Permaculture is a lifestyle philosophy based on the creation of a permanent and self-sustaining agriculture. A Permaculture garden seeks to create a habitat as much as a garden. That habitat is one where animals, insects, and micro-organisms work together in harmony.
Permaculture (permanent agriculture) is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way. Without permanent agriculture there is no possibility of a stable social order.
From Permaculture Research Institute of Australia
Permaculture gardening encourages “stacking functions” or multiple purposes. A permaculture garden is not just about food production. It is, also, about growing medicinal crops and flowers for use or sale, creating wildlife habitat, and materials for homemaking. Permaculture gardening also seeks to create an attractive and relaxing atmosphere.
Photo courtesy of amberdc at Flickr.com.
Permaculture gardens tend to be small and very efficient. They utilize “vertical gardening” methods (growing on trellises and in hanging baskets) and seek to maximize the use of space by creating more edges. One method used by permaculture gardeners is the keyhole garden. That is, instead of creating a square garden or raised bed you would instead create a number of horseshoe-shaped beds not wider than the length of your arm.
Keyhole gardens are generally raised beds and are rarely, if ever, dug up. Continually “feed” your garden by top-dressing it with compost and mulch (to retain moisture). Permaculture encourages the creation of healthy soils wherein worms and micro-organisms do the hard work for you.
gardens use techniques and practices that combine the best of wildlife gardening, edible landscaping, and native-plant cultivation into one low-maintenance, self-contained and productive ecosystem.
Nothing ever goes to waste in a permaculture garden. Compost all organic matter and then use the compost as fertilizer. You may want to consider the creation of a small pond to encourage insects, frogs, and other wildlife. Chickens might also run free in your garden, eating bad insects and fertilizing the soil. A permaculture garden is intended to require less maintenance once established. It should, for the most part, take care of itself if designed properly.
Photo courtesy of keira at Flickr.com.
Permaculture design encourages you to do some intensive observation of your possible garden site well before planting. You should note the summer and winter sun angles, the prevailing winds and the degree of slope on the potential garden site. You may even want to take note of any views that you want to keep or screen out. You’ll want to use this information to shade out hot summer sun while at the same time allowing in warming winter light.
Winds can be very damaging to a vegetable garden. So, you’ll want to use your observations to plan windbreaks that will shield strong winds. Permaculture also thinks in terms of “zones” with the garden being places in Zone 1, the areas most easily accessible from your house. In other words, don’t put your garden way out in the “back forty”. Instead, put it along the paths you use to walk to and from your car every day!