What You Got to Do to Start a Permaculture Garden
If you have a garden, do you want to create a permaculture way to grow your own vegetables, herbs and fruit? Permaculture gardening is the perfect way to grow your own food, with the minimum of your efforts in the garden. This is what nature gives you to make it happen.
Permaculture gardening is also known as “permanent agriculture” and it involves working with the natural forces – the sun, the wind, and water – to provide shelter, food, water, your garden needs, besides the seeds and the plants.
Permaculture’s principle is done with the least of your effort and without destroying the land. While this method of gardening may seem appealing, the recommended ways may seem overwhelming and the learning curve is steep. There’s so much to learn and do. Not any more. The basic principle of permaculture are actually common sense.
Permaculture is a holistic way to gardening and it’s the ultimate survival garden to grow sufficient food for you and your family in good and difficult times. Begin slowly towards your goal and soon you get started down the right path. Learn some survival skills here.
Design Your Permaculture Garden
First, you’ll need a plan. Remember the permaculture guiding principle is that to replicate the way how nature works. Integrate this into the design of your plan based on how you would utilize those natural elements in your garden. You never stop designing, once it keeps it going, stops and observe if it is giving you the desired results. Fine-tune it, if it is not right, consider going to the drawing board again.
Your design should look into how nature works on water sources and use, the existing land elements, like elevation and shade, what plants are perennial and annual that can grow and how it can support growth over time.
Check and Observe The Land
Go out to check out and make an observation about the land which you wish to incorporate it in your plan to build a permaculture garden.
- Is your land flat or sloping?
- Which part of your land is higher?
- Can rainwater be retained and from which part of the land?
- If the land retained too much water, that it might be too wet for plants to grow?
- Do you have big trees on your land, where there are too many roots that prevent other crops from growing?
- Any of the big trees block out the sunlight?
- What kind of plants and animals are suited for your land?
- What kind of insects and pests do you see around?
- Can you see any unique resources that your garden can benefit from it?
- Will your garden have enough water supply?
- Is the climate suitable for permaculture?
- Is the soil lay bare with nothing but weeds growing in it?
Based on the observations you’ve made, you’ll be able to plan and design your garden according to the permaculture principle. Work with nature not against it.
Preparing The Soil Bed
Preparing new beds under the permaculture principles involves breaking the ground with the least effort and non-destructive methods. This includes using mulch or ground cover crops to help to keep in place.
You can use any material in mulching, like cardboard, leaves, wood chips and straw, that can cover or spread over the soil as a protective cover. This will decompose and thus help in improving soil fertility. The cover will keep the soil cool and retains its moisture, It also suppresses weeds and makes the bed looks attractive.
It is one of the Permaculture guiding principle of wasting nothing. Waste from the home, garden and forest can turn into nutrients which will enrich the soils. Composting is the decomposing of organic matter by the enzymes and microorganism. Remember to composite only organic matters. A non-organic matter like plastics, glossy magazine, styrofoam are not biodegradable and will not break down. There are lots of things you can put into your compost pile, including vegetables, leaves, grass cuttings and wood chips, pruning, tree branches, and even dead animals. However, dead animals may attract vermin and predators to salvage your pit.
Design your bed, in a way that you never have to step on it. Stepping on it will compact the soil, air and water will be prevented from reaching the roots. The soils must not be tilled or dug as this will disturb the structure of the dirt, and exposes the lower layer to sunlight. Sunlight is hazardous to the living creatures, like the earthworms in the soil, which helps to irrigate them. The soil is the very essence of a permaculture garden, if you start with very dry soil or soil with no organic matter at all, you’d need to build it up from scratch.
As you plan your permaculture garden, one must work with the natural forces – water resources. If your garden is lacking in water, consider capturing rain from rooftops for watering and other uses. If you have abundant rainfall, dig a pond to keep the excesses. Water is an important element which needs to be self-sustained when planning the garden, to see which area that need water most.
What Plants are Suited for Permaculture Gardens?
Get plants that have a good symbiotic relationship with each other in the Permaculture way with plants. Perennial plants can last for 2 years or more is the better choice because you don’t replant them at the same time every year save for at least 2 years or so. The choice of perennial plants should have multiple functions for what’s growing. Can they provide for food, windbreaks, medicine, provide ground cover, mulching, shade for other plants, and fodder to feed your domesticated livestock? Yes, they can.
