Small Space Permaculture Food Forest Garden on 1/4 Acre Home Lot

Alright! This is John Kohler with
Today we have another exciting episode for you. Once again, I’m on a field trip. I
love field trips. I always learn so much when I’m on field trips. Once again, I’m in
suburbia. As you guys can see, this is a standard residential area here in Houston, Texas. Why
I am here today is to share with you guys a really cool garden. It’s not just a backyard
garden that I’m going to share with you guys today; it’s also a front yard garden.
Let me go ahead and pan over and show you guys what we’re looking at here. You can
see here just down the block that everybody has a lawn. I don’t encourage you guys to
grow a lawn. I think it’s an incredible waste of space. I mean, if you had kids and
kids were playing on the lawn, that would be one thing. But most people don’t ever
use their lawn. It’s an incredible waste of resources — the water, the fertilizer,
the pesticides, the herbicides – unneeded, when you can be growing something like that
I’m going to show you guys today. So let’s check it out. So here’s what I’m going to show you guys
today. You guys just saw one corner with a lawn. Here’s the place that I’m going
to show you guys today. It’s a residential food forest, permaculture-style food forest.
I just spent maybe like an hour or so with the gardener here that’s doing this who
actually wrote a book on gardening. He’s been gardening in this location since the
‘80s. This is one highly developed systematized and methodized food forest, and he has a solution
for everything. One of the amazing things that I’m going to point out is that he hasn’t
sprayed any pesticides, and, yes, we are in Texas here, hot, humid Texas. He hasn’t
sprayed any pesticides to repel any pests since the ‘80s. “John, how are stinkbugs
not eating his stuff?” Well, you might learn that a little bit later on this video, but
there are ways to do these things if you do it properly and appropriately, and this guy
has an answer for everything, because I’ve asked him lots of questions and I’m quite
impressed with his answers. So, in any case, without further ado, let’s go ahead and
share with you guys his permaculture suburban household here and show you guys some of the
things he’s growing. He has over 130 varieties of different fruit trees, as well as raised
bed edible vegetable gardens. He’s stacking functions and has multiple uses for many different
things. So I guess first we’ll take you and show you guys around the periphery of
the garden and some of the ways you might want to use the area around your property
to grow food and maybe even protect your property. All right, so now we’re standing on the
property and walking up to his front door. You’re going to notice a few things. Number
one, it looks like a jungle in here. He has all different kinds of plants planted around
the border of his house. You could have natives to attract the butterflies. There’s a beautiful
native Texas plant that has amazing flowers that smell good that’s attracting butterflies
by the droves, actually. Somebody walking their dog stopped and like, “Wow! All of
those butterflies are really cool!” He has edible fruit trees on some edges, and then,
up on this edge, he actually has something that he showed me first when I got here. He
has a whole bunch of different roses and a cactus. He said, “Do you know what function
this serves?” And I’m just like thinking, “Well, maybe they’re edible.” The cactus
produces edible fruit. Actually, he said that this is a really delicious edible fruit the
cactus produces. Over here, they have the roses. I’m like, “Oh, roses. They’re
edible. You could eat the roses and the leaves and stuff.” They’re not the best tasting,
to eat rose leaves, but they’re edible, you know, as a famine food or something. So
I’m like, “Yeah, OK, yeah, they’re edible.” And he’s like, “Nope.” He’s like,
“They all got thorns because they protect my grapefruit tree.” I’m like, “What?
People come up and pick your grapefruit tree?” He’s like, “Well, they ain’t gonna do
it now.” You can actually have multiple functions of crops that you’re growing,
and he’s thought of many different ways to use crops or plants in a purposeful way
to grow food here. I like that a lot. I’ve learned a lot about this. Actually, he’s
a permaculture teacher and teaches classes locally. If you do live in Houston, I recommend
that you actually check him out and learn from this man. He knows a lot about gardening.
So, in any case, let’s actually head to the backyard and show you guys some of the
cool, more interesting fruit trees and vegetables that he’s growing, but, more specifically,
how is he doing it so you can do it too wherever you live. So the specifics of what I’m showing
you guys today is actually particular to Houston and the surrounding area and similar climates,
but, you know, concepts that you will be learning in this video could be used pretty much wherever
you live. So, anyways, let’s go back and give you guys the grand tour. All right, so now what we’re looking at
is we’re behind the grapefruit tree, and there’s little pathways. As you guys will
notice, I mean this is a heavily wooded area, and growing a lot of these things outside
the house, I mean you literally can’t see the street from the house. So it looks like
you’re literally in the middle of the woods even though you’re in a nice suburb. Also
it dampens the noise from the street, and the other thing is that this provides tons
of food. As you guys can see, there are literally fruit trees sometimes every 5 feet. And I
asked him, “Do you have a specific width or how far apart do you plant your fruit trees?”
He’s like, “Well, if you like a fruit tree and they’re planted too close and you
don’t like another one, just cut the other one down later.” But, on average, it looks
like 5 to 6 feet apart between some of the fruit trees. Here’s two trees, and there’s
a lot of different kinds of fruit trees represented here. I mean this is a nice fig tree here.
He has actually lots of different citrus and even tropical. He has guavas on the protected
side of the house, jambakka fruit, lychee fruit, so many different rare varieties. I
mean, I think Houston, of all of the places I’ve ever visited, it’s one of the best
places to grow not only subtropicals and some tropicals, but also northern climate fruits.
He has some really well producing apples and what not. Actually, here’s a loquat. This
is actually one of my favorite fruits and trees to grow. Evergreen – I like it a lot.
This area pretty much has understory plants, plants on the bottom as the ground cover,
and then the fruit trees growing up on top. One of the cool things he’s doing here is
his stakes. When he needs tall stakes, he basically just gets the standard inexpensive
T-posts, not the heavy duty ones that are kind of like have a U-groove on them as you
guys can see. And what he does, and I’ve just started actually recently doing this,
he actually uses just a bolt and he bolts them together, and then, as you guys can see
now, it makes it twice as tall, so these are like 12-foot tall. So whether he needs to
make four of them and then put mosquito netting to have a big cage over a tree, or whether
he’s stringing a trellis up, this is definitely a really good and solid way to get a pretty
good solid support to trellis things up if they get really heavy. Here’s a citrus tree
