Higher topic: Gardening
Underlying topic(s):

Plants and animals
Topic in Gardening courses. By John Eagles.

Permaculture is an ecological design system for sustainability in all aspects of human endeavor. It teaches us how build natural homes, grow our own food, restore diminished landscapes and ecosystems, catch rainwater, build communities and much more.[1]

The word 'permaculture' is composed from the Latin words 'permanens' (persistent) and 'cultura' (household). The concept was developed in the 1970s by Bill Mollison[2] and David Holmgren[3] at the University of Tasmania.

Permaculture was developed to find solutions for the many problems caused by industrial monoculture farming. In Australia, desertification, soil erosion, pollution of groundwater by fertilizer use, overuse of pesticides and crop diseases in monoculture are widespread problems.

The 12 permaculture design principles

Permaculturists generally keep a set of 12 design principles[4]. More information about these design principles can be found here.[5]

  1. Observe and interact: By taking time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.
  2. Catch and store energy: By developing systems that collect resources at peak abundance, we can use them in times of need.
  3. Obtain a yield: Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the work that you are doing.
  4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback: We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well.
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services: Make the best use of nature's abundance to reduce our consumptive behavior and dependence on non-renewable resources.
  6. Produce no waste: By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.
  7. Design from patterns to details: By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.
  8. Integrate rather than segregate: By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other.
  9. Use small and slow solutions: Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and producing more sustainable outcomes.
  10. Use and value diversity: Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.
  11. Use edges and value the marginal: The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.
  12. Creatively use and respond to change: We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing, and then intervening at the right time.

Seven Permaculture Layers

The seven layers of the forest garden

Permaculturists distinguish seven (sometimes eight) different layers in the natural environment. Permaculture utilizes the layers to maximise the overall food production for human benefit.[6]

  1. Canopy layer: This is the uppermost layer of taller trees. In small gardens it is more difficult to incorporate this layer. Fruit and nut trees are good examples of this layer. The canopy layer works as home to birds and other creatures, increases the amount of organic material and it helps in creating an environment for many plants.
  2. Low tree layer: Dwarf fruit trees, citrus trees and other short trees. They can be planted in short distances from the large trees but usually not under the canopy layer.
  3. Shrub layer: Includes mostly berry bushes. They can grow in almost all areas of the world.
  4. Herbacious layer: They may be annuals, biennials or perennials. Most vegetables and herbs are part of this layer.
  5. Rhizosphere layer: Root crops such as potatoes and other edible tubers that grow under the ground.
  6. Soil surface layer: Cover crops that cover the surface of the soil. They lessen erosion and improve the soil quality. For example: strawberry.
  7. Vertical Layer: Climbers or vines, such as runner beans and kiwis. These plants grow vertically.

Some add an eight layer of fungi.

Some common practices

Some practices that are commonly applied by permaculturists are agroforestry, natural building, rainwater harvesting and sheet mulching.

Trees and forests are often integrated into gardens designed in permaculture. Forest gardens, which are a form of agroforestry, are based on woodland ecosystems and incorporate fruit and nut trees, shrubs, herbs, vines and perennial vegetables.[7]

Natural buildings are built with building systems and materials that place emphasis on sustainability. To be more sustainable, natural building relies on natural materials that are abundantly available, renewable, reused or recycled.[8]

Rainwater harvesting is the storing of rainwater for uses such as drinking water, water for livestock, and irrigation.

Mulching is done by place organic material in a sheet covering the soil. Mulching protects the soil against erosion, increases organic matter in the soil, absorbs rainfall, reduces evaporation, suppresses weed growth and creates a habitat for useful soil organisms.

See also


External links

  • Permaculture Research Topics
  • Permaculture "Permaculture is an approach to designing human settlements and agricultural systems that are modeled on the relationships found in natural ecologies." - Wikipedia
  • Permaculture Power Blog



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