropping, intercropping, companion planting, beneficial weeds, and alley cropping. Polyculture, though it often requires more labor, has several advantages over monoculture: The diversity of crops avoids the susceptibility of monocultures to disease. The idea being that showed that planting several varieties of a like crop in the same field increased yields, largely because of a decrease in the incidence of disease, which made chemical pesticides useless. The greater variety of crops provides habitat for more species. This is one example of accommodating biodiversity within human landscapes.

Biodymanics came about in response to a request by farmers who noticed degraded soil conditions and deterioration in the health and quality of crops and livestock resulting from the use of chemical fertilizers. This method of organic farming that treats farms as unified and individual organisms, emphasizes balancing the holistic development and interrelationship of the soil, plants, animals as a self-nourishing system without external inputs (i.e. natural methods vs. industrial manipulation) Emphasizing the use of manures and composts and excluding the use of artificial chemicals on soil and plants, the methods unique to the biodynamic approach include the use of fermented herbal and mineral preparations as compost additives and field sprays and the use of an astronomical sowing and planting calendar. While these methods have also been criticized as being occult and dogmatic, it is – in my opinion a healthier approach to planting as all systems are being used in conjunction with one another.

Agroforestry is trees or shrubs that are intentionally used within agricultural systems, are cultured in forest settings. Knowledge, careful selection of species and good management of trees and crops are needed to optimize the production and positive effects within the system and to minimize negative competitive effects. Agroforestry can be broadly understood as the commitment of farmers, alone or in partnerships, towards the establishment and management of forests on their land. Where many landholders are involved the result is a diversity of activity that reflects the diversity of aspirations and interests within the community. It incorporates at least several plant species into a given land area and creates a more complex habitat that can support a wider variety of birds, insects, and other animals. Agroforestry also has the potential to help reduce climate change since trees take up and store carbon at a faster rate than crop.

Agrarian Guild groups of plants, animals and microbes which work particularly well together in an agricultural system.

Happy gardening this planting season!