A Primer on Permaculture

A Primer on Permaculture - Garden Naturally!

In our recent blog post, we briefly mentioned a special method of natural gardening called permaculture. As promised, here is a little more information about the concept.

When you’re polishing your favorite piece of furniture or oiling your beloved baseball glove you go with the grain.  You follow the direction of the wood and leather. Permaculture is that same concept, only where gardening and farming are concerned. Instead of trying to make the land yield to your desires, you use the land in its natural state. That creates harmony and just like in music, it’s a beautiful exercise.

What is Permaculture?

By definition, permaculture is a method of agricultural ecosystems that are developed with the intention of thriving sustainably and self-sufficiently. It’s all about working with nature, not against it.

There are 12 Permaculture Principles:

  1. Observe and interact
  2. Catch and store energy
  3. Obtain a yield
  4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback
  5. Use and value renewable resources/services
  6. Produce no waste
  7. Design from patterns to details
  8. Integrate rather than segregate
  9. 9 Use small and slow solutions
  10. Use value and diversity
  11. Use edges and value the marginal
  12. Creatively use and respond to change

Why is this a thing? Why should I care?

Because you and Yogi aren’t the only animals in the forest, Boo Boo. Yes, you have a right to cultivate the land and use it to feed yourself and your family. But you are also a steward of the earth and as such, you have a responsibility to use the land properly and remain as environmentally friendly as possible. You use the land, but so do the creatures who live in the soil and the animals who feed on the creatures in the soil and the animals who feed on the animals that feed on the creatures in the soil and so on and so forth. In other words, respect the circle of life as Mufasa requested.

Okay, okay I get it. So how do I do that?

It’s easy and hard at the same time. The easy part is recognizing that every piece of land has a best use. The hard (but rewarding) part is figuring out what that best use is. But if you’re willing to do the work, the fruits of your labor will be a bountiful harvest that actually takes very little effort to grow.

Step One: Learn the Lay of the Land

Find out what type of soil you’re dealing with. You can take samples to your local science lab or extension office and they can help you analyze the soil. You can learn what nutrients is has, what is lacking and the kinds of vegetation that is natural to that ground. Bring along any vegetation and grass that you can include in your sample, this will help the experts with the analysis. You can also use the simple jar method instead:

Permaculture - Soil Type Jar Testing How To Test Your Backyard Soil

Step Two: Enrich—But Do Not Alter—the Soil

Once you have a soil analysis and know what grows best, do what you need to do to enrich the soil. Only environmentally friendly methods should be used such as composting or mineral enhancements. No chemicals or unnatural methods should be used. You want to make the soil as compatible as possible with the natural vegetation.

Kirsty Hall - Compost Sign

Image credit: Kirsty Hall

Step Three: Plant Accordingly

We all grew up thinking farms and gardens are long, neat rows that are an equal distance apart. But with permaculture design, those traditional concepts can fly out the window. Just like with the furniture and the baseball glove, plant with the grain of the land. Follow the natural terrain. Your lettuce doesn’t care if it’s three inches in front of its neighbor plant. It will just care that it has room to thrive and grow in a natural environment. Same for your tomatoes, spinach, or whatever else you plant.

Tony Hirtenstein - The Herb Spiral

Image credit: Tony Hirtenstein

Helpful Hint: Keep Our Companion Planting Chart Handy!

We’ve put together this detailed companion planting guide you can use year-round to grow an edible garden at home. Save it to your Pinterest board for later, or print it and take it to your local garden center to make shopping for plants fast and simple.

Companion Planting Chart

This is just a little insight into permaculture principles. Remember, when you are ready to put your new knowledge about this old concept into practice, we have the right garden supplies to help you create the best natural garden possible. Shovels and rakes, watering tools and systems, raised beds and other plant containers are available to help get you on your way. Gather your tools and get started or check out our helpful Companion Planting Chart>

ref: Permaculture Principles

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