Jonathon Engels

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The financially unfortunate combination of travel enthusiast, freelance writer, and vegan gardener, Jonathon Engels whittled and whistled himself into a life that gives him cause to continually scribble about it. He has lived as an expat for over a decade, worked in nearly a dozen countries, and visited dozens of others in the meantime, subjecting the planet to a fiery mix of permaculture, music, and plant-based cooking. More of his work can be found at Jonathon Engels: A Life About.

The Basics of Growing Food in the Winter

Having spent so much time in tropical environs, I fretted over having to think about seasons, in terms of temperature, when my wife Emma and I decided to give North Carolina a try. Suddenly, we are having to think about frosts much more than wet and dry season, and a bit more encouraging than expected, we are finding a new abundance that accompanies cooler places. Going into our first autumn […]

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Simple Approaches to Making and Using Foliar Fertilizers

One of our main goals in the permaculture garden is to foster soil life, and there are many methods we use for accomplishing this goal. We apply thick mulches and add plenty of organic matter. We practice no-dig methods so as not to harm existing soil life, and we enhance richness by adding things like worm compost, manure, and leaf mold. We increase fertility with nitrogen-fixing plants. We cultivate perennial […]

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9 Productive Plants for Water Gardens

In permaculture design, water is the first priority. We try to find its natural routes on and off the property, slow it down, spread it out, and harvest it for use in times when it isn’t so abundant. In this regard, ponds (below surface water catchments, often naturally formed) and dams (walled-off catchments that retain water) are routinely part of a permaculture site. Designers should strive to make these bodies […]

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10 Other Berries to Be Aware Of

Since arriving in the temperate climate, I’ve been so excited about the idea of growing berries that I’ve been compiling lists of what—besides the common stuff—I might want to grow. We all know strawberry, blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, and Chuck Berry (i.e., “Johnny B. Goode”), but these are other berries that we can and should consider including in the garden. Some of them are delightfully tasty, some of them mystically nutritious, […]

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Productivity in the Temperate Understory

I started my permaculture journey in Central America. I was introduced to the term in Nicaragua. I spent time with it in Panama, Guatemala, and Belize. Then, I learned more in Colombia and southern Spain, Andalucía. What I’d never done until recently is spent much time—at least not with regards to permaculture—in cool temperate setting. Now, I’m in North Carolina, reimagining much of what I know and learning new plants […]

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What Makes a Good Pair of Gumboots So Good

Call them gumboots. Call them Wellingtons or Wellies. Call them rubber boots, rain boots, or galoshes. What we are talking about is waterproof foot protection, and there are times when a good pair can just feel absolutely essential: heading out to feed the animals on cold and rainy evenings, harvesting taro or rice from the muddy banks, and apparently doing surgery (for anyone to whom that applies). When buying things, […]

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Deer-Resistant Plants and Trees That Are Edible

Up until very recently, deer have never been a great concern of mine, at least not in terms of gardening. I’d seen beds suffer at the spurs of the neighbors’ chickens, watched my wife running out of the greenhouses with her arms waving, mouth like a G-rated sailor. Once in Belize, we’d left a fenced garden for a couple of weeks only to return and learn that an agouti (you […]

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Practical Advantages and Disadvantages to Consider When Growing in Urban Settings

One of my favorite aspects of permaculture, though I think it is often forgotten, is the lean towards using land that human have already tarnished as opposed to natural settings in no need of our interference. It’s only logical that, with established nature being much more sustainable on its own, our input into these proven systems is likely to be more detrimental than advantageous, in the global perspective of things. […]

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Techniques for Making Your Own Biodegradable Seedling Pots

Those of us who practice permaculture take our mission seriously, and we are doing our best to minimize our use of factory production methods (and the petroleum-dependence, pollution, and inefficiencies that go along with it) and take advantage of all of the resources around us. This is commonly observed in things like repurposing pallets, compost piles, bio-digesters, and passive solar heating. In other words, any time we can find ways […]

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Beckoning the Bats: What They Do for Our Gardens and How to Attract Them There

In permaculture, we look for opportunities to expand on biodiversity, as well as take advantage of functions that can occur naturally or with minimal inputs from us. While often this takes the form of rotationally grazing domesticated animals, including them in waste cycles, and using them for pest control (a la not a slug problem but a duck shortage), we are also inclined to make the most of wild fauna […]

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Mushrooms for Foraging: 7 (or More) Ways to Get Started

Emma and I arrived in North Carolina about two months ago, right around the height of morel season, and that was the buzz. Morels are a very popular springtime mushroom around these parts and others in the US, but they have the reputation of being a bit elusive, difficult to find even for those who know what they are (and aren’t) looking for. As for us, other than eating them […]

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8 Ways of Using Old Firewood for Something New

Our keen permaculture minds are too sharp to ever believe that something so precious as firewood, past its prime or not, could be of no use. We, of course, can always simply toss it back into the forest and let it do as it would have done anyway, cycling nutrients through the ecosystem. However, after all the work of harvesting, chopping, and storing it, most of us would rather find […]

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