Nov 23, 2013

Concepts of Permaculture Design

 The Core Concepts of Permaculture Design

To understand any subject that's new to us, it helps to dig into its key concepts. Understanding permaculture at its basic sense will help people to perhaps see how some of its elements can be applied in their own life. 

Specifically, we will deal with, sustainability, minimal disruption of soil conditions, and interdependence with our neighbors.  Let's begin by talking about how permaculture contributes to sustainability of the earth's ecosystems.

It isn't by accident that permanent is part of the term permaculture.  Here we have a way to work with the way nature works not in a forced, mechanized way of modern times.  When you use hand tools and human labor, you don't need to depend on the fossil fuels. 

Naturally built up soils don't support disease and pests so you don't need petroleum-based pesticides and fertilizers.  When you don't remove the unused part of the plant but just lay it back down on the soil to mulch you reduce labor and eliminate the need to amend the soil.  Mulching aids water retention and thus reduces need to water. 

The ultimate in sustainability is when end of year harvest comes, you allow several plants to go to seed.  Then you can cut down the dying foliage and seed heads and lay this on the ground with the mulch which will go on to seed for next year's crops.  This like the other core concepts is the hallmark of permaculture - giving back to the land everything but the fruits you consume.
Another core concept of permaculture is the idea of soil conservation and minimally disturbing the soils in which we plant.  Permaculturists will use hand tools rather than tillers and tractors, which does several things to harm the soil.  Heavier equipment compacts the soil, which makes the ground more difficult to use. 

It is a fact that intensive gardening increases crop production 10 fold when soil is not compacted and soil is left loose and friable.  This way we can get 10 times more production out of the same amount of land - which translates to 10 times more food available to feed the population of the world.  No more food shortages.  It may be hard to believe that we can get more production out of less land by eliminating machinery, but permaculture has proved this time and again.

A final key concept of permaculture is rebuilding community.  Because of our industrialized society we have become detached from each other not just as family but also as community.

This causes us to turn to government and corporations to fill our needs, which causes lower quality food because of the need for mass production, as well as diminishing the local job base, and creating more of a need for outside energy input.

If you buy raw milk from the diary down the road, beef from your neighbor and vegetables from the local organic farmer, you not only provide work for them, you also get higher quality food, with less fossil fuel input. This creates a sustainable loop of profitable work, quality products that we actually need, and utilizes local sources.

In an increasing global economy suffering from constant disruptions in the job market and food chain, this is the future we must work toward for our children and grandchildren. To create a "permanent" culture, we must strive for sustainability, minimal disruption of the soil, and interdependence and shared resources. 

Nov 17, 2013

Permaculture Courses

Anyone desiring to educate themselves in skills in how to "go green" would want to add one more course to their roster: permaculture.   Here you will learn the world altering techniques of how we can change the course of mankind just by a few simple changes in how we work in the landscape. 

By taking classes on permaculture you would benefit from lessons learned from nature, ecosystem and how we humans act to work with it all.  You can avail yourself of books, community college courses and on site laboratory type classes.  Anyway you look at it, you can learn just how you can become part of the solution.

Many books have been written on the subject of permaculture and its variations.  "The One Straw Revolution" by Masanobu Fukuoka, is a "bible" to many students of permaculture.  This man, like his peers, quietly went about doing or mimicking what he saw in nature.

Ruth Stout wrote the "No-work Garden Book" an amazing look at how one woman proved how simple and sensible permaculture gardening is.  While her neighbor's plants died of frosts, hers survived due to the insulated type of mulching she practiced in her garden.

From time to time, local colleges offer non-credit courses on topics of interest to the members of the community.  Permaculture is fast becoming a popular evening and weekend course offering.  Just check your local community college to see if yours has anything along those lines.

Yet another choice for the more "physically inclined" is to participate in a hands-on internship type program sponsored by one of many eco-village type co-ops.  Here you are instructed by those knowledgeable in their field and you get to get practical, hands on experience. 

