Permaculture is the idea that if you take the time to study the relationships between different natural systems you can design a way to use their ecosystem sustainably each year to produce a yield. Overtime, you will improve the functionality of each system or natural resource and have them cooperating to create a working environment that lives off the least amount of energy possible. Permaculture approaches can be used in creating small urban gardens to large farms or entire communities.
Most permaculturists share three main values. Earthcare, which recognizes that humans are a part of the Earth, not apart from it. It advocates the use of land without damage and exploitation that can lead to all types of negative effects like pollution, disease and soil erosion. Peoplecare is the belief that we should all be supporting one another and helping each other live in safe, healthy and sustainable societies. Also, fairshare means consuming less and finding smarter ways to use Earth’s natural resources.
When using permaculture gardening you will have re-created or designed your garden to such a degree that each year is practically maintenance free and producing a variety of different fruits and vegetables in a clean, natural and sustainable way. It may take several seasons before you have a fully functioning garden, one where each plant benefits and relies on another and no waste is created that can’t be used in some way.
A popular permaculture garden is called a food forest. This type of garden will have at least three of seven possible layers of food plants. Starting from the ground up there is the Root Layer, the Ground Cover Layer, the Herb Layer, the Shrub Layer, the Vine Layer, the Short Tree Layer to finally the Tall Tree Layer. Most of the plants used are perennials because they require less labour and do not harm the land in any way making them the perfect low energy consumer. A perennial is any type of tree, shrub or small plant that will grow back each year without any unnatural intervention.
Every permaculturist will have different problems to overcome and different relationships existing between their plant life. That is why the principles of permaculture should be followed no matter what situation arises.
Some techniques that may overlap within each food forest or small scale permaculture garden would be water collection and redistribution, passive solar energy techniques as well as composting waste and making your own organic soil. The use of animals such as chickens for pest control and worms for soil aeration are also common.
Whatever your taste, wherever your land, permaculture is a way of life that will benefit you for all your days. Each year learning new wonders and solving new problems to sustain a manageable and hardy garden you can enjoy for a lifetime. -KATIE FLYNN