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What is permaculture?

Permaculture is composed of the English words "permanent", in the sense of sustainable, and "agriculture" for agriculture. It is a planning and design method for agriculture that aims to enable survival in harmony with nature. The focus is on the manifold functions of individual elements and a circulatory system. Ideally, you can create a garden with permaculture and a little patience, with which you can achieve a high yield with relatively little (material) effort - in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way.

The idea of ​​permaculture

The concept "permaculture" was coined by Bruce Charles "Bill" Mollison (1928-2016) and his student David Holmgren in the 1970s. The two Australians stayed longer with the Australian aborigines and got to know a respectful approach to nature there. Mindfulness, natural cycles and preservation of natural resources are the most important lessons to be learned in permaculture. In 1978 Mollison founded the "Institute for Permaculture" in Tasmania. In 1981 he was awarded the Alternative Nobel Prize for his work. Next to Mollison and Holmgren is the Japanese Masanobu Fukuoka, who shared a similar understanding of holistic agriculture in Japan.

Goals of a permaculture

Developing and maintaining networked, multifunctional and sustainable ecosystems modeled on nature is the ultimate goal of permaculture. Model are self-regulating ecosystems such as (rain) forests, wetlands and flood plains. When using permaculture, it is essential to be careful with the earth and its resources. Permaculture in the true sense refers not only to gardening and agriculture, but aims at a regional and fully self-generated supply of food. It should use existing resources efficiently, reduce energy consumption and reduce the consumption of consumer goods.

Three ethical principles and five R's

For Mollison and Holgren, three ethical principles form the basis of every action in Permaculture: "Carry for the earth"; "Caring for the people (Care for the people)" and "Share fair and set limits for consumption (Fair share)".
It is also about a respectful use of raw materials, which is described by the five concepts with "R":

Refusing: Resist all superfluous consumer goods.
Reducing: Reduce energy, material and waste.
Reusing: Use things several times.
Repairing: Repair items.
Recycling involves subjecting things - if possible - to upcycling, ie upgrading products that have become worthless at first glance and assigning them a new function.

Principles of permaculture and their application

For a permaculture in the garden principles apply, which serve as planning aids - but can be carried out very individually. So just get back to those who are best suited to your ideas and your intentions and, in your experience, are best connected.

Learning from nature

To design and manage a garden according to the ideas of permaculture, one of the principles is to recognize, understand and take into account the structures, patterns and forms in nature. For your own garden this means: Imitate the natural processes in the rhythm of the seasons, get to know the native plants and animals, observe how the sun runs and where there are shady places in the garden exposed to the wind. In-depth knowledge of local soil is indispensable. If it is clay, sand or clay soil and which nutrients you may need to add to improve it.
The closer you know your garden, the easier it will be for you to plan vegetables, herbs or perennials, as well as ponds and fringes. One way to imitate nature in your own garden is, among other things, a wild soil, so a section in your garden that you completely "leave to nature" and edit in any way. In addition, you can rely on perennial plants that require little care and yet bring good yields. Berry bushes like the currant are particularly suitable for this. In addition, in permaculture the rule is to leave soils uncovered, that is, either to mulch or cover them with plants. This protects them from extreme weather conditions and saves heat.

Vegetable bed in permaculture

The soil is the most important basis for permaculture because it stores nutrients that it releases to the plants. He should always be mulched or planted

To design a garden as permaculture

When designing your garden according to the concept of permaculture, you should first be aware of the vision you have for the property. Through an optimal use of the natural conditions in your garden, a permaculture is supposed to create a sustainable and long-term design. Helpful are the following considerations: What grows on my property? What do these plants need? What are the characteristics of my property? What did not work in the past? What are my financial options? How much time do I have for management? Which plants and which harvest make me happy?
When designing, change small, intensively used areas with large, extensively used areas. Plan zones and incorporate natural shapes such as nets, meanders or waves.
The ideal model of permaculture consists of five zones (rings) revolving around man as the center:

Zone 0: house or apartment
Zone 1: kitchen garden, herb garden
Zone 2: vegetable garden or small animal husbandry
Zone 3: fruit and / or nut trees
Zone 4: Pasture land
Zone 5: Wilderness, relaxation area for humans and nature
Of course, all zones can not be implemented in all gardens. Especially on a small property you have to limit yourself to a selection. True-to-scale sketches help you to plan your plot according to your wishes. Remember to keep the paths as short as possible, so reduce the implementation effort and save energy in the long-term management.

