Difference Between Organic Gardening and Permaculture

Design Matters

The 3 things that make Permaculture different:

  1. It has an ethical core. The test is: if it isn’t good for the earth and good for people in a fair share, then don’t use it.
  2. Imitate Natural Systems. Permaculture uses biological resources and natural energies and observes the clever ways nature responds and adapts. Nature cycles the energy resulting in now waste. Efficiency is Natural.
  3. Permaculture uses a set of Principles, Strategies and Techniques

Integration is Key

Permaculture uses organic gardening practices but it goes beyond. It integrates the garden and home to create a lifestyle that impacts less on the environment.

The Permaculture garden is more than an organic garden. Although organic food production often has many innovative elements, a Permaculture designed garden joins each of the elements into functional relationships.

Being Mindful

Permaculture design is mindful of our relationship with our environment.  We see we are living in a period of energy resource limits. And we acknowledge that emissions are contributing to the heating the planet. Many of us are feeling the changes and seeing our environments polluted.  Whilst a few wealthy people have the resources to ignore climate change, most of the world’s people cannot. Rich people can relocate, get air-conditioning,  and import truck-loads of water.  But even the wealthy cannot fix nitrous oxide build-up or save their beach homes from collapse.

Big, Little, and More

Permaculture thinking can be applied to many physical and social structures. It is energy-wise and collaborative to minimise the impact of a culture on the surrounding environment. A good permaculture design has great potential. It can connect neighbours. The biggest Permaculture site in the world, The Chikukwa Project, has helped the whole community.

Permaculture design has:

  • Focus on closing the nutrient and water loop by using waste, and reducing the dependence on inputs.
  • Creation of healthier soil and diversity of produce.Our Permaculture Design and Demonstration Site.
  • Responsibility for waste. There is an aim to eliminate waste. i.e. no excess nitrogen nor weed seed, released.
  • Variety keeps residents engaged and excited about growing their food.
  • Imitating nature by conserving the soil and water, and genetic capital. There is an intensive use of space. Plants are allowed to set seed and are inter-planted for pest control. You are unlikely to see food plants in rows. The permaculture site will look more like a food-forest with some open glades full of herbs and perennials.
  • Optimisation of natural energies, e.g. wind, dust, leaves, bird droppings.
  • Nutritious food and habitat for people AND native animals and birds.
  • experimental permaculture chickenDependence on observation. Permaculture design is a mixed technology.  Bill Mollison (co-founder of permaculture movement) said that permaculture, like a bicycle, it is adaptable and has great potential but is only as good as the user.
  • Minimal risk. If we fail at permaculture, nature simply takes over. The soil will continue to heal, the forests grow and someone else can step in to rebuild our efforts.

difference between organic gardening and Permaculture

What’s the difference between Organic Farming and Permaculture?

permaculture plans for farms

Closed and Open Nutrient Cycling

There is a significant difference between closed and open food-production systems. In a truly closed system (one in vacuum or in space) energy is not lost it is simply transferred from one being or element to another. In a permaculture system, (which can never be fully closed), energy is ideally used by one element effectively and passed on for the benefit of the next before it leaves the system.

Organic Farming promotes the use of natural fertilisers, making use of the natural carbon cycle so that waste from plants becomes the food (fertiliser) of another. In organic farming however, as with ALL farming, minerals are being lost from the farm every time a truck load of produce is carted to market.

The Ideal Permaculture ‘Farm’ brings production of food closer to consumers and the consumer’s wastes back into the cycle. It also reduces the energy wasted in transporting the foods by producing the foods where the people are. In permaculture, the people contribute in their daily life toward the production of their food and other needs.

Soft Technology Tea - Tea doesn't have to cost the earth
Tea doesn’t have to cost the earth

When is Permaculture not Organic?

