vegetable backyard garden
ECO gardener

Permaculture gardening is a holistic and sustainable approach to gardening. The concept aims to create harmonious, self-sustaining ecosystems inspired by the patterns and principles found in nature.

It's not just a gardening technique; it's a way of designing and living in harmony with the natural world while meeting human needs. Permaculture is guided by three core ethics: Earth care, people care, and fair share.

Principles of Permaculture Gardening

vegetable garden

Based on these core ethics are 12 permaculture principles to create and maintain a sustainable system. These principles include observations like "observe and interact," "use and value renewable resources and services," and "produce no waste." Below are the 12 principles of permaculture gardening:

Observe and Interact:

  1. Start by observing your garden space.
  2. Spend time in it and notice the patterns of sunlight, wind, and water flow.
  3. Study the behavior of plants and animals.

Observation allows you to understand your garden's unique characteristics and needs. As you interact with your garden, you'll gain insights into how to work with nature rather than against it.

Catch and Store Energy: We aim to capture and store energy efficiently in permaculture. This can include harnessing solar power with south-facing garden beds, collecting rainwater in barrels, or preserving surplus garden produce through canning or drying. By storing energy wisely, we can reduce our reliance on external resources.

Obtain a Yield: Your garden should not only be beautiful but also productive. Choose plants that provide food, medicine, or materials. Prioritize crops that thrive in your climate and suit your tastes. This principle reminds us that our efforts should result in tangible benefits.

Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback: Just as nature self-regulates, we should too. Be mindful of over-exploiting resources or over-planting. Accept feedback from your garden, noting what works and what doesn't. Adapt and evolve your gardening practices accordingly.

Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services: Permaculture encourages us to rely on resources that can be replenished naturally. This includes planting perennial crops, using organic matter to improve soil fertility, and nurturing beneficial insects and pollinators that provide promote better plant and soil health.

Produce No Waste: Waste is a human invention; everything is a resource in nature. Strive to create closed-loop systems where waste from one element becomes a resource for another. For example, kitchen scraps can be composted to enrich the soil, completing a nutrient cycle.

Design from Patterns to Details: Begin with the big picture and work your way down to the finer details. Consider the overall layout of your garden, the flow of water and energy, and then zoom in to decide where to plant specific crops or build features like compost bins.

Integrate Rather Than Segregate: In nature, diversity and interconnection lead to resilience. Mix different plants, animals, and elements in your garden to create mutually beneficial relationships. This could be planting flowers to attract pollinators or placing a chicken coop near your compost pile to turn waste into eggs.

Use Small and Slow Solutions: When faced with challenges, seek small, manageable solutions rather than massive interventions. Slow and thoughtful changes often lead to more sustainable results. For instance, if you have poor soil, start with small-scale composting to improve it gradually.

Use and Value Diversity: Diversity is a key to resilience. Cultivate a wide variety of plants, not only for food but also for habitat and ecosystem health. Diverse ecosystems are better equipped to handle pests, diseases, and other disturbances.

Use Edges and Value the Marginal: The edges between different ecosystems, such as the border of a pond or the edge of a forest, are often where the most dynamic interactions occur. Maximize these edge spaces in your garden to increase biodiversity and productivity.

Creatively Use and Respond to Change: Change is inevitable. Embrace it and use it as an opportunity to adapt and innovate. A permaculture garden is a dynamic, evolving system that responds to the ever-changing conditions of the natural world.

These permaculture principles serve as a roadmap for designing gardens that are productive, regenerative, and in harmony with the environment. They empower growers to work with nature, fostering sustainability and resilience in their gardens and communities.

Designing A Permaculture Garden

woman organizing her backyard garden plants

Designing a permaculture garden is an exciting journey that connects you with nature and allows you to create a sustainable, productive, and harmonious space. Whether you have a large backyard or just a tiny urban plot, permaculture principles can be applied to design a garden that's beautiful and beneficial to the environment. Let's dive into the process of creating your own permaculture garden:

Observation and Assessment

Start by spending time in your garden, observing its natural patterns. Notice where the sun shines, where water collects, and how wind moves through the space. Study the existing plants and soil conditions. Understanding your garden's unique characteristics is the first step in permaculture design.

Identify Your Goals and Needs

What do you want from your garden? Are you aiming for a bountiful vegetable harvest, a haven for wildlife, or a serene outdoor retreat? Clearly define your goals and prioritize them. Your garden design will be shaped by these objectives.


Apply the zoning concept by dividing your garden into zones based on the frequency of use and plant needs. Zone 0 represents your home, while Zone 5 is the wild, untouched area. Place elements that require frequent attention, like herbs or vegetables, closer to your home (Zone 1 or 2), while low-maintenance plants or wildlife habitats can go further away (Zone 4 or 5).

