Stacking Functions in your Garden:
One of the most important things we want to do in our garden is to ensure that our soil is not exposed to the elements; exposed soil is dead soil and becomes dried out and bereft of moisture and nutrients...certainly not the foundation to build your garden on. Many people like to start with that "beautiful" blank canvas of empty freshly tilled soil in their garden but please know, tilling provides a short term benefit for a long term deficit to your soil. Each time you till, the soil loses nutrients & soil microbiology which encourages further soil debilitation and compaction.
When you think of a Forest you see trees of all different heights and sizes, shrubs, ground cover, big leafy vegetation, flowers, tubers etc. all covered with leaf litter, mushrooms, rotting wood and other carbonaceous material resulting in a rich smelling humus. A forest is also full of beneficial insects, birds and burrowing animals that contribute to the health of the forest.
By mimicking nature and bringing these same elements into our gardens, we ensure a healthy and diverse growing system that continues to regenerate and nurture itself.
In Permaculture we talk about the 7 Layers of the Food Forest; What? I don't want a forest in my garden!! Food Forestry is NOT your grandmother's vision of what a garden looks like but hear me out. Planting tall trees towards the northwestern side of our property provides protection from the cold winter winds and storm fronts that come in from the NW. They provide shade where needed, habitat for insects and animals that will help our garden grow. Mid story trees are
Take onions and carrots for examples. Most people would plant either one or the other in a bed/row. But they can occupy the same space.
Onions sit half above the ground, and their roots are very shallow, spreading out around the bulb. They mine only the surface for nutrients. And have a look at their leaves: they are poking straight up. Plenty of light left for others...
Carrot roots go straight down. Carrots don't care if the surface of the soil is already occupied by the onions. They find their food deeper down. And the big feathery carrot leaves make use of all the sunlight that otherwise would just heat up and dry out the soil.
Another classic example are sweet corn, beans and cucumbers. The tall corn acts as a trellis for the beans, and the cucumbers ramble over the ground. Three crops can grow in the space of one.
There is usually lots of light left under and around fruit trees. Utilise that space and grow something, like perennial herbs or low shrubs. Make extensive use of trellises and other structures. Let things grow up rather than have them spread out.
You will be surprised how much food you can fit into the smallest garden.