The Permaculture Orchard: Beyond Organic Film Review

The Permaculture Orchard: Beyond Organic
Film Review

The Permaculture Orchard movie is an excellent resource for a home gardener who is looking to branch into some backyard orchard growing. It is a demonstration of how techniques can be changed for the good, even on a large scale commercial operation. Stefan Sobkowiak is the central figure in this documentary. After 20 years of 1st hand experience, he demonstrates what he's done to convert a Zone 5 apple orchard from conventional to organic and then finally to permaculture.

The film is not a permaculture course. But it certainly touches on several key principles and demonstrates how they are practically applied in the orchard setting. In particular, Stefan shows what he does to manage water, fertility and pests / disease. His techniques can be applied to fruit production systems in any growing zone.

I enjoyed seeing a lengthy list of fruit tree guild members that can be called upon to fill a role within the orchard. In addition to his fruiting trees, like pears and apples, Stefan inter-plants honey locust trees as nitrogen fixers (a system called NAP). In the understory of those trees he shows how to integrate smaller fruiting shrubs such as raspberries. Then there are herbs and flowers which can deter pests, attract pollinators and increase harvests by adding more types of crops for the picking. The combined effect is a biodiverse "guild" of plants which harmonize with each other and their environment.

Stefan explains what grafting is and why it is done. He highlights the benefits of a good rootstock and scion. And he even shows how to make an actual graft. He shows some quick tips on tree pruning. But Stefan also shows the benefits of "training" a tree as opposed to actual pruning.

Permaculture involves taking a polyculture approach to growing your food. Monocultures focus on a single crop. They have short harvest windows and lower resiliency when attacked by pests, disease or inclement weather. After watching this film you'll see the true benefits of creating a polycuture based orchard or garden. You'll know how to set one up and to care for it. You learn how to create habitat for birds and pollinators. Working with nature, rather than against it, is the way to go. The Permaculture Orchard: Beyond Organic is clear proof that this system works!

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