The word permaculture is often met with a sense of some kind of hip fad like raising alpacas or making your own yogurt. Permaculture has been around for nearly 50 years and is in a sense an evolution of organic gardening which was introduced into American backyards in the 1940’s. Organic gardening proposed a means to grow food without chemicals while working with nature instead of against it. (Remember, the chemical revolution created by military research during WWII transposed its formulas and its mass of leftover compounds into the green revolution in American Agriculture.) Permaculture took the organic concept to a refined concept that not only focused on growing food naturally but considered the overall effects of agricultural practices on our planet as a whole.
Permaculture is a symbiotic relationship between everything that exists as it is. Where changes, new ideas, or even the decision to leave some things the same are based on the beneficial attributes of each component as a part of the whole. Permaculture is all about finding ways to maximize the health and well-being of the entire ecosystem in a way that creates an environment for life to thrive for years to come. In nature this concept works within the natural functionality of your soil to increase both the health of the soil and the health of your garden, rather than altering your soil and the landscape in a way that depletes the health of the soil long term.
“Siting at our back doorsteps, all we need to live a good life lies about us. Sun, wind, people, buildings, stones, sea, birds and plants surround us. Cooperation with all these things brings harmony, opposition to them brings disaster and chaos” ~ Bill Mollison
Whether you have a city lot or a hundred acres, it’s that time of year– Ready, Set, GARDEN!
Permaculture Concepts in Action– The following are some of many ways we can work with nature instead of against nature.
Rain Barrels– Set below the gutters of the home and or shed, these barrels can become quickly filled with rain water for the garden and animals.
Composting– Composting unusable food, compostable paper items, even coffee grounds will add much needed nutrients to the garden versus adding more waste to the landfills. Be sure to process compost before adding to garden soil.
No-Till– This option reduces how much watering is needed, erosion and weeds. It also retains the healthy nutrients in the top of the existing soil that tilling removes. In simple terms, creating layers of mulch in the garden will allow for planting without breaking out the tiller.
Mixing up Annuals and Perennials– Most vegetables are annuals. Having a few perennials in the garden will help with a naturally occurring source of mulch and add nutrients to the soil.
Plant pairing– Knowing how plants benefit each other will increase yield and decrease pests!
Go Non-GMO– Non-genetically modified plants have strong natural defenses against many of causes of plant loss. If purchasing plants be sure to ask if they are systemically treated with any chemicals. Heirloom plants will typically thrive in any garden and are plenty fun to grow! (Who doesn’t get giddy about purple carrots and cucumbers that look like lemons?)
Embrace Edges– Nature automatically responds to disturbed soil by attempting to repair
it with native plants (we often call weeds) so that it will once again become the forest or prairie it is meant to be. Those weeds support the soil and provide food for pollinators and often birds. Keeping your garden well mulched will immensely aid in reducing the ability of unwanted plants to take root.
The Design Zones-
Zone 1– Directly around the home. This region is best used for growing plants that need regular maintenance such as vegetable and herb gardens. Being close to the house you will be more likely to stay on top of watering, keep up on mulch and harvest ripe food.
Zone 2– This is the area best used for keeping animals that need consistent care such as chickens and for growing food that requires less attention such as fruit trees.
Zone 3– These further-out less traversed areas are perfect for crops and more independent animals such as cattle or sheep.
Zone 4- The wild zone. The places of hunting and gathering. The woods, creeks, and forests provide even us humans with a consistent source of food nearly year-round.
Zone 5– The edges between boundaries. Places seldom trod. Undisturbed nature in its native state. These areas are often nature’s most sacred places allowing a world without any human intervention to thrive.
Audrey L Elder
Living Life Outside of the Box