What is Permaculture?
Introduction to Permaculture gardening -
Ever wondered what is Permaculture? I do not pertain to be an expert in Permaculture. There are many great educators in this field and there are some lovely places you can go and take part in hands-on workshop in Permaculture including Goodlife permaculture and Milkwood permaculture.
There are also very informative magazines including Pip magazine – my absolute favourite, I get this huge smile on my face whenever I see this magazine in my post box -highly recommend it.
I try and follow some of the principles of Permaculture in my gardening design.
We grow many things at our property here on the Mornington Peninsula. We use many of our produce of medicinal herbs to craft our range of our all-natural body balms - Be Better Balms.
What is Permaculture?
Permaculture was created in the 70’s by Bill Mollison, an Australian ecologist from the University of Tasmania.
The word Permaculture comes from the words Permanent and Agriculture. It means that if we want to sustain a permanent culture (living things) in this world, we need to live within the energy and resources that are available to us on this planet.
This is very important, as research shows that about 20% of the world’s population is using 85% of the world’s resources (The holistic life), so the issue of living a sustainable life is paramount for the future of our planet.
Permaculture focuses on positive, responsible solutions to help us lead a more sustainable life.
Permaculture principles offer a set of ethical and design principles that you can apply in many situations, so not just the garden. You can apply these principles to your land, your home, your parenting, your business and your community.
When it comes to gardening, it encourages us to grow our own food, be more self-sufficient and recycle when possible.
It is also a very clever system that understands that us humans can very rarely match the all mighty power of nature.
Therefore, it views a garden as a whole, a community of soil, plants, animals and humans that all rely on natural principles.
Permaculture is all about working in harmony with nature and not against nature. Understanding that nature is much more powerful than us, so there is no point in working against nature, but learning ways to work in partnership with this mighty force and support it to give us the results we are after.
This is a lovely principle that I also very much try and apply in life and when it comes to my skincare range Be Better Balms – our bodies are amazing creations.
Our skin is our largest organ. It is self-lubricating, self-cleansing and self-rejuvenating – so never underestimate the power of your skin! When it comes to skincare, my philosophy is to work in partnership with nature to gently support and nurture the body and allow it to heal itself. Just provide it with good soil conditions and it will flourish!
Permaculture principles -
Permaculture principles are inspired by laws of nature and knowledge that has been tested and passed on. There are different versions of these principles. I follow the ones from ‘The holistic life by Lillington’:
- Observe and interact – the best way to start off is to observe, become a child again and really watch nature. Watch what works in nature, what doesn’t work and how much energy is going in. We are aiming to create efficient, not labour intense systems. Many times, the problem is the solution – for example, too many insects in the garden may damage the vegetables you are trying to grow, but adding chickens to your garden turns these insects into chicken food, plus you get the added bonus of chicken manure, eggs and a weed muncher, compost making animal. Problem – Solution. And minimal energy from your end.
- Catch and store energy – until about 200 years ago, there was relative balance in the earth’s systems. Population growth created a situation where we are spending the ‘capital’ of the earth but not generating income, which brings this planet to a state of bankruptcy (The holistic life, Lillington). This principle is about trying to rebuild the capital again by setting up systems to store. When you think of growing your own food, it means eating what’s in season, sharing surplus, and learning to store surplus, for example – drying herbs, making a fruit preserve. Also, choosing more perennial instead of annual crops that require less energy (this is one of the reasons I focus on perennial medicinal herbs such as native mint, Spearmint, Rosemary, Chickweed and more which I grow and use to make the Be Better Balms range). Another example is fruit tree. Fruit trees are one of nature’s most successful ways of storing energy – the tree only needs sun, wind, rain and animals to self-maintain – win win!
- Obtain a yield – grow things that work and require minimal energy (as seen in principle 2)
- Apply self-regulation– this principle is about taking responsibility of our actions and their effects in the short and long term, it’s about being environmentally responsible. It requires us to be disciplined in how we use resources.
- Use renewable resources – use nature to help you. For example, plant different herbs to lure in some ladybugs (Ladybugs love Dill, Fennel, Yarrow, Geranium and more). These little cuties will also eat aphids (those little insects that attack many of your garden crops). No need for chemicals and hard work, let the ladybugs do the work for you.
- Produce no waste – every activity produces some waste, but if we then use this waste for something else in the system, then this is not waste. For example, food scraps can go to the chickens, worm farm or our compost bin. Reduce – Reuse – Recycle
- Design from pattern to detail – a clever design principle that permaculture uses is zoning – Zones reflect the order of usage. For example, you would use the zone closest to your home for frequently used crops like herbs, greens etc. Less intense ones like potatoes, fruit trees or chickens will be further out. Many of these designs are built like a flowing mandala spiral. However, even if it’s not in a circular arrangement, the concept of ‘used most – close by, used and need less attention – further out’ is a very useful one.
- Integrate rather than segregate – Mollison talks about the concept that ‘every element performs more than one function’ and ‘each important function is supported by many elements’. So for example, fruit trees produce their own mulch, give us food and attract bees. Chickens help control weed, give us food, and produce manure.
- Use small and slow solutions – I love this principle. The idea that slower is better! Grow small, choose small, local shops, integrate mindfulness and slow living to your gardening and your life (I highly recommend the book slow by Brooke McAlary).
- Use and value diversity – not just productivity. Allow your garden to be a bit wild…not just rows of vegetables. Make sure there is some space for surprises like self-seeding potatoes or bush berries…let your garden surprise you….and accept some damage – permaculture gardens are all about balance.
I hope this article has given you an insight into Permaculture and gardening principles.
For me, a garden should be a full-on sensory experience – it should nourish your tastebuds, eyes, ears, nose and soul. Gardening is a holistic experience and I feel very lucky to be able to integrate this gardening passion of mine with my livelihood - Be Better Balms
So start observing, start small projects – a great book filled with permaculture activities is ‘Getting started in Permaculture by Mars’.
I’d love to hear comments and your experiences with Permaculture…..
Holistic Living by Lillington
Introduction to Permaculture by Mollison and Slay
Principles and pathways beyond sustainability by Holmgren
Getting started in Permaculture by Mars