You can choose to stay a week or a month or more as you volunteer on the land.  Often you will work side by side with veterans and activists from all over the world. Here, you will be part of whatever process is going on at the time you participate - from plot planning, soil prep and planting, to ongoing garden maintenance and harvest. 

It's very likely you'll eat of the produce of your labors and even participate in its preparation.  You will be part of a group who has the satisfaction of knowing they're keeping the seeds of change alive. Take a look on the Internet for permaculture communities and co-ops to see what choices are available to you.

How to Grow a Permaculture Garden

Permaculture Garden Design Guide from Julia

 While we may not be able to make large changes all at once, many little changes over time can add up to a revolution of change. A small way to make new changes is to grow a garden using permaculture techniques.
Meet Mrs. Julia. She is an ex-employee of eBay. She was part of the initial team for Pierre Omidyar and decided to retire in order to enjoy her life, her own way. Julia is an angel investor for small startups in biotechnology farms, as well as an avid traveler.

Julia installed her own large permaculture forest garden on a private 20-acre land in Queensland, Australia. We recently spent a full day with Julia at her garden cum forest.

“Julia, as we already know that you’re a top notch computer geek, spending hours after hours in the computer lab, what is happening with this transformation? How did you come to pick permaculture gardening as a hobby? I heard that you’ve recently obtained your Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC), correct?”

“Thanks Rima, yes, it looks like you’ve done your research about me!”

“Yes, of course! You are one of our inspirations. It’s something like a fairy tale to watch you achieve so many things in just 12 short years, giving up everything to stay close to nature. Tell us how you began this project.”
“You are right; computer programming was my original hobby. I was looking for a suitable hobby to be rid of my taxing and monotonous corporate lifestyle and picked up permaculture gardening. It provides food and medicinal crops, wildlife habitats and it’s attractive. It give a private, relaxing atmosphere through every season. I used keyhole and vertical gardening on the patio of my apartment with some consultation from a local organic gardening network in Ohio. The study of horticulture at TAFE helped me later when I was creating this large garden.”

I traveled to Julia’s forest and it’s an absolutely amazing experience. She share with me great advice on what qualities make a garden a small permaculture. Please read below to find the summary of our discussion about permaculture garden design.

Twelve Design Guidelines for Creating a Permaculture Garden 

You should first attempt to learn the basics of gardening, like the tools, techniques, how to plant and tend a regular garden and sustain it. This takes far less time than you may think. Another important thing to do is to make sure you have clarity on what kind of Permaculture garden you’re interested in making. Keep these tips in mind when planning for your garden and you should see some satisfying results.

1.    It is necessary to have a plan and a design, preferably printed or on paper, since that will encourage decisiveness.

2.    The idea behind permaculture gardening is to use only hand tools and minimal human labor. The only tools you need are a shovel, rake and a small trowel. The idea here is to leave the soil as undisturbed as possible.

3.    Tilling the soils will introduce too much oxygen, which will kill the organisms in the soil that live on and around the plant roots. This will allow weeds to grow. So, avoid keeping bare soil and consider a no-dig design to further protect soil.

4.    Plot preparation can be as simple as layering a mat of cardboard or thick layers of newsprint where you plan to plant. If the weeds are well established already, be sure to cut them down before you layer the cardboard. You can use green manure or follow a DIY approach for creating vermicomposting in an outdoor worm-composting unit (Vermiculture Unit). Organically produced chicken manure is high in essential elements and minerals that the soils will begin to lose when producing heavily, such as nitrogen.

5.    There isn’t any concern for existing vegetation, since the thick cardboard mulch will kill any weeds. You can eliminate dubious chemicals and spray poisons from your garden shed finally.

6.    On top of all of this, you will be layering 6-12 inches of straw, in rows so you can walk between the hills. The idea here is to keep the rows about as wide as you can reach from side to side. Notice that we didn’t till, dig or poison the garden plot. It’s so much simpler to use permaculture techniques in your garden.

