Studying permaculture allows you to think about gardening and resources in a different way. I’ve also been fortunate to read about the wonderful uses of some plants that you may not know about and I’d love to share this information with you.
- Bamboo – OK so it can spread like wildfire if it is not a clumping species and contained. That could be a good thing, if you want a fence or privacy screen or have a large block of land. Otherwise get the clumping kind and pot it up. It’s a hardy and extremely fast growing plant. It produces mulch and sticks for trellising plants, as well as many other uses in the garden.
- Plant a toilet paper bush – According to Isabell Shipard’s “How can I prepare with Self-sufficiency and Survival Foods?” there are two bushes that can substitute as toilet paper with their large soft leaves. The Arla bush (Tihonia) which grows 1 to 3 metres high and has white daisy flowers, and Blossom bouquet bush (Dombeya burgessiae).
- Loofah (Luffa siceraria – smooth and Luffa acutangula – angled) – is also known as a dish-cloth gourd and you may know it for scrubbing your back. They can be eaten when they are small, young and still green – similar to zucchini. However, when you leave them on the vine to dry up they become spongy. Remove the outer skin and keep some seeds for yourself and pass the extra seeds around to your family. Clean out the inside and you have a sponge ready to use.
- Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis) – is a clumping perennial, half a metre high. Its leaves and roots have soaping properties that provide a cleansing action when crushed in water. You can make a mild liquid soap or shampoo by chopping up two handfuls, cover with 3 cups of water and simmer for 5 minutes. Leave to cool, strain and bottle. It will keep for several weeks in a refrigerator.
- Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) – has deep roots to access nutrients in the soil and spreads easily in the garden making it an ideal source of mulch. You can make a liquid fertilizer by soaking the leaves in a bucket or bin of water, covered for about three weeks. This smelly brew is known as comfrey tea. Comfrey can also be used as a compost activator – ideal if you do not have any animal manure. The leaves can be eaten in salads or cooked. It is high in protein, rich in potassium and nitrogen and a source of vitamin B12. The plant also has many uses as an herb, and can be made into a poultice.
- A horta patch – is common in Greece. It is simply leafy greens. These can be your common everyday weeds, or you can plant a patch where you cut off only the leaves you need and let them continue growing. Think beyond just lettuce, there are plenty of other delicious greens you can try – amaranth, chicory, cress, endive, purslane, garden cress, kale, lamb’s lettuce, mibuna, mizuna, mustard greens, rocket, spinach, sorrel, tatsoi, and shungiku. Some of these will self-seed and others are perennial so fingers crossed this will be a low maintenance thriving area.
- Herbs as a replacement for prescription medication – grab an herbal book and do some research. There are plenty of beneficial herbs that can be planted as backup. Start with peppermint in a pot – and you’ll have a supply of calming tea (crush up a couple of leaves in the bottom of a mug and add hot water). I’ve added chamomile, gota kolu, herb robert, and calendula to my garden.
- Aloe vera (Aloe vera berbadensis) – is known as the living first-aid plant. It has many great healing properties, but is fantastic for burns and sunburn. Plant a couple in your garden.
- Keep a stockpile of heirloom seeds and a book or two on seed saving. Heirloom seeds are more likely to be fertile so you can keep saving your seeds from them. If you buy them from a local seller, then your seeds will be more likely to be well adapted to your climate. You may like to join your local Seed Savers organization.
- Guerrilla gardens as a cache. I came across a guerrilla garden along the train line the other day. I could see a passionfruit vine growing over the fence from the train, and it was the only thing that gave it away. On closer inspection there was also sunflowers and lemon grass. Otherwise the rest of the plants were edible natives and unusual plants that were not easily recognizable. Plant a couple of guerrilla patches along key points of your escape route. http://www.guerrillagardening.org/