that is loaded. It looks like some kind of tangerine tree to me. Super amazing. He has
lots of citrus here. There’s some cold-tolerant citrus that we might look at it in a little
bit. Another cool thing is that he collects all of his rain water. He has over 4,000 gallons
of storage potential here, with the big cisterns here that catches all of the water off his
roof so that he doesn’t have to use city water to water his garden. I recommend using
rain water whenever possible because it doesn’t have added chemicals like chlorine, or, in
some places, fluoridates, and it is what would water the plants naturally. In this way, you’re
using a resource that’s free, especially when it’s hurricane season here. This is
rain storage or rain catchment on a big scale, and he was doing it before it got really popular.
It feels so natural here with all of these trees. You wouldn’t know that you’re in
the middle of a subdivision here in Houston. There’s just fruit trees and fruit trees
abound, all so close planted together. Here’s the vegetable garden. As you guys can see,
he’s doing raised bed edible vegetable gardens. I think this is a really well designed system
with mostly fruit trees and shrubs and other crops, including natives in the front yard
and in the back yard. They’ve got a number of – maybe 8 or so – raised beds, and,
actually, they are quite long. They run pretty much the distance from the back yard to the
back fence, with some fruit trees in the back as well. They’ve got it really well planted
out. I guess what I want to do next is maybe sit down and talk with you about some of the
different crops that he’s growing here that are doing well at this time here in Houston.
It’s November now. They’re planting the winter crops. As you guys can see, they’ve
got the daikon radishes. I saw arugula. Here’s some collard greens. There’s some nice big
Georgia collards there. Look at the size of those leaves! One of the cool things is that
he is building the soil. He grows in natural, organic methods. He’s really keen on building
the soil, as am I. These leaves are gigantic and huge. You could use these leaves instead
of buying tortillas. You could use it to wrap different things in and eat it and use it
instead of bread actually. I mean, it’s free. You’ve got to buy bread and here you’ve
got tons of collard leaves you could just pick and eat from the back yard. Over on this
side, we’ve got a bunch of basil. It looks like it’s doing really well. Over here,
they’re right in the middle of harvesting their sweet potatoes – the standard sweet
potato vine, which is actually grown for the sweet potato that you guys can see in there.
Out here in the middle of the raised bed, it looks like they’ve got a big, huge papaya
tree coming up, and here’s some really cool okra. This is like an heirloom okra. I mean
this stuff is towering like 10 feet. He actually gave me some of the seeds that are available
at Baker Creek, he said. These ones actually can get 6 inches long and they’re still
tender. I like that a lot. So now, we’re sitting on his little raised
bed garden. As I’ve mentioned, he has like 8 different raised beds here, growing a variety
of different crops. Here are his winter crops. One of the things that I like is that he’s
growing a diversity. He’s not just growing like Georgia collards. You’ve got Georgia
collards, but you’ve got all different kinds of collards and kale and broccoli brassica
plants and Brussel sprouts and all kinds of cool stuff. So I want to encourage you guys
to grow a diversity. Now, the reason why he’s growing in raised beds because here in Houston
they’ve got clay soil. Clay soil is actually great if you treat it properly. It has a lot
of nutrition in it, but it’s poor draining. So he had to actually grow above the clay
soil. So he actually built raised beds and got some compost and topsoil, and it’s mainly
grown in a mixture like that with a local source of the soil. He’s using these bricks,
the blocks. He’s using the blocks. He found the blocks to be the most efficient way to
grow in the raised beds. He used wood and pressure-treated wood before he found out
it was really bad because it does leach. So now he uses the blocks. While it might be
an investment to buy the blocks once, once they are here, they’re pretty much not going
to go anywhere. You’re going to have a garden forever. Also, he likes the blocks maybe because
to harbor beetles and other beneficial insects and give them a nice home. Also, they could
act as a heat sink. For the wintertime, they’ll actually absorb the sun and stay a little
bit warmer. Beds off the ground are going to heat up better than being in the ground.
I definitely like the raised beds a lot, and he’s really all for using the concrete blocks
as a raised bed. These have been there – I don’t even know how many years now. One of my favorite plants that he’s growing
that I learned about on this trip actually are these guys right here. These are actually
called green glaze collards. Like the glazed doughnuts you used to eat when you were a
kid. These are much healthier. I don’t recommend glazed doughnuts, but I recommend the green
glaze collards. They’re available from Southern Exposure Seeds. These collards actually have
a nice sheen or shine to them, unlike the standard collard greens that kind of have
that dull finish. It’s like the variety of dinosaur kale that I showed once called
shiny diny. It’s actually shiny. He said that this doesn’t get the caterpillar damage
that the standard collard greens do. That’s one of the tips – grow varieties of plants
that bugs simply aren’t going to eat. He said that these also taste delicious. Maybe
I’m going to sneak a little bite of one of these. Wow! That’s a really good flavor
on a collard leaf. I love it! They start to sweeten up in the colder months. Next, let’s
take a look at something coming out of one of the other raised beds. It looks like bananas.
Don’t go bananas! Grow some bananas! So check it out. Coming out of one of the
raised beds, he has a nice huge banana plant. These are not banana trees, although many
people call them banana trees. Actually, these bananas are called ice cream bananas. Yes,
that’s because they taste like ice cream. These are a very good variety of bananas.
You may be surprised. You can grow bananas in more than just the tropics. Here in Houston,
they will do fine, as they will in many other places. There are bananas that will even produce
into Zone 8. Certain varieties are more cold tolerant than others. Down below here, they
just have planted some carrots. They do rotation gardening, so every season, they rotate crops
in the different raised beds. It looks like they have drip tape to automatically water
their vegetable garden. All the fruit trees are watered as needed, and, with just the
rain, they’re a lot less maintenance than growing the vegetables. As you guys can see here, we’re at the fence
boundary here. I always encourage you guys to grow up your fence boundary and make the
best use of your space. What he’s growing up the fence boundary is really cool. He’s
making the best of the space because not only is he growing down on the bottom as a groundcover.
So instead of using mulch, he’s actually growing a living mulch, which is what I recommend.
Actually, this is cool. This is something that I’m actually going to be able to pick
up today. These guys here are actually called sweet potato spinach. This is a special variety
