Here’s another group of reader questions on permaculture and other topics. Today there are three questions. The first is on transitioning a homestead, the second on learning permaculture and mulch, and lastly companion plants and pests of tropical fruit trees.
If you want your question answered, please see the end of the article.
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Hi Jed & Crew!
Thanks for the follow up and the awesome guide and blog!
We are city folks turned Appalachian off gridders turned suburban
permaculture homesteaders. Amateurs who like to learn through
experience and over the internet, and found our way to permaculture
about 10 years ago and can’t quit. We currently live outside of [a US city].
Right now we are selling our property and arranging to buy and move to
another house. Downsize a little, pay off debts, etc. I am about 8
weeks out from a move and considering which perennials to dig up or
propogate to bring with me and transplant. Which animals to re-home
Any advice on transitioning a homestead?
It sounds like you’ve had quite a homesteading adventure!
How did you like being off-grid?
It’s great to hear that you’re getting debt paid off and adjusting to better fit your desired lifestyle.
Too many people try to do modern homesteading by carrying loads of debt and the stress associated with it.
I did the same perennial transplanting thing when moving to our current location.
I moved elderberry, gooseberry, blackberry, and what I thought was an apricot (that turned out to be an elm. Ugh!)
They did ok, but I did lose the blackberry due to not getting it in the ground fast enough.
It was late December and the bushes and trees were dormant.
Since it’s May and your trees have been actively growing for several months, it might be tough to transplant trees.
If you have some cuttings and seeds that’s probably your best bet.
It does somewhat depend on the type of perennial, of course.
Smaller trees and bushes might be ok if you’re careful to keep the roots damp.
Moving is tough, no matter what. Trying to move live plants and animals makes it harder, for sure.
If you’re going into a subdivision, you can do lots of production in a small space.
I like to give the example of the Dervaes family in California. They produce literally tons of food on their 1/10th acre plot.
You also might want to take a look at my article on backyard permaculture design.
It does have some good ideas if I do say so myself.
I don’t know what the size is, but I recommend that you do lots of observations on your new property.
Understand the land and its energy flows (water, wind, nutrients, sun, etc) before doing too much large-scale modification.
Learning permaculture, and mulching
I’m brand new to permaculture and really don’t know how to start. My
yard is red clay with a lot of weeds and a few young trees. Im in the
city limits so I can’t have chickens or any other farm animal. My
budget is super tight but I would like to grow food without having to
buy and use a lot of chemicals and I honestly don’t think I can afford
to mulch up the whole acre either.
Any help is appreciated,
I don’t know where you are, but most cities have tree-trimming services.
They need places to dump wood chips, and it costs them to take it to the landfill.
This is one of the best (free) ways to mulch a large area.
Some cities actually have free wood chips available, you just pick it up yourself.
You will want to avoid working your soil when wet, to avoid compacting it.
Clay is really prone to this.
Also, take a look at https://www.thepermaculture.life/how-to-build-up-bad-soil-budget for some other soil improvement ideas.
But is it possible for you to have some other kind of animal like quail? They’re very quiet, and produce a lot of eggs and meat in a small area.
You could also see https://www.thepermaculture.life/reader-questions-plant-varieties-septic-urban-homesteading/ for more ideas on self-sufficiency and food production in suburban/urban locations.
You can start our own seeds instead of buying vegetable starts, which can also save you money.
Make sure to check out https://www.thepermaculture.life/5-ways-to-get-free-fruit-nut-trees/ for how to free and low-cost fruit and nut trees.
For getting started with permaculture, start by reading as much as you can.
You could go to the library and get a book. For book ideas, check out https://www.thepermaculture.life/5-best-modern-permaculture-books/
There’s lots of good (and some…um…misleading ones) site about permaculture.
For some basics, see https://www.thepermaculture.life/what-permaculture-basics-part-1/
If you can swing it, take a PDC. This is the best way to get a deep understanding.
I had read lots of books about permaculture, and though I decided to take a PDC, I didn’t think it would add much to my knowledge.
Wow, was I wrong!
Most PDCs have some form of work-share option to lower the cost, which might be what you’re looking for.
