Thursday, May 2, 2013

Defining permaculture

I've been throwing the term "permaculture" around for a couple of blog posts, and I decided it's time to actually define it.

Permaculture (permanent + agriculture) is about working with nature not against her, resulting in a more beautiful, abundant and forgiving garden. It's about observing what we see, determining what we have, and deciding what we will do with what we've got. After an intense period of developing  a permaculture garden, it's also a lot less work than a traditional garden because the system is feeding itself (fewer inputs), watering itself (less time with hose), and is designed to get a little wild and that's just ok.

What particularly draws me to permaculture is that one doesn't have to have a 100-acre, 10-acre or even one-acre plot of land to create an ecosystem of assembled plants, insects and in some cases animals. Permaculture is about building and maintaining soil fertility, catching and conserving water, providing habitat for beneficial insects birds and animals, and growing in edible "forest" that yields seasonal fruits and other foods.

This does not mean that I'm not going to grow my beloved eggplant, tomatoes, peppers and other annual plants. It does mean I'm going to augment many of these annuals with perennial plants, and create a symbiotic system that works together, and with nature, not against it.


Permaculture is taught in an intensive 80 to 100 hour course, resulting in a Permaculture Design Certificate. Sometimes PDCs are residential courses that take place over 10 to 14 days in a row, where students live, study and work together on projects. The course I am enrolled in involves the same amount of hours spread out over 10 months. I'm grateful for the extended time because it not only gives me more time to accomplish the reading material, but also more time to reflect on what I'm learning and use it in my garden over time.

I'm reading the following book for my permaculture course, I particularly like the "home-scale" part of the subtitle.  I will certainly be talking more about what I learn and how I'm using it in our garden.