Book Notes: Introduction to Permaculture :: Chapter Six

Continuing my notes on the book Introduction to Permaculture (1991/2009) by Bill Mollison, here is Chapter Six: Orchards, Farm Forestry and Grain Crops.  (Intro and Chapter One)  I am relying mainly on my sketchy notes here, without a book in hand to check quotes, accuracy, etc. (there is a version of the book online, with lots of illustrations by Reny Mia Slay). Any misrepresentations of Mollison’s words or work are mine alone and completely unintentional.

CHAPTER SIX: Orchards, Farm Forestry and Grain Crops.

6.1 Orchards

Start orchard with nitrogen-fixing legumes – white clover cover crop. Interplant orchard trees, not necessarily in rows. “Orchards will be made up of disease-resistant main crops (fruit and nut trees), possible windbreak (species that won’t compete for light, water, and nutrients), and scattered alternative trees (for pest control, bee attractants). In addition you will have to decide on the understorey of the orchard. It could be used to grow green manure crops or nitrogen-fixing lovers; provide forage for animals (geese, chias qckens, sheep); provide a variety of insect- and grass-repelling species; or be used to grow vegetable crop (until eventually shaded out).” Other understory plants (in some climates) include globe artichoke, sun root, dahlia, narcissus, currants, clover, gooseberries. Red-hot poker for insectivorous birds; borage and clover for bees. Maximise flowering plants as predator wasp refuges.

[I looked online to see what green manures and N-fixers could be grown in my USDA zone (4-5): alder trees, winter rye, buckwheat, vetch, mustard, lupine, fava beans, fenugreek. All should be cut back before they flower.]

When deciding on trees, consider: shape at maturity (shade); trees that tolerate shade; tree height at maturity; moisture needs; allelopathy.

Temperate Fruit Guild for the Orchard: The enemy is grass.

Spring bulbs – daffodil, narcissus, hyacinth, alliums.
Spike roots – comfrey, globe artichoke, dandelion
Insectary – fennel, dill, Queen Anne’s Lace, carrot, tansy, catnip, daisies.
Nitrogen-fixing crop – clovers
Fumigation of the soil – marigolds (Tagetes genus only)
These are especially important for the first 10 years of the orchard.

Reduce grass, plant as many flowering plants as possible, provide ground cover for lizards and reptiles.

idealised guild (Reny Mia Slay illustration)

Tropical Orchards – no notes

Plant List for Sub-Tropical Orchards p. 136

Drylands Orchards – no notes. Includes “planting on hills” and “corridor planting.”

6.2 Structural Forests

Timber crop in pasture. Firewood production (cut 1/7 yearly). Polewood for fences. Fine timber. Hedgerows and windbreaks – can contain variety of species.
All multi-tiered with variety of product yield.

Why you might want some of your property forested: Trees provide forage in hard times for both livestock and wildlife. They buffer conditions of extreme heat and cold. They help with erosion issues. They offer diversification of farm products, buffering economic changes in prices or crops and livestock, starting with honey and pollen production, and later a wide range of animal and plant products (fruit, nut and vine). They provide a source of on-farm firewood and building materials. Forests create wildlife refuge areas, especially for birds.

Natural Forest (unmanaged): “These undisturbed areas are very beautiful, peaceful places, and of intrinsic worth. We are able to contemplate nature here, and to learn about ourselves in the natural world.” Being alone in a forest for 5+ weeks — can totally lose your identity as a human.

6.3 Grain and Legume Crop Systems

Refers to Fukuoka’s One Straw Revolution: combines usual rotation of legume/grain/root crop pasture/fallow/legume into a single grain/legume crop. And you can broadcast the next crop into the maturing crop. Continuous mulch (clover) plus double-cropping using winter- and spring-sown grains. In 400 square meters or less (less than 1/10 of an acre).

Paddy rice: Can be grown in 2″ of water. (Very detailed instructions on this.)
Can also grow rice on dry land with spray irrigation.
If too cool for rice, use spring wheat or corn sown in early spring with oats, barley, or wheat. Or legumes. Broadcast rye and wheat into soybeans when the soybeans’ leaves begin to fall.

Other no-tillage crops: cucumber, melon, tomato, beet, sunflower, vetch.

There’s a section on cropping in monsoon areas, and another on intercropping systems in a dry-monsoon area.

6.4 On-Farm Fuels

“Fuel as methane can not only be derived from animal manures, but also from leaf litter and branches under mature forest. Chipped leaves and branches are processed through a biogas digester to produce methane for cooking, heating, and vehicle needs. All waste products, however, should be returned to the forest as nutrient for further growth.”

Liquid fuels – plants that yield sugar to convert to alcohol (sap). Also starchy root crops (beets, toddy plums). “About 5-7% of farm land devoted to fuel production would provide fuel self-sufficiency.”

He ends this section with, “The problem is the centralisation of power in large utilities. Vast sums are spent on advising people to ‘save petrol,’ whereas the same amount spent on the low-cost distillation plants that would make a community or small town self-sufficient is ‘not available.’ The intention is obvious: we are expected to stick with petrol or gas products, lead and pollution, until the oil companies gain control of alcohol fuels. Sometimes one can be pardoned for thinking that we are all crazy, or dumb, or that here is a gigantic conspiracy to keep people down and out. I am inclined to think both factors are operating.”

6.5 Commercial Systems
Rules for cash crops. I skimmed.

Next up, Chapter Seven: Animal Forage Systems and Aquaculture.

(* Featured photo is of rice paddies in Plymouth, NH, at Steve Whitman’s house, in Sept. 2014.)

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