Let’s say you’re the type of person for whom establishing a big, organic, food-producing permaculture garden is a major goal.
And fortunately, you’ve just come into a windfall – a huge sum of money.
You can finally buy or build that house you’ve been dreaming of and then get to work on planting your organic garden.
The question today is: where should you build it?
(If you, like me, don’t find yourself suddenly and mysteriously wealthy, and are instead quite stuck gardening right where you are, there’s still a reason to read this, which I’ll outline by the end.)
Here are the ‘big picture’ points that jump out at me for consideration (another time I’ll write more about the ‘micro’ decisions when buying a property – what type of soil to look for, water availability, bylaws, etc.)…
Latitude. Would you rather grow at the equator (Ecuador, Kenya, Indonesia) or the 30th parallel (Texas, Morocco, Tibet – I’m favoring the northern hemisphere today, but you can substitute 30 degrees south if you don’t mind your toilet flushing in the opposite direction) or the 60th parallel (Alaska/Yukon, Norway, middle of Russia) or somewhere in between?
The closer you get to the equator, all else being equal, you’ll have a much more diverse selection of plants, and perhaps the biggest benefit – a year round growing season. But that also means your plants’ predators (big animals, insects and microorganisms) will find it an easier place to live, too. And it also means you must either love heat or air conditioning.
At the other end of the spectrum is the wintery Yukon that inspired Robert W. Service (“There are strange things done in the midnight sun, by the men who moil for gold”). The short growing season makes the prospect for year round food rather disappointing, but the 18 hour summer days do promote some huge vegetables in record time.
Of course, latitude is only part of the picture…
Altitude. Houston, Texas and Lhasa, Tibet may both be near that 30th parallel, but at 45 feet and 12,000 feet above sea level, respectively, they’re going to present very different growing experiences.
We all know that temperature decreases as you go uphill, but what also changes is soil, humidity and rainfall, and solar radiation.
When it comes to mountains, there’s a sweet spot on each one – much nearer the bottom than the top – where the growing is optimal. Often there’s a wet side where all the rain falls, and a dry side where there’s not much moisture left. I suppose people on the dry side wish they could have more rain, and people on the wet side have had enough by now.
Speaking of wet…
Longitude. Would you rather grow near the ocean or further inland?
On the one hand, I tend to lean to the coast so I can harvest ocean water and kelp for the garden, not to mention experience the beauty and majesty of being near and bathing in the ocean.
On the other hand, 80% of people live within 60 miles of the ocean, so I’ll need to like having a lot of…
Neighbors. City vs rural? I love living in the city because I can walk and bike everywhere without needing a car, rent an apartment that’s only a few hundred square feet (I like small), and easily meet up with friends or go see a movie when the occasion arises.
But the countryside has sky and stars, forests and fields, creeks and coyotes. Peace.
Personally, I want a house and garden in both places, but that’s not sustainable, so I know I have to choose.
Why I’m Writing This. Obviously most of us aren’t planning a big move anytime soon, but my motivation for writing this today is mostly to ask you what it’s like to grow where you are live.
What do you like about your latitude, altitude, longitude and neighbors? And what do you wish was different?
I think it will be fascinating to hear what everyone has to say. I hope some of my international readers will chime in, too.
We can learn from each other, get a little envious of the conditions we don’t have, and perhaps appreciate our own part of the world a little more for the conditions we do have.
I’ll start in the comments below…