A permaculture garden is not a quick fix. But, it is satisfying at a deep level And it is rewarding and ecologically sound.
No great thing is created suddenly, any more than
a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you
Desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time.
Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.
What Does Permaculture Mean?
Permaculture means an ecological garden design. It means using our natural resources with respect, reusing what is possible and minimising waste.
An ecological garden means intelligent use of what is available, together with testing and flexibility to make your garden productive and friendly to our environment.
It’s a case of looking after Mother Earth – who ultimately looks after us.
Why Does Permaculture Matter?
Why does this matter? Here are a few reasons – but most important of all is that we need to look after our planet for the very survival of our children and their children.
Minimises Yard Waste
Why pay for waste removal when you can use it to nurture you garden? Making your own compost will enrich your soil and make your garden more productive – and there is something very satisfying about spreading your own, personally made compost!
Caring for Our Water
Duck River. Migratory Birds.
When you control your water outflow you can prevent pollution of your rivers and ultimately the oceans upon which we depend. Contaminated water runoff from farms and factories – and gardens – can do immense damage to our natural water resources – even a little pollution can go a long way!
Economical and efficient use of water – millions of gallons of this precious liquid are wasted every hour. Collecting water in wet times, irrigating our land when necessary, digging the right ditches and enclosures can help maintain our garden during drought and floods.
Reduces Carbon in the Atmosphere
Plants capture the carbon to manufacture their roots, their leaves and their blossoms.
Counteracts the Urban Micro-climate
Towns have their own microclimate. It can be hotter in urban areas in summer and the planting of hedges, trees and lawns can cool the air in summer and provide a degree of insulation in winter. This can reduce your energy expenditure, thus saving you a little money on heating and cooling systems in your homes.
Provides for the Increasing Population
Every day the earth has to support more people – and yet more. The limited resources have to stretch further. Do you really want to depend entirely upon your supermarket when things get tough? And talking of supermarkets – there is a certain “sameness” about their stock. The diversity is being edged out by cheaper to produce and easier to sell merchandise. There are far fewer varieties of, for example, of apples now sold in England then there were just 50 years ago.
And computer simulations show a scary picture of how quickly the shelves can empty when a crisis occurs. This archive film of the Cuba missile crisis 1964 last just over a minute.
Gardens Make Us Happy
We need greenspaces. Our souls need greenspaces. Natural areas have been shown to reduce aggression, to promote healing, to reduce stress and improve our concentration.
Suggested Dos and Don’ts
Stop digging – my favourite!
Digging damages the delicate ecosystem of the soil. It disturbs the beetles, the worms and all the micro-organisms that live there. And for ages without number, the worms have turned the soil and we have benefited. We should just leave them alone to get on with the job. We should mulch instead- and that’s easier on your back, too.
Watch your plants to find out which should go where. Look at other gardens to determine what grows well in your neck of the woods and listen to the advice from other planters, nursery staff and local sages.
I do remember when a friend and I had a new allotment. We dug a trench and planted a whole long row of potatoes. When we had finished – and not a minute before – an elderly gentleman, who had been watching the show for some time approached my friend and told her – in broad Cumbrian, that we had planted them all up-side down!
Place your Plants with Care
Placing some plants close to certain others may help to prevent pests in a natural way, it keeps down the weeds, and may provide shade where needed.
Plant a tree – if you have room.
Not only do they look pretty when the blossom comes but they provide food, shade and a place to lie and contemplate the pattern of branches and leaves against the sky – as well as a convenient perch for the birds. They also trap carbon and screen against noise.
Warm are the winds in the woodlands
Wafting their way through the leaves.
Weaving and winding and whispering
Like wind flowing over the sheaves.
– Anglo Saxon poem
Choose Sustainable building Materials.
This is tough one as nearly everything you use to create your garden will have an energy cost. You might decide to take into account the transport coots, it’s source and method of manufacture as well as how the material acts in the garden. Is it worth the ecological and financial cost?
You can recycle coppiced wood to make your own stakes and fences and use crushed egg shells to stop the slugs (if you are lucky). People are inventive – and no doubt you have some little recycling tricks up your sleeve.
Make Room for Wildlife.
We have stolen their land so we should let them onto what we call “ours” – but which really belongs to the earth itself. So, there should be some areas which are allowed to “go to seed”. Indeed, nettles provide a haven for some of our favourite butterflies, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Red Admiral among them. And dead wood can harbour homes for a multitude of insects and smaller animals, plus some “weeds” are very pretty in their own right!
Permaculture Needs Bees
And biodiversity is essential – when the bees go our own lives will go too, as they are essential to pollinate the plants everywhere. In fact, for the Planet, bees are far more helpful and necessary than the human race.
