Conventional gardening tends to use a one-size-fits-all method for growing food. Its central concepts are based on what gardeners want to grow rather than on what plants best suit a particular piece of land.
Permaculture gardening, on the other hand, is based on the concept of using the perfect plants for the climate, and utilizing only what works best for the local environment. Dry climates require a different approach than humid climates. Hot climates support different flora than cold climates.
Permaculture techniques are incorporated from many different sources, allowing anyone to adapt their permaculture garden to whatever methodologies their plant hardiness zone‘s climate dictates. Fortunately, many permaculture gardening designs work well across a broad variety of climatic conditions.
Besides climate, the permaculture philosophy also focused on building up soils to gradually make them more nutrient-rich and well-balanced over time. Soil, after all, is the base from which our food grows. Virtually all of the health benefits that come from growing your own food are literally rooted in having healthy soil.
When permaculture systems are designed well, they are intrinsically sustainable and much easier to care for (especially over time). Permaculture gardens create true ecosystems that have built-in mechanisms to constantly revitalize the earth, keeping the plants healthier. Healthy plants are more resistant to disease and pests, which minimizes labor for upkeep.
Here’s a deeper look at what permaculture gardening is, how it works, and how to design a permaculture garden that works best for your space, climate, and lifestyle.
HOW DOES PERMACULTURE WORK?
Permaculture systems are designed to be interactive. For example, roofs are used to catch water that can be used in the kitchen. From there, it drains into gray water irrigation systems. These feed the plants, which in turn provide food and fuel (wood). Each of these elements are then put back into the system as compost. No waste is created. No resources are imported.
But it’s also important to realize that permaculture is about much more than a design. It’s a complete shift in lifestyle– a change of approach that ensures that our habits and practices are working in cooperation with (and benefit to) the planet rather than merely taking from and polluting it.
Simple eco-friendly ideas such as reusing bags, buying secondhand clothing, and eating local food are also parts of the permaculture mindset. It’s not just a way to grow food. It’s not just about resource conservation and renewable energy. It’s not just a new way to shop. It’s all of these things and more.
Permaculture is a rigid system in terms of ethics, but it’s surprisingly open in its approach. Whatever works well for taking care of people and our planet has a place within the practice.
This makes a condensed definition of permaculture more difficult than it is in practice.
KEY PERMACULTURE PRINCIPLES
According to most sources, permaculture has roughly a dozen design principles that tend to guide practitioners through a given project.
In essence, these permaculture principles are centered around using nature— the most sustainable of all ecosystems—as a manual of sorts for creating productive, efficient, and ecological designs to meet human needs while also caring for the planet.
As explained by the co-founder of the permaculture movement, David Holmgren, the principles begin with observing and interacting with nature.
This moves into capturing and using renewable energy sources, such as water flows and gravity, and producing abundance while practicing self-regulation.
In other words, there are inherent limitations to consumption. Because, while nature can provide enough for humankind, nature also requires resources, energy, and time in order to maintain proper balance.