What is it?
The production of food and other human needs sustainably, using general principles adapted to specific situations.
Why do it?
- Permaculture is positive action that can be done by little people to counter big global problems, such as global warming, loss of biodiversity, pollution, degradation of soil & water, social unrest due to exploitative practices. It’s a way of boycotting powerful, destructive organisations like supermarket chains, energy companies and corrupt governments.
- Individual resource security in times of increasing vulnerability to swinging economic and climactic variability.
- It’s the good life. Eating home grown organic food dirt cheap is healthy and rewarding.
- If you don’t, it’s unsustainable. All the unproductive, unforested land around developed areas is robbing other species of habitat twice. Once because they can no longer live where you do. Twice because further habitat will be removed to farm the resources you consume.
Some permaculture principles:
- Occupy the least possible amount of land and return excess land back to nature. Drive through any typical Australian town or city and you’ll see an ecological wasteland of lawn & exotics, and nothing to eat. Consider the resources this landscape demands.
- Space efficient planning (the zone plan), with the most time consuming crops as close as practicable to the kitchen, spreading out in concentric circles of crops/ animals in increasing independence and size.
- Observe nature and mimic it to produce what we need. e.g. In areas where forests grow naturally, produce food using the elements of a forest (mulch, shelter, diversity) or go all the way and stack the crops in a forest like structure. Nature is kind of messy although look harder and it has a beautiful kind of order in its own way. If you fight the messiness of nature in your garden, you’re in for a lot of extra work.
- The deliberate arrangement of elements for mutual benefit. e.g. water tank overflow and waste water strategically directed to thirsty, hungry crops.
- Diversity of crops provides more even food supply for self sufficiency, insurance against failure of one crop and avoids pest build up.
- Plant stacking. e.g. a productive shrub, ground cover and vine can all occupy the same area. This saves space, improves microclimate and more efficiently cycles nutrient & water.
- Use biological resources e.g. organic matter or on site manure for fertilizer. Plants, insects and small birds for pest control. There is a controversial side issue here in that some permaculture gardeners will tolerate certain weeds in certain situations. Either they havent gotten around to weeding yet or the presence of the weed actually increases productivity because of the ecosystem services (soil protection, predatory insect habitat, organic matter increase) provided.
- Create productive microclimates. Stressed plants and animals are less productive than sheltered, comfortable ones. A diversity of microclimates allows for a diversity of crops.
- Observe, experiment and adapt. Your garden has to evolve around you and the individual situation.