of sweet potatoes actually not grown for the tuberous roots, because they don’t really
produce any, but it’s grown for the leaves. These are nice edible delicious leaves that
can be harvested. This plant, provided that it doesn’t get too cold, will live year
round. If it does get cold, the top growth might die back and then it will come back
next year. Otherwise, you might want to pull some up and put it in a safe place in a greenhouse
or indoors over winter and then put it out next spring. So that’s on the bottom story. Next, above
the sweet potato spinach, he has blackberries growing. Then even above the blackberries,
as you guys can see, it goes up and up and up and up and there it is! It’s the muscadines.
So he has muscadines, blackberries, followed by the spinach. So this way he makes the best
use of the space. As you guys can see, he’s using once again the intertwined T-posts.
That’s a strong, inexpensive way to trellis things up and keep them up off the ground
to make maximum use of your air space. So just wandering in the back here, once again,
we’ve got fig trees coming out of the ground here. We’ve got all of these different kinds
of fruit trees. He gave me a tour of all of these and named off many different varieties
that I don’t remember, but there’s a lot of different rare and unique citrus. One of
the cool things that if you live in Houston, in January, they have a massive huge fruit
tree sale. Actually, it’s in a college stadium, football stadium, and fills it up. They sell
lots of fruit trees that are going to do excellent in the Houston area. So if you live in Houston,
you definitely want to get to this fruit tree sale which we’ll talk about at the end of
this video today. Just wandering through the back yard. Once again, this is very densely
planted. Don’t just think, “Oh, I can only plant a fruit tree every 12 feet.”
Some of these are spaced like 5, 6 feet apart. I mean super close together! He focuses on
keeping some of these guys trimmed back so that he can grow more of them. Sometimes,
he just like lets certain ones overpower the other ones. Maybe some are more important
to him than others. Some of them need more sun. Some of them might actually kind of live
in the shade and still kind of produce alright. Of course, as any gardener should have a compost
pile, so he just actually stuck his compost pile just in the garden there. There’s a
whole pile of decomposing wood which can add good organic matter to your garden. Going
through here – here’s more of the spinach sweet potato vine on the bottom, looking really
healthy as a ground cover. Once again, more citrus. This is Texas, man. It’s citrus
country. Here’s one of my favorite fruit trees right here that I’m growing that does
exceptionally well in northern California for me. It’s the feijoa. Actually, I was
in Texas last March, and I had a few feijoas growing in Texas. I can’t say they were
as good as the ones I’m growing, but definitely really good feijoas. Here’s another raised
bed with a lot more of the sweet potato spinach. It’s a really easy crop that’s going to
vine out and keep growing and producing edible leaves for you. It’s a quite rare crop actually.
If you’ve never heard of this one before, then I’m happy today that I’ll actually
be able to get some cuttings or something to get this growing for myself. In the back
here, we have a banana. He was telling me that this banana was hardy to like 10 degrees
or something like that. So even if you live in places, you can grow bananas. The fruit
may not taste the best, but at least the plant is hardy. That’s definitely good to know. Once again, we’re on the other fence boundary,
and you can see the street. If you look hard, you can see the street, but it’s pretty
much covered in all different kinds of greenery. This is actually a really cool tree here.
As you guys can see, this is a special lemon variety, and it’s crossed with a wild orange
and a lemon. So these are super hardy trees down to like, I don’t even know, 10 degrees
or something, you could still grow lemons. He gave me one, so I’m going to get to try
it. Hopefully, it has a good flavor. I really like the leaves on here. They’re kind of
like rounderish leaves for a lemon. There’s another cool plant that I like a
lot. It’s actually called turmeric. So if you live in Houston, you definitely want to
grow some turmeric. It’s a very valuable root crop, probably my number one favorite
root crop for antioxidant value and health benefit. The turmeric there needs a long season
to grow. Another place to grow it well is Hawaii or maybe south Florida. In a short
season, it maybe wouldn’t do so well. It needs a nice long season. It looks like the end of his peppers over
in these raised beds here. There’s some eggplants that are still producing. Here’s
the end of his squash here growing. He’s been actually saving seed and selecting his
squash for a variety that is insect-resistant and does well here in the Houston area. One of the things that I would totally grow
if I lived here in Houston are a bunch of avocado trees. The avocados are a fruit that
I love. They’re a fatty fruit, high in calories compared to other fruits, and they’re going
to do really well here. Right here, he has three different varieties of cold-hardy avocados.
If you want to learn more about the different cold-hardy avocados, be sure to check out
my past videos. I did a really good episode talking more about cold-hardy avocados in
the past, where you could buy them, and the different types. I definitely love the avocado,
and it’s great to see that he’s growing some cold-hardy ones here in the back yard. So one of the coolest things that I learned
today was to basically grow blackberries up T-posts. He uses a double-high T-post that
I showed earlier to grow the blackberries up. He also grows some grapes up over the
top. In addition, he’s using some kind of coated wire up at the top to basically run
between the two different poles to make basically little archways and to grow the grapes up
above even his raised beds. Definitely really well thought out here in the back yard. Let’s
go ahead and take a look at some of the things he’s actually vining up trellises to get
things off the ground, because, once again, he’s on a limited footprint, maybe 0.28
of an acre. He’s got to make the most use of his space. He’s got a lot of air space
up, but not a lot of land space, so he’s growing vertical, and I’m really into growing
vertically. I want to share with you guys some ways you guys can do that as well so
that you can grow more food for you and your family. So here’s his current tomato season planting,
and I like what he’s using as his trellising. These are just standard molding for the concrete.
It’s kind of getting rusted here, but they basically support the tomato plants and allow
you to put your hands through there to pick them. This kind of stuff is available at any
Home Depot or Lowes store. You just basically want to fold them over, tie them up, and make
nice big circles. When you’re done with the season, you could actually unfold them
and try to store them flat or just keep them rolled up. In the winter season, you could
actually grow other vining crops up them, maybe some snow peas or something like that. All right, so this is what I call a trellis.
Check it out. This thing has, once again, using the T-post, the double-talls. That’s
