Permaculture Principle 11: Use Edges and Value the Marginal

Where are the edges in your yard?

  • The edge of the house and the yard? That space has its own microclimate. It is typically protected from wind but may not get enough water.
  • The edge of the yard and the sidewalk? This space has lots of visitors. Plants may need to survive dog urine showers and sidewalk salt.
  • The edge of a yard and a driveway? Snow will be piling up here – up and up. Delicate shrubs may not like getting hit with snow from the plow.
  • The boulevard between the sidewalk and the street? Another microclimate, more challenging soil conditions, more public traffic.
  • The open yard and the side of a fence? Think about shade, protection and structure.
In 2014, we added a side yard fence. Now I can begin adding a shade flower garden within the border of a fence.

In 2014, we added a side yard fence. Now I can begin adding a shade flower garden within the border of a fence.

Edges can be hard places to work with, but they present a lot of interesting opportunity and natural diversity. “Weeds” tend to appear in those places where it’s harder to survive. Is it truly a problem plant? Is it a plant misplaced? Or is it a plant you don’t yet know?

We’ve spent a bit of time in the last two years learning about wild edibles. We attended a foraging class with Charley Underwood through Exco, experimental community education of the Twin Cities. Not only did we learn to identify some of these plants, we got a chance to eat them.

Ilze Mueller has conducted “weed walks” through her community garden with folks from Transition Longfellow.

Friend Elizabeth Blair told us about the Minnesota Mycological Society, which sponsors mushroom walks. Whenever a new mushroom pops up in our yard, she comes over to identify it for us.

When I posted a question about whether my chokecherry tree was the right kind to harvest from – chokecherry or chokeberry, but only one is “edible” – a naturalist who is a member on the Transition Facebook page came to my yard and showed me around it in a whole new way!

Before we judge a being that lives along the edges too harshly, we should try to understand who and what they are and the benefits they bring.

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About thinkofitasanadventure

We are a 50-something couple living in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis. We attended a sustainability conference at our local high school in November 2010, with keynote speaker Richard Heinberg from the Post Carbon Institute. What we heard shocked us deeply. We finally understood the need to transition away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible. We immediately began to change the way we live. We joined together with other folks in our neighborhood to learn more, to do more and to have fun doing it! We're part of Transition Longfellow. We're choosing to change now and to "think of it as an adventure." If you are on this journey too, we'd love to hear from you.
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