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Garden Tour: Diana Liga Talks About Permaculture

During the Urban Harvest Organic Vegetable Series course this past spring, I had the opportunity to meet Diana Liga, a horticulturist and permaculture designer. She was an instructor for one of the classes in the course and I was so impressed by her lecture, I followed up with her to schedule a visit to her garden. After all, it was from her that I first heard the term garden insectary. She graciously opened up her amazing garden for an early evening tour in late May. Before we get started,  let’s cover two terms that may be unfamiliar… permaculture and garden insectary:

Permaculture is a system of applied design for the creation of sustainable human habitat. These design principles mimic the relationships found in nature. Care for the earth, care for people, and share the surplus.


Garden Insectary is a method of companion gardening that provides the right kind of environment insects need to survive and procreate. At different stages of development, insects need different kinds of food, from other insects to nectar. Beneficial insects keep the pest population under control, and by providing an assortment of flowers of different heights, and bloom periods from spring through fall, you create a home for many species of beneficial insects.

A woman smiling in front of a tree.

A little about Diana Liga:

She graduated from Texas A&M in 2000, with a B.S. in Horticulture, and soon after moved to Houston. In 2001, she completed the permaculture design certificate coursework at Urban Harvest and soon started working for them, as their horticulturist and community gardens coordinator. After taking some time off to start a family, she is again doing design work and lectures.

Now for the tour:

Located on a very large lot in a quiet Spring Branch neighborhood, Diana Liga’s front garden is enchanting. A medley of fruit trees, herbs and flowers designed with more than one purpose in mind. According to Diana, everything in her garden has to have more than one purpose to be included. Most of them have several.

A garden in a yard.

A house with a garden in front of it.

A house with a garden in front of it.

A front yard with bushes and flowers.

A flower garden in a yard.

The beds in the front garden are designed with a water feature in the center surrounded by a meandering path of grass to walk on.  Lots of tropicals, perennials, and annuals give a wide variety of flower types, visual interest, and attractions for bees, butterflies and a host of other beneficial insects. And let’s not forget frogs, toads and birds. Diana has created a garden insectary that provides food and shelter for everyone. So when pests arrive, there are teams of predators in the “neighborhood” to handle it. She recommends you OBSERVE closely the insects you find in your garden. What you think may be a pest, may be a “good guy”. Their behavior can give you clues. Insects that travel alone, are usually good. In larger groups and feeding on your flowers or fruit, usually bad. Be patient, try to give the good guys a chance to find a good meal.

A car parked in a driveway.

A garden with flowers and a pond.

A statue in a garden.

A garden hose with flowers in the ground.

A pink flower with a yellow center.

A yellow flower with orange flowers in the background.

A purple flower in the middle of a flower garden.

A flower with orange and yellow flowers in a field.

Echinacea Purple Coneflower

A single orange poppy flower in a field.

A close up of a pink flower with green leaves.

A close up of pink flowers in a garden.

After touring the front gardens, we moved on to the side of the house where Diana has created another space surrounded by tropicals, native grasses and garden art. Mindful of providing a habitat for wildlife, a bird bath provides water for visiting birds.

A birdbath in the middle of a garden.

A garden with a lot of grass and trees.

A statue of a buddha in a garden.

A small backyard with a shed.

Now to the back of the house, where she grows most of their food and raises hens.

A woman standing in front of a house.

A garden with a lot of plants in it.

She created a series of raised beds using concrete blocks that makes it easy to access and care for. A nice benefit of the blocks are that you can sit on the edge when weeding or planting. Using raised beds also makes it easy to rotate your crops from year to year to avoid nematodes and soil borne pathogens from building up. Below is a Cardoon, which is a relative of the artichoke, grown for harvesting the stems. It also has very attractive flowers.

Thistle in the garden with purple flowers.

A purple thistle flower is growing in a garden.

A vegetable garden in a backyard.

Trellises come in may forms. This fencing material is perfect for vines like cucumbers.

A garden with a fence.

Chickens in a chicken coop with a water bottle.

Hens provide fresh eggs for her family.