like at least standing 10 feet tall. He’s got the galvanized fencing wire just tied
to it. This is a serious trellis for growing some high quality food. You guys put up small
trellises and your plants barely make it up to the top. That’s because you’re not
doing something right. Your soil is not built up with the soil biologics, the trace minerals,
the biologic fungi and bacteria that are helping to bring nutrients into the plants. Plus,
if you’re not stressing your plants out, like you’re watering them enough and frequently,
they’re going to grow to their full potential and get really tall. That’s why he has a
nice tall trellis here. It looks like he was growing some beans here, the long beans that
he likes to grow, as well as some cool things over there, including the yacon that he has
just actually staked up, as well as over on the other side some jicama. So let’s check
out that stuff next. So what we’re looking at next are two things.
Number one, he’s got his yacon. I’m glad that they’re growing yacon down here in
Houston. If you live in Houston, I definitely recommend that you guys grow this one as well.
Nice – it’s called earth apple, actually. It has a nice sweet root. I love it a lot.
Actually, you could also use the yacon leaves as a tea. They use it medicinally. That’s
this guy here in this section. He has them basically just staked up because they have
been falling over. And then next door they’ve got these guys. “John, what kind of beans
are these?” Don’t eat these beans! They’re poisonous, man! So the upright growth, the
leaves and the beans of the jicama are toxic. Don’t eat them, although you can save the
seeds actually to grow the jicama for next year. What we’re looking at is the jicama
root, which is a tuberous root, one of my favorite roots to use. Not totally sweet,
but it has a nice crunchy, really mild texture. I like to skin it, slice it thin, stick it
in some guacamole with the avocados that you guys just saw, and, man, it’s super delicious
stuff. The jicama does need a longer season. The yacon should actually have a fairly longer
season, but you can get by with a shorter season. I grew jicama in kind of a longer
season, and if they don’t grow long enough, they’re just going to be super small. So
you want to be able to start them as early as possible and dig them up as late as possible
if you don’t live here in Houston that has mild growing conditions year round. So it’s really fun here. Everything I see,
there’s always a reason for it. Some gardens that I walk into, there’s no rhyme or reason
to it. Here – everything is methodical, thought out well, and done for a purpose.
This is probably just a few pots, a little thing – maybe this is a bird bath. I don’t
know exactly what this is for. Maybe it’s catching mosquitos like it is. There’s a
purpose to it. This little area behind me basically has high water use crops that like
to be in a marsh area that stays wet. Because they’ve got the clay soil here and this
is all sloped, the water drains into this area and these plants love the water and use
it. That also helps keep some of the other plants drier because it’s actually in raised
beds so that the water drains off so that the roots are not being flooded with water.
Too little water is not a good thing. Too much water is not a good thing. Plants need
just the right amount of water, like you guys need the right amount of food. Not too much,
because you might get fat. Not too little, because you’ll wither away, but the right
amount. So remember that when watering your crops. Don’t give them too much. Don’t
give them too little. Give them just the right amount. So one of the cool things that I’ve learned
here today walking around with Bob the gardener is that an old gardener can learn new tricks.
That’s part of the thing that I like about him. He’s always experimenting. Some of
the different plants that he’s growing here are an experiment to see how they’re going
to do and how they’re going to perform. He’s tried for many years growing blueberries
here in Houston unsuccessfully, but now he has a method to the madness and a specific
method to do it. Blueberries are a great crop. You could probably grow them anywhere in the
United States if done properly. So basically he’s growing the blueberries here. This
is probably one of the most healthiest blueberry bushes that I’ve ever seen. It’s totally
sprung out, doing really great. His method is basically that he grows in the peat moss
with a little bit of sulfur in there for the acidity, some good organic fertilizer with
bacteria and fungi and trace minerals. The main thing is to keep them watered. They’ve
got to stay wet, so he waters this on an irrigation system automatically so that it stays damp.
Something I learned is that blueberries don’t have intricate root systems like trees. They
don’t go out and hunt for water. They need to kind of be in a bog or a place that stays
moist so that they can absorb the nutrients from the soil. They need to stay wet. That’s
definitely really cool that he’s been able to successfully grow some blueberries that
will feed him for months. By the size of this tree, it’s going to feed him a lot of delicious
blueberries really soon. One of the things that I want to share with
you guys today is to how keep pests, be it birds or squirrels or whatever, off your fruit
so that you get to eat them instead of them. Here’s a tangerine tree it looks like. A
lot of the tangerines have still yet to ripen up, but it looks like this one for some reason
got eaten out by bugs or birds or something. Because he doesn’t spray any pesticides
and all of this kind of stuff, what he does do is control it manually or excludes the
pests. One of the ways he does this is by bird netting, which he actually doesn’t
favor too much. It depends on the situation, because branches could grow through bird netting.
He likes to use the mosquito netting instead that has a smaller hole size like over a whole
tree. If your tree doesn’t have a whole lot of fruit on it, he’ll make these little
bags here. This little bag here is kind of like out of this screen material available
at Home Depot for window screens. He basically doubles it over and he just uses some staples
to make a little bag or knapsack out of it. He’ll just take this, put it around the
fruit, and use a couple of wooden clothespins to close this off, and guess what? Instantly,
your fruit cannot be eaten by birds and other pests in your garden, so that you’ll be
eating your fruit instead of them. The other thing that I want to mention is that I asked
him about stinkbugs, because that can be an issue for many people that live here in Texas
or other areas. Because he does not spray, I’m like, “How do you deal with stinkbugs
if you don’t spray nothing, man?” He’s like, “Well, the thing is that they’re
attracted at certain times of year to my long beans, and, if I go out in the morning early,
I’ll pick all of the stinkbugs off the plants and put them in a solution of water and dish
soap and basically drown them.” As long as you control them right when they come out
and you get them all, right, then they can’t reproduce. The problem is that if you just
see them and don’t do nothing about them, then they mate, have sex, make babies, and
then all of a sudden, you’ve got an overpopulation. If you have an overpopulation now, guess what
you’ve got to do. You’ve got to go out there or hire some neighborhood kids, pick
