permaculture gardening
Homesteading for Beginners - Organic Gardening

The 12 Principles You Need to Know about Permaculture Gardening

You’ve probably heard about it before – permaculture. What is permaculture gardening?

Permaculture gardening offers a way to grow your food sustainably by working with nature. It combines natural processes to create a self-sustaining system that yields abundant fruits and vegetables. This method focuses on recycling, regenerating, and reusing resources, ensuring you use what nature provides effectively.

To begin, you need to understand the principles of permaculture, such as observing your environment, planning your garden layout, and using composting techniques. By laying the foundation of this practice, you can create a garden that thrives all year round, all while reducing waste and fostering biodiversity in your garden.

Permaculture gardening is suitable for any space, whether you have a big backyard or a small balcony. Understanding that permaculture is about fostering a balanced ecosystem can transform your gardening experience. Get ready to explore the diverse techniques and practical tips that will help you succeed in building your own permaculture garden.

This post is all about permaculture gardening.

companion planting

Principles of Permaculture Gardening

This gardening technique was developed in the 1970s by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren. They developed it by making observations of natural systems and long-term human communities. Permaculture gardening follows clear principles focused on sustainability and working with nature. These principles are divided into ethics and core values and design principles.

Ethics and Core Values

Permaculture gardening is guided by three main ethics that build the foundation of this type of design.

  1. Care for the Earth emphasizes the importance of nurturing the land. This involves practices that protect soil health, water sources, and wildlife. Actions like composting and avoiding chemicals help maintain a balanced ecosystem.
  2. Care for People which involves everyone having access to resources like food, shelter, and community. This principle encourages sharing garden yields with others and creating supportive networks.
  3. Fair Share means taking only what you need and redistributing surplus. By growing food sustainably, you contribute to a fair and just distribution of resources, promoting equity within your community.

Permaculture Design Principles

There are 12 permaculture design principles to know and keep in mind as you prepare to either start your garden or start applying to your already existing garden.

  1. Observe and interact means you should spend time watching and understanding your garden before making any changes. This helps in planning a garden that suits your environment.
  2. Catch and store energy involves harnessing natural resources like sunlight and rainwater. Methods like installing rain barrels or solar panels can help reduce your dependency on external supplies.
  3. Obtain a yield. This means to only pursue something that is going to result in tangible results and benefits.
  4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback. This principle speaks about designing systems that are self-regulating and adaptable to different variations in the environment.
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services means prioritizing materials and practices that can be naturally replenished. For example, using local compost instead of chemical fertilizers.
  6. Produce no waste encourages recycling and reusing materials. Compost your kitchen scraps, and repurpose old containers as plant pots.
  7. Design from patterns to details. This principle suggests observing, understanding, and making note of patterns in both nature and society. In doing this practice, you can better build an environment for your garden by using those patterns to your advantage.
  8. Integrate rather than segregate. Create a cohesive system that works to support each element within the system. For example, implementing companion planting allows plants to be together in harmony. By keeping plants away from other plants that are not their friends, you can help to keep pests and diseases at bay.
  9. Use small and slow solutions. Implement small, gradual systems for better outcomes. An example of this is using slow-release organic fertilizers instead of synthetic ones.
  10. Use and value diversity. Use diversity to reduce things like diseases and pests. Create a biodiverse ecosystem that has so many benefits like attracting all sorts of wildlife, like hummingbirds. Who doesn’t like to see hummingbirds in their garden!?
  11. Use edges and value the marginal. Create boundaries between different types of vegetation.
  12. Creatively use and respond to change. Be proactive in your responses when needed. Intervene thoughtfully and carefully when needed.

These principles, if followed, help create a garden that is not only productive but also harmonious with nature. More detailed insights on these principles can be found in this Rural Sprout article.


Applying Permaculture Gardening Principles

Understanding how to design a permaculture garden and manage its soil and water systems is key to creating a sustainable and productive space. Here, we’ll explore practical steps for each aspect.

Garden Design

Start by assessing your site. Look at factors like soil type, climate, and sun exposure. Knowing your land helps you decide where to place different elements. For example, garden beds should be in areas with good sunlight.

[RELATED POST: How to Start a Vegetable Garden in Your Backyard]

Use a zone system to organize your garden, and assign different zones to different areas. Place high-maintenance plants near your house (Zone 1) and less-tended areas further away (Zone 5). This saves effort in maintaining your garden. Incorporate perennial plants to provide long-term benefits and reduce replanting efforts.

