Permaculture and Edible Schoolyards

arctotisSan Diego, CA – We visit the San Diego Botanical Garden, in Encinitas, where we find many treasures including a small Permaculture Demonstration Garden. Permaculture, a concept developed originally by Bill Mollison of Australia, is a contraction of “Permanent and Agriculture”. It is a very rich system that stresses the use of perennial rather than annual plants, and employs many techniques that can be put into practice in small suburban lots as well as on large farms.

permaculture keyhole

The Botanical Garden has a great example of a “keyhole” garden. The keyhole design, a Permaculture concept, features a single path leading to a central circle with shorter spokes of smaller paths radiating out from the center like petals on a flower. This design makes the entire planted area accessible from a single pathway, maximizing the planting area available for both edible and ornamental crops. Vegetables, flowers, and herbs are interplanted in a polyculture mix that helps to discourage insect pests and fungal diseases. Polycultures work because no plant’s nearest neighbor is the same as itself. This helps to prevent an insect pest or a fungal pathogen from leapfrogging from one plant to the next and wreaking havoc throughout your garden.

edible schoolyard

We also seize the opportunity to visit one of the “Edible Schoolyard” programs in the area at Cardiff Elementary School in Cardiff-by-the-Sea near Encinitas. Edible Schoolyards, a movement cfreated by Alice Waters of Berkely restaurant Chez Panise fame, is a national program for developing food production systems in local schools where kids can learn a variety of skills in addition to learning how to grow food. Cardiff Elementary received a generous grant from the Rob Machado Foundation for their garden. The grant funds allowed them to update the main garden site, including new equipment, irrigation system, and signage. The kids developed a “school-to-restaurant” pilot program. Students selected what to grow based on which crops a restaurant actually used. They harvested vegetables such as lettuce, carrots, and radishes, along with edible flowers and sold them to a local restaurant.

warwicks audience

We also make two bookstore appearances in the San Diego area. The staff at Warwick’s, in La Jolla, are eager to share the book with their customers. We describe how we developed the book, and then hold a plant clinic at which we diagnose some plant problems that attendees have brought in. This is a lively group who really enjoys choosing their own adventure, as they use the diagnostic flow charts in the book. We look at the symptoms, answer the questions in the flow charts, and pretty soon we solve the mystery. These folks are not surprised to learn that becoming a plant detective is really fun.

sign board

In Coronado we’re at Bay Books, where people line up with baggies full of bits of plants in trouble for us to look at and help them figure out what has gone wrong. We use our book and show them how simple it is to discover the answer to their problems. And then we show them how to find a safe organic solution to fix the problem.

If you have a favorite spot we should not miss, please let us know. We invite you to share your stories of the greenworld, and welcome you to join us at one of our stops on the road. See our events page for all the details (

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