them off one at a time, drop them in some soapy water until they’re gone, and then
do that each and every day until you reduce the population. They don’t breed and multiply
that fast, but if you don’t control them, 20 is going to turn into 200, which is going
to turn into 4,000, because every mama makes like 20 babies. What if your mama made 20
babies? That would be kind of tiring. Anyways, you’ve got to control them manually and
be persistent. Manual control is always the method I recommend. It’s the safest and
most effective. You don’t have to buy anything, but it will take you some time. That’s definitely
a way you can reduce your stinkbug population by manually getting out there each and every
day. Once you’ve got them mostly controlled, then maybe go out there every other day and
trellis your beans up so that they’re at eye level so that when the stinkbugs come
on them, you’ll be out walking your garden – because I know you’re checking your
garden every day, right – and you’ll see them. You’ll stop, “Oh, I’ve got to
deal with the stinkbugs today,” and just pick them off. Make it a habit, a routine
to deal with the bugs as you see them. Because if you don’t, they’re going to get out
of control and eat your stuff instead of you. So I’ve had a fun time sharing with you
guys this permaculture-style back yard. I couldn’t show you guys totally everything,
but I showed you guys a lot to give you guys some concepts. Basically, it’s kind of forested
with fruit trees and shrubs and natives and other understories underneath as a primary
outside of the yard and the garden. As you come into the back yard, near the back door
actually, are all the vegetable beds. I mean this is done very well. The last thing I want
to show you guys, actually, right in the back there, you can see that it looks like a big
tree, but actually, that’s not a tree. That’s like some giant clumping – not spreading
– bamboo. Bamboo is a great crop to grow. Some varieties of bamboo can be edible and
actually quite tasty. Even so, just growing the bamboo there, guess what, that’s an
incredible resource. It grows relatively fast. He has bamboo stakes for free because they
can definitely add up, and he’s using actually a lot of the bamboo around the garden to support
things up when steel is not necessary. So many of the different gardens and things that
I visit are off-limits to just the general public. But guess what? He is a gardening
teacher, a permaculture teacher. He actually gives tours and will teach you guys how to
garden and grow in this fashion. If you come to Houston, if you live in Houston, you want
to definitely come here and check it out. He also wrote a book, so wherever you live,
you can buy his book. His book is specific to Houston. I think that is the direction
that gardening needs to take. There needs to be a certain gardening book for every different
area that pretty much lays it out, like how to do it in this climate, because every climate
is a little bit different and you need to make adjustments. A lot of the concepts and
things that I’m showing in this video will work totally good in Houston and may work
to some extent in other areas, but YMMV – your mileage may vary. So next what we’re going
to get to do is we’re going to get a chance to talk to Bob and he’ll be able to tell
you more about his book, and also some of the classes and how to get a hold of him to
learn more about what he’s doing here and educating people in the local Houston area
since the ‘80s about organic gardening. This is a long-term gardener that’s been
learning new tricks all along. All right. So now we’re here with Dr. Bob
Randall. Him and his wife have created all of what you guys saw in this video. I mean,
he literally wrote the book. You can year-round garden in Houston and actually in many other
places. If you live in specifically Houston or the surrounding area, you definitely want
to buy this book. This is literally an encyclopedia of how specifically to garden. Besides just
the book, he also gives local classes. I’m going to ask him a few questions today. It’s
apparent that by walking through his garden, I’ve learned a lot of things and just by
talking with him. This man is a wealth of knowledge, besides just gardening. I know
many of you guys are learning gardening. He really focuses on permaculture and creating
systems. I mean I talked about this earlier in the video, creating systems, and an absolute
method to the madness. There’s not just a reason to do this. There’s specific and
many reasons to garden and grow things in certain ways. Today, I’m going to ask him
what’s the one most important thing you want to share with my viewers out there as
with gardening and how they can start incorporating permaculture? Dr. Randall: The one thing I guess I would
say is that every single thing you put in a landscape you can get many uses out of.
Many uses. Every time you add a use to something, you are reducing your work, you’re getting
more out of it, you are saving materials and energy. You can get more uses out of space,
more uses out of the relationship between two things. More uses – some of them can
be decorative, but you can get all kinds of uses out of them. You can shade walls. I often
give as an example the tangerines that we grow here. The tangerine of course produces
good fruit and an excellent juice, way better than orange juice in the stores. But it does
other things. It has fragrant blooms in the springtime. It’s an evergreen plant so it
looks good in the landscape. But it also can shade a wall, and, in this climate with our
90 degree summers, keeping the sun off the walls is a big deal. They have somewhat thorny
trunks and the leaves make things dark. So birds like to nest in them. It’s a very
safe place for a bird to nest. The leaves are a larval plant for the giant swallowtail
butterfly, the largest butterfly in North America. Then they’re trees. Trees absorb
carbon. Trees stop soil erosion. Trees keep water on the property. Trees create mulch.
How many uses did I come up with? Do you know? John: Wow! At least a half dozen. Dr. Randall: At least. Maybe a dozen. I mean,
something. I was talking a little bit about the relationship between say tree and a house
wall, and tree and your health, and tree and habitat. Those are connections, relationships.
But we probably could think other things, like maybe something likes to grow under a
citrus tree. Citrus is an understory plant in nature, so it grows with a little bit of
shade. It’s a fruit tree that will produce with some shade. John: Let me tell you. This guy loves his
tangerine trees. That’s a lot of the trees here are the tangerine trees. Dr. Randall: Well, the ones with the fruit
on them right now are mostly tangerines and other citrus. Come in the spring, and we’re
doing berries. That’s the key thing here is not being satisfied with getting only one
use out of something. I would say that permaculture is more than just gardening. It’s about
how you live your life. If I’m going to go use the car to go some place, how many
uses can I get out of that trip? John: Right. Like stopping in multiple places,
visiting a friend at the same time that you’re going to stop by the store on the way back,
instead of just going to see your friend and then coming home. Dr. Randall: If you’re building an organization,
if you have school gardens and you have farmers’ markets, can you somehow connect the schools