Create pathways to make movement easy. Curved paths are both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Use natural materials like stones or wood chips for eco-friendly options.

Soil Health Management

Healthy soil is the backbone of a successful permaculture garden. Start by improving soil fertility with compost and organic matter. These add essential nutrients and improve soil structure. I personally use Black Kow Manure as my compost and it’s worked wonderfully in our garden. We had terrible soil at one point where we now have our garden and now it’s a beautiful dark black color.

Test your soil to understand its pH and nutrient levels. Regular testing allows you to make necessary adjustments. Add lime to raise pH or sulfur to lower it, based on the test results.

Mulch the soil to retain moisture and reduce weeds. Use organic mulch like straw, leaves, or wood chips. This not only helps keep the soil moist but also adds nutrients as it decomposes.

Water Conservation Techniques

Efficient water use is crucial in permaculture gardening and in some areas rain may be scarce at some points of the year. First, capture rainwater using rain barrels or tanks. This provides a free and sustainable water source for your garden.

Install drip irrigation systems to deliver water directly to plant roots. This minimizes evaporation and ensures plants get the water they need. Use timers to control watering schedules.

Create swales or berms on sloped land to capture and distribute rainwater. These earthworks slow down runoff, allowing more water to soak into your soil. With these techniques, you’ll use water more efficiently and keep your garden healthy.

Plants and Biodiversity

Plants and biodiversity are key in permaculture gardening. They help create a balanced and self-sustaining garden. Choosing the right crops and creating habitats for wildlife support a thriving ecosystem.

What to Plant in the Garden

Selecting a variety of crops is vital for a healthy permaculture garden. Diversity helps prevent pests and diseases from spreading. Include perennials, annuals, and self-sowing plants. Each type plays a role in maintaining the garden’s balance.

For example, plant native species that are well-adapted to your local climate. These plants need less water and care. Edible plants like vegetables and herbs can supplement your diet and attract beneficial insects. When it comes to vegetables, fruits and herbs, I always like to start with what I actually eat. Start by making a list of vegetables, fruits, and herbs you enjoy eating. From there, evaluate what actually grows in your zone.

[RELATED POST: The Ultimate Guide to USDA Plant Hardiness Zones & Microclimates]

Integrate medicinal plants and flowers. They not only add beauty but also attract pollinators like bees and butterflies. To diversify your garden, participate in seed and plant exchanges. Sharing seeds helps promote plant biodiversity and strengthens community bonds.

Creating Habitats for Beneficial Wildlife

Encouraging wildlife to live in your garden is essential. Birds, insects, and small mammals contribute to pest control and pollination. Create habitats to invite these creatures.

Use nesting boxes and bird feeders to attract birds. Birds eat many garden pests such as slugs and caterpillars. Insect hotels can provide a home for beneficial insects like ladybugs and lacewings, which help control aphids. We’ve been slowly getting some hummingbirds, which are really exciting to see. They’re quick in and out of the garden. I’m hoping to add more plants to attract even more.

Plant native shrubs and trees to offer shelter and food for small mammals and insects. Ponds or water features attract amphibians and insects that aid in pest control. Ensure you have a variety of flowering plants. Different bloom times provide continuous resources for pollinators throughout the year.

By creating a welcoming environment for wildlife, you contribute to the garden’s health and sustainability.

what is permaculture gardening

Community and Education

Community and education play a crucial role in permaculture gardening. By engaging with local people and offering educational resources, you can foster a sense of ownership and resilience.

Community Involvement

Involving the local community in your permaculture garden can create a strong sense of connection and ownership. By participating in garden activities, people can learn practical skills and understand sustainable practices firsthand. You can organize regular community events like planting days, harvest festivals, or workshops.

These activities not only get people involved but educate them about the importance of sustainability. Collaborating with local schools, government agencies, or religious groups can also help secure land and funding, enhancing the garden’s impact. Engaging local citizens ensures that the garden meets the community’s needs and attracts long-term support.

Educational Resources for Permaculture

Having access to educational resources is essential for anyone interested in permaculture gardening. Online platforms like the Permaculture Education Institute offer a variety of courses and masterclasses that teach sustainable design and gardening techniques. These resources can guide you in creating a more resilient and productive garden. (This post is not sponsored and just giving an example of a resource for learning.)

You can also attend workshops or masterclasses, such as the one-hour session by Morag Gamble, an experienced permaculture educator. Additionally, websites like Crop For Life provide articles and tutorials on community engagement and education. These resources help you design and implement effective permaculture strategies, fostering long-term success and community support.

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