One question that came up today during the hands-on wicking bed workshop was what am I using for in-between the beds. My answer seemed to surprise the participant. While it is common for most people to use either woodchip or some other dead material what I look for, and use between my beds is a living cover.
Most people use woodchip (for example) as it can suppress the growth of weeds and ‘feed the soil’ as it breaks down—honestly an excellent idea in concept.
But for me, it is not enough. In permaculture, we are designing for many functions, connections and uses as we can. Some of the reasons why I have opted to use a living mulch rather than a dead one
* The reason I use a living mulch is that it is self-replicating. A dead mulch is something that works for a while and do not get me wrong, it does the job well, but it is something we continuously need to input and replace as it breaks down. A living mulch, on the other hand, is not something I need to keep applying as it has its own life cycle and continues to replace itself
* It also has a living interaction with the soil beneath – the swapping of sugars with fungi and bacteria in its constant cycle. A diverse of life feeding a diversity of life
* A living mulch will also alter the temperature surrounding it by between 7 to 10 degrees, making cooler in summer and warmer in winter.
* I actually want the weeds. In permaculture, for the most part, we talk about how there ‘is no weeds’, and then we apply thing in our landscapes to exclude these same indicator plants. The ‘weeds’ are one of the natures healing mechanisms, and it tells me what is going beneath my feet, while also providing organic material for my compost and teas.
* It is also a feed for my animals as well as habitat for the beneficial insect population.
* A living cover also provides a surface area that will help capture mist and fog events adding another 1mm of the equivalent rainfall event.
I could have just added a dead mulch. Still, by doing so, we would have missed out on all the other possibilities given using biology – above and below. We are designing not just in space, but in time and trying to make it as close looped as we can, using as much as we can, as often as we can before it leaves our systems
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