Permaculture is a very sustainable and easy to manage method of growing food. The name originally derives from Permanent Agriculture, because it uses a lot of perennial plants instead of annual. It aims to emulate a natural environment while producing a wide variety of food. Permaculture principles can be applied anywhere, from the smallest space up to large food forests.
Traditional agriculture grows single varieties in large monocultures. Permaculture, however, fits many different food producing trees and plants into a relatively small area. Despite being very productive, permaculture is also very sustainable. It does not drain resources from the land as some monocultures do. The wide variety of planting can naturally add nutrients, control pests and attract pollinators.
What Are The Benefits of Permaculture
Ease of management
Once established, growing food using permaculture principles doesn’t require much effort. It is mainly self sustaining, with little weeding or digging needed. In fact the majority of the work is just harvesting all of the produce!
Nutrients Without Fertilisers
A good balance of different trees and plants in a permaculture garden will provide nutrients to the soil without synthetic fertilisers. The use of nitrogen fixing plants naturally adds nitrogen to the soil, which provides nutrients required by other plants. As fertiliser prices are rapidly climbing, this has the added benefit of saving money.
Natural pest control
A large variety of plants in harmony with each other means that you can include plants to control pests. For example, some flowers will disguise vulnerable species from pests. Other plants will attract predators that will eat the pests. For example, attracting ladybirds is a great way to control aphids. Not only does this benefit the environment by removing the need for pesticides, it also saves money.
Pollinators such as bees are easy to attract in a permaculture garden. The wide variety of species means that bees and other pollinators will be attracted in to the garden. They will then do all the work of pollinating your plants and trees.
A permaculture garden replicates a natural environment. Wildlife finds this type of environment much more attractive than large monocultures.
Removing the use of fertiliser also has great benefits from the environment because there are no chemicals to leach in to water courses.
The Seven Layers Of Permaculture
Permaculture principles consider use of space vertically as well as horizontally. This is intended to replicate a natural forest ecosystem. The following are the seven layers of a forest garden:
- Canopy (large fruit & nut trees)
- Understory (dwarf fruit trees)
- Shrubs (berry & currant bushes)
- Herbaceous (annual & perennial herbs & plants)
- Ground Cover (low spreading plants and fruit such as strawberries)
- Rhizosphere (underground layer, can include root crops)
- Climbers (vines that climb up the trees)
How To Use Permaculture Principles To Grow Food At Home
At its very simplest, permaculture is growing multiple things together to benefit each other. Even in a fairly small garden, you can still have several of the layers. For example, plant fruiting bushes around a fruit tree. Add a nitrogen fixing herbaceous plant such as Comfrey to add nutrients. Ground cover herbs will grow well around the edges to block weeds as well as providing herbs for the kitchen. Some ground cover plants can also be used as green manure. You could even add a vine to grow supported by the tree.
Applying permaculture principles to your garden makes self-sufficiency much easier. It’s a very sustainable way of producing food, that doesn’t require a lot of input. It can be successfully managed without adding fertiliser or pesticides. This makes it a really easy way of growing your own food.