Category Archives: Permaculture

Black Medic – Nitrogen Fixer, Pollinator Attractor, Herbal Tea

I want to highlight a plant that I don’t hear a lot of people talking about – Black Medic (aka Medicago lupulina). Black Medic is a Florida native that is a nitrogen fixer, pollinator attractor, and medicinal plant. All of these pictures were taken in my front yard this morning (in Central Florida), and demonstrate just how dominant, beautiful, and beneficial this plant can be. As you can see from this first picture, Black Medic seeds prolifically and will grow into thick stands in the spring.

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It’s also a pollinator attractor, not to mention beautiful.
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The third and fourth pictures are from a plant I pulled out of the ground. You can see the nodules on these roots, which are the homes of bacteria living symbiotically within the plant’s flesh. These bacteria, in exchange for plant sugars, provide the plant with ammonia based nitrates they convert from atmospheric nitrogen, which plants are unable to use. Black Medic is one of a select number of plants referred to as “nitrogen fixers” which, with the help of these bacteria, are able to convert and use their own nitrogen, one of the most essential of plant nutrients. This ability allows them to live in nutrient deficient soils and provide for nearly all of their needs literally out of thin air. Carbon, also taken in from the atmosphere, along with this converted nitrogen, largely make up the biomass of the plant. Once the plant dies its accumulated biomass is then returned to the soil for other organisms and plants to use. This is one of the major sources through which soil is built over time.

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Black Medic is also used by herbalists as a tea or infusion for it’s calming effect. Shoot, it relaxes me just knowing that it exists. And it’s flowering right now! so go see where it is growing around your yard and collect some seeds!

Beneficial insects – aphids, parasitic wasps, and fungus

I was lucky enough to go out in my garden this morning and capture this amazing picture. The untrained eye may not realize it, but there is a LOT going on here, and it is an excellent demonstration of beneficial/predatory pest relationships. IMGA0901 If you look closely you will see aphids in three different forms here. The first aphid (small translucent green) is a living and thriving aphid who is being farmed by an ant. Aphids eat plant sugars by penetrating the protective surface of the plant and releasing the food. The ant, that you see, has a mutually beneficial relationship with the aphid. The ants corral the aphids, try to protect them from predators, and even bring their eggs down into their mounts to protect them during the cold season, bringing them back up when the weather is again suitable. In return for their labor, the ants get the pleasure of “milking” the aphids. They jostle the little creatures while they are sucking the plant sugars and cause them to spill their spoils. The ants then harvest the plant sugars for themselves and their friends.

The next aphid you will see in the picture is a parasitized aphid. This aphid has a large, brown body, and is actually dead. A parasitic wasp has laid an egg inside of him, allowing his body to be used as food for the developing pupae. In this next picture you will see that some of the brown bodies have holes in the rear and some do not. The holes are where the wasps have hatched. IMGA0906 The third aphid you see, in the first picture, is covered in a blueish green fuzz. This is a beneficial (to us), parasitic fungus which infects and feeds on living aphids As you can see, from this broader picture, the plant (Okinawa spinach) was covered in aphids, but upon closer examination it can be seen that over 90% of them are parasitized or killed by beneficial fungus. IMGA0907 Sometimes, when I have harmful insect infestations, I use organic sprays or manual labor to remove the pest, but it is important to only do this when it is necessary for the life of the plant. The reason for this is because predatory/beneficial insects need these pests to maintain their populations in your ecosystem. This is just one small example of how allowing natural ecosystems to evolve and develop in our food producing ecosystems can solve many of our problems.

First Orlando permaculture meeting action day!

The freshly established Orlando permaculture meeting had it’s first action day. The weather was great and so was the comradery. The day began with a quick synopsis of the master plan, where Mark shared with us the design he had created for his future front yard, food producing ecosystem.

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Once the course of action was in order, and Fran had assumed her position in the director’s chair, the dirt started moving.

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The first thing we did was dig 1.5 ft wide by 2 ft deep trenches to begin the creation of a series of hugelkulture mounds to capture and hold water and nutrients.

