If you are looking for a way of life that holds valuable connections with the earth and the food that you eat, then it’s time to start thinking about a permaculture garden. It is a holistic way of planting seeds and plants and then harnessing the forces of nature to yield food, water, sunlight, and shade to provide all that your garden needs to function efficiently. Find out more about permaculture gardens and how they can instill hope in the future of our planet and our way of life.
What is Permaculture?
Simply stated, a permaculture garden is one that pretty much takes care of itself. It is not merely a selection of gardening techniques, however, but a journey toward a regeneration of the planet and soul. On the grand scheme, it is about gearing your life toward the production of food and other life necessities. Its principles include an array of ecologically friendly ways of creating an interconnected myriad of plants, animals, natural structures, and natural forces that restore and sustain a community of living things. Yes, permaculture is a broad concept, but it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task and can be started with a garden of any size.
Principles of Permaculture
Permaculture relies on a variety of fundamental principles that help to guide the process of moving toward this holistic way of living. They are tools that we can use to help us to think, connect with, assess, and redesign our environment more thoughtfully and productively to use less energy and resources, and reduce waste. Let’s explore the twelve principles of permaculture and apply them to how we can go about creating a permaculture garden.
Observe and Interact
It seems simple, but we don’t do it nearly enough. Be present and take time to quietly walk around and observe your environment, your yard, or your local forest. Watch how various aspects of nature interact with one another. View how the sunlight and shade move around your space and be watchful of the wildlife that thrives there. This will help you determine the optimal placement of your gardens for sun-loving or shade friendly plants and help you assess what obstacles you will have to contend with like water access and shelter from winds.
Capture Energy and Store It
Ultimately, we want to minimize our reliance on outside sources for our energy by utilizing what nature has to offer. This might include things like creating a sunroom or greenhouse on the sunny side of your home so that you can best harness the warmth that the sun generates. You can add rain barrels, buckets, and watering cans to collect water for use later or even use a solar-powered water feature to move water throughout your garden ecosystem.
Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback
This principle involves a little self-reflection and openness for change. To truly create a thriving permaculture garden, it is essential to cheer yourself on for your successes and accept what didn’t work out so well so that you can make changes that lead toward more optimal results. Assess what you are doing now that could be improved upon and make vital changes for a more sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle.
Obtain a Yield
Of course, when we think of obtaining a yield, we first think about all of the produce that we can harvest. While this is a key component in permaculture, it isn’t the only one. Your yield will be the amounts of edibles and medicinals that you reap from your garden. Still, it will also be the health, satisfaction, and overall well-being that you get from the permacultural experience.
Produce No Waste
Transitioning to a zero-waste lifestyle involves taking a close look at what and how much that we toss in the trash can each day. We can all work toward buying less and reusing more overall, but there are some things you can do in the garden that will make a significant impact as well. Create a compost pile for kitchen scraps, yard waste, paper, and cardboard, and utilize what you already have on hand to create raised garden beds, fencing, and climbing structures. Cut milk cartons in half and make mini-greenhouses to protect young plants from frost or use sticks as stakes or to make obelisks and teepees for climbing vines.
Use Small, Slow Systems
The best way to get started on the road to a permaculture garden is to start small. Celebrate and build on your successes and learn from your failures. Even if you start with a complete design overhaul of your backyard, it’s best not to try to take it all on at once. Make successive small changes and work toward a more sustainable future through gardening.
Integrate, Don’t Segregate
When it comes to your permaculture garden, diversity is a key to success. Implementing companion planting into your garden yields a multitude of rewards and plant diversity replicates how plants naturally occur in the wilderness. Many plants make excellent garden friends and are mutually beneficial to each other as they can feed the soil, stimulate plant growth, resist pests and disease, and attract beneficial pollinators and insects that feed on garden pests.
Use and Value Diversity
Mimic nature and utilize succession planting in your garden. This allows plants with different bloom times to occupy the same space, which provides a succession of endless produce and herbaceous plants. Intercropping will keep plants continuously growing and producing while also protecting the integrity of the soil.
Use Edges and Value the Marginal
As you deeply observe your property, you may see your yard differently. You may notice a shady corner of the yard that could be transformed into a garden of shade-loving vegetables or you might spy a neglected side yard that could be utilized. Maybe you ponder the value that adding curved edges or keyhole planting might add to your garden appeal and surface area. This principle is about digging deeper into the overlooked parts of your landscape and transforming them into useful and productive spaces.
Design from Patterns to Details
A strong principle of permaculture gardening is to mimic the natural growth patterns of plants. Your permaculture garden can take the form of a food forest which encompasses the various naturally occurring layers of vegetation from tall and short trees to bushes, shrubs, perennial herbs, and veggies to groundcover. Or it may be as basic as using natural mulches in your garden, which protects the soil from erosion and delivered nutrients into the soil.
There is a strong focus on preserving the soil and using a no-till method of gardening, which allows the soil to remain intact. Churning the soil can destroy the structure of the soil and can jeopardize the deep soil layers, its nutrients, and microorganisms by exposing them to harmful UV rays.
Use and Value Renewable Resources
As we use the land, we need to respect the resources that nature makes available to us and work to rebuild what has been stifled. Recreate forest landscapes by creating a food forest in your backyard. Seek to rebuild depleted soils and plant plenty of trees that will purify the water it takes in through the process of transpiration and produce life-restoring oxygen into the air.
Creatively Use and Respond to Change
Whether we like it or not, change is a part of life, and it is vital to adapt to changes in our environment. It might be how we respond to a change of seasons or obstacles through our garden strategies. Perhaps a tree has grown so tall in your yard that it starts to overshadow your vegetable garden. You may have to adapt and relocate some sun-loving plants to another location. Sometimes the only way to truly grow is to be adaptable to change.
Benefits of Permaculture Gardens
There are many benefits to daily life and the health of our planet that are yielded from permaculture gardening. When it comes to permaculture gardening, little to nothing is ever wasted. Garden and yard scraps and be used for composting, which yields more fertile organic soil, which will enrich future soil and feed future plantings. Water can be harnessed in rain barrels to eliminate runoff and used in birdbaths and water garden features which attracts beneficial wildlife and hydrates the plants in your garden.
When we adhere to the principles of permaculture, we eliminate the need for pesticides through companion planting and through nurturing and protecting our soil. By replicating the natural world in our garden ecosystems, we are creating a self-sustaining garden that takes care of itself and provides us with food to eat, herbal medicines, and a healthier Earth on which to live.