These perennial plants are not only productive patios but they provide a healthy and vibrancy in your garden. This perennials plants are mulberry, comfrey, moringa, pigeon pea, red clover, and hazelnuts. They are by no means exhaustive, for, in certain climates, they may not thrive.
Benefits of Inter-cropping
Inter-cropping is the growing of different types of plants in the same space and at the same time. They can be perennials or annual crops mixed together. They have different roots structure so that they do not crowd each other out beneath the surface as well as above-ground, where they won’t compete with each other for sunlight.
The benefits of inter-cropping to permaculture are obvious. If we time-sequence the planting in the same plot, in a way that there is always a plant occupying it, it helps to improve the soil structure.
Alternating roots types help add different forms of organic matter to the soil. It also keeps the soil fertility balance as these different plants have different needs which can contribute some valuable nutrients input, like plants who can provide nitrogen to the soil.
Hence, intercropping is also called companion planting due to its beneficial co-existence. Onions releases odours that deter insects infestation, other plants may offer shade, and another helps to add nitrogen to the soil or provide structure. Example of this unity is the “three sisters” method used by native Americans. The squash prevents the weeds to flourish, the beans give nitrogen to the soil, and the corn supported the beans.
The mixed crops, in essence, one plant provides some useful components for another, but wrong and careless congregation of different plants may lead to disaster. They may use the same nutrients, they attract the same insects and are susceptible to a similar type of insects.
Sharing through Community
Permaculture teaches us to integrate rather than segregate in our community. Share your knowledge and experiences of your garden with others who are just as passionate about permaculture as you are. Mentor those who are just beginners and share the journey together for mutual benefits.
Join a local community group and help one another by sharing information on what’s working and what’s not, and the latest developments and trends.
You can also volunteer to offer assistance to community gardens so that anyone who wants to learn permaculture can reach out to this group. You can donate some of your garden’s produce to a local food bank as a way to give back for your successes.
Start Planting Your Garden
Healthy soil is one of the fundamentals for plants can grow in abundance which is full of life. Full of life means it has different life forms thriving and co-exiting, each contributing some good to the soil. Example are spiders, worms, insects, other invertebrates such as fungi and bacteria; other microbiota; reptiles such as snakes; moles, mice and shrews. These tiny animals beside adding essential organic elements to the soil with their droppings, their holes and burrows they dug helps to aerate the soil.
Work With Nature
When we work with nature, nature will reciprocate in kind. We want to build a permaculture garden that functions as a forest, that can generate its own fertility, and capture its own water. It can provide yields to us, yet it can regenerate the land around us. That’s the principle we want to put into our design for our permaculture garden – care for the earth, care for the people and share the surplus of our harvest.
It makes sense to catch water high in the landscape and stored it so that gravity helps to feed down. This is an example to let nature works for us. Let your garden use biological resources over chemicals or fossils.
It reduces vulnerability and if one plant dies, the rest still strive, just as the proverb says: Don’t put all the eggs in one basket” reminds us, gardeners, that multi-cropping gives insurance against the variations of our environment.
Plants that are mutually beneficial associations of plants are called guilds. A forest has many layers of growth, from the canopy down to the understory, the low shrubs and the roots. We want the system to provide the soil building and mulching needs and weed suppression needs for itself.
Today’s rapid danger of growing food by the use of industrial-agricultural methods which are highly dependent on non-renewal resources, and they were not only poisoning the land and water, reducing biodiversity, and hence destroying and removing tons of topsoil which were previously fertile landscape now lay barren, have prompted food growers to go back to work with nature. This approach of working with nature is what we put in our design in a permaculture garden.
How to plan, design and put into action high-yield survival garden that will literally keep you and your family fed for life. Put into action here.
Principles of Permaculture
Permaculture Principle 1
Observe and Interact
The landscape and all the species assemblies form the very basic design in a permaculture garden. It determines how and where these elements should be placed for maximum benefits to the land.
Take your time to study and observe your land, so that you can have the best designs that would bring out the best in the environment. Look for patterns with a protracted period of observations. From there you can design a system that will take advantage of its natural abilities.
What did you observe? The topography, water, soils, climate, people, wind, vegetation, fire and wildlife. How does it influence your design?
By taking time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.