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Once the trenches were dug we lined them with cardboard to help retain the water within the trenches. This will aid in the decomposition of the woody matter that will be deposited in the ditches.

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The next step was to fill the trenches with partially decomposed wood chips, sticks, and logs.

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Next, on top of the woody carbon layer, went a layer of compost, top soil, and food scraps. This layer creates the planting bed which seeds, herbs, shrubs and trees will be planted into. A cardboard layer was also placed between these two layers to create a temporary barrier to protect against intrusion of the underlying grass. The cardboard, over time time will decompose, but by then the grass will be too weak to come up through the soil and mulch.

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The final phase was to put down some more cardboard and cover the entire area, including the beds, with wood mulch. This layer will work to suppress the weeds and grass, add to the organic matter on property, and help retain the moisture underneath.

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The canvas has now been prepared, and with a little time, and some thoughtful planting, a thriving edible ecosystem can now be developed and nurtured.

Many thanks to everyone who made it out, and just as many thanks to those of you who wish you could have made it out but weren’t able. We’ll see you all back at Marks house on Tues Dec. 2nd for the next Orlando permaculture meeting. The meeting will be at 7pm, but if you want to come early, some of us will be showing up at 5 to help wrap up some of the loose ends from the project. Treats are always welcomed, and remember to bring a chair, cushion, or pad.

7529 Compass Dr. Winter Park, FL 32792

Orlando Permaculture Meeting *UPDATE*

Our first meeting was a grand success! There was a great turnout of amazing, Earth-centered, genuine, and passionate people. We have a few general announcements here, and an overview of what we decided upon during the first meeting.

We need a host location/home for our next meeting on Tues, Dec 2. Go to our Google Drive “host signup sheet” to host our next, or other future meetings. 

The topic for next meeting will be “working with Florida soils”, so bring any knowledge and resources you may have.

Our first action day event will be on Thurs, Nov 20th at Mark Fowler’s house at 7529 Compass Dr. Winter Park, FL 32792. For more information on this and future action day events visit our Google Drive folder or our action day Facebook group Permaculture My Yard – Orlando.

Many decisions were made during this constructive meeting and this is what we came up with:

  •  We will meet the first Tuesday of every month at the home of a willing host
  •  Group announcements will take place at the beginning of each meeting
  •  Topic for following meeting will be decided at each meeting
  •  Topic will be discussed on an open floor after announcements
  •  Snacks and treats are always welcomed
  •  Full potluck meetings will be announced the meeting prior
  •  Action days will take place between meetings and will be decided during each meeting
  •  A free plant raffle will take place at end of each meeting
  •  Plants will be provided on a voluntary basis by members
  •  A Google Drive folder is available for group use
  •  Folder includes documents of member skills and plants they are willing to share
  •  A group email list has been established 
  •  An Orlando permaculture meeting Facebook group
  •  Personal/external announcements will take place at end of meeting, before raffle

If you you know wants to be added to the email list and google drive folder contact Matt at: orlandopermaculture@gmail.com

Permaculture Food Forest Garden – How To

I just installed another addition to my already established food forest garden, and I made sure to do a walk-through of exactly how I did it so there would be another example floating out here on the interwebs. If you aren’t sure what a food forest garden is then I will just put it simply. A food forest garden is a garden that includes trees, shrub sized plants, ground-cover plants, herbaceous type plants, built-in nutrient accumulating species, and nitrogen fixing species (which take nitrogen from the air and deposit it in the soil). All these plants also tend to be perennial (grow year around) or reseed themselves year after year. The ground in a food forest garden, once installed, is never tilled, and as the system matures it develops its own ecosystem, just like a forest. The only difference is that the plant species in the forest are chosen by you, the designer, rather than nature, the bigger designer. So without further ado, here the food forest garden.

Planting asparagus crowns

Many people don’t know this, but asparagus is a perennial plant which can live for 15 to 20 years, and from seed takes three years before it is fully productive. As you will see in the video though, through purchase and planting of asparagus “crowns” your plant can be productive within one or two years of planting. Watch the video for a detailed overview of preparation and planting of asparagus crowns.