Landrace Gardening and Permaculture Food Forests Using Perennials: part 1

Over the next few days we want to write about landrace gardening, which is survival of the fittest gardening using landrace seeds and natural gardening techniques.


Basswood spent last summer studying (when the weather would not allow outdoor work) about how to use Permaculture to make Food Forests and landrace gardens. He has learned that every time you disturb your garden soil you kill some of the life in it. There are so many organisms living in our soil that we cannot even see. Not to mention all the earthworms that help to aerate the soil, bring nutrients to the roots of the plants, and make tunnels that help let moisture down to the roots.


Basswood spent a winter in Hawaii volunteering at an organic farm that used IMOs (Indigenous Micro Organisms.) He learned how to gather these organisms from old growth forests, multiply them, and then add them to your garden soil. These IMOs help to break down the nutrients in the soil for our plants to use. You probably know that legumes add nitrogen to the soil, but did you know that they need a micro organism to do that. That is why you might need to use inoculants when you plant your beans. Learn more about IMOs on our gardening page.


The plants we grow need IMOs, worms, etc., to thrive and provide us with the nutritious food we need. (If the plants cannot get the needed nutrition from the soil they cannot store it up in the fruits and seeds that we then eat.) The point is: we need to learn how to add these things back to our soil because we have killed them with the tilling, the fertilizers and chemicals, and the farming methods that have been used in the past. Then we need to work with nature and learn how not to kill our garden soil.


We bought forty acres last fall that we plan to turn into landrace gardens and food forests. Several years ago the land was used to raise cows, and they probably had way too many grazing on it. Most of the property has grown up in trees but there were a few meadows, which have struggled to grow. Even after almost thirty years with someone just bush hogging the meadows once a year for the deer, they have not been able to recover; they just produce anemic-looking grass.

Garden Seeds property
Garden Seeds property

To help build the soil, Basswood and I spent last fall hauling more then thirty pickup truck loads of leaves, fifteen loads of straw mixed with manure, and several loads of apple and maple branches from our local compost dump. We live on the Iron Range and the towns around were peopled by immigrants from the old country who came to work in the mines. They planted apple trees behind their houses and many of them still survive today. The problem is: as the older generation is dying off, the younger generation is cutting down the old apple trees… because the apples just make a mess??? Anyway, as people brought the branches, some of them with the apples still attached, we hauled them home to use in our hugel beds next year. Most of the life/nutrition is in the live part of the tree i.e., the branches, and they will decompose more quickly then the trunk, releasing their nutrition to our garden soil/hugel bed. Learn about gardening with hugel beds on our gardening page.