Hello and welcome to my very first post about Permaculture. Let’s get started with a rundown on what Permaculture is and what this means to me. A lot of people have been asking me what i am up to lately, and when i mention the word permaculture i get strange questioning looks and then the comment “Oh thats being self sustainable and stuff yeah?” And to an extent this is true but it is so much more than that. Some people find permaculture to be too broad a topic and shy away from it because there is just too much to learn. I’m here to help with that by simplifying the basic principles of permaculture. There are twelve principles that help to define the practice and these principles fall into three main categories.
- Earth Care.
- People Care
- Fair Share
The 12 Principles of Permaculture
- Observe and interact; This means watching the space you’re working with to see how much sunlight a certain area gets, how rain water flows on the property, which direction prevalent winds come from or what kind of potentially destructive wildlife share your land. And then implementing things like shades, drainage or water harvesting systems, planting wind-blocking plants and building fences.
- Catch and Store Energy; This could be as simple as placing large buckets under areas of your gutters that may leak to catch water when it rains and can go as far as installing water tanks, building dams or digging swales or chinampas (small trenches around your garden beds that water naturally flows to and allows easy access to root systems). You could also install solar panels, build thick earth structures that heat up from the sun and store heat through its thermal mass, windmills or hyrdo-pumps.
- Obtain a Yield; Whether is be fruit, vegetables, herbs for cooking or medicine, honey from bees, eggs, milk or meat or all of the above, whatever your goals are, obtain yourself a yield and share it with your friends and family, it feels amazing to harvest something you have grown yourself.
- Apply Self-regulation and Accept Feedback; Create a system that over time will be able to self regulate, this can be done through means of companion planting (plants that grow well together and benefit others) plant trees to provide shade and that drop their leaves throughout the year providing mulch to the garden, plant flowers to attract bees and strong scented herbs to deter pests. experiment with these systems and if something isn’t working accept the feedback from the plants and apply changes.
- Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services; Renewable resources are anything that naturally occurs over and over again in a natural environment. Using old wood that has fallen from trees as fire wood for heat rather than an electric heater. Using chickens and pigs to help turn garden beds post harvest and utilising animal manure for fertilisers and composting. Let nature take its course and utilise its byproducts to your own benefit.
- Produce no waste; This means getting thrifty, reduce your intake and minimalise spending on unnecessary items, avoiding single use plastics, compost organic waste materials rather than throwing them away, recycle glass bottles and jars (take them to a recycle depot or turn them into little planter pots or even fill them with any single use plastics you do happen to use and make eco structures out of them). Instead of throwing away tree pruning use them at the bottom of garden beds to create a self composting garden that continually provides nutrients to the soil on its own.b
- Design from Patterns to Details; Using the first 6 principles observe how nature does it and recreate that in your own garden. A forest has multiple layers, all in which provide a necessary aspect to its health and continuation. Design your garden using zones, things you need everyday are grown close to the house (herbs and leafy greens for salads) while things that don’t require daily attention are planted further away (fruit trees, food forests and livestock). Then get down to the details of exactly what it is you want to grow and where would be the best location for it.
- Integrate Rather Than Segregate; Unlike regular agricultural and horticultural process’ where mono-cropping is the norm, permaculture integrates multiple systems that work harmoniously with nature rather than against it. This comes back to companion planting and growing a multitude of plants and animals that benefit each other.
- Use small and Simple Solutions; Permaculture definitely plays “the long game” everything from growing your own food, composting, to soil regeneration takes time. but it’s the time we take to make all of these beautiful things come to fruition that makes it so worth it! There is no use of herbicides, pesticides or chemical fertilisers in these practices. We employ nature herself to do the work for us and yes it takes a little longer but it’s a million times more beneficial for your health and the environment than traditional practices.
- Use and Value Diversity; Again we think about polyculture farming and companion planting but this principle goes deeper on a human ecology level. We live on a planet with over 8 billion people, hundreds of different cultures and ways of living. There are incredible things to learn from the diversity of people surrounding us. Learn from diverse practices and apply it to your own situation.
- Use Edges and value the Marginal; An example of edges and the marginal in nature are the banks of a river, the river flows depositing nutrients and debri on the banks as it goes, these nutrients provide food for close by trees which in turn provide shade and homes for animals to live, who then spread seeds from the tree depositing them back to the earth for a new tree to one day grow. All of these systems benefit each other without even knowing they are doing so. Taking note of these systems and realising the importance of the countless other systems like it is a great way to begin understanding the effects that even the smallest things can have on the environment around us and help us to start making more conscious decisions in our day to day lives.
- Creatively use and Respond to Change; Life itself is a constant swirling motion of change, everyday new changes occur within our daily lives and our bodies. To creatively adapt to these changes and flow with them is the essence of permaculture. We can apply this in the garden as well. If you are starting fresh on previously degraded land, and planted fast growing nitrogen fixing trees such as Ylang Ylang, and then planted slower growing fruit trees in the shade of these and herbs, flowers and other vegetables around the base of the fruit trees. eventually the need for the pioneering Ylang Ylang will no long be necessary as the system has changed to support itself and the nutrients within the soil are building and getting stronger the whole time. This is a successful adaptation to change.
So permaculture is a multifaceted system that provides food and energy for you and your community, it works with nature rather than against her and regenerates previously degraded land utilising natural resources and renewable resources. I hope that this post have been helpful and maybe even inspiring. Thank you for reading and please subscribe to stay tuned for more specific informationals and lessons, or click one of the links below to continue learning.
True wealth is in your health, so take care of yourself 🙂Paul Izak