Permaculture Principle 2
Catch and Store Energy
“Make hay while the sun shines.” This is most appropriate in developing our designs so that we should collect and protect our useful resources during peak abundance so that we make use of them in times of need.
The term – stored energy is not necessary from electricity or from wind energy, but stored water represents also a form of potential energy in the form of irrigation water. Our forest also has an abundance of trees and twigs which can be used as building materials, nutrients, fuel and water. Capture the wind and the flowing water and turn them into electrical energy. This principle teaches us to capture what is in abundance and store it for future uses. Learn about Permaculture here.
Permaculture Principle 3
Obtain A Yield
“You reap what you sow” rightly described that you’ll truly receive useful rewards from the fruits of your hard work but not otherwise.
This principle promotes self-reliance and your systems to give the optimum yield or returns. For example, choose the right type of tree or vegetable to plant in a location. Choose one which has greater and more diverse yields over an ornamental plant which are mostly grown for decorative purposes and landscape designs projects.
Yields are not necessary foods, they can be anything useful like trees trunk for building material, wood or fuel; animals excretion for fertilizers or earthworms for soil aeration. Surely, when you have abundance yields around you is truly security.
Permaculture Principle 4
Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback
After you have designed and plan your garden, let it survive on its own. But you don’t just sit back idyllic and watch your plants grow. You have to commit yourself the number of hours of participation in your garden and stick to it. Self-regulation also involves how much you limit yourself to spend on your garden.
If you followed your plan of work and you observed that certain part of the plan is not working out as expected, you have to make adjustments and apply a new level of self-regulation and repeat the whole process.
Design is a continuous process and would never end. The system needs tweaking, modify, let it run and repeat. Never at any moment think you have a perfect system, we have to accept feedback, learn from our successes as well as mistakes is imperative. This will helps us to know what makes a better choice and what doesn’t.
Permaculture Principle 5
Use and Value Renewable Resources
Permaculture designs make use of natural processes and make the best use of renewable resources in managing our gardens to main high yielding systems. We should use with care and our reduce our consumptive behaviour on the dependence on non-renewable resources.
Even if we were consuming renewable resources, for example, cutting of trees for building materials, ask yourself how many can we take without damaging the woodlands. Is there a replanting plan in place?
Renewable resources will soon deplete itself if they are misused. Value your renewable resources, like water and use them prudently and design your garden wisely so that it takes advantage of the topography of the land to irrigate other parts of your gardens. This could mean having an orchard downslope from the water source and let it drift downslope. This is where you care for your plants and animals live and breed. If we are responsible and careful enough, you can have these renewable resources in perpetuity.
Permaculture Principle 6
Produce No Waste
Nature doesn’t produce waste. The waste from one organism is food for another and this is how mutually inclusive the web of life in a closed system.
The premature design seeks to minimize waste, human labour. For example, all food scraps are giving back to the soil for compositing. This means we don’t have to use soil conditioners to enrich the soil anymore.
Understanding your waste streams and design your closed system appropriately. If you cannot manage of made use of one waste stream, just don’t use it. You can’t use plastic to use as fertilizer and can only reuse or recycle them for other use, for example, as flower pots, pipes for drains or for the collection of water. By valuing and making use of all the resources in your garden available to us, nothing goes to waste.
The same principle also inculcates in us never to waste human resources, like having people in doing any hazardous and meaningless works.
Permaculture Principle 7
Design From Patterns to Details
Sometimes, when we are caught up with the details of the design, we forgot to look at the “Big Picture.” Permaculture aims to help you to think about the overall plan by using a number of design methods. The “big picture” relates to what are we trying to achieve.
By stepping backwards, we can observe the patterns found in the natural world and is a source of inspiration for permaculture. This can be used in our designs, with the details filled up as we progress forward.
It means, we can get the overall feel of your project on how the topography, climate, ecology and watershed can interact with the land and community in a regenerative way, and then we can design our systems based on that.
Permaculture Principle 8
Intergrate Rather Than Segregate
“Many hands make light work.” Integration rather than segregate is the true principle in permaculture. You can see a mass of coexistence, connections and relationships here for a vibrant system. The needs of one sector are supplied by another and vice versa.
For example, the food from permaculture might be supplied by a diversity of main crops and various livestock, small or large. If anyone source is unable to provide, they are multiple sources which can take its place. So, it provides security as well as resilience against a fail system.