Create diversity

"Mixed culture instead of monoculture" is the motto of permaculture. Therefore, grow crops in alternating crop rotation that have proven to be good neighbors. Helpful are so-called mixed culture tables. Give your vegetable patch a green manure (for example with oats, mustard or fenugreek) the opportunity to regenerate.
Choose plant and vegetable species that match your region's climate and local soil conditions. Make sure that there are a variety of habitats in your garden, ie both intensively used areas such as vegetable beds and extensively left border and transition zones. Accompanying plants in the vegetable patch such as comfrey as a mulch or oat for soil buildup are also very important. A milpa bed, as the Maya cultivated, has proved to be an ideal mixed culture. The "three sisters" corn, beans and pumpkin are grown on one surface.

Mixed culture in the vegetable patch

For almost every plant there is the ideal mixed culture partner

Set on multifunctionality

With permaculture in the garden, multi-functionality means to arrange plants and structural elements in such a way that they can fulfill several functions and favor one another. The example of a hedge makes this easy to illustrate. A hedge on the north or west side of a property protects against winds. If you plant a hedge of "Naschobst plants" such as blackberries, gooseberries or blueberries, you can also harvest. If you have a willow in the garden, a woven wicker fence can provide wind protection, decorative delimitation and recycling of the willow branches that have been cut at one time. Even animals can take on different tasks in the garden. Run ducks and chickens, for example, are welcome helpers in pest control.

Use energy efficiently

In order to use energy in your garden efficiently, it is essential to know the daily solar radiation, prevailing wind conditions and the orientation of the property. You finally determine the microclimate in your garden. For example, a south-facing (house) wall stores heat for a long time after exposure to sunlight. A U-shaped hedge facing north protects against north winds and therefore creates a pleasant microclimate on the south side of your garden. A greenhouse is almost a must for the permaculture gardener, because it allows you to bring sensitive plants through the winter and cultivate early seedlings. Even ponds are ways to store heat. Erdkeller and rents serve as cool and dry places in the winter, where vegetables can be stored. This saves you energy and not least the costs that a large fridge would bring.

Do not waste water

Permaculture in your own garden is about managing the resource of water as profitably and sustainably as possible. In other words: catch the rainwater on your property with the rain gutter and a rain barrel, divert it, if possible, into your own pond and use it to water your vegetable beds. Of course you can also use the collected rainwater for irrigation with the help of watering cans and garden hoses. Keep in mind that water also serves as an optimal heat storage. A greenhouse next to a pond gets much more heat from the reflected solar radiation.

rain barrel

Rainwater is excellent irrigation water - and completely free

Operating in cycles

Certain flowering meadows and seed mixtures attract wild bees, bumblebees and other beneficials that provide a closed ecosystem in your garden. A compost is an ideal example of a circulatory system that you can easily integrate into your own garden. Put the compost in the fall as an elongated rent. Use deciduous waste, dry grass, kitchen waste or chicken manure and leave it all for several months. From time to time you should use the compost to aerate it. For soil improvement, the compost can be placed on the bed six to twelve months later.
Another example of a successful and self-contained system that ideally stores and uses energy is the hillside. It should be about 50 to 100 centimeters high so you can plant it comfortably. In the fall lift a small pit in north-south direction and fill it with different layers. At the bottom come branch material, turf, leaves and coarse compost, above that a layer of garden soil and mature compost. By the rotting processes of the lower layers, heat forms and in the course of time a thick layer of humus, which benefits the plants.

Woman mulges hillside

The degradation of organic material releases heat inside the hillside

Promote cooperation

When designing a garden according to the principles of permaculture, it is important to combine the different plants, fruits and vegetables in a meaningful way. Comfrey and nettle around a fruit tree, for example, provide good mulch material. The "layering and stacking" that Bill Mollison emphasizes in his principles also amounts to a successful cooperation. One understands how to raise plants in a targeted way or let them grow, so that you can garden even on a few square meters. The cultivation of pumpkins on a trellis help, for example, a pretty planting with flowering plants.

Increase resistance

In permaculture, biodiversity, the biodiversity of animals, plants and other organisms, is very important. This makes the garden more resistant - not only to weather changes, but also to pests and plant diseases.

Creative solutions

Look for individual and creative solutions for your property and do not be afraid to make corrections if something does not work. A solution for the planting of small gardens, for example, may be a herbal spiral. So you can cultivate many herbs with different needs in a small space and harvest freshly on a regular basis. Raised beds are a way to back gardening gardening. In the increasingly popular urban gardening, ie gardening in the city, just the concepts are popular, thanks to which you can invest even in a confined space a kitchen garden. Potatoes, salads, kohlrabi and Co. can also be grown vertically on the balcony. The same applies to exchanges for seeds or natural products, vegetable crates and vegetable subscriptions, beekeeping on the balcony and the waiver of packaging materials. All of these ideas and creative solutions are already laid out and present in the principles of permaculture.

Video Board: Beautiful 1-Acre Small Scale Permaculture Farm - Limestone Permaculture Farm.

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