Permaculture definition - what is it

Do you want to start permaculture?

Whether your garden is small, large, already existing or you are only at the creation stagehere are the principles of permaculture, how it works, and how to design an ecological and productive garden.

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The main principles of permaculture

What is permaculture?

Permaculture is a mode of cultivation (or, on a larger scale, an agricultural system) which uses principles of ecology and traditional knowledge to reproduce a natural ecosystem in its durability, stability, resilience (i.e. i.e. its ability to return to its initial state after undergoing a modification) and its diversity.

More simply, permaculture reproduces what nature does: living beings, animals and plants, live there in balance; the soil is nourished by the plants that grow there and then die there; tall plants protect the most fragile from the wind and the scorching sun; the plants there are adapted to the soil and the climate, and they self-seed… In a permaculture garden, the gardener acts a bit like an orchestra conductor: he ensures the general harmony but lets each instrument play its part .

A permaculture garden therefore represents an almost autonomous, sustainable system, where the gardener lets nature take its course instead of going against it. It takes advantage of natural interactions rather than constantly correcting a system that has been rendered artificial. He composes with biodiversity and the natural recycling of matter, rather than aiming for monoculture with a lot of pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

The 10 basic pillars of permaculture

Here is what the basis of permaculture consists of:

  • living soil (earthworms, micro-organisms, organic matter, etc.);
  • a rich biodiversity (numerous cultivated and even wild species, varied fauna);
  • crop associations on the same plot (no monoculture);
  • closed-loop operation: no waste generated, little or no exogenous input (no purchase of fertilizers, choice of traditional varieties that can be resown, green waste recycled on site, etc.);
  • optimal use of water (rainwater harvesting, soil protection);
  • produce a lot on a small area: crops in height, tiered crops…;
  • introduction of domestic animals (chickens, sheep, etc.);
  • permanent ground cover (green manures, mulchingsuccession of crops during a season, etc.);
  • very limited or non-existent tillage so as not to disturb its balance;
  • a small cultivated area but with good productivity.

Getting into permaculture: creating the garden

Observe and take into account the existing

Choosing to switch to permaculture involves completely rethinking your garden while preserving what can be. The first step is an observation step:

  • What is the nature of the soil? Clayey, sandy, loamy? Is it more calcareous or more acidic?
  • How is the garden exposed? What are the most sunny or shady areas? From which side of the garden does the sun rise? How do the prevailing winds blow?
  • What is the local climate?
  • Are there any slopes?
  • What are the interesting elements to keep: a hedge, a pond, large trees, an alley, a grove, a wall…?
  • What are the nearby water resources?

Depending on these different elements, you will have the first bases for the plan of your garden, the choice of plants to grow there (in particular by adapting them to the nature of the soil and the climate) and the location of the most suitable garden for each.

Draw the plan of your permaculture garden

A hedge makes it possible to visually enclose or partition, but it is also a refuge for a rich biodiversity (birds, auxiliary insects, etc.) which the garden will benefit from: do not hesitate to multiply the hedges, high or low. They are all useful interfaces between wildlife and the crops to be protected. However, pay attention to their orientation: they must not hide the sun from other plants.

A pond or small pond are also valuable in permaculture: they attract many predators of garden pests (frogs, toads, dragonflies, etc.), and water stores solar energy and releases it in the form of heat.

A few large trees are also useful for shading vegetables, which like cool soil and don’t like the scorching sun.

In permaculture, the idea being to promote interactions, we will not isolate the henhouse at the bottom of the garden, but rather place it where the hens will be useful: near the orchard, so that they eat unwanted insects, or from the vegetable garden, where they will hunt slugs and snails. Similarly, rather than separating an ornamental garden and a food garden, installing vegetables and fruit trees next to decorative and attractive flowers for pollinating insects is a good idea. The aromatics will be in their place near the vegetables, rather than in a planter in front of the house, because the vegetable plants will benefit from their repellent effect on certain pests.

To draw your plan, take into account the orientation of the garden (north-south, east-west), the favorable interactions to be created between the different areas of the garden, but also the existing elements that you want to keep, the crops you want to install, the practical aspect (to avoid comings and goings, for example between the compost bin and the vegetable garden) and your desires!

Here are the elements that you can show on this plan:

  • orientation (North, South, East, West)
  • living house
  • access to the garden
  • fences
  • large trees already present or to be planted
  • orchard and berry bushes
  • vegetable garden space with the different vegetables to install
  • space dedicated to sowing with frame, nursery, etc.
  • paths and alleys
  • pond
  • rainwater collector
  • greenhouse (ideally leaning against the house or a south-facing wall)
  • garden shed where to store equipment, empty pots, tools…
  • compost bin
  • maintained forest
  • “wild” space: meadow, groves
  • chicken coop, hutches, shelter and enclosure for sheep or goats…

Read more : Permaculture, green manure and compost

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