HOW DO I CHOOSE PLANTS FOR MY GARDEN
When selecting plant and animal species for our Permaculture landscapes a good place to start is by looking at local climate and vegetation patterns to guide our decision-making process.
Chile is a diverse and complex landscape, from the driest in the world, to some of the coldest and wettest places. Whichever region of Chile you live in, you will find a set of specific climatic factors that provide opportunities and limitations on what plants will produce.
We can generally divide Chile into ten broad Climatic Zones as defined by the Koppen Classification System. Koppen combines average annual and monthly temperature and precipitation with the distribution of plant communities to define broad climate types. Koppen said that native vegetation is the ´´best expression of climate´´.
This is in part explains why we see; Agriculture around small oases with traditional llama and alpaca herding in Atacama, Pisco and papayas, olives and avocados in Norte Chico, why Zona Central is Chile's, agricultural and cultural heartland with the main wine regions, while in Zona Sur we grow wheat, cattle, silviculture and salmon, and in Zona Austral sheepherding fish and trees. It is also why it is very difficult to grow bananas, or even Avocados here in El Manzano, and why Olives and Tagasaste grow well.
These broad systems are not concrete and stationary, but in constant flux; they are dynamic, with diffuse boundaries. Although we can charachterise and classify, drawing lines around life in this way, natural systems are far more complex. Species adapt to conditions, long term climate fluctuates in cycles, and of course we can modify the limiting effects of climate, like frost and wind, by carefull planning and design.
Understding this allows us to do two things;
Often the plant selection process is about trial and error, testing species on a small safe scale, before making a large investment in trees. Making good decisions requires lots of careful observation, thinking and planning, looking around the region for successful planting strategies and land management practices that are working and resilient. It means learning from experience, your own, and the experience of other people. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
The three main climate and vegetation types we are concerned with here in Chile are;
Each of these broad climate areas of Chile are also affected by winds, geology and soil, water and stream flow, by human factors and many other effects that we have to take into account. By looking to these factors defined above, and building up an understanding of the area we live in, we can become masters in the design of productive landscapes that yield an abundance for local people and natural systems.
I am going to publish a series of guides here on our site to asist Permaculture Designers in Chile. I bear in mind the idea that we are not trying to mindlessly copy examples, or appy linear strategies, but rather trying to develop our capacity in the use of Design Principles, or thinking tools that lead us in the right direction. If we consciously follow through with the design process, learning as we go, using new information to guide us, we are likely to emerge with good workable solutions. We will look at each Climatic zone in turn, exploring the types of plants and strategies that we can use in specific cases. The first will be Mediterranean.
In the meantime here is a video of Geoff Lawton in a 300 year old Food Forest.