4 Easy Permaculture Techniques You Can Use in Your Garden (2022)

Permaculture is a way of gardening that is all about creating harmony between plants, animals, and people. It’s a model of sustainability and environmental stewardship that works toward building healthy garden systems that also benefit local communities.

The word permaculture is a mash-up of permanent and agriculture, and that about sums things up. The idea is that you want to create a system that can last, rather than using temporary solutions like using petrochemicals or wiping away the biodiversity in your garden.

Forgive me if that sounds hippy-dippy, but I love the way that permaculture works. It goes beyond gardening and seeks to build an ecosystem that uses resources wisely and takes into account the needs of future generations. Permaculture can also get you one step closer to a completely self-sustaining system on your property.

So how does all of this philosophy help you when what you really want is to improve your garden and make your yard more environmentally friendly? We’ll show you four simple strategies you can use right away to start incorporating permaculture techniques into your own garden to help you save money, time and the environment.

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The Background of Permaculture

Permaculture traces its origins to Bill Mollison and The Permaculture Institute in Tasmania.Mollison saw permaculture as a step by step method of producing food as part of a holistic ecosystem – whether that be in your backyard or for a community.

You may have heard of permaculture being used around the world in third world countries to help poor countries develop sustainable practices. In some circles, permaculture is touted as a way to help resolve the world hunger crisis.

Today, humanitarian groups such as the United States Peace Corps and World Vision teach permaculture strategies to build gardens and schools in rural communities.

What is the Difference Between Organic and Permaculture

You may be asking yourself, “what’s the difference between organic gardening and permaculture?” Great question! Both strive to strike a harmony between agriculture and nature. Both use environmentally sound principles. But they differ in that permaculture seeks to balance all parts of the garden ecosystem.

Simply put,organic is a method of gardening without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. Organic methods focus on using natural inputs like compost, leaves and beneficial microbes. Strategies such as crop rotation, companion planting and cover crops all contribute to a healthy garden.

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Permaculture, on the other hand, is an organic form of gardening that takes things one step further. By focusing on the integration of the garden, home, farm, and community, it seeks to find balance within a self-contained ecosystem.

For instance, permaculture focuses on closing the nutrient loop by using waste to create new nutrients. You may be doing this already when you add your animal manure, food scraps, and leaf litter to your compost pile. By using “waste” products from your farm, you are building a new source of nutrients and closing the nutrient loop.

Curious how you can implement some permaculture techniques into your own garden? The following four concepts are an easy way to get started with the system.

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1. Water Control

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The way water flows on your property is important. The next time it rains don’t run inside. Walk around and observe the water paths in your yard. Does water pool in areas you don’t want it to or rush like a river through your garden? Does it flow down the road never to be seen again?

Make notes of the patterns and what you want to change. Then use the following methods to get water to go where you want it to.

Controlling Run-Off

Permaculture is not about growing plants in tidy rows with the sole expectation of harvesting. Instead, plant vegetables in groups on raised beds that follow a slope on a hill to eliminate run-off and erosion. Berries, lovage or asparagus all work well to protect your soil and absorb excess water.

Another way to handle run-off is to channel the water where you need it. I had issues with water running from the top of the ridge through my neighbor’s yard and coming to a big pool under my barn.

The traditional answer is to put in a French drain. I incorporated permaculture techniques by putting in a ditch that ran along the fence line, circumventing the barn and going into the field. At that endpoint, I planted several nut trees and