7.    To plant your seeds, sprinkle them right on the soil’s surface. Then pull any mulch you have over this. The mulch acts as a moisturizer for the soil so you don’t need to water as often. The mulch will gradually break down and add nutrients to the soils, helping the seeds grow as they germinate.

8.    Planting starts like lettuce are easy. Just pull back the straw, poke a hole in the cardboard and place the little plant in, pushing the straw back overtop when you’re finished. This will work even in heavy soil. Allow the greenery of the plant to come just above the mulch. You can even pull off older leaves to stimulate growth.

9.    When it comes to weeding, it is a simple matter of snipping the emerging greenery and leaving it where it lies to become part of the mulch. The idea is to keep the weeds from getting to the flowering stage where they can spread seeds.

10.    At the time of harvest, you just take a head of lettuce (for example) and cut the head off, leaving the roots. The lettuce will continue to produce some leaves until the first frost. During this time, you can continue to harvest and use the same start.

11.    Over winter, the roots are going to die, but they’re going to add to the richness of the soil. When you’re harvesting beans or tomatoes, take the fruit, pull the greens and leave them laying on the grown to break down with the mulch. No composting makes this easy and waste free.

12.    Ants can be a problem for your fruit trees. Julia recommends wrapping the base of the tree (about 3-4 feet off the ground) with duct tape, sticky side out, for about 8-10 inches in height. Change this out every fortnight. A few drops of peppermint oil can also be used as an effective deterrent.

Permaculture design means protracted and thoughtful observations, rather than protracted and thoughtless labor. This provides for a great business model too.

Useful articles

How to raise chicken where you don't scrape/shovel/scrub any chicken poop

Ways to control slugs using natural predators like nematodes,Beetles, toads

How to save Vegetable Seed

Any interested homeowner/gardener could learn how to do this. Take a strong back and a rake to your garden next spring!

Nov 4, 2013

la permaculture

What Is Permaculture?

Food-forest by the side
of the apartment

We live in a culture that has become increasingly reliant on industrial technologies. A culture that relies on fast  food, disposable goods and cheap gasoline.  A culture that is quickly consuming itself out of resources.

Permaculture, a natural method to farming, is another way to look at the world and its resources. It advocates combinations of natural landscaping and edible landscaping. It's a tool for food growers and gardeners alike.

What kinds of things does Permaculture include?

Today I want to introduce you to the history of this conservational movement and let you meet some of its originators. We’ll also discuss the future of permaculture. You may find that you are already applying some of the basic tenants of this small group without realizing it.

Permaculture, as you may have guessed, is a contraction of the words ‘permanent’ and ‘culture’. The idea behind this word implies that we should rely more on sustainable agriculture that isn’t dependent on fossil fuels. Instead, these cultures are grown using local resources, with smaller more diverse crop planning, and things like non-chemically dependent fertilizing.

This new way of growing from sustainable resources began in the '70s, introduced by a wildlife biologist and ecologist named Bill Mollison of Australia. He saw the growing monster of the Industrial revolution and its impact on our culture. He could see how this kind of culture was bound to eventually cave in due to its monstrous appetite. Rather than reacting in a negative way to these revelations, he decided to take a more positive approach. By studying nature, he came to several conclusions about how nature goes through sustainable cycles when they aren’t being influenced by the actions of humans. Bill began to live and teach his philosophy.

Another man who has silently built up a following in this movement is Masanobu Fukuoka. He believes that you should disturb the soil and planting area as little as possible. Seeds are then planted on the soil's surface and lightly covered with straw or mulch. Weeds will be trimmed before the flower stage and are allowed to become part of the mulch. This kills unwanted vegetation without poison and gives a favorable soil in which to plant. In time the soil becomes healthy and weeds and pests become less of a concern.

Ruth Stout is another voice in this community. Her ideas about "no-till" gardening have caused many to change their views about weeds and weeding (no dig garden). Similar to Fukuoka, she purported that you ought never to weed, but allow plants to grow together. All vegetation’s, both "good" and "bad," build the soil that leads to healthy crops, meaning less pests. Once the soil is built, weeding becomes as simple as flicking out the weed. All without chemicals and pesticides.