There will be times when a permaculture system is not strictly organic:

  • being adaptable as nature when we use local resources rather than imported certified organic resources
  • When we want to increase diversity by bringing in unusual plants/seeds from a non-organic plant supplier
  • Permaculture is capable of enhancing a supply and converting it to organic. for example: when we grow food-plants along polluted river or roadsides to filter out toxins and break them down to safer levels. We know we may not be able to eat these plants but we can keep them as our ‘catastrophe’ backup.

Essentially Permaculture is trying to close the energy loop by optimising what we have.

Fostering A Culture of Community Recycling

compost is pretty hot stuffThis is not usually due to an intentional use of pesticides, but often due to the use of a by-product that would otherwise be wasted. We could use old shoes as pots for plants, an old truck tyre/tire to hold the edges of a pond. Sometimes the choices are difficult and we have to do a quick cost/benefit analysis. For example: At Silk Farm we use recycled oil (to make fire starters) and the oil cans (for our simple worm-farm towers) from a non-certified organic restaurant who sometimes uses leaves and fruits from our garden. This ‘trade’ stimulates our local relationship and fosters a culture of resourcefulness.

Permaculture Can Actively Convert Resources

worm towersWe would need to weigh the benefit of a using a free local waste (ie. horse manure) versus supporting a good organic supplier who may be in another country. When we design well, the permaculture system can act as a cleanser or processing agent. Sometimes, we can transform then utilise a polluted waste (within what is realistic achievable).  In the case of the horse manure, we could ask the owner about their anti-worming medication, check that it can be broken down by high-temperature composting then go about re mediating it before using it.  Good permaculture design will aim to have a better output than input. Organic gardening may not have checks to reduce the system’s impact on the wider natural system.

Build you knowledge about permaculture by doing a permaculture design course with us.

And you can build your design skills with our Design-Think-Tank Sessions.

 

 

Permaculture Principles: Stabilisers, Enhancers and Flows –

Evolving Our Permaculture Theory

Permaculture design thinking has brought success in many situations. Permaculture seeded the transition movement, built huge aid development programs and helped millions of urban gardeners worldwide. Permaculture techniques have enriched farm regeneration.  But you don’t have to leave the armchair to use permaculture thinking. New groundbreaking social structures are popping. And business strategies have emerged.

Core Ethic – Care

 be as flexible and mobile as nature herself

In 70s permaculture activists were fighting for a way to conserve native forests by growing more food in the cities. Now permaculture is fighting for healthier environments for both the people and the wildlife. We see huge populations without breathable air, clean water or healthy food. World Health Organisations now recognise that planet health and human health is closely interconnected.

We strive for a fair share but the ultimate success would be a win-win. A win for a rich and diverse environment and a win for human health and prosperity.

Principles: Stabilisers, Enhancers and Flows

bike - technology perfectionA holistic design approach can contain steady stabilisers, fancy enhancers and an ability for energy and information flow.

  • System stabilisers build resilience into a design.
  • System enhancers enable acceleration.
  • The principles that encourage flow let the system self-check, adjust or adapt.

Mollison says ‘A permaculture design is like a bicycle’.  With this new perspective we can see that the seat, pedals and symmetry of the tool ensures stability. The tyres providing padding to the wheels, the suspension under the seat, the gears and the brakes are all system enhancers. The bicycle chain enables the obvious notion of a flow of energy from the pedals to the wheels. But another clever system flow device is the steering. The steering mechanism lets the rider respond to changes in the path. This allows information to flow from the bicycle to the rider. Adaption can be instantaneous and smooth. The modern bicycle is a clever and comfortable design. A skilled rider can steer without touching the handle bar and often without concentrating.

Permaculture aims to design a culture that is as comfortable, 
responsive and sustainable as a bicycle.

A Fresh Look at Early Permaculture Principles

Permaculture principles stabilsers,-enhancers-and-flow-mechanisms

Bill Mollison’s Principles:

Mollison didn’t formally list a set of permaculture principles in his text. But he and many other permaculture teachers have gleaned these from his texts including Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual.