In the industrial and conventional system of farming, for example, chicken and eggs farming, there is only one yield – chicken or egg. They are mass produce to the extent that they pollute the environment and cause the excessive usage of water or other non-regenerative natural resources. In a permaculture system, we promote no wastage. The input came from renewable resources and the yield can be input to another. The chickens and eggs are food for humans, whereas the chicken’s excreta will provide to the compost. Learn how to build your own chicken coop from my other blog.
Good Connection Between Parts
In order for this cooperation to exist, permaculture system has this close proximity in mind in its design. There must have a good connection between the different parts of the system. Rainwater or catchment area should be near the plants, and the livestock is placed near the growing bed to supply the fertilizer, and the herbs are planted at the back door for easy picking.
Permaculture culture is putting the right things in the right place so that they can develop relationships between those sectors for them to work together as a whole rather than in parts. The more integration they are, the more resilient and productive will your system becomes. This has to do with the community as well.
Permaculture Principle 9
Use Small and Slow Solutions
Permaculture favours making better use of local resources, over a big scale which are harder to maintain. The system should be designed to function at a practical and energy-efficient way.
“The bigger they are the harder they fall,” which means that a larger system with is erroneously built will be difficult to be rectified and are wasting resources. A smaller-scale is adaptive to local needs, respect of nature, and are able to see the consequences of actions.
When you start small, it is easier to control. You can always expand your scope or parameter once you have achieved results. Don’t take on everything quickly at the same time, as you are likely to be overwhelmed.
Use and Value Diversity
If you don’t have diversity, you will only plant one crop, and rear livestock or animals that look the same. The plant will ripen at the same time, and you would easily harvest them. You will spray the paddock to get ready to plant the same crop. This is the conventional agriculture concept where herbicide is used to kill everything in the paddock after each harvest. This is monocultural and it is anti-diversity in nature. It does not bring anything beneficial to the land except to kill it.
You can put in practice diversity in the garden by planting more edible plants and fewer flower plants and also letting most plants go to seed. This will encourages beneficial insects to pollinate and predators to feed on the nectar, hence reduces pest from manifesting in the garden.
Multi cropping reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and can act as an insurance policy – if one crop would fail, another may succeed.
Permaculture Principle 11
Use Edges and Value the Marginal
The icon for the 11th permaculture system is the sun rising over the hills and the foreground shows a river shows us a world composed of edges. You may hear of this proverb “don’t think you are on the right track just because of its a well-beaten path.” This tells us that no matter how popular is it, it may not be the best approach.
The edges mean that where two ecosystem or habitats meet, like a meadow and the forest meet, something magical does happen. Each habitat presents its own species making it more vibrant than it is on each own.
The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.
You can add edible hedgerows around the animal paddocks, and along the road; bamboo down the pond, which will be sub-irrigated by water that seeps down. The edges and margins are great locations to add more productive species or habitat zones. And you can use them to create further layers of productivity. If the edges are the most productive bit in the woodland, plan around it in your design.
Permaculture Principle 12
Creativity Use and Respond to Change
There is always be changes, it’s inevitable and unavoidable. Weather change, temperature change, there are floods, there is draught, there are diseases. These are examples of factors that you are not able to take control, but you can work around it and adapt and innovate.
Creativity is key when something has not become the norm. anymore. We have to respond to change on what our resources can do for you or ask your community support for help.
When you notice that the orchards and hedgerows are growing in, and the forest soils growing spongier from mushroom inoculation, and the soils are building up from the animal rotation, and water has begun to move much more slowly down the hillside.
So much so, that this area at the bottom of the hill is becoming somewhat a marsh. That’s not what you’ve planned for though, but you are going to creatively use that change and carve out some low areas that’ll stay really wet, which you can use to grow edible wetland plants, and then simultaneously build up these peninsulas, full of edge to grow productive trees which will get their roots down in the water table. That’s creativity, unplanned, in time of change.
How to plan, design and put into action high-yield survival garden that will literally keep you and your family fed for life. Put into action here
When you’re first getting acquainted with permaculture, there’s enough information out there to easily become overwhelmed. Buy the book on permaculture.
It’s hard to figure out for yourself what your priorities should be, and what needs to be done in which order.
How to plan, design and put into action high-yield survival garden that will literally keep you and your family fed for life. Put into action here
“When God created the Garden Of Eden, She became the first permaculturalistKang Kijarro Nguyen
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