Hugelkultur bed #1 ~ avocado in background
This side of the hugelkultur bed, has always grown the lushest. I theorise, it has to do with the avocado tree, next to it. I control the growth of the avocado, so the shade doesn't overpower the bed. What is given in return however, is protection from the harsh afternoon sun - and much, much more.
We often think of plants as requiring moisture, and they do. But we don't always comprehend as readily, how they create moisture through transpiration, through their leaves. Studies have shown that transpiration from plants alone, accounts for roughly 10 percent of the moisture, in the atmosphere. So this little group of plants, worked together, to retain what moisture was drawn from the soil.
Bare patches in the garden, only grow larger, in the heat. Which is why food forests make a lot of sense! There's not a lot of bare patches in a forest.
Avocado tree - between two hugelkultur beds
I don't strictly have a food forest, but in my vegetable patch, I'm experimenting with introducing trees and shrubs for buffering. We know how the tree, helped the plants in the hugelkultur bed, but the door swings both ways too. Having raised hugelkultur beds, on either side of this avocado tree, helped protect its roots from the harsh sun.
Can you see the damaged leaves, above? The avocado, suffered from sunburn through the heatwave. Some leaves are still on the tree, but many simply died and fell to the bottom. All part of the natural cycle. What was interesting to observe, was how fewer leaves dropped in comparison to prior years. Plus, how quickly the tree recovered with new growth, when the weather normalised again.
I've had this tree sustain more damage, just from a regular summer, when it had flat, mulched, soil around it. So the tree has benefited from the raised hugelkultur beds, and the plants have benefited from the afternoon shade of the tree. This is clearly the sweet spot, in this edible garden.
Hugelkultur bed #1
Same hugelkultur bed (opposite side) and the only other plants to survive, were the Arrowroot and Basil. Arrowroot is another perennial, which I grow for mulching material. It's thick rhizome roots, can adequately protect them from weather extremes. The basil, evidently survived in the shade of it.
The patterns I am noticing is how the annuals only survive, in the wake of the perennials. Annuals quickly get wiped-out, otherwise. They just don't have the biological means, for coping. Everything I have demonstrated in my garden, didn't have shade-cloth erected, or much additional water added. Not enough to replace, what the heat withdrew, weeks on end. So what has survived, is almost everything nature could throw at it.
Hugelkultur beds, back in Spring (before the heatwave)
I'm starting to view my edible areas in a different way. When it's not strictly a vegetable bed, and not strictly an orchard, but an integrated system instead, the plants work together to protect themselves. Of course, you can introduce shade-cloth for mutual benefit, and install irrigation. Perennials are an extra buffer though, and a natural life saver if you don't have artificial interventions.
Elementary really, but I grew up in the land of edible segregation. Glad I'm revising that position, more so, every year.
Do you integrate your annuals with perennials?