What are the main principles?
Overview of the Principles of Permaculture
Bill Mollison, who pioneered the permaculture concept promotes a set of principles:
+ Work with nature to assist rather than impede natural developments
+ The problem is the solution
+ Make the least change for the greatest possible effect
+ The only limit is the information and imagination of the designer
+ Everything gardens, or has an effect on its environment
12 Permaculture Design Principles inform most designs today:
We can observe natural and social processes, recognise patterns and appreciate details. When the intelligence gained from our observations is applied we can interact with care, creativity and efficiency.
Example: Reading your garden to see where the boggy areas are, then choosing to grow water-tolerant plants to create a high-yielding aquaculture (v. draining it and attempting to grow other non-suited plants).
We need to capture and store energy within a living landscape. Climax ecosystems such as forests do this incredibly effectively, at using natural systems as models we can aim to rebuild the storage of soil carbon, fertility and water through careful design.
Example: Energy can be stored in biomass in the landscape, such as rainforests acting as ‘carbon sinks’.
We should design any system to provide for self-reliance at all levels. Obtaining a yield means that the system is encouraged, maintained or replicated – successful systems spread!
Example: An apple tree in the garden will provide fruits for our labour, in comparison to an ‘ornamental tree’ (that still has an ecological function but is not multi-functional like the fruit tree).
Self-regulating systems reduce the work needed to maintain them. Accepting feedback can mean that we accept ecological limits, as well as learning and developing our systems in incremental steps.
Example: A forest garden is fairly self-regulating, in comparison to a vegetable garden needing constant weeding.
Renewable resources are those which are renewed and replaced by natural processes over reasonable periods. Renewable services are those that we gain from plants, animals and living soil without them being consumed.
Example: Using reedbeds to clean water.
Design systems should ideally be designed to make use of all outputs. An output that isn’t used becomes a pollutant.
Example: When weeding in my garden, I use the nettles to cook with, therefore preventing them from becoming waste, or I compost them to add their nutrients back into the system.
Patterns in the landscape, such as their limitations and strengths, diversity and history, can be applied to develop smaller, more intensive systems. There are benefits from looking at the ‘bigger picture’.
Example: Looking at the garden as a whole before deciding on the details.
Permaculture emphasises co-operative and symbiotic relationships. Working together is essential in establishing local reliance and sustainability.
Example: Growing certain guilds of plants together, such as the ‘three sisters’ with corn, beans and squash.
Systems should be designed to perform functions at the smallest scale that is practical and energy efficient for that function. Small and slow also values the long-term, slow and steady approach.
Example: Tortoise and the hare
10. Use & Value Diversity
Self-reliance demands diversity. This is not just with plants but with human cultures too – celebrating our unique cultures of place. The diversity of design solutions, strategies, techniques and species are a toolkit for creating new cultures of place.
Example: Several crops are a safer bet then one single species or ‘monoculture’.
In ecology, it is recognised that the ‘edge’ is basically where the action happens – where a high exchange of materials and energy takes place. We can use this concept in our designs.
Example: Creating a pond with multiple edges and levels increases its biodiversity.
We need to design with an awareness of how our system is going to grow and develop, but we also need to be responsive of wider changes in society, be they economic developments, climate change or peak oil. We can use change to our advantage.
Example: Seeing peak oil as an opportunity to re-localise resources and strengthen our communities.