Saturday, August 27, 2011

Minutes from our visit to the Rochester Permaculture Center on August 20, 2011

Patty Love greeted Peggy Kane, Leona Lauster, and Laura Ouimette for a tour of the Rochester Permaculture Center on Helen Road along Red Creek near Genesee Valley Park. Again, a wonderful wealth of information was shared to which I will only touch on in these minutes.

Patty had her son bring out an unidentified species that she found at a site visit for us to identify. Leona later determined it to be buckwheat. (If you have Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide it is on page 188. If you have A Field Guide to Wildflowers by Peterson & McKenny it is on page 70.)

In collaboration with Seeking Common Ground, Patty Love, founder of Barefoot Edible Landscape and Permaculture, formed the Rochester Permaculture Center this past year.

Patty Love had four books on hand that she recommends as references for growing your own edible forest. (You may purchase any of these books directly from Patty.)

Edible Forest Gardens by Dave Jacke with Eric Toensmeier.

Perennial Vegetables by Eric Toensmeier. Gaia's Gardenby Toby Hemenway.
Patty’s overall design will consist of concentric circles around a central gathering place. Triangular beds will be planted and various path widths are designed to create easily manageable gardens.

At the entrance of the garden is a strategic materials depot (wheelbarrow, shovels, supports) and a nursery bed of species from Miller Nurseries in Canandaigua. Several species which already existed around the .15 acre will remain as they fulfill a purpose (such as mulberries which critters often prefer over other fruits such as cherries). The main garden is enclosed in a locally and sustainably harvested black locust post and netted fence to keep the deer from entering.
Patty began the garden by cutting down a tree line and sheet mulching in November 2010. (Sheet mulching involved laying goat & chicken manure over the ground, covering with comfrey leaves, and then corrugated cardboard with 1 ½ inch overlays. Patty then covered the cardboard with 4 inches of autumn leaves.) Sheet mulching requires no digging or tillingprior to planting. She discussed coppicing and pollarding with one of the standing ash tree trunks as an example. Coppicing involves trimming the tree trunk low to allow shoots to grow for animal fodder, baskets, and fences (wattle and daub). Pollarding involves trimming the tree trunk higher to allow shoots to grow at a harvestable height or to allow feed for animals by trimming the shoots to drop when ready. Some species that lend themselves to these practices include hazelnuts, filberts, ash, and willow.

Following Dave Jacke's idea of seven functions (food, fiber, fodder, fuel, fun, fertilizer, and “farmaceuticals”) Patty plants in polycultures (mini forests) including layers of canopy (oak, pecan, maple); understory (dogwood, red bud (flowers are edible), fruit trees, quince); shrubs (gooseberry, sea berry, beach plum); herbaceous layer (black eyed Susans, iris, mugwort, comfrey, bee balm, sweet cicely); ground cover (alpine strawberries); and root layers (horse-radish, dock, comfrey). Considering the functions of each plant such as attracting beneficials and dynamic accumulators is also important.

Patty told us about dynamic accumulators and how she uses the “chop and drop” method to fertilize and mulch other plants with their leaves allowing the minerals they have accumulated to be distributed around the garden or compost. Dynamic accumulators have deep roots which draw minerals up to the leaves and then the topsoil when they die back. Examples include dandelion, mullein, thistle, yarrow, and horseradish. Comfrey brings up 6 minerals and dock 5 minerals.

Patty discussed nitrogen fixers which host fungi and bacteria among their root that pull nitrogen out of the air. Nitrogen gets fixed on root hairs and then distributed into the soil when plants die back or are trimmed. Many permaculture experts recommend that forty percent of a garden’s biomass should be in nitrogen fixing plants include peas, locust, buffalo berry, lupines, and red clover.

It was suggested that Native Americans numbered close to 12 million and lived well by managing edible forest agricultures. I appreciated Patty’s perspective on weeds as “very enthusiastic plants” often with a purpose of bringing nutrients up from below the ground to build the soil. Patty showed us around the garden sharing several edible samples as she described species and their functions.
Comfrey:chop & drop, flowers in salads, tea, herbal remedies, skin salve
Paw Paw seeds, tomato, peppers, celery, fig tree in nursery bed
Good King Henry: heart shaped leaves, perennial vegetables, eat shoots and greens.
Elderberries and Marshmallow: medicinal uses
Persimmons as an alternative to apples, which have many pests and diseases
Sweet cicely: white blossom, seeds with licorice flavor
Dames Rocket has 4 petals and the flowers are edible. Phlox has 5 petals and is NOT edible.
Monarda didyma (not Oswego tea)

Purslane to thicken stews

Anise hyssop: sweet mint (tea), purple, bees love it

Dayflower: blue, edible, mucilaginous qualities, salads

Burdock root: roots for eating and medicinal
' Aronia: high antioxidant fruit creates dry mouth – available at Millers
Curly dock: yellow, dock root is high in iron, use for chop and drop

Egyptian walking onion: a perennial vegetable

Seedless grapes: from Miller Nurseries

Jerusalem artichokes: perennial potato substitute

Sea berry: Vitamins C and E, beta carotene, flavinoids in orange berries, alternative fruit Turkish rocket: fuzzy edible leaves
Other species: Horseradish, gooseberry, blueberries, bush cherry, lemon balm, rosa rugosa, red lake current, Thistle, Spearmint, Wood sorrel, 3 in 1 Asian pear, high bush cranberry, self pollinating Rocket peach, currant, Ostrich fern.

We had a discussion about the permaculture ethics: Earth care, people care, and resource share (also known as fair share) as well as discussing sustainable and regenerative living.

Patty Love is available for workshops, consulting and speaking. You may contact her at

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