Permaculture Principles To Build Stability

    1. Relative location: position elements in the design so that there is minimal transport between them.  Use natural forces where ever possible to work for you.
    2. Multiple functions for each element: Each Element in the design should be used and positioned to perform a range of functions.  For Example: A driveway for vehicles can also be used to harvest water and low growing plants can be planted onto the center strip of the driveway.
    3. Multiple elements for each function: Satisfy each required function with more than just one element.  E.g. heating can come from multiple elements – a mini greenhouse; a wood-fired stove, geothermal, solar radiators or trombe wall.
    4. Energy Efficiency: Run your equipment to its potential. Share (or hire) equipment.  Support durable technology that is adaptable and is easy to maintain.
    5. chicken-weeds-worms-towerStacking increases the productivity of a system.  A forest often has many layers: bulbs, moss, grasses, ground covers, Fungi, Herbs, Shrubs, Small trees, Epiphytes and Aerial plants, Vines, Climax Species, Parasitic plants.  We applied this handy design tool in our chicken house design. 
    6. Consider Context: Work with the natural and social energies of the landscape and the community.   At the steps of parliament house, Berlin (The Reistag), there is a grassed area that is designed to withstand wet conditions and high pedestrian traffic.  In this situation, the compromise of hard and soft landscape tools works well with nature and also provides for the needs of the people.

Permaculture Design Enhancers

    1. Peppermint Tea
      Homegrown Tea

      Stress-free Yield: By giving each element several functions we can accept that not all the functions can be performed all the time.  A duck will hunt for snails, eat weeds and fertilise the garden. She will swim, preen, mate or shout at strangers.  The eggs that are produced per busy duck are lower than in controlled conditions but the sum of all the functions is greater.

    2. Use Biological Resources. Fossil fuel is best used
      unusual-foods garden mt kembla
      Food Diversity

      when it makes itself redundant eg. a Tractor can work a landscape that will no longer require a tractor to manage it.

    3. Diversity includes a variety of species of food plants or animals.  Diversity in nature builds resilience and resistance to pest attack.  It also lets us find which variety works well in our own particular climate and micro-climates.
    4. Information and Observation replaces Energy:  Intensive systems with feedback and observation are more productive and reduce waste.

Permaculture Flow Mechanisms

    1. Natural Succession: Imitate nature in your plans to help a system evolve to meet your needs.  Build a food forest that looks and behaves very like your local natural forest.
    2.  Appropriate Technology: Maximise the use of a technology by sharing or hiring equipment. Make sure your equipment works to full capacity.  Choose the simplest and most effective technologies first.
    3. Energy Flow: harness existing energy flows E.g. Wind, wave solar, gravity or running water.

Learn about Permaculture with us, the pioneers of online permaculture training.

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Getting Into The Permaculture Zone

Permaculture Zoning

This permaculture design was created by April 15 years ago and has travelled the world extensively. It has been used to promote courses and workshops in many countries.
zones are used in permaculture design

Zoning isn’t something you do on a yoga mat but it can be used to design anything from a farm, a work station, garden, home, kitchen, caravan, tent, luggage, handbag or even a wallet.

Zoning is a Permaculture design technique that positions the elements (like herbs, trees, chicken house) in our design in areas according to their need or our use. The greater the needs or use of the element, then the closer we place it.

The beauty of Zoning is its flexibility. This design tool is scale-able.

The design tool called Zoning can be applied on large farms, city apartments, urban homes,  kitchen design,  and even in the design or re-design of a little bag. (You can redesign a bag by inserting pockets, wallets or compartments. In the same way we can re-design a property by using fencing for the zones).

A Little Bag of Zones

Many bags have the knack of swallowing items and scrambling them.  That’s because they are not designed for function but usually for looks. We can apply the design technique of zoning to the re-organisation of a bag (a handbag, a sports-bag or regularly used luggage).  Everyday important items such as keys, phone, and medicine would be kept in upper pockets or pouches (the Zone 1 are) and less regularly used items would be allowed to sink into lower Zones. Finally, the forgotten items will drift into the far recesses of the bag.

handbags can have design zones too

It’s not us – it’s them!

