The story of permaculture is centuries long. The term was coined in 1978 to describe a philosophy of agriculture that saw the earth as an interrelated system. The idea of starting from this perspective can be counterintuitive for the home gardener. Permaculture switches the narrative from 'what can I get from my garden' to 'how can I work with my garden.' Gardeners all over the world have begun switching to this gardening philosophy. Luckily, one of the pillars of permaculture is patience, so there's no pressure to expect immediate results. Changing your style from beginning to end takes time. In this post, you will get the introduction you need to transform your vegetable garden into a thriving ecosystem that works for itself.
Let's get started.
1. From The Ground Up
The no-till method is one of the easiest to implement of any permaculture technique. Choosing not to till your soil means that every new gardening season, you add a new layer of organic material (compost) and leave the bottom layer undisturbed. This technique leaves the structure of the soil intact. No-till also keeps micronutrients like beneficial bacteria and fungi alive. In the realm of permaculture, no-till provides a constant home for insects and fungi to thrive. Tilling your garden risks losing extra nutrients. Tilling is only necessary if you have poor soil quality to start. If that is your situation, permaculture principals require that you build up your soil health first to make the garden environment more welcoming to insects, microbes, and fungi.
2. The Power of Observation
Permaculture is all about smart design. This process begins with paying attention. Observe the patterns of your growing space before you plant in it. Pay close attention to any microclimates in the area and the amount of sunlight they get. Instead of growing in uniform beds, consider options like planing all shade-loving plants in the natural shade of a tree or using a fence or wall already present in the space as a trellis for climbing varieties. The idea here is to imagine where things would naturally grow. This technique is used to create less work for the gardener in the long run. For more info on permaculture garden design, watch this video.
3. Just Add Water
If you don't have a natural water source like a pond or stream in your garden, a simple birdbath is a perfect way to invite more wildlife into your space. Where traditional gardening methods call for keeping the wildlife away, permaculture understands that nature knows best. Keeping birds around the garden is a great natural pest preventative. Birds also add to the organic matter of your soil. For folks who don't have a space to raise chickens or ducks, a birdbath is inviting for birds to know they have a place to visit from time to time. If you want to go the extra mile in the direction of permaculture, create a system to collect rainwater for garden use. This saves money on the water bill and gives your garden quality water accessibility every time.
4. Biodiversity = Resilience
In the spirit of permaculture, plan to plant something you've never grown before. Push yourself out of your comfort zone by trying something new. Think tall by planting sunflowers, plums, apples, or other fruit trees. Create shade with bushy varieties like gooseberries, currents, or raspberries. Find an herb you haven't planted yet. Be creative to find the best place for it in the garden. Plan your garden in layers from top to bottom. Start small. Start section by section in your garden and imagine what could be possible. Try to fit as many varieties as you can into each space, considering their sun, water, and soil needs. For inspiration on permaculture gardening in a small area, check out this fantastic video for more information.
I hope this post gives you the inspiration you need to try your hand in the wonderful world of permaculture. If you liked this post, please comment on Facebook if you would like to hear more about permaculture in detail from the MIgardener blog.
– Kaitlynn from MIgardener