to the farmers’ markets? Can you get a use out of the connection? I mean, it’s permaculture. John: Wow. So permaculture is much more about
relationships and how, I mean, literally creating interconnected systems. I want to encourage
you guys to think about relationships. When planting beans in your gardens, besides just
having the food, if they’re also going to nitrogen fix for you. Create a habitat for
animals and maybe even pests to congregate on and so you can pick them off. Along with
the permaculture concepts, what’s one of the favorite plants that you like to grow
here that’s edible that has many uses besides just the citrus you’ve talked about? Dr. Randall: There are so many. My book is
Year Round Gardening. I love the seasons here. Everything keeps changing. I love the new
things as they come in. I have some fantastic pomegranates. I love pomegranates. The blueberry
season is outstanding here. We have wonderful blueberries. Blackberries. Peaches that are
in season, maybe they’re my favorite. John: My favorite fruit is the ripe fruit
at the time! Dr. Randall: Right, exactly! Good heavens!
It’s very, very difficult. We have some fantastic summer salads here. When the sweet
corn comes in, who can? And then the cantaloupe season. Maybe I like cantaloupes the most.
Or the pomelos that we’re doing right now can run the tangerines. And the Moro blood
oranges? Blood orange juice is better even than tangerine juice. John: I know. I love them. Dr. Randall: I don’t know. What is my favorite?
I never can answer that. John: All right. That’s fair. How about
some good vegetables, like the top three vegetables to grow in the climate here that do well maybe
as a perennial, more perennial use? Dr. Randall: Well, perennials – gradually,
I’ve been getting better with perennials. I was never able to grow good globe artichokes
until recently. I’ve finally figured out to how to do them here. The ones we have here
in the yard — I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s probably not more than three gardens
in the whole area that have them. Even my book says that they’re ridiculously hard
to grow here. I used to live in a place in California that was a huge marketing center
for the things. I finally learned what to do with the artichoke. Our collards – we
usually get three, four, five years out of collards if we just water them in the summer.
Watering them in the summer is a key thing when it’s very hot here, to make sure that
they don’t dry out. Perennial vegetables – those are probably the two key things,
but many, many plants self-seed. Cilantro self-seeds here. Cilantro is a fantastic plant
as an insectiary plant. It attracts beneficial wasps, lots of them, and probably more so
than any other plant we grow. Seeds of course are coriander and a decent spice, but coriander
leaves themselves – they’re wonderful in our bean tacos that we eat all the time
here. There’s a lot of benefit there. Cilantro and the southern peas we grow is a fantastic
vegetable. We grow one here called zipper cream peas, which is a relative of the black-eyed
pea, but a much better flavored one for fresh eating. John: Wow! I’ve got to try that one. Dr. Randall: You should. Zipper cream peas,
and there’s many versions of southern peas or cowpeas, as they’re called, that are
really outstanding. We grow many kinds. I like the cream pea the best. I have trouble
picking out the favorites. There are many. Ginger grows here perennially. Edible ginger
and turmeric and mint. The parsley self-seeds. Cutting celery self-seeds here. There’s
several kinds of chili peppers that are perennial here. John: The manzanos? Dr. Randall: Well, I’m sure they would be.
The cayenne types, the serranos, and something we call chili pequin here. John: The small ones. Dr. Randall: The Texas native wild chili.
Those will typically last three, four, five, six years, depending on when we get the next
cold spell. So I’ve seen sometimes a cayenne pepper maybe be 8 feet tall, 9 feet tall. John: Wow! That’s amazing! Dr. Randall: Hundreds of chilis on it, more
than a whole neighborhood could eat probably. John: You should definitely grow one of those
if you live in Houston. Dr. Randall: Then there’s the sweet potato
spinach that’s a perennial. John: Yeah, that was good! Yeah. Dr. Randall: Sweet potato spinach is a relatively
hard to find plant. It’s a variety of sweet potato. It’s genetically the same as a sweet
potato, but it has been developed because it will grow in tight clay soils and produce
sweet potato leaves that are quite edible, without needing the kinds of drainage and
high quality soil that sweet potatoes require. In a tight soil place like Houston, they’ll
grow in any soil that we have here as long as it’s reasonably drained. John: Wow! Definitely a good list of perennials
for you guys to research and start growing in Houston. The cool thing is that Bob gives
classes. So if you want to learn more from Bob and permaculture and gardening, which
I definitely encourage you guys, how can somebody get ahold of the classes and your book actually
from you? Dr. Randall: The classes are on the
website — the ones that I teach and other people that know a lot about this stuff. I’m
a co-teacher in a 25-hour “Growing Organic Vegetables” class. I teach four fruit tree
pruning classes in this yard. John: Wow! Dr. Randall: Then there’s the permaculture
sequence which goes on. There’s five modules, and one of them happens three times a year.
It repeats. And then the others – one is in the fall, one is in the winter, and one
is in the spring. We do “Bountiful Gardens” in the fall, we do “Growing Our Green Homes
and Communities” in the winter, and we do “Restoring Nature” in the spring. We’re
rehabbing creeks and things like that. We cover the whole permaculture international
curriculum in about 9 months, almost essentially entirely on Sundays, almost all Sunday afternoons. John: Wow! So it’s spread out – a permaculture
class like every weekend, instead of going for two weeks straight. That’s really smart. Dr. Randall: We have a two month break around
December and a short break in mid-spring also. It’s not absolutely every Sunday, but nearly
so. You can take it in pieces. We call it “Permaculture for Working People.” John: Everybody should know permaculture.
If you live in Houston, I’d highly recommend it. Dr. Randall: And if you don’t live in Houston,
permaculture classes are taught all over the planet Earth. In the United States, the Permaculture
Activists’ website,, has that. As for where you can find my book,
my website, and that’s year round gardening, which means there’s
two r’s in it. has got a list of where you can find the book. John: Awesome! All right. Bob, thank you for
allowing me to show your garden and talk to you at the end of this video. I definitely
want to encourage you guys, whether you live in Houston or wherever you live, start a garden
today. Get your feet wet. That’s the first step. Start with one plant and slowly grow
bigger over time until you have your whole place like this. I’m glad that Bob was able
to share this with me today so I was able to bring this to you. He’s a wealth of knowledge.
I admire this man a lot. In my little visit here today, I learned tons to improve my garden,
and I hope you guys learned a lot by watching this video as well. Once again, my name is
John Kohler with We’ll see you next time, and, remember, keep on