Grow Your Own Food.
It is so satisfying to go out into your garden and pick you dinner! Some flowers like nasturtiums are edible and make a bright touch to a salad’ and a natural diet is a healthy diet. Plus, you know that there are no toxic pesticides, although you may have to remove the odd caterpillar!
National Permaculture in a Time of Crisis
During WW2 many measures were taken to defeat the enemy. Iron decorative railings were removed to make weapons and skirts were shortened to save material but one of the most pervasive measures taken was the rationing of food.
This started in Britain, at the beginning of 1940. Being an island, Britain depended on imported food, much of which crossed the Atlantic Ocean. And the German U-boats were very effective in damaging our convoys thus reducing the amount of food reaching the British shores. Then, a year later America followed suit, with its own rationing.
WW2 sweet rationing
Rationing continued after the end of the war and I am old enough to remember the glorious day when sweet rationing in England was abolished. I was given two whole pence to spend at the sweet shop. Even now, I can recall the sweet taste of the sherbet I chose.
The rationing not only made the distribution of food fair but by limiting harmful parts of the diet the population as a whole was never so healthy – either before or since. As meats, sugar and fats were reduced and the people became almost vegetarian – fruit and vegetable locally grown and whole grain bread became predominant in the diet.
So – a Few Guidelines to Help You Make Your Garden Special
Get to Know the Local Conditions
Every spot is unique. For every place has its own microclimate. And every place its own shade, sun, wind, and patterns of rain.
And every garden has its own particular soil, its own views and sounds. There may be wildlife already in residence. There is a lot to observe and note while the first plans are made, and the first plants bought.
Catching and Storing Energy
Will you need to catch the rain and store it? Do you plan to have a greenhouse to catch the energy of the sun? Are you intending to bottle your fruit and store your apples?
Gaining Wisdom from Others
Ecological gardens can be a hotbed of wisdom. Your own garden a source of delight – and food. And there are school gardens teaching the next generation respect for nature, community gardens where the benefits of collective wisdom can flourish. And local stores to exchange or even sell your surplus produce. These are places to share experiences, to benefit from the energy of youth and delight in fresh produce and fresh information.
Feedback, Flexibility and the Future
Feedback and flexibility are the key features of a successful permaculture gardener. And the feedback can also be looking to the future. Next year – the year after and the many years ahead when our great grandchildren will be tilling the Earth. As we enrich the soil so we will be enriching their future lives.
Waste Not – Want Not
When your garden is permaculture there will be almost no waste. You can find a use for everything that others might discard. Although it’s true that it might not always look the epitome of neat and tidiness – but hey – who wants a regiment of sameness?
Composting gives a sweet smelling, luscious fabric for your plants to absorb. And here the worms will help you. And you will not have to find a place to dump your left-over vegetables. Wood left to rot provides homes for many beneficial beetles and microbes. Nature never wastes anything!
Clever Design Will Help to Make Life Easier
The keyhole layout of planting beds will let you access most of your plants easily without trampling on other plants and straining your back. Spiral patterns, so often found in nature, will provide shade, the juxtaposition of plants which benefit each other – and look attractive. In addition, you can grow, for example, shade-loving violets and mint in the same bed as sun worshippers like rosemary and thyme. (Although, medieval lore tells us that rosemary should be grown by your back door to protect against witches).
A very shady spot might grow mushrooms but little else while a tree or two in the centre of your garden can provide shade where it is most needed.
Perennials Make Less Work and Less Disturbance
Planting perennials is a wise solution. They save your own energy! In addition, they disturb the natural ecosystem of your ground less. But they can be slow starters. Patience has its own reward.
How Diverse are Nature’s Gifts
If you have all your eggs in one basket – and the basket is dropped – you lose all your eggs. If you have grown only one variety of tomatoes- and the dreaded tomatoes monster strikes – you will have no tomatoes. But if you have other varieties, then disease and pests are far less likely to devastate your entire crop. So – it’s smart to try different varieties and far more interesting. Catalogues, neighbours and garden centres, as well as the internet, have an enormous range of offers. However, to start with, try just a few and take careful note as to how each does.
And every year the excitement of trying new flowers and vegetables never palls.
Our earth has limits to the resources it can offer us – and we are near to breaking the boundaries of the possible and the impossible. So, we do need to husband these resources and ecological gardening helps us to do this. Further information is here.
For personal satisfaction and enjoyment, a permaculture garden has little to equal it. It’s mentally stimulating, and yet relaxing. It provides exercise and a restful place for contemplation. It gives you a focus for friendships and saves you money while giving you safe fresh food. Best of all, by respecting the earth you are also safe guarding future. Generations yet unborn will benefit from your care and good sense.
May we wish you joy in your permaculture garden.