So, what is permaculture? Some definitions and writings from the internet:
What is Permaculture?
- Permaculture is an innovative framework for creating sustainable ways of living.
- It is a practical method of developing ecologically harmonious, efficient and productive systems that can be used by anyone, anywhere.
This is the essence of permaculture - the design of an ecologically sound way of living - in our households, gardens, communities and businesses. It is created by cooperating with nature and caring for the earth and its people.
Permaculture is not exclusive - its principles and practice can be used by anyone, anywhere:
- City flats, yards and window boxes
- Suburban and country houses/garden
- Allotments and smallholdings
- Community spaces
- Farms and estates
- Countryside and conservation areas
- Commercial and industrial premises
- Educational establishments
- Waste ground
Writer Emma Chapman defines it as:
"Permaculture, originally 'Permanent Agriculture', is often viewed as a set of gardening techniques, but it has in fact developed into a whole design philosophy, and for some people a philosophy for life. Its central theme is the creation of human systems which provide for human needs, but using many natural elements and drawing inspiration from natural ecosystems. Its goals and priorities coincide with what many people see as the core requirements for sustainability."
Permaculture tackles how to grow food, build houses and create communities, and minimise environmental impact at the same time. Its principles are being constantly developed and refined by people throughout the world in very different climates and cultural circumstances.
What is permaculture?
In this lesson you will learn:
- One definition of permaculture
- The term permaculture has many definitions
- The origin of permaculture
- Who is practicing permaculture
Bill Mollison (from the permaculture.net website)
This definition of permaculture expresses a basic concept in permaculture - examining and following nature's patterns. Permaculture advocates designing human systems based on natural ecosystems. But, there are many other definitions of permaculture, just as there are many definitions of sustainable living.
The term permaculture is a contraction of the words "permanent," "agriculture,” and “culture.” Although the original focus of permaculture was sustainable food production, the philosophy of permaculture has expanded over time to encompass economic and social systems. It is a dynamic movement that is still evolving. For example, some practitioners are integrating spirituality and personal growth work into the framework of permaculture.
What is the origin of permaculture?Permaculture was created in the 1970's by Bill Mollison, an Australian ecologist and University of Tasmania professor. He had spent many years out in nature as a wildlife biologist observing how natural systems work and became very distressed at the destruction that he saw going on around him. He decided that instead of being angry about what was happening and reacting against the destruction he wanted to work on creating a positive solution And he thought the solution would be living based on the patterns he had observed in nature.
By observing nature, Mollison came up with several important insights. He observed that natural systems, such as forests and wetlands, are sustainable. They provide for their own energy needs and recycle their own wastes. He also observed that all the different parts of a natural ecosystem work together. Each component of the system performs important tasks. For example, bees help to pollinate, birds provide pest control, certain plants pull nitrogen out of the air and fix it into a form that other plants can use. So everything does useful work. He applied these and other insights to design and create sustainable agricultural systems.
In the 1970's he and his student David Holmgren wrote and published some books explaining his ideas. In the 1980s he published his design manual and started teaching permaculture design courses to spread his ideas around the world. By the 1990s permaculture had started spreading throughout the US, although it's more well-known in other countries around the world. To this day, it's continuing to grow as a global grassroots movement and people primarily learn about it through permaculture design courses and workshops that generally happen outside of academia.
Who is practicing permaculture?Besides permaculture practitioners who study and learn about permaculture and consciously use permaculture to live in a more sustainable way, there are many people who practice permaculture without realizing it – concerned environmentalists, organic gardeners, conservationists, land use planners, urban activists, recyclers, indigenous peoples and anyone working toward creating a sustainable human civilization. The reason for this is that the philosophy of permaculture draws on a lot of ideas and practices that have been around for a long time.
Have you heard the terms ecological design, sustainable design, applied ecology or green design? These are other terms that describe the basic philosophy of using nature as a model to foster sustainability. The difference between these approaches and permaculture is their scope and focus. Permaculture draws on these systems and incorporates them into a broader framework. Permaculture is a comprehensive system that can be applied to all aspects of one's life although food production remains an important focus. As mentioned earlier, it is a dynamic, living philosophy which is continuing to evolve.
How can you practice permaculture?
|Because permaculture is a comprehensive, dynamic system it can be practiced in different ways and at different levels. To help you begin to use permaculture in your life, the rest of this course will present (1) the ethics - the philosophical core of permaculture, (2) some principles - guidelines for applying permaculture, (3) strategies - goals to help you focus as you apply permaculture, and (4) techniques - concrete ways that you can apply permaculture. |
You, too, can become a permaculture practitioner!
Gardening + Permaculture
Like all gardeners, permaculture enthusiasts love plants for their beauty and fragrance, but they seek out plants that offer practical benefits along with aesthetic satisfaction. Instead of a border of flowering shrubs, for instance, a permaculture site would make use of a raspberry or blackberry border.
Disease-prone plants, such as hybrid tea roses, and plants requring a lot of water or pampering are not good permaculture candidates. Choose a native persimmon tree that doesn’t need spraying and pruning, for example, instead of a high-upkeep peach tree. Consider the natural inclinations of your site, along with the needs of its inhabitants, and put as much of your site as possible to use. Work with the materials already available rather than trucking in topsoil or stone. And remember that a permaculture design is never finished because the plants within a site are always changing.
There is no set formula for developing this type of design, but there are best practices.
1. Copy nature’s blueprint and enhance it with useful plants and animals. Think of the structure of a forest and try to mimic it with your plantings. A canopy of tall trees will give way to smaller ones, flanked by large and small shrubs and, finally, by the smallest plants. Edge habitats, where trees border open areas, are perfect for fruiting shrubs, such as currants, and for a variety of useful native plants, such as beargrass (xerophyllum tenax), which is used for weaving baskets. Mimicking these natural patterns provides for the greatest diversity of plants.
2. Stack plants into guilds. A guild includes plants with compatible roots and canopies that might be layered to form an edge. As you learn more about your site, you’ll discover groups of plants that work well together. For example, pines, dogwoods, and wild blueberries form a guild for acid soil.
3. Make use of native plants and others adapted to the site.
4. Divide your yard into zones based on use. Place heavily used features, such as an herb garden, in the most accessible zones.
5. Identify microclimates in your yard and use them appropriately. Cold, shady corners; windswept spots in full sun; and other microclimates present unique opportunities. For instance, try sun-loving herbs like creeping thyme on rocky outcroppings; plant elderberries in poorly drained areas.
Permaculture designers are now working to conceptualize and create whole communities that embody permaculture concepts. If permaculture intrigues you, there is a wealth of online resources. Try Permaculture Institute, Edible Forest Gardens, and Crazy Rooster Farm as a start.
Difference Between Organic Gardening and Permaculture
The Permaculture garden is a lot more than an organic garden.
What’s the difference between Organic Farming and Permaculture?Basically, Permaculture uses organic gardening and farming practices but it goes beyond these practices and integrates the garden and home to create a lifestyle that impacts less on the environment.
Organic Farming promotes the use of natural fertilisers, making use of the natural carbon cycle so that waste from plants becomes the food (fertiliser) of another. In organic farming however, as with ALL farming, minerals are being lost from the farm every time a truck load of produce is carted to market.
Permaculture goes one step further. Permaculture brings production of food closer to consumers and the consumer’s wastes back into the cycle. It also reduces the energy wasted in transporting the foods by producing the foods where the people are. In permaculture the people contribute in their daily life toward the production of their food and other needs.