Jonathon Engels

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In 2005, after earning a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Memphis, I pitched my tent abroad and began one of the few careers appropriate for people with humanities training: teaching English to foreign kids. Through the years, I’ve managed to keep the old writing dream alive, usually in the form of course guides and ESL exercise booklets, but from April 2010 to April 2011, I created a monthly newsletter for a Guatemalan-based NGO, Las Manos de Christine, as well as wrote much of the organization’s website content. Inspired by the success, in late 2011, I decided to explore freelance writing. After having some success on the travel writing scene, which is to say a few websites bought articles from me, published them, and made good on the payments, I felt content and inspired to try my hand at other topics. I’m a serious vegan and into activism, so I applied for a job at great website called One Green Planet. Somehow, they found it in their hearts to give me a shot, and we’ve been collaborating weekly ever since. As well, during my latest travel venture, a trip from Guatemala to Patagonia, volunteering the whole way down, I fell for permaculture and began writing about it as well. And so here we are, voyeur (of sorts) and voyager. To learn more about Jonathon please visit his website here.

Defining the Edge in Simple Terms

Raised Terrace Edge

The edge is always an exciting topic amongst permaculturalists, but it’s also one that can sometimes feel a little abstract. Look on the permaculture forum and there will be a lot of folks waxing poetic about life at the edge, but like poetry (and life), it’s very difficult to decipher what it all means. In broad terms, the edge is the interface where two biological mediums meet, and an ecotone—a […]

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Guilds for the Small Scale Home Garden

A Mixed Bunch

Building guilds is a clever way to put gardens together. Instead of toiling over providing this or that nutrient for plants or battling with pests or relying on the success of just one crop to provide the food, a massive mixture of productive growth is but a few preparation steps away. We often talk about guilds as a grand scheme, part of growing a food forest, starting with something huge […]

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7 Perennial Shrubs and Trees with Edible Leaves

Mulberry Tree (Courtesy of Vivian Evans)

Mama always insisted I eat something green. I think a lot of moms are that way. Frankly, now, some thirty-odd years later, I’m quite thankful to her for teaching me to appreciate a variety of flavors and textures for making sure I stayed on the healthy straight and narrow. As an adult, I don’t find it difficult or disconcerting to try new foods, but in fact, it’s exciting. Eating leaves […]

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Intercropping: What It Is, What It Isn’t, and Why We Do It

Strip Intercropping (Courtesy of Oregon State University)

Get into permaculture and within no time an entire field of jargon is sprouting up around you, and while it can be exciting to have all these new ideas to ponder and play with, it can also be a bit intimidating…bewildering…intense. Well, at some point or another we’ve all felt that way, but even so, it’s time to talk about one of those mysterious terms: intercropping. In order to have […]

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How to Harvest Enough Dry Beans and Other Legumes to Feed a Family

Scarlet Runner Beans

I’ve been growing beans now for a while. They are a big part of my diet, and the nitrogen-fixing bacteria many legumes (not just beans) have are a huge factor of garden design. It’s common practice for me to simply plant a load of beans and peas as soon as a bed is made, both to chop-and-drop but also to pull a good harvest from the first planting. Something I’m […]

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My New Take on Self-Sowing Plants for Low Maintenance Gardening

Raised Bed

It happened this week, just yesterday actually, I was piddling through some old sheet mulch garden beds I’d made, beds still providing plenty, and discovered the next generation of plants coming up. There were three or four leafy outcrops of arugula sprung through the mulch. There was collection of pigeon pea saplings, about 15-20 centimeters high that were hiding amongst the weeds I was pulling. A cranberry hibiscus had dropped […]

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A Dozen or More Plants That Provide Quickly and Abundantly

Lemon Cucumbers (Courtesy of Megan Hansen)

I am for a new system of food production in which we utilize perennial plants more, slowly replacing our tendency to eat, nearly exclusively, annuals with a diet better suited to self-sustaining, soil-building, long-living agricultural ecosystems. I know these systems, in the end, will serve us better as a planet (humanity having to exist on said planet), has the potential to provide well-balanced abundance, and give us lives less reliant […]

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An Embarrassment of Riches. Hardly. Over-Abundance in the Garden Is Never a Bad Thing.

Autumn Abundance

In the scheme of things, be it an edible lawn in the suburbs, a five-acre homestead, or a hobby-sized container garden, none of us set off growing food in the hopes of producing too little. We aim to feed ourselves. Many of us strive for more. We want over-abundance, more food than we know what to do with, breakfasts literally falling from the trees and lunches sprouting up from the […]

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The Importance of Food from a Different Source: Eating Perennials

Pigeon Pea (Courtesy of Forest and Kim Starr)

Permaculture and perennial plants seem to be inextricably linked, and such is the case by design, of course. When building a permanent ecosystem, food-based or otherwise, it makes little sense to do so with annual plants. They die; thus, they require cultivation again and again, as well as an abundance of minerals and nutrients to support such fast growth cycles. While some edible annuals may readily self-seed, the quick turnover […]

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Working Wisely with Weeds

Weeds (Hermann Kaser)

Weeds are the fighters of the plant world. They are the pioneers, setting off in uncharted territories and cutting new pathways into lands bare and scorched. Then again, they, too, are sometimes the most firmly rooted, digging themselves deep into the fabric of the soil or spreading out far and wide. Perhaps that is why they are also the most misunderstood, the wild and wily, regularly showing up where they […]

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20 Garden Hacks for the Quirky and Pragmatic Permaculturalist

Garden Hacks for the Quirky and Pragmatic Permaculturalist

There is a new term—hack—spinning wildly on the World Wide Web, and I’ve resisted it. I grew up in a time where a hack was someone who did a crappy job, so transitioning into the new definition has been an arduous process for me. But, words evolve, and times change. I don’t want to be the guy standing in the way, so for those of you only now stumbling on […]

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Many and Varied Reasons for Putting Sweet Potatoes in Your Garden

Courtesy of Jnzl's Public Domain Photos

Most of us, or at least those of us would think about such things, consider sweet potatoes to be hot weather crop. After all, they do come from tropical roots (Yes, that is gardening word play), and they aren’t the biggest fans of cold weather. But, this isn’t to say that they can’t be grown elsewhere and add another stomach-stuffing staple to the mix. I’ll never understand why sweet potatoes […]

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