Not all items that we need will like being kept in easy reach, in Zone 0. It might seem wonderful to have a tree that produced fruit salad or a herb garden that gave us all our favourite herbs. The reality is, not all fruit likes full sunlight, and not all herbs like to grow in pots. Sometimes the best zone for an element is determined by the needs of that particular element.

Zoning The Herbs

hills_hoistarium

When we use herbs regularly, like our tea herbs, we can keep some of them in easy reach by planting them in pots on the kitchen window sill in (Zone 0). This suits the peppermint but not really a green tea bush which prefers space to grow into a small tree and likes to live on the edge of the forest (Zone 3). Other herbs might only be available when in season (like Coriander), and prefer a protected nook in Zone 2. Exotic herbs like Ginger and the bay tree might need to grow in the forest so we plant them in Zone 4. The herbs in Zone 5 could include rare indigenous herbs.

Zoning On a Bigger Scale

zones-picIn a larger scale Permaculture design we break the design up into Zones according to the amount of attention and space each area requires:
Zone 0. The Home. Indoor production (sprouts/ferments) and processing of food, waste,
water collection, repairs and education.
Zone 1.  The area outdoors that needing regular observation, tending and harvesting
eg. plants we can browse and use each day.- intensive garden beds with keyhole access.
Zone 2. This area has less intensive managed areas but with animals needing daily attention eg. poultry, rabbits, worm farm, snail farm. Orchard trees.
Zone 3. Occasionally visited areas with self-fed animals (stock) and seasonal wide-ranging crops eg. corn, wheat, rice, pumpkin, bamboo.
Zone 4. Wild food gathering (eg. nuts, native fruits) Wood for Fuel, self seeding trees.
Zone 5. A Natural area – a rarely visited area. This zone is best linked with neighbouring wildlife corridors. This can be sometimes managed to reduce risk of catastrophes ie. fire, pollution, drought or hurricanes.
Zone 6: The greater bio-region or social context.

Zoning is a powerful permaculture design tool. It is used in conjunction with other design tools such as sector planning, analysis of elements and connecting the relationships of elements.  Learn more about Permaculture. Enjoy doing a Permaculture Design Course with us!

we develop world leading resources

Learning Outside Boosts Learning Within

 Step Outside and Enhance Your Learning

seed-pod_edited-1

Walking and being outdoor changes the brain. Students can become more creative, more observant and less stressed. There are many benefits for the students and the educators to step outside.

Sadly, teachers have a lot of administrative pressures. They have to ensure that they address the many areas of the curriculum. We can support teachers by offering them studies that explain which part of the curriculum the outdoor activities meet. Being outdoors boosts our physical and mental health.

Health, Movement & Exploration

Connecting children with nature reduces more harmonytheir stress. It also increases the chance of nature being less stressed by human impact. Connections with nature enable a child to understand how nature works and builds empathy for others and their respect for the natural environment on which their lives depend.

Nature-based activities can enrich the learning program. We can even go one step further and design an amazing garden class-room.

Nature-based Games & Activities

Rose and the big leafNature-based games are as old as …?

The process of re-discovering and developing nature-based games can be a lesson in history and creativity. What did children play with before plastic toys became abundant? This is a wonderful opportunity to build imagination. Encourage the children be part of this re-discovery.

unusual-foodsActivities include weather observations, seed-raising, ‘mini-beasts’ or ‘micro-creature’ measurements and mapping of their web-of-life, drawing and classification (worms, insects). Science experiments about pH, cooking and cultural discussions about food, hygiene and disease, microscopic adventures about fungi and bacteria, research into origins of medicinal plants and much more.

In the garden children can use tall sticks (ie. banana stems, sugarcane, sunflowers, artichokes, sage) as structural material to build tipis, towers or sculptures. The garden classroom can be a great resource for learning about aboriginal houses or traditional home structures, building and shelters. edible-basketWhether you build a full-size replica or models, the children learn how to use genuine natural resources like poles and natural rope.