  1. Solitare35 Author

    this vid is both inspiring and sad for me…..:( I live in Montana, limited on what we can grow…..just had -40 degrees last month…..ugh. I love gardening tho!!

  2. Funk Daddy Author

    FYI- keeping a short lawn around your home helps prevent field mice and other rodents from invading your home. But I do understand what you are saying.

  3. HardWayLearnt Author

    Along with my vegetable garden, I grow a nice low maintenance moss.  Moss has a lot of advantages to grass.  The kids play on that and I compost the bits of grass that grow up through it.  Now If I could just wipe out that pesky grass I could scrap the mower.  

  4. Ivana Plavsic Author

    How about growing beans up column fruit trees? I have a row of column trees (apples and cherries) and this video gave me the idea to try and grow bean vines up them. What's your take on that?

  5. Andrea Wisner Author

    Great exposition on permaculture concepts. Not sure John totally understands, but his audience is gardeners, not "permaculturists." Lovely. Love them both.


    Use red worms, a bee hive, caterpillars (butterflies) and lady bugs…get those cross-pollinators in there!!!! More mulch to retain moisture.  Get more land.  Be fully off-grid and totally self-sustainable.  Get out of the suburb (too much risk). 

  7. Raj P Author

    Thanks for your awesome videos. A lot of YouTube posters rarely go over 10 mins which is nice sometimes. I love your lengthy videos only because you make it fun to watch you all energetic, excited , and very informational. Keep up the great work and please keep sharing your knowledge with the world. You have a gift, sir ^_^

  8. AN - Alechia Neathery Author

    Where can I get some of the veggie that in the video? Also I like know where can I find the Sweet potato spinach plant/seeds so I can try it. Where doe he find his veggie plant/seeds. Thank.

  9. Nelson Flores Author

    I like this system called Permaculture, also somebody suggested to make holes on the pots all over to air the roots of the plants so they don't cripples the roots inside the containers and the water jus run out of the container without moisture the roots because are to dense  and no soil.

  10. Michael Heywood Author

    So much better to use a yard for growing useful plants instead of a lawn which is only useful if you have a herd of some good animal to graze on it.  It may take me a few more seasons, but I am going to do it. 

  11. Joyce Jjones Author

    He certainly shares info on all of what has been planted with good ideas on how to maintain what you have grown……he doesn't however go into how deep or far apart each plant should be..etc…his suggestions are more advanced for those very familiar with growing veggies/fruits/beans//etc…

  12. Deb Wingert Author

    It is a good idea poorly executed. Get a professional videographer please (I got seasick watching your camera wave around — and back away from the scene a bit so we can get the bigger picture. Before you video, take notes and write a script that informs the readers of actual details rather than the noninformative babble of generalities. Also, you appear a bit inebriated. I am sure you are just nervous but you look like you slurped down a few. Finally, slow down your narrative and speak normally, put the microphone a little further away from you. Good luck. I hope to see better work as you get more experience.

  13. chere Author

    Can anyone tell me how to get the tree kale John grows?  I'm not sure he answers questions in here, but I figure someone who watches his videos much might know how to get some of this plant.. I would very much appreciate any links, or information on how to get tree kale.  Thanks!!!

  14. LIPglossShiney Author

    Very helpful information, thanks! Your videos are always so useful and informative. It's like you can read the questions in my head and make these videos just for me!