Sector Analysis

Identify external influences on your garden, such as prevailing winds, sunlight, and noise. Use this information to plan your garden layout. For example, plant windbreaks or wind-tolerant species where needed and position sun-loving plants in sunny spots.

Soil Improvement

Fulvic Acid.

Healthy soil is the foundation of a thriving permaculture garden. Test your soil's pH and nutrient levels and amend it as necessary with organic matter like compost and mulch. Create raised beds or swales if needed to improve drainage or water retention.

Plant Selection

Choose a diverse range of plants that are well-suited to your climate and soil conditions. Focus on perennial plants - these require less maintenance and are more sustainable. Include native species to support local wildlife and pollinators.

Polycultures and Guilds

Plant species together in polycultures to mimic natural ecosystems. Create plant guilds where mutually beneficial species are planted together. For instance, plant a fruit tree with nitrogen-fixing groundcovers and pest-repelling herbs.

Water Management

Design your garden to capture and manage water efficiently. Use rain barrels to collect rainwater for irrigation, build swales to slow down water runoff, and incorporate drought-tolerant plants to reduce water needs.

Energy-Efficient Design

Place garden elements in a way that minimizes energy use. Group plants with similar water needs and position tall plants to provide shade for shorter ones. Consider using vertical gardening to maximize space.

Wildlife Habitat

flower garden with bird house

Encourage biodiversity by creating wildlife-friendly spaces. Plant native species that provide food and shelter for birds, butterflies, and other beneficial creatures. Install birdhouses, bee hotels, or bat boxes to attract specific species.

Sustainable Materials and Features

When building structures or features like trellises, pathways, or raised beds, choose sustainable materials like reclaimed wood or recycled materials. Incorporate repurposed items into your garden design for added character.

Continuous Observation and Adaptation

Your permaculture garden is a living system that evolves over time. Continuously observe, adapt, and learn from your garden. Respond to changing conditions and adjust your design as needed.

Creating a permaculture garden is an ongoing process; mistakes are part of the learning experience. Embrace the journey, and don't be afraid to experiment. Your garden provides nourishing food and a deeper connection to nature.

What To Grow In A Permaculture Garden

backyard tomatoe garden

Creating a permaculture garden is all about fostering a harmonious and sustainable relationship between plants, animals, and the environment. The goal is to grow diverse plants that work together, require minimal maintenance, and provide various yields, including food, habitat, and ecosystem services. Here are some suggestions for what to grow in your permaculture garden:

  • Incorporate perennial vegetables like asparagus, rhubarb, and artichokes. They return year after year, reducing the need for replanting.
  • Plant fruit trees like apples, pears, cherries, and plums. They offer delicious fruits, provide shade, and support local pollinators.
  • Grow berry bushes such as raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. They provide a bounty of nutritious fruits and attract beneficial insects.
  • Consider nut-bearing trees like walnut, chestnut, and hazelnut. They offer protein-rich nuts and can be a staple in your garden's ecosystem.
  • Include a variety of herbs like basil, oregano, thyme, and mint. Herbs not only enhance your culinary creations but also deter pests and nourish pollinators.
  • Incorporate native plants that are adapted to your region's climate. They attract local wildlife, enhance biodiversity, and require less maintenance.
  • Plant ground covers like creeping thyme, clover, or violets. They act as living mulch, reducing weed growth and soil erosion.
  • Use companion planting to your advantage. For example, grow aromatic herbs near vegetables to deter pests or plant nitrogen-fixing legumes near fruit trees to enhance soil fertility.
  • Cultivate medicinal herbs like echinacea, calendula, and lavender. These plants offer health benefits and can be used to make herbal remedies.
  • Many flowers are not only beautiful but also edible. Nasturtiums, pansies, and violets are popular choices that add color and flavor to salads.
  • Grow climbing plants like grapes, kiwi, and passionfruit. They utilize vertical space and provide shade.
  • Include plants that attract beneficial insects like ladybugs, lacewings, and parasitic wasps. These insects help control garden pests.
  • Incorporate nitrogen-fixing plants like clover, lupines, or vetch. They improve soil fertility by adding nitrogen to the soil.
  • Plant root vegetables like carrots, beets, and radishes. They are low-maintenance and complement other crops.
  • Consider growing edible mushrooms like oyster mushrooms. They can be cultivated on logs or in a dedicated mushroom bed.
  • Choose plants that provide food and habitat for wildlife. Native flowers, shrubs, and grasses attract birds, butterflies, and bees.
  • Plant dynamic accumulators like comfrey and yarrow around fruit trees to bring up minerals deep in the soil.
  • Use cover crops like clover or buckwheat during the off-season to protect and enrich the soil.

The key to a successful permaculture garden is diversity and synergy. Each plant should play a role in supporting the overall health of your garden ecosystem. Be patient, and let your garden evolve over time as you observe and learn from the interactions between your plants and the natural world.

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