Permaculture vocabulary

– native and restricted plant to a certain place.

Prolific – tree or plant that produces a lot of fruit (i.e. mango)

Vigorous – refers to a plant that has pronounced, energetic growth, produces a lot of strong foliage very fast

Hardy – A plant that is hard to kill, that performs well in a variety of adverse conditions.

Flushing – When a tree puts out new growth / shoots, usually at the tips of branches.

Coppice – cut back a tree or shrub periodically to stimulate growth.

Precocious – unusually advanced development, meaning that a tree fruits very early in its lifetime

Graft – a top of a root stock tree. Benefits of grafting are: faster fruiting, known cultivar, shorter height (easier for picking), etc.

Root Stock – The bottom part of a grafted fruit tree, the root system and bottom of the trunk. This is usually the same fruit or a similar fruit in the same genus, grown from seed.

Types of grafting: cleft graft, side graft, veneer graft– action of adding the cultivar to the root stock using various methods. Tools are used are grafting knife, grafting tape, etc.

Cultivar – Short for cultivated variety, a named type of fruit with specific characteristics of flavor, texture, color, smell, etc.

Scion – The cutting that is grafted onto the rootstock, from the tree that is being vegetatively propagated / cloned.

Air-layering – a method of propagating new trees and shrubs from stems still attached to the parent plant. An example of trees that can be air layered is lychee

Vegetative propagation – A form of cloning in which the plant is propagated via separating and growing pieces of its vegetation rather than its seeds. Examples: Bananas (sucker), pineapples (slip/sucker), many perennial greens (cutting), mulberry (cutting), any grafting, air-layering. Also, root cuttings are used to propagate breadfruit and some other trees. All vegetatively propagated plants from one source plant are genetically identical to the source plant; that is to say, they are clones.

Recalcitrant seed – Recalcitrant seeds are seeds that do not survive drying and freezing during ex-situ conservation

Root pruning – Digging a trench around the drip line of a tree, just deep enough to cut the delicate feeder roots (10-20cm.) This is a technique that can stress the tree and induce flowering / fruiting.

Air-pruning tray – pot used in nursery with a lot of soil in contact with air

Monoecious – having both the male and female reproductive organs in the same plant.

Dioecious – having the male and female reproductive organs in separate individuals.

Sowing – planting a seed.

Fertilizer – manure and compost with nutrition and biomass.

Biomass – organic matter such as leaves, sticks, branches, flowers, roots, fruits, etc.

Propagate – multiply new plants by natural processes from the parent stock.

Mulch – place fertilizer around fruit tree/plant. Allow proper space, never against the trunk of the plant.

Weed – remove the undesirable plants near a desirable plant, near the trunk and around the drip line.

Drip line – the extent of branches and leaves around the plant, where the end of the leaves drip on to the ground.

Cincturing / girdling

Topping – Cutting the top part of the tree to promote more sideways growth rather than height which would be harder to pick the fruit when the tree gets too tall.


Erosion – washing away of the top soil and minerals from the elements such as rain and wind.

Companion Planting – Rather than mono-cropping fruit trees, we plant a variety of companion plants that assist the fruit trees and mimic a natural forest environment. These may include ground covers, nitrogen fixing annuals or perennials, palms, hardwood canopy trees,etc.

Alley Cropping – This is a technique wherein one row of closely spaced (50cm-1m) nitrogen-fixing trees (such as inga/ice cream bean/guaba, mexican sunflower, or flemingia macrophyllus) are planted, followed by 2-3 rows of a food-producing plant (such as papaya or pineapple), followed by another row of closely spaced nitrogen-fixing trees. The hedge-row of nitrogen-fixing trees is routinely chopped to provide mulch for the food-producing plants. They are kept to a height of 1-2 meters.

“Chop n’ Drop” Mulching/Fertilizer – The phrase “chop n’ drop” refers to chopping leaves and branches of various species of trees, usually nitrogen-fixing species with large leaves that take a long time to break down, and dropping them around fruit-producing trees. The large leaves suppress weed growth and the added organic matter provides nutrients to the fruit trees. The presence of biomass also aids fungal and bacterial growth which is an essential part of the soil web. Decaying organic matter is necessary for certain bacteria and fungus that are responsible for making many essential nutrients available to plants.