The eggs are in a wooden box with hay.

Two blue eggs in a woman's hands.

Yes, they did have a pale green color.

A raised garden bed in a backyard.

Sweet Potato Bed

A bed of hay is laid out in a garden.

A raised garden bed with plants growing in it.


A garden with tomato plants in a raised bed.


A garden in a backyard with a fence.

Tomatoes growing on a vine in a garden.

A tomato plant is growing in a trellis.

Diana also uses the Texas Tomato Cages, that I have. Best tomato cages around.

A person holding a tomato in their hand.

Diana gave me this tomato to take home and it was so delicious! Seeds came from Baker Creek. Some of these heirloom varieties may look a bit odd, but they taste superb. Try experimenting with different varieties. Diana provides a list of her favorites at the end of this post.

A garden bed with tomato plants in it.

A yard with a house and a vegetable garden.

Fruit trees in the back of the garden.

Fruit trees she is growing:

Persimmons: ‘Ichikikijiro’, Matsowasefuyu’, ‘Hachiya’, ‘Suruga’
Pomegranates: ‘Bagal’, ‘Eversweet’, ‘Variegated Nana’
Citrus: ‘Meiwa’, ‘Meiwa Seedless’, ‘Nagles Seedless’,  2 Mandarinquats
2 Pineapple Guavas
Peaches: ‘Red Baron’, and ‘Midpride’
Lots of fruiting bananas although at this point the only one that persistently fruits is ‘Orinoco’
Dwarf Barbados Cherry
2 Jaboticabas
Avocados: ‘Opal’, ‘McMillan’

Here are her top five tomato varieties:

‘Sweet Chelsea’
‘Anna Russian Oxheart’
‘White Currant’
‘Paul Robeson’

She is growing two large black tomatoes this year, ‘Cherokee Purple’ and ‘Paul Robeson.’ Both are very tasty!

So how does your garden grow?

Whether you have a balcony or an acre of land, you can create your own sustainable garden by following design principles that work with nature. Avoid using pesticides which are toxic to YOUR ecosystem  and synthetic fertilizers that destroy soil microbes. Be more tolerant of a less than perfect garden. If a plant gets to the point where you would consider using a pesticide – pull it out and compost it instead.


9 thoughts on “Garden Tour: Diana Liga Talks About Permaculture”

  1. Great post, Jackie! I’d love to visit Diana’s garden. I envy her that huge lot and the more relaxed (much) neighborhood environment in which to experiment.

    1. Jacqueline D'Elia

      Yes I know. I would love it if everyone in my subdivision ripped out their front lawns and started a bee and butterfly garden mixed with fruit trees, veggies and herbs.

  2. Very informative post, thank you! I like the advice to consider an insect a pest if it travels in “packs” (so to speak). I also like the very different front yard.

  3. great post, i love the idea of an insectary… i’ll have to adopt that term for my garden as i’ve come to enjoy ALL the life it sustains…

  4. Priyanka Johri

    Hi! Jackie
    Nice seeing you again yesterday. Got some great bargains on some great stuff. I see Diane has expanded her garden since my visit to her place. She has a beautiful place and is a great person. She came by and did an eco-pest control class over here at the institute and let me tell you that girl makes insects look like fun :).
    Great Post.

  5. You featured a very inspiring garden. I already marked an idea I can use in my garden – the use of concrete blocks to make vegetable plots. 🙂
    I like your blog!

  6. Corner Garden Sue

    Wow, what an awesome place that is! Mine is small, but I do grow lots of kinds of flowers of different heights and bloom seasons. A lot of the blooms I have are for the butterflies. I noticed it was said in your post that if there are a lot of the same kind of insect feeding on the flowers, it was bad. I have seen lots of black wasps feeding on flowers at the same time. Since I’m encouraging butterflies, I dug out most of the Virginia mountain mint they seemed to particularly like. I did move a small clump to an area where I am growing mostly white and yellow blooming plants. They are now favoring the drumstick alliums, but I’m not seeing as many at a time. Do you know if it is bad to have a lot of wasps, even if they don’t bother people?

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