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.

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Great Green Business

lloyd-and-J

Hard Look At Very Personal Business

Permaculture strives to design a healthier environment and society. Regenerative farming has come along quickly but  social permaculture designs have been a bit slower to emerge.  Peaceful societies are less destructive to the environment. Good business models, valued workers and clean work environments are good for everyone.

New Models

One fundamental permaculture strategy is to make small changes where they are most effective.  Lets take a peek at an industry that could do with a little greening: the beauty industry.  The beauty industry touches everyone. It has been slow to move on social and environmental issues yet, these small changes can have a huge effect.  Freeing people of toxic chemicals, and poor work conditions has resounding benefits.

eco-hair studio business model

Ecological and Social Style

In salons around the world, customers pay a small fortune to look good. Unfortunately the average hair stylist is poorly paid, often earning less than the minimum wage. This glamorous carer rarely gets a meal break, is standing all day and exposed to horrendous chemicals including formaldehyde. The beauty industry is not famous for the way it treats the workers or the chemicals is pours into the environment. But change is in.

Lloyd KK Eco-Studio Stylist and owner Lloyd KK took the plunge and opened the first eco-hair studio in his region.  He “wanted to use chemicals that have a low environmental impact, that were plant-based and renewable. ” He noticed “the green chemistry colours also have a shinier, more natural feeling results…Previously, I used to have chemical reactions to other colours, ie itchy hands/skin, skin peeling and puffy itchy face. These colours do not cause any of these reactions”

How To Avoid ‘Environmental’ Smoke and Mirrors

retrofitting saves dollar and wasteFor the rare business owner who wants to improve their environmental credentials there are very few models to follow. On the other hand, there are a lot of ‘green’ imposters.

Firstly, Lloyd set about retrofitting old furniture, researched composting systems and trailed low-toxic products. Then he researched and assessed environmental costs of consumables and how to recycle them. He also chose green power and low-cost lighting. Finally he set up systems to minimise waste in the business.

In summary, the process of greening traditional businesses like the hair industry will become easier. As customers demand ecological responsibility and value healthy practice, the suppliers will adapt.

For businesses wanting to lead the change and reduce environmental costs we recommend international Quality Environmental Systems [EMS]. You can achieve self-assessment or simply use the system as a guide.

Ultimately, being prepared to up-cycle, retrofit and adapt equipment will reduce environmental costs, build a better culture and save your business money.

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‘Drama-Greens’: Infinite Play

Introducing A Resilient Culture

Permaculture goes beyond garden design. It is holistic cultural systems design. Drama is a key channel for building resilience.

Cultures build resilience through drama by:

    • having an ethical core of caring
    • recognising, expressing and responding to the signs of change
    • using non-renewable resources with careBe surprised
    • making great use of biological and recycled resources eg. Outdoor theatres with living plants as the wings and back-drop.
    • keeping stores for bad times. Set ticket prices at a fair level to be able to serve the wider community yet save for a rainy season.
    • being current – dramatise current events, people and ideas. Revitalise historical content to make it relevant to the modern audience.
    • sharing fairly.  Make sure the profits support the creators, the workers and the venue to ensure long-term viability
    • valuing the holistic nature of community (the wider community and the artistic community). Collaborate with other organisations to ensure optimum use of your site and staff.
    • acknowledging resource limits. Don’t try take on too many issues – keep the message clear and the goals achievable
    • valuing creative adaptations (like promoting barter, volunteer helpers or regional economics)
    • listening to elders. Involve elders in creative processes
    • seeking traditional know-how. Rediscover traditional processes, story-telling, music and costuming
    • communicating and sharing feelings, knowledge and resources.

Theatre – a vital part of culture

rooster-crowFor thousands of years, drama has been a valuable tool for a community to communicate and share knowledge. Theatres bring people together. For many tribal communities, Theatrical drama has been one of the most successful tools for consulting one-another and passing information.

Another useful feature of theatre is the promotion co-operation rather than competition. Seeking co-operation is a fundamental permaculture principle. When we work in co-operation with one another we can find peaceful resolutions. Peace offers stability. Stability offers sustainability.

In the Chikukwa project they use role play drama to teach one another how to create a permaculture garden.

Encore!

How can we get more play-acting, drama and theatre in our culture?

Support live performances

This does require an effort to get up off the couch, dress up and go to a live venue. In some towns, there is very little live drama or music left. TV, radio and the internet have replaced live performances. People work long hours and live too far from the hub of society.  But the trends can be reversed. We can make a special effort to get to the theatre and value the spontaneity, talent and energy required to make live theatre magical.

Make Your Own Performances Spaces

Theatrical spaces can be low tech. They can be outdoor theatre spaces. Try your own living space for entertaining others. Ask you favourite artists to do a home-concert or play. If you are a performer – a great way to earn extra support is to offer exclusive concerts for small audiences.

chicken-with-pearl-earingDramatise  Your World

Reading aloud, acting out, role-play, story telling, puppetry and games can enrich your time with others, especially  children. Let them lead your creativity.

Celebrate the beauty of nature and relationships with photographs, blogs, play and song. Each moment we spend engaging in drama or creative play is richer than time wandering aimlessly as a consumer.

Engage In ‘Dream-time’

Explore the world of your own imagination. Write, make music, dance, speak and sing. Seek others to enjoy your active entertainment.

Design An Amazing Outdoor Theatre

In permaculture we aim have multi-functional elements in a site design. We can create multifunctional spaces. A sloped site can be used for outdoor performances, lectures, workshops. It can be designed to harvest water, provide fertile growing space and evenly distributed solar access.

Low, intensive garden beds can be created along the contour of the slope. These beds can catch and store water. Seating can be positioned on the stage side. Paths function as seating area for patrons as well as the water.

Storm water can be harvested in a pond at the base of the sloped seating. The pond will also serve to bounce sound and reflect light. A flat area at the bottom of the garden can serve as a stage or teaching space.  In traditional roman-style theatres the stage is at the bottom of the incline. This style offers good acoustics and views.

Permaculture design for community garden

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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