Agroforestry – In agroforestry, we consider ourselves stewards of the forest, and wood is one primary concern. Humans often build houses with wood, and in doing so, deplete the forest of valuable hardwood canopy trees. It is therefore of the utmost importance to actively propagate and care for these hardwood trees. Examples in this area are seique, canelo, yumbinge, poropillo, macairo, and copal. It is also worthwhile to learn the “weed trees” – fast growing pioneer species that can be actively propagated to re-forest an area, but can also be readily chopped to make the biomass available. These types of trees often only live for 10-15 years and then re-release their carbon so they are great pioneers.

Pruning – With careful and methodic pruning we can greatly increase the yield and quality of fruit. Some examples: “Root suckers” – thin branches that grow from the bottom of the main trunk, are eliminated, especially if they are below a graft point. Also, when branches have a crotch angle of less than 20 degrees, one can be eliminated. Thin secondary branches that shoot straight up and crowd out the inner growth are eliminated. Branches that do not produce fruit are eliminated. Also, some trees may not be pruned, in areas where we are going for larger trees or need more canopy/forest mimicry. In general, we will have some trees that are actively and regularly pruned, and trees in less important areas (like guerilla-planted areas) will be cared for but perhaps not pruned, depending on our strategy for that area.

Grafting – To graft, we plant a seed that is not necessarily of an excellent cultivar, to be used as “rootstock.” Then, we make a cutting, or a “scion,” or perhaps “budwood,” of a tree that has desirable fruit. We “graft” the scion onto the rootstock, and it not only produces fruit much quicker, usually in 3-4 years, but it also produces fruit of the exact quality and characteristics as that of the scion. Through grafting we can consistently produce excellent quality fruit, and our trees can produce in 3-4 years rather than, for example, 7-9+ in the case of Durian and Mangosteen, or 14-18 in the case of mamey sapote and longan, for example. As you can see, grafting is essential to the sustainability and viability of permaculture fruit forest projects such as this.

Soil Erosion Control – Pasture grass has shallow roots and does not hold soil well. Most rainforest soil consists of a few inches to a foot of good topsoil/constantly replenished organic matter, followed by rich clay. Needless to say, the combination of beef production, hilly terrain, and rainforest geology is a recipe for rapid topsoil depletion. By recreating a forest environment on former cattle production land, we aim to restore a healthy soil ecosystem. Various soil erosion control practices, in addition to simply planting more trees rather than grass, aid us in this goal. Vetiver grass and contour lines are two examples.

Contour Lines – Most people have seen a topographical map with contour lines at some point in their lives. Marking contour lines and planting on them, especially with swales or “alley cropping” to form erosion-resistant hedgerows, can help greatly with soil erosion.

Swales – involve digging a trench and subsequent mound, usually along a contour line. The trees planted along the mount benefit from nutrients building up in the trench rather than washing down the hill. This is labor-intensive but effective.

Terraces – For steeper hills, terraces may be better at erosion control than swales. However, terraces require significant labor and material (such as stone/rock) to build.) On a large scale they are of civilization-magnitude.

Interplanting Palms –Trees foster bacterial growth in soil, whereas palms foster fungal growth. Trees benefit greatly from fungal growth. Therefore, we interplant palm trees (such as chonta/peach palm, coco/coconut, queen palm, pambil, paja, terren/jelly palm, etc) to foster this beneficial relationship.

Humanure Compost – People commonly talk about the benefit of using manure as a fertilizer – cow manure, chicken manure, etc. But for some reason, they never talk about the use of human manure. Most likely because, due to their unnatural and non-species-specific diet, their poo smells terrible and they are ashamed to talk about it or even think about it as a valuable source of nutrients. In any case, to maintain the “nutrient cycle” as a closed loop, humanure is an essential component of any permaculture system. For further reading, consult the “Humanure Handbook” available at

Biochar – made in a barrel and added to the soil. The benefits to soil fertility and fungal growth are enormous. Plus, there are numerous sustainable energy/eco-tech byproducts that can be captured from a charcoal retort: Including but not limited to heat, wood vinegar, and syngas/torgas from gasifying the product of the the torrefaction process, which can be used interchangeably with biogas and also can be used to power gasoline engines with very little modification. Currently, we do not make our own charcoal, but we purchase charcoal to make Biochar with. It is crushed and soaked in a barrel with various other amendments.