Weaving with edible plant material (especially from strong vines like kiwi-fruit and passion-fruit) is a meditative and mathematical activity.  Food plants provide healthy, low allergy weaving and building materials.

What is brown and sticky? A stick of course!

Storytelling and Story writing

The range of light levels within a  garden allows children to find their ideal light level to suit their reading, writing and working. Storytelling in an open space can be difficult in the city if there is a lot of environment noise, or it can become a theatrical challenge. The garden classroom can designed to amplify the production. Outdoors, the story-teller has an excuse to dramatise the text in order to be heard.

The garden classroom is a fresh and ever-evolving space full of material for story writing. Children can explore new ways to tell a story or better grasp old poetry, the importance of traditional story-telling, the tribal ‘sense of place’, the dreamtime and ancient maps.

But the man from Snowy River let the pony have his head, 
And he swung his stockwhip round and gave a cheer, 
And he raced him down the mountain like a torrent down its bed, 
While the others stood and watched in very fear. [Banjo Paterson]

How Can We Design a Garden-Classroom

Apply Fundamental Permaculture Design Principles

bumble_bee_yellow_flowerPermaculture principles are a valuable tool to apply to learning and can guide our design of a productive learning space. There are various permaculture principles but here we can examine two of the fundamental permaculture principles:

1. Every element provides many functions
2. Every function is met by many elements.

For example:  a simple letter-box/mail-box is an element. It collects the mail, displays a house number, is a guidepost in heavy weather. It can also support a vine or can be, albeit unwittingly, an insect or arachnid  home. One of these  functions (the less desirable one) of ‘housing insects’ can be supported by various other elements i.e. hollow trees, bee boxes or the neighbours letter-boxes :>

1. Every Element provides many Functions

2. Every Function is met by many Elements

Permaculture Principles in the Learning Space:

  1. goddess-treeEvery Element in the learning space
    provides many Functions

    One of the elements in an outdoor space is a shade-tree. This shade tree can provide many other functions: wind and rain protection, leaf litter for mulch, poles, habitat for wildlife, a structure to hang a swing or decorative artworks, a play space.

  2. Etipi with edible vinesvery Function in the learning space met by many Elements.

    The function –  shade, can be  supported by many  other elements. We can use deciduous trees, domes, tipis frames with woven vines , suspended shade material (recycled sheets can be used), sun hats and/or umbrellas.  Children may enjoy painting and erecting old sheets or drop-cloths as an art project to add colour to the space. Poles can be gathered from fallen or pruned branches of nearby trees. Using recycled materials and resources from nature builds empowerment and problem solving.

have a giving spiritIdeally, the process of design consults the school staff, the community and the children. The design needs to be able to adapt to the changing community needs. Consulting the stakeholders helps us define the elements desired. Work with the shape of the land and do a full permaculture design with the confidence of knowing that compost resources will be abundant if the children deposit their food scraps and the garden. Maintenance workers can provide some weaving material as well as mulching material such as grass clippings.

Permaculture design for community garden

Engaging Community

pride in growing food and sharingThe school garden may be one the few green spaces in a city. Many of the residents near the school welcome the opportunity to participate in growing food, creating a beautiful gardens with the children and increasing habitat for birds and native bees.

Encourage the community to find ways to safely integrate adult participation. Perhaps the adults are active in a separate area at a separate time to the children. Hopefully there will be times when the whole community can come together to plant trees or tend the garden or celebrate the harvest.

“Now, you’re talking!”

coffee tree flowersThere are some food plants that get adults truly motivated. These include such as coffee bean and green-tea bushes, native foods (bush tucker and survival foods), culinary flowers and spices. If you are lucky to have immigrants living in your area, invite them to share their stories about food and spices and how it is traditionally grown and used.

What is brown and sticky? A stick of course!

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. … There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”
— Rachel Carson, Silent Spring