Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Save Money and Protect Your Health the Green Way

While working at my part-time job this afternoon, I happened to read an article on genetic engineering. The article was long and heavy-handed, the kind of investigative reporting that takes up a lot of brain power. But it got me thinking about how I could use my profession to address the issue of biodiversity loss in a format that could reach out to and empower my fellow citizens.
In Permaculture, food-producing plant communities are established so that homeowners can have much more free time, as well as free food they don't have to drive to acquire. It's 'Deep Green' because less oil and gasoline are used, a healthy soil web is protected, and other natural resources like water are harnessed and conserved.
So here's how you, the homeowner, can maximize savings while getting control over your health in a way no pill or diet can. First of all, you can utilize a method of Permaculture called the Fulcrum Principle. This means doing the least and getting the most from your action.
I always start with the soil, since it is the foundation for the processes we will be putting in place. To activate this principle, observe your landscape and decide if you need to remove traditional lawn grass before digging planting holes. If you have areas of tenacious turf, you can remove them with old cardboard boxes. Break up the boxes and overlap flat pieces directly on top of the grass. Atop this pile planting compost and plant directly into it.
If your property is more of a blank slate, with bare soil, you have less work to do. In both cases (after laying cardboard and planting compost over turf areas) dig planting holes and add a small handful of basic organic fertilizer. Place each plant and fill in the hole with soil. Step around the base of the plant to push out air pockets. Now add a generous layer of mulch to protect the plants from drying out. Mulch is also especially helpful for drawing soil-building earthworms and beneficial bugs that enrich the health of your plants and infuse them with healthy nutrients for you to eat. Water well and monitor for the first year to make sure they get enough to drink.
In a Permaculture garden, plant selection is carefully done so that symbiotic plant communities are set up. These plant relationships do much of your work for you, attracting pollinators and beneficial insect predators, shading some plants from hot sun, providing on-going sources of mulch from leaf-fall, fixing nitrogen, etc.
Edible gardens can feed you and your family in surprising and nourishing ways. From fresh flowers tossed onto a salad of vitamin-rich greens to a baked squash with nuts to strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries for desert you can constantly eat out of your backyard. With a larger property, animals can be incorporated to produce milk and meat. For the suburban or urban lot, small animals such as chickens can provide fresh, hormone- and antibiotic-free eggs and meat. Food stays fresher on the vine, too, so you can count on the benefits of antioxidants that haven't depleted under grocery store lights.
From a Landscape Architecture perspective, all of this complex ecology is guided into forms that shower your eyes, that of your friends and neighbors, and potential buyers, if you should want to sell,
with delightful sights and smells. There are many more benefits to be gleaned from using a professional Permaculture or Landscape Design to develop a property. This kind of design is a quiet but powerful service that you can utilize if you want to enhance your health and pocketbook.


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