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.

7 Productive Zone-7 Plants That I Think I’m Falling For

I love discovering new, useful plants to incorporate into garden design schemes. Of course, there are a great number of plants many of us have never heard of, let alone know how to utilize, but one of the great things about the permaculture mindset is that it constantly yields wonderful, unfamiliar flora to cultivate. There are many ways a plant or tree can be useful. Food is one that we […]

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12-Plus Methods for Keeping Challenging Weeds and Pests Out of the Garden

  With organic gardening, especially at the outset, comes a few new challenges for transitioning growers. Pesticides and other chemicals have, for several decades, become the go-to solution for all things in the garden, and now that many of us are clearing our heads from that fog, we are left to rediscover methods for dealing with everyday garden problems.  When herbicides have been the trick for combating weeds, how do […]

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Weeds Aren’t Actually All That Bad

Weeds, many say, are but misunderstood plants, plants that have somehow fallen out of favor. Often, they are ready growers, keen to pop up where space has allowed, and typically they are doing so to perform some sort of vital ecological function. Geoff Lawton says they are “symptom” of a flawed situation rather than the actual problem.   Weeds are working to right wrongs. They cover the ground. They prevent erosion. […]

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How to Make Instant Garden Beds

A common problem when just starting a garden is dealing with the fact that we’ve not had time to condition the soil, fostering it into something heaving with fertility. Or, maybe we just aren’t that far into gardening yet anyway and don’t know what to do. Basically, it seems we are left with the option of using what we have and hoping for the best, or we can spend a […]

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Different Methods for Propagating Fruit Trees from Cuttings, Etc.

While saving seeds is a great practice and every budding grower should be starting a personal seed bank, certain plants and trees are better propagated via cuttings. This is particularly the case with many fruit trees because they won’t produce the same quality of fruit as their parent plant.   While it can be a good idea to produce a variety of species and encourage the sowing of wild oats, so […]

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How Dry Composting Toilets Work

Dry composting toilets are an efficient, cyclical way of dealing with human waste without using and/or fouling fresh water, which is in ever-dwindling supply on the planet. Using clean water to flush human excrement sends it into either a septic system, which eventually has to be pumped and the sludge moved to larger facilities where it will then be dealt with, or sewer mains, where it congregates into a horribly […]

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Ornamental Plants That Are Edible and/or Edible Plants That Are Ornamental

When I first began growing food and working with ideas of permaculture, I lived in the tropics where many edible plants leaf out large and are exceptionally stunning. Moreover, the places I found myself building gardens tended to be free-for-alls, where anything goes and HOAs didn’t interfere with what people planted on their property. Last year however, after twelve years abroad, I moved back to the US. Where often people […]

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Planting by Schedule & Plagiarizing Instinct

With a recent transition from the wet-dry tropics to Zone 7b in temperate USA, this year’s planting schedule has been more on my mind than I’m accustomed to. My wife Emma likes to joke with people that we’d just stick anything in the ground down there and it would grow, but in a lot of ways, that was true, not a joke. Other than paying attention to the rain and […]

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Is Aquaponics the Right Choice?

Aquaponics has become a quick celebrity in sustainable food production, and many beginners are interested in creating these systems. In terms of permaculture design, there is some potential in using them, but equally so, it’s important not to lose sight of matching the design to the landscape and resources available. In other words, there are occasions when aquaponics is a sensible option, but not every occasion.   The Basic Premise […]

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Common Composting Problems and Solutions for the Beginning Composter

Composting is standard practice on any permaculture site. This is the case for several reasons. It creates a closed waste cycle between vegetable scraps and vegetable production, often with the added bonus (an in-between stop) of animal fodder. It helps to rebuild or maintain healthy, balanced soil by feeding the soil life and creating a steady replenishment of nutrients, and nutrient-rich soil makes for nutrient-rich food. In simple terms, composting […]

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15 Productive Plants That Are Evergreen and Suited for the Temperate Climate

For me, this year has been full of exciting information about the temperate climate. Having spent most of my permaculture life in Central America, moving to North Carolina has had me say goodbye to many old favorites and marvel at a host of new possibilities. It wasn’t until November, however, that I realized just how naked the forest and garden would be due to the cold. I’ve spent quite a […]

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Thoughts on a Permaculture Kitchen

For Emma and me, our permaculture fantasies involve building our own home, growing 90-plus percent of our food (I guess it’s 100% if we are going full-blown fantasy), and living largely in whatever space we can find for ourselves. We hope for at least a couple of acres, one of which has already been cleared because we don’t want to cut down existing forest. We envision a “natural” swimming hole […]

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