Permaculture principles refer to a lifestyle philosophy that is based on creating a self sustaining and permanent agriculture. It was started in the early 1970s in Australia by Bill Molisson and David Holmgren after witnessing the destruction of natural systems by humans. They analyzed how ecosystems work and what keeps them in balance (self sustainability). A permaculture garden aims at creating a habitat and not just a garden as such. This garden sustains itself by establishing a closed ecosystem in which each and every element plays a major role towards continuation of self reliance.
Permaculture – A Quiet Revolution
The ecosystem created in permaculture gardens requires very little maintenance. Besides this, it is also meant to disturb the earth as little as possible. These gardens are not limited to one function but are meant for different purposes. They employ practices and techniques that combine the best of edible landscaping, native-plant cultivation and wildlife gardening in order to establish a productive ecosystem.
Successful gardens provide organic food and medicinal crops, crafting materials, wildlife habitats, attractive appearance as well as a relaxing atmosphere. The food is produced by planting a variety of vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers. Moreover, the flowers are not planted for food production but also to be used as cut flowers for beautiful bouquets. The other plant materials are used for making crafted materials.
Since these gardens require very little maintenance, you are advised to plant different plants that serve different purposes for instance, a few herbs known to deter pests, a few flowers that attract insects, some plant varieties that improve soil and lastly a few vegetables and fruits for your own consumption. However, make sure that you choose plant varieties that grow well together and are able to harmonize with one another.
You must also be aware that nothing in this type of garden goes to waste. Everything is recycled since it is a self sustaining ecosystem. Compost any organic matter available and use it as fertilizer. Experts say that you may also create a small water pond near the garden to encourage frogs, insects and other wildlife. You may also allow chicken to run around the garden eating bad insects as well as fertilizing the soil.
Starting a Permaculture Garden
Since the concept behind this gardening practice is to develop sustainable agriculture, you must be able to make the best choices before thinking of establishing one. By nature, permaculture gardens are generally small and hence every inch must be utilized wisely and productively. When starting this garden, the following factors must be considered:
The Location for a Self Sustaining Garden
Where you set up this type of garden determines the amount of success you will reap. It’s good to choose three areas and then observe each of them three times a day, morning, afternoon and in the evening before finally picking one of them. Ensure that the area you choose receives moderate amount of sunshine all day long. Little or excess sunshine will ruin your plants by either hindering their growth or making them to wither. Secondly, the area should not have strong winds since this can break the tall trees and hence destroy the whole garden. Thirdly, make sure that the place you select has easy access to water as the garden might need watering in its early stages.
Water Usage in Your Garden
You must find the best way on how your garden will utilize as little water as possible. Set up a rain barrel under your roof’s gutter to tap rain water for irrigating your garden.
Choose the Right Plants
Always remember that your garden must have what is called self sustainability in order to qualify to be called a permaculture garden. When choosing plants, it’s good to make sure that they can tolerate one another. In addition, the plants must live in harmony with one another. Avoid planting disease prone plants like hybrid tea roses or those that need a lot of watering. Choose native plants that do not need spraying or regular pruning. Also, it’s recommended to choose plants that are native to you area for easy adaptation.
Other Permaculture Principles to Include:
Planting perennial plants in order to strengthen the ecosystem day by day and for a long time, building a pond to attract birds and frog which aid in pest control, using organic soil in creation of beds and then seed them, adding a 6 inch of mulch over the seeded beds and lastly building a compost pile for enhancing the soil nutrients.
- Gardening and Recycling Methods Used in Small Permaculture Gardens: For now, you know that the permaculture principle creates a self sustaining environment, don’t you? However, to ensure and enforce this sustainability for a long time, the following gardening and recycling methods must be put practice.
- Edible Gardening and Companion Planting: Edible gardening include; herbs, fruits, herbs and edible flowers. They are usually planted closer to companion plantings in the garden.
- Raised Beds and Vertical Techniques: Since these gardens are usually small in size, then every inch of the garden must be put into maximum use. Raised beds occupy very little room, drain easily, are more accessible and create attractive scenery. Vertical gardening on the other hand involves growing plants on hanging baskets and trellises.
- Keyhole Gardening: This is a creative pattern in gardens that define edges as well as increase productivity. The beds in this pattern are horseshoe shaped and made in small sizes for quick accessibility. Keyhole gardens can also be made in a circular manner where the center houses a small pond and shrubs.
- Sheet Mulching: This is a great way of enriching the oil by using weed barriers. Instead of tilling up the soil, a cardboard or a wet newspaper may be applied to the area. After sometime, they eventually breakdown and then allow water and plant rots enter the soil. To define the path of the keyhole, you should put a new layer of organic mulch on top while on its outer edges put a compost layer around the plants.
- Soil and Composting: You must have soil that is rich in nutrients in order to have a well brought up ecosystem. After harvesting your vegetables, cut the stems down to the ground and leave them to compost. They will also develop worms which are essential in loosening the soil and turning it for proper aeration.
Making Plans for Your Permaculture Garden
When planning this garden, you should think; which plants will you be visiting the most? Which will need regular tending? With this in mind, you need to divide the garden in terms of zones such that the one that have to be visited the most are closer to the house while the ones that require least attention are far away.