From its small, quiet, revolutionary beginnings, it is apparent that permaculture will have to be embraced to a greater or lesser degree by humans at some point. Pollution, and toxins created by industrial waste and mass transportation systems are on their way down memory lane. It will soon cost too much to ship food in from across the country, so it makes more and more sense to buy food grown locally or grow it yourself.

While nowadays, permaculture seems to be associated with second and third generation "hippies," even Urbanites have recently begun to practice it by growing a garden for vegetables and tossing the trimmings back on the beds.

Yes, permaculture, in all its varied philosophies will influence our lives - for good.

What Is Permaculture Gardening?

The essence of permaculture is to work with nature, not against it.  Here are 9 tips from a Permaculturist of Ragman’s Farm.

1. Identify a plot based on how much light, wind, and water the plot receives around the whole year before jumping in with a trowel and a packet of seeds.

2. Divide your plot into multiple zones based on attention required.

3. Permaculture garden designs include growing a diverse range of foods with mutually beneficial relationships. Follow the guide to learn more with this Permaculture companion planting chart..

4. Chickens become an essential ingredient for the soil. Chickens will also clean up most garden pests when allowed to roam in a free-range situation. Several gardeners recommend animal husbandry as part of an organic garden design. The backyard production of chickens, rabbits, fish, goats (and even snails and grubs) is necessary if we are to approach truly sustainable urban food system with local sources of protein.

5. “If you don’t have good soil, you got nothing,” Susanna Raeven said. The key to excellent soil is a healthy ecosystem of microorganisms working the land, and using sheet mulching is a way to provide good habitat for them.

6. Grow green manure, because weeds are deterred by it. It can provide nitrogen for the soil and will also increase levels of organic matter, water-holding capacity, nutrient content, and soil texture. You can sow Mustard, Winter Tares, Alfalfa (Medicago Sativa), Trefoil (Medicago Lupulina) to produce green manure. A green layer is always followed by a brown layer. This prevents the system from becoming anaerobic (i.e. smelly) and too rich in nitrogen. Some great sources are straw, leaf, bark, wood chips or even shredded paper (cardboard) might work. If you can, go for straw or leaf.

7. Worm farms are good for composting, castings and the liquid produced is an added bonus to the health and vitality of soil structure when added to compost. Introduce earthworms to the surface if they were lacking in the soil prior to preparation. This helps to achieve more sustainability.

8. Use passive, solar, earth-sheltered greenhouse to make the garden energy efficient.

9. Use solar energy & earth-sheltered greenhouse to make the system more energy efficient.

Here is a video on debt-free permaculture farming with Joel Salatin

Where we can use Permaculture?

You can start  a garden within city flats, yards and window boxes suburban and country houses/garden ,community spaces farms and estates,countryside and conservation areas Commercial and industrial premises & Waste ground

What is Permaculture Design Certificate Course (PDC)?

  • Permaculture Design Course was developed by Bill Mollison to teach principles and foundations of sustainable design. Here you will learn architectural  principles of building  environmental friendly & ecologically friendly food forest in a natural surroundings.
  • Permaculture teachers are active across the world. Find out how to become one, or get connected to others. Visit the permaculture association
More Resources
  • Permaculture International Limited. Permaculture International Limited (PIL) provides services to members in support of their work in permaculture design.
  • A cropping calendar.
  • No dig gardening - Bill Mollison's Permaculture by design identifies that soil can be over cultivated leading to erosion. Uncultivated soil contains far more humus that retains moisture and nutrients.The best time to make a no-dig garden is in the autumn. Over the winter, the bed matures and is ready for planting in the spring.  

An Interview With Mark Shepard on Profitable Permaculture

About the author : is working with non profit companies in spreading the benefits of aquaponics & permaculture in Western India. He already established an aquaponic garden & now working on creating a food forest using permaculture farming technique near Goa. 

Share your comments on how to make a permaculture garden below