Is Permaculture Design Different?

Unique Design Approach

Permaculture Design

  • uses patterns
  • builds on observation
  • enables a dynamic evolution of the design
  • strives for energy efficiency
  • imitates nature
  • strengthens connections
  • seeks biological solutions.

Patterns

mandala-cubaThere are a vast array of patterns in nature. Rarely are there naturally made straight lines. Machines operate in straight lines because they do things at speed and without feedback. When nature is in a hurry she too blasts a straight line. In day-to-day situation, most natural environments have very few straight edges.  When we aim to fit a growing system to a gentle landscape we will find curves fit comfortably.

Over time, the paths will move, the plants will begin to shape the site. This is when the permaculture design starts to adapt. We start to see the patterns forming as our design works with the nature of the landscape and the nature of the people connected to the land.

In the initial design, we can create patterns that in tune with the landscape. These patterns help the various elements to inter-relate harmoniously. The use of patterns ensures beauty, function and ease of use.

Observation

coffee tree flowersThrough observation, a site or social situation can inspire the design.  We can learn from the history of the site, the way the natural energies interplay. Observation is one of the most powerful tools in design. “To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.”  ― Marilyn Vos Savant

Dynamic Evolution

adapt-to-environmental-change

A good permaculture design is like a bicycle [Bill Mollison]. When a bicycle is well designed, it is easy to adapt to changing conditions (it can go off-road, up a steep incline, or be used to carry a variety of loads).

In the garden, the dynamic design adapts to periods of drought and heavy rains.

A good design for a Social structure or economy will enable healthy dynamic response to changes. ie. The structure can expand and shrink as member numbers dictate, it can allow diversity of input and facilitate results with ease. “The most powerful species are those who adapt without losing their fundamental identity which gives them their competitive advantage” Charles Darwin

Energy Efficiency

bringing in sun-dried washing and little home grown tomatoesEfficiency ensures success in nature. Closing the nutrient and energy systems loops build efficiency. For every calorie of food grown near the back step, over a hundred calories of food-waste, transport energy and packaging material is avoided. Permaculture offers comfortable solutions on all scales: A balcony can produce food and a farm can be designed to reduce its impact on the remaining stands of native habitat.

Imitation Of Nature

beesThere is still much to learn from nature and how she operates.  We are all slowly benefiting from experiments with product bio-mimicry and new medicines. By imitating nature, we appreciate the need for a holistic approach in the designs.

Connections

Mutually beneficial connections between elements are vital in the permaculture design. Likewise, there can be webs of connections within other webs creating a rich network of systems. We can use zoning, sector planning and interconnection of elements to optimise energy exchanges.

relationship-of-elements-demo

Biological Solutions

tipi with edible vinesThere are two main types of investment we can engage: Procreative Vs Degenerative.  When we invest in living systems we build wealth. Whereas, as soon as we invest in a non-living product it begins to degenerate and unless we can use it continuously to generate income, it is simply loosing value.  for example: The car is one of the poorest investments a family can make unless it is in almost constant use. “Many people see an automobile as a social status symbol, but is the luxury component of an automobile worth the investment dollars?” [Forbes]
Biological tools, structures (like a shade tree rather than a shade house), plants, animals and people and have the potential to build wealth for many generations.

we develop world leading resources

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Permaculture Community Garden Design

have a giving spirit

Permaculture Design For Community Garden by A. Sampson-KellyBuilding Blocks of Permaculture

There are two basic goals in a permaculture site plan: Use natural energies to increase our productivity and make the key features serve multiple functions. A permaculture design for a community garden would address some key steps to build resilience and long term success of the community garden:

  1.  Choose a site with a good position. Check there is a gentle slope.  A slope that greets the morning sun can provide lots of growing time. If there is too much sun, shade plants will help to reduce the glare.
  2. Ensure the entry has good visibility. Make signs and gates that look welcoming.
  3. Plan and implement good water filtration and re-use.
  4. Include strategically placed perennial food plants for windbreaks, privacy screens and shade in hot summer months.  A typical western community garden has a lot of annual plants. Aim to include carbon-sequestering perennials. Perennials need less maintenance. These food plants are good structural plants and last for several years and sometimes decades. The space will mature and be enhanced as it ages.
  5. Native animals and insects would be encouraged to help with pest control and increase biodiversity. Position some big trees on the far corners of the sun-less side of the site. These trees will trap condensation. They will also provide tinder for cooking, mulch for the garden, sticks for small trellises or plant ti-pis, a shady corner for nursery plants and habitat for wildlife.
  6. Encourage participants to learn to cook and eat what grows easily rather than force the landscape and climate to grow what they are in the habit of eating.  The notion of re-educating our palette can be very helpful for us to cope with climate uncertainty.

