Applying Permaculture Principles in the Garden

Permaculture is a design system, derived from the term 'permanent agriculture' though it has come not to be more commonly defined as 'permanent culture'. The core principles of this system can be a great help when thinking about and working in your garden. Below is a brief guide to the twelve core principles of Permaculture and how to implement them in practical ways in your garden.

  1. Observe and interact.

Take the time to consider your garden before choosing a new plant or planting scheme. Where does the sunlight fall? Which areas are in shade and when? Where are frost pockets or very sheltered spots?

  1. Catch and store energy.

Store rainwater in butts for later watering use. Perhaps you could even consider solar panels or a wind turbine?

  1. Obtain a yield.

All gardens can be beautiful, but it is good and sensible to make one that can also provide for you and your household. Consider turning at least part of your outside space into a productive food forest or vegetable beds.

  1. Apply self-regulation and feedback.

If something is not working in your garden, you should try to figure out why. Take advice, listen, learn. Change when change is needed.

  1. Use and value renewable resources and services.

Sunlight, wind, water, plant life, all are renewable resources that you can use to the advantage of you, your friends and neighbours and the planet. Work in harmony with nature, save water, use sensible systems.

  1. Produce no waste.

Create a compost heap in your garden, consider a hot composter or wormery for kitchen scraps. Do not take cuttings to the dump or put them in a garden waste bin – return the surplus to the system and make use of them as mulches or composts. Weeds can make a plant feed. Recycle household rubbish for planting.

  1. Design from patterns to details.

Think about the big picture before you get caught up in tiny details about exactly which plant to put where.

  1. Integrate rather than segregate.

Do not plant big blocks or rows of one crop or plant, mingle them and companion plant to reduce pests and disease. Consider coming together to create gardens not just for yourself but for your community.

  1. Use small and slow solutions.

Do not be hasty or impatient. Nature often takes its time. Think long term and you will create a garden that will delight and provide for years to come.

  1. Use and value diversity.

Diversity in plant life decreasing pests and disease risks and increases visual interest. Diversity of wildlife in your garden benefits the planet and species that share it with us and can be fun to watch too.

  1. Use edges and value the marginal.

Consider how every corner of your garden can be used. Do not allow wasted space and value those most productive places where one habitat meets another, like on a forest edge.

  1. Creatively use and respond to change.

Look at how your garden and how you interact with it change as it grows and as the seasons past. Connect with your patch of land and be creative and flexible when it comes to how you use it.

Meditate on the twelve design principles yourself – how can you follow them in your own garden?