How to Apply Permaculture Principles in the Garden

Permaculture is a design system that can help us, as individuals, to find the best way to transition to a more sustainable way of life. Here is a brief guide to show you how you can use the twelve principles of permaculture in your garden.

Metal Garden Fence

1. Observe and Interact

Spend time in your garden, see how the elements work, or don’t work, together. Watch the wildlife in your garden and think about how you interact with the system as a whole. Does it work for you as well as the plant and animal life you share it with?

2. Catch and Store Energy

Rain water collection is a great way to adhere to this principle. Use water drained from your roof and collected in rain barrels to water your plants in dry weather. Consider using solar panels on the roof of your house and/or shed. If you have a large garden, you could even consider coppicing trees for firewood for use in the home. Keep and use plant waste within the garden.

Rain Barrel

3. Obtain a Yield

Do you have a large lawn? Why not consider digging up at least a part of it and growing your own vegetables and fruit? The edible yield will be a boon to you and your family and growing your own food can be fun and satisfying as well as healthy.

4. Apply Self-regulation and Feedback

Look at any changes you implement in your garden. Did you make a change that did not turn out so well? Learn from this, listen to advice from others, and adapt to the circumstances.

5. Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services

Rain water, wind, sunlight, all of these are renewable resources. Think about how each one benefits you in your garden and how you can use them in a variety of different ways. Use rain water to water the plants. Sunlight will enable plants to grow – it could also be harnessed to provide some electricity or to heat your water supply.

6. Produce No Waste

One of the best things any gardener can do is to create a compost heap. A wormery could also be a good addition. Worms will help you to compost food waste, paper and cardboard. When you weed your garden, place the weeds in a bucket of water with a lid to create a stinky, but effective, organic fertilizer.

Compost Box

7. Design From Patterns to Details

Think about the big picture before you get caught up in tiny details about exactly which plant to put where.

8. Integrate Rather Than Segregate

In the garden, this principle should be used in companion planting. Rather than planting areas of one crop that are susceptible to pests and disease, intermingle plants that are beneficial to each other, food crops and bee-friendly flowers together, for example.

9. Use Small and Slow Solutions

Do not be hasty or impatient. Nature often takes its time. Think long term and you will create a garden that will delight and provide for years to come.

10. Use and Value Diversity

Biodiversity is important in any garden. Encourage a range of insect, bird and animal life in your garden as well as planting a diverse range of plants and crops.

Birds and Insects

11. Use Edges and Value the Marginal

The edges are the most abundant part of any ecosystem. Layered gardens mimic the edge of a forest where things grow so well in nature, so try to layer in space and time. Do not weed ruthlessly – some weeds growing on the edges can be beneficial – dandelions, for example, have deep roots and bring nutrients to the surface soil where it can be used by other plants. Use every inch of your garden.

12. Creatively Use and Respond to Change

Look at how your garden and how you interact with it change as it grows and as the seasons pass. Connect with your patch of land and be creative and flexible when it comes to how you use it.

Meditate on the twelve design principles yourself – how can you follow them, not just in your garden, but in your whole life?

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