Aviva Directory » Business & Industry » Agriculture & Aquaculture » Agriculture » Permaculture

Permaculture is a holistic land management approach designed to raise crops in a manner patterned after natural ecosystems.

Merriam-Webster defines permaculture as "an agricultural system or method that seeks to integrate human activity with natural surroundings so as to create highly efficient self-sustaining ecosystems." Its name was derived from an amalgamation of "permanent" and "agriculture," Permaculture integrates the land and resources to allow the permaculturist to raise food in harmony with nature while making use of available resources.

The philosophy behind permaculture is to grow food while working with nature rather than against it. While most agricultural methods take nutrients from the soil, which have to be added in order for the soil to remain fertile, permaculture is designed to sustain the plants that are part of the permaculture environment. In practice, permaculture raises food in a sustainable, non-destructive manner in which the environment supports itself.

Some of the concepts in permaculture involve the integration of sustainable architecture and agroforestry with garden planning that includes both companion and succession planting, the monitoring of soil fertility, rotational grazing, and the use of renewable resources.

For example, chickens provide eggs and meat but also contribute to the environment. Chickens dig, scratch, and till the soil, while eating many insects that may be pests to food crops. Their excrement fertilizes the soil, as it is an excellent nitrogen source.

Permaculture is a sustainable approach to land use, whatever the size. The system encourages landowners to view their land from a new perspective. Unlike conventional agriculture, permaculture is all about collaborating with nature rather than fighting it.

In nature, dead plants decompose, adding nutrients that form the basis for new growth, while animals consume food and excrete wastes that act as fertilizer for the soil. Recreating this symbiotic relationship is what permaculture is all about, and human beings can fit into it.

Permaculture gardens serve multiple purposes, providing food for human beings while serving as a habitat for wildlife.

A consideration in permaculture is the encouragement of guilds. This is a mutually beneficial group of species that are part of the larger ecosystem, such as compatible animals, insects, and plants that form symbiotic relationships. Don't restrict your permaculture to food crops. Using native plants as much as possible, seek plants that balance nitrogen levels in the soil, as well as attract beneficial insects while discouraging harmful ones. Empty spaces in your garden will attract undesirable weeds, so fill these spaces with desirable vegetation.

If you are considering a permacultural garden around your home, learn about the edge effect. You can also create garden zones around your house, plan your crops in concentric circles, planting the crops that need the most attention in the zone nearest the house. This might include herbs or soft fruits. Zone two might be reserved for perennials that require less maintenance, while zone three is where the main crops are grown. Zone four would be a semi-wild area, used largely for forage, and zone five would be a wilderness area.

Landowners with woodlands might consider creating forest gardens. Agroforestry is a form of permaculture that combines trees, shrubs, crops, and livestock in a symbiotic relationship to create a healthy and sustainable system. Forest gardens are designed to mimic natural forests. Trees can provide a significant source of perennial food while providing a protective environment for other food crops and beneficial vegetation.

As an example, a tomato plant will provide about twenty pounds of food, at best, and new tomato plants will have to be planted each growing season. Conversely, the average apple tree will produce about two hundred pounds of fruit and will do so year after year. In a forest garden, you can have both apple trees and tomato plants, as well as many others. Blackberry and raspberry plants produce roughly the same amount of fruit as tomato plants, but they do so year after year.

As in any other permaculture garden, a forest garden is designed so that the components work together in the same manner as a natural forest ecosystem takes care of itself, except that humans interfere only so that, here and there, the forest gives us more of what we want - fruit, nuts, vegetables, and so on.

Unlike traditional gardens and farm fields, forest gardens work on behalf of wildlife. As they do in the wild, plants and animals help one another, each providing value. Animals spread seeds, fertilize the soil, pollinate the fruit, and till the soil, while the plants provide food and a habitat for the animals. In a properly designed forest garden, human beings are not outside of the system.



Recommended Resources

Search for Permaculture on Google or Bing