  15. Jared Darmanin Author

    This guy needs a TV show. He makes organic farming and permaculture accessible and entertaining without the off putting save the world desperation plea.

  16. Gina Bena Author

    My small farmers and I loved this so much.  This is the sort of life we are heading towards.  We really enjoy the friendly, exuberant style.  John seems to have a lot of personality, this isn't like anyone else's videos.  Lots of permaculture information in here and wow, what a garden.  I have garden envy.

  17. Muncie Fine Portraits Author

    How are there any unlikes on this video? His enthusiasm alone makes this enjoyable. Thanks for all the great info. Now, to convert that info to our backyard in chilly, soggy Indiana.

  18. Jesse Mercury Author

    Question? at around 23 minutes when you where showing the trellis setups… why go out and buy the concrete reinforcement material from Lowes? the idea is to reduce reuse and to recycle right? so why not repurpose old cables and lumber that would have been thrown out.. say old computer cat5 cables or old appliance cords etc.. and just set up for wood pillars.. attach screws facing one another and then just repurpose the wire that would have been in the landfill to act as the trellis mesh strung tightly between the four wooden posts? to me it seems that would be cheaper and again.. both reducing and reusing materials…

  19. Jesse Mercury Author

    Okay allow me to elucidate on the trellis at 23 minutes why for permaculture reusing items makes sense and saves money…… Pardon how crude this drawing is.. I did it in under 3 minutes while watching your video….

  20. OmgKittys78 Author

    Learned a lot from this video. I liked the metal stakes being stacked. I did the pvc pipes with the netting and they are too short. I think this will work out for me.

  21. JOSIUM 305 Author

    I already know most of these things, but its just a pleasure to watch your videos john….I'm too shy to make my own so thank you so much for your work! 🙂

  22. nustada Author

    What I wonder is how does he deal with the worst pest of all, government.

    When I lived in the burbs: I checked for permitting about rain water capture, they told me it was illegal. When I grew berry bushes more the 4', Goji and Raspberry, I started getting threatening letters claiming they were a fire hazard. My response was I did not want their "protection" and that green bushes would be nearly impossible to set on fire, then they came and chopped them down; good thing I was not home when they did it as I would have shot them. I moved out of town as a result.

    Imagine how wonderful miles of food forests would be in place poisonous lawns.

    Texas is looking better almost every day.

  23. notboundtosilence Author

    I have been trying to grow some trees in my front yard for three years. My "neighbors" walk through, bike through, or send their huge dogs through my yard regularly and my small trees that I can afford keep getting broken in half. What is wrong with people? Seriously! I love his cactus idea.

  24. Jackyp 89 Author

    I love the gardens and places you visit, but you need someone to help you produce these vids mate, you're either stoned the entire time, which i have no problem with but you do know when we are stoned we might rabble a little bit?, or you just naturally add things not needed in these videos. within the first 4 minutes you have used so many useless anecdotes to explain what has happened.

    Again i love the places you visit but you need to condense this stuff man,
    stories about what he said than you said than he said is unecessary.

    I think you would find a massive audience if you could condence it a bit. The stuff your talking about (other than talking about stuff with other people and the conversations you had off screen) is really important and cool, but shorter videos will get the message to more people and have a greater affect, of course still upload an extended version but i promise you the important stuff you talk about will be taken relaly seriously

  25. Ethelyn Schaeffer Author

    I like you hosting others. Your monologues are good and instructive but interviews also lift you up and your expertise as you comment and interact.

  26. John O' Connor Author

    Watched this video a couple of years ago and coming back to it now I still feel feel super inspired.
    Love the fact that your host, Bob, has a method to his madness!
    What a great garden! What a great gardener! People like this are true symbols of hope.
    I wish him well.
    Keep inspiring John. Best wishes from Australia.

  27. PDaddy Warbux Author

    mad respect for you brother. been watching for years. you have a lot to do with me just a California boy now working with China on Eco Village. thanks man.

  28. dechinta Author

    I see a lot of people saving rain water, but what about mosquitos? That just seems like asking for trouble. I would love to use rain water, but my legs and feet are literally covered in mosquito and ant bite scars, plus they itch like mad. I have type O+ blood which, they say, are the ones the mosquitos love the most. I believe it. I am disabled and being covered in bites makes me deathly ill

  29. Raymond Aten Author

    Would love to do something like this but we have a septic system not sure where the drain field is so not sure where to grow fruit trees.

  30. Charles Davis Author

    Acreage areas afar off from my main Mobile Home gracefully groomed garden, I’ll let eatable plants grow wildly into a forest like jungle. As a backdrop buffer or background scenery. Always allowing Maatrix Mother Nature Earth do Her talented thing and in a native natural manner and wittier Womanhood wiser way. And sit back to see and watch what happens?

  31. Gregory Thomson Author

    The big green flying beetles got most of my apricots this year. Had no problems with them last year, so I didn't expect them this year and wasn't watching for them. Once I noticed them… too late.

  32. L.C.H Author

    I’m so glad you made this video, John, because this Permaculture garden is no more. House and garden have been razed to the ground and covered with St. Augustine grass. I see just a few trees in pots behind a net fence at side back fence line and a small garden shed. Not sure what happened yet, but I know another Permie organic suburban garden was poisoned by Harvey’s toxic flood waters, not far from here.

  33. Whole Plant Foods Genesis 1:29 Author

    This is an awesome one in Texas. VERY encouraging that it's been around since the 80s. A fairly newcomer in New Jersey is The Gardening Channel with James Prignoli. His dog Tuck pulls carrots right out of the ground and eats them. Too cute! Check it out folks. 🐾🐾🐕

  34. unsalted tomato Author

    I like the permaculture people you interview. More episodes like this. Thanks for sharing.
    edit: oh, I found them. Just search your page for "permaculture", duh.


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