Permaculture – What is it?

Permaculture – What is it?

Permaculture is a new word for an old gardening practice. Permaculture gardening is a grouping of two or more growing life forms (plants and animals) that help sustain each other continuously. Everything living within the permaculture environment must provide benefits that something else within the environment needs so the garden will become a never ending circle of life. This is similar to organic gardening in many aspects, but in permaculture, the emphasis is more towards building and sustaining a full-fledged ecosystem. You could say permaculture is organic gardening, but a much more extreme form of organic gardening.

Home Gardening

A typical home gardener refers to permaculture as sustainable gardening. A good example is having backyard chickens to produce eggs and organic garden fertilizer, provide organic pest control and to keep the soil scratched and loose. Plants are grown in the garden to provide food for the chickens and humans. Seeds are saved from plants for use the following year. When the chickens cease to lay eggs, they will be killed and eaten by their human care givers. Everything living and growing in the backyard home garden is dependent upon each other and the cycle of life is continuous, sustainable, and eco-friendly.

permaculture chicken


Permaculture gardening requires that everything in the environment must provide more than one function in order to earn its keep. A fence that’s needed to contain animals must serve at least one other function. The fence might be designed so that it also functions as a vertical gardening space or windbreak. A rain barrel used to collect and hold water for outdoor garden usage might also be used to grow aquatic food plants and raise edible fish.

nasturtium grown by permaculture

Water Conservation

A major factor in permaculture gardening is water conservation. Every rain drop possible is channeled, captured and stored so it can be put to good use in the garden. Steep landscapes may be terraced to optimize water conservation or a system of ditches and planting berms might be created in low swampy ground to re-direct water.

Closed Loop System

Permaculture gardening works towards having a ‘closed loop system’ in which everything that is done in the landscape is for the benefit and sustainability of the environment. Poor soil is improved and made fertile by adding livestock to the area. The manure produced by the livestock organically improves the soil and makes it fertile so that vegetation will grow.

Both the livestock and vegetation will sustain the human owner, along with whatever the livestock produces (milk, eggs) and ultimately the animal will make its way to the dinner table. Beneficial sub-cultures, such as worms, bees and birds, will also develop and thrive in a permaculture environment, providing soil amendments and plant pollination by themselves.


Is Permaculture for Everyone?

Permaculture has been gaining new adherents over the years, but admittedly takes dedication, patience, and commitment to be a success, especially in urban environments. To achieve permaculture in an environment that is not so conducive often requires high cost. What many people do is adapt the principles of permaculture for their own use and situations. In permaculture, what it boils down to are three core concepts that may sound simple but are in fact, highly profound ~ Earth Care, People Care, and Fair Share.

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