Strengthening Community Heart

Include spaces to enhance the social unity in your community garden.
Create spaces to:

  • meet andHello there! exchange ideas (this can also be a stage) Northey Street City Farm has a small outdoor stage under a mature tree.  For decades this space has served as a great space to hangout day and night.
  • share tools and enjoy harvests together
  • Entertain one another and have fun. In our recent design here for a Permaculture community garden we have made the whole site in the shape of an amphitheater. This demonstrates the true creative spirit of permaculture – to serve many functions!

Stacking The Action

A multi-functional community space like this can run events throughout the seasons and at different times of the day. This is the stacking principle taught by Bill Mollison. When we stack different plants together we utilise the vertical space and when we put things into the space at different times of the day or year, we are utilising the 4th dimension – time.

 

 

 

Micro-Earthworks Boost Soil-Life

Gentle and Easy

Without water, the soil beneath our feet is vulnerable rock with trapped nutrients. Sometimes a few weeds will volunteer to try to help build soil and stop the soil from eroding away.  Throughout the world there is a strong correlation between lifeless soil and a lifeless climate. This is because the forests seed rain and build life. In the tropics the nutrients live in the mulch from fallen from trees. Whereas, in temperate zones the soils are deep and rich.

But most of us live in urban zones where the soil is nearly lifeless. And most people can’t afford machinery to redesign our patch. Frankly, even if we had the money, the machines can’t get in and the job is too small.

Earthworks for Earthusers

Given that more women than men grow food around the planet – here are some ideas for simple and effective earthworks without digging and without machinery.Swales-Microearthworks

Earthworks by machinery can be expensive so most of us try to manage without.  But when water management is neglected, the site struggles to reach full potential.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The principles of permaculture earthworks are valuable for the preservation of soil and creation of abundance.  These basic permaculture earthworks principles help build mirco-organisms, enable plants to access the nutrients, save water and reduce erosion. We can apply the principles for earthworks on any scale: on farms or on a little veggie patch.

Permaculture Earthworks Principles

Water management is taught in detail In permaculture design training. When someone comes to do a permaculture design after years of managing a site, there are many regrets. It is easier to design before you start. However, here are a number principles that can be learnt on the fly:

  1. Catch, store and use every drop that comes to your site. Waste not any water that passes by.
  2. Recognise the 3 sources of water: Condensation, Rain and Underground springs
  3. Slow potentially erosive water. This is the core value of Natural Sequence Farming.

    Paths are great harvesting water. Redirect this water to reduce erosion.
    Paths are great harvesting water. Redirect this water to reduce erosion.
  4. Take water out from the gulleys and send it to the ridges (this is a  powerful tool from keyline water design)
  5. Set up filters. Take responsibility for the quality of the water that leaves your site. The water that leaves you can be cleaner than when it entered.
  6. Use natural energies and filters to support your food forests. Filter, store  and transport water naturally through the permaculture system with biological resources (rather than plastics hoses and pumps).

Design with Pattern thinking

Designs with patterns such as streamlining and using lobes (small diversions) create opportunities to maintain the direction and speed of water flow.  The water will follow the design intention. It will pool and settle-out fine minerals and keep the channels productive and flowing. The water can even help maintain these flow-paths. In truth, you can’t argue with water. Water knows what it likes. What you need to do is sit and listen and coax the water to slow down and spread out.

Design for Wollongong West Primary School where the children can build mounds to capture and direct water, have fun with the maze-like pathways that rise and fall
Design for Wollongong West Primary School where the children can build mounds to capture and direct water, have fun with the maze-like pathways that rise and fall on the bends

Shake It Up

Use a variety of storage devices. Commonly, people want ponds or tanks to give them potable water. These are valuable but they are static and unable to evolve. On the other hand, bogs and forest are more effective to release the water safely.  Once a pond is full, it can do nothing to manage the next drop. Whereas, a forest is a continually working water-filter. It grows with the build-up. It can even respond to a deluge. The forest drops branches and traps more silt. The forest fungi burst into reproduction. Under-storey plants cup and store water, tree branches and leaves fall to protect the soil, seeds germinate. The forest is constantly adapting.

You can learn with us about how to make small, slow yet effective ways to build soil. You can also enjoy learning about earthworks and have a play in some mud.

Schumaker College has raised garden beds
Schumacher College has productive raised garden beds with trenches to direct water flow and duck traffic

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

World First Online

We are the pioneers of online permaculture training and mentorship. Serving continuously over 20 years, we have tutored participants from more than 67 countries. Thank you for working to make a better future for everyone.