Picking the right PDC school for your personality is also important, and something I haven’t talked a lot about.
It may be most important to you to find a PDC nearest to your location.
Lots of things to consider.
Tropical fruit trees, and pests
I have just started with permaculture – still busy learning. Living
in the city ([a city in], South Africa) – I would like to turn my yard
into an oasis, using permaculture.
Can you please give me some tips on guava trees and pomegranate trees?
I would like to know more:
Planting companions for both of them.
How to minimize pests – especially for the guava tree. I have a very
old guava tree with the sweetest guavas, but they get stung while they
are still green and stone hard! I refuse to spray poison. I would
love to harvest healthy guavas.
Thank you so much
I’m glad to see you’re busy learning more about permaculture.
I really think it can help people improve their lives and be more secure and healthy.
Citrus can be a good companion for guava.
And according to several sources including http://agreport.bz/2011/06/part-2-of-green-to-greening-to-guava-and-back-to-green-companion-planting-continued-from-part-1-printed-in-issue-11-new-commercially-viable-high-density-intercropping/, guava can prevent the “greening” disease of citrus.
Though not specifically indicated as guava companion plants, mangoes (Mangifera indica L.) & orange jasmine (Murraya panaculata (L.) jack) could also be used to prevent the greening disease should you choose to plant citrus.
In general, for pests there are several approaches to look into:
Removing habitat and food that they like
Adding/encouraging predators to control their population
Growing varieties of plants that confuse or repel them, or lure them away
Changing timing of crops to avoid the pest’s peak population times
I talked about this some more in this article: https://www.thepermaculture.life/garden-planning-right-way/
For both guava and pomegranate, there are organic sprays you could use, or make yourself.
One example is a combination of vegetable oil, fragrance-free dish soap, and water.
You could also use BT (Bacillus thuringiensis), a bacterium that kills caterpillars and other pest larvae.
The benefit of this is that it doesn’t harm parasitoid or beneficial insects, because they have to eat it to be affected.
For guava pests, check here http://vikaspedia.in/agriculture/crop-production/integrated-pest-managment/ipm-for-fruit-crops/ipm-strategies-for-guava/guava-insect-and-pest-management
They do suggest some biological controls like parasitoids, but these will be specific to the pest.
You didn’t describe the pest, so I don’t know which one attacking your tree.
But if I had to guess, I would say some species of fruit fly.
In this case, you have to break the pest lifecycle and ensure your tree is as healthy as possible.
Pick up all fruit off the ground immediately, preventing the larvae from getting to the ground to pupate and turn into a fly.
Don’t compost it unless you have a fruitfly-proof composting container.
Chickens will happily eat the larvae and rotten fruit. I bet their eggs will be a bright color afterward!
Pests will often attack sick or non-thriving plants, so make sure the tree is getting proper watering and nutrients.
Install a good thick mulch 6-8 inches deep like I talk about here: https://www.thepermaculture.life/how-to-plant-fruit-trees-in-the-desert-the-right-way/ , just make sure to keep it a few inches away form the trunk.
Feed the soil lots or organic matter and good compost.
Guava can be attacked by a nematode that prevents zinc uptake, so make sure that zinc is soil-available and the bad nematodes are controlled.
Some info I found suggested picking the guava before it’s ripe. Then ripening on the counter.
You can also wrap the fruits in a paper bag, which prevents most pests from laying eggs on it.
Since this is an old tree and you know you like the fruit, I would suggest trying to propagate it.
You will want to do this from cuttings to ensure the genetics stay the same, and use softwood (not greenwood or hardwood).
Now as far as pomegranates go, it looks like they are generally free from pests, though aphids can be a problem.
You can use biological controls for any you do find, by introducing ladybugs/lady beetles and other predatory and parasitoid insects.
Three great readers got their questions answered. If you’d like to get your question answered, just email me at info (at) thepermaculture (dot) life and ask away!
OK, that’s all folks! Do you have any questions or comments about sustainable homesteading, permaculture design or anything else? Ask your question down below and let’s talk! You can also use the contact form, or email me at info at thepermaculture dot life.
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