Hurry Up & Wait

Here’s another early spring video!


I mention a lot of different ideas really quickly (before my son wanted to play!) so I’ll go into them in more detail below.

 We’ll be discussing these plenty of ideas like this at the Edible Forest garden Practicum on May 17th; register now!

Hurry Up & Wait

All living species develop a strategy for survival. This strategy encompasses how species meet their needs and reproduce their genetic material. The strategies adopted are the result of uncountable generations of trial and error, physical/genetic adaptation, innovative social practices, and honed by natural selection. For more on this see “The Selfish Gene” by Richard Dawkins (a fascinating read that helps explain the oft misunderstood theory of evolution).  

Several forest species use a strategy known as “Hurry Up and Wait”, where an understory plant will shoot up early in the spring, and accomplish most of its seasonal growth before the larger canopy species have put out their leaves, blocking the sunlight from reaching the lower forest layers.

We can use this strategy to fill out our forest garden designs; not only ensuring all the ecological niches are filled (thus preventing unwanted invasive aka ‘weeds’ from moving in) but all the temporal spaces as well.

Wood onion/ramps are a popular species that uses this technique. Fiddleheads are another.

Thermal Mass

One of the reasons the plants were already shooting up was because they were next to a large mass of stone. Stone, cement, and similar materials take in the sun’s radiation and warm up during they day (even in winter). After the sun has set, the warm mass re-radiates the heat for up to 8 hours. This means the soil around the warm mass freezes later in the fall, doesn’t get as cold in the dead of winter, and thaws sooner in the spring than soil without a warm/thermal mass.

Warmer soil on the in late fall and early spring are great for increasing root growth, making for healthier plants. One way to harness this subtle power is plant near a thermal mass, or put a thermal mass next to your plants. I like placing a large stone to the south south west of trees when I plant them.

This tactic is a form of two Permaculture Principles; we use this small solution to capture and store energy. By simply providing a small thermal mass, we capture to the sun’s warmth (energy) and release it slowly over time to the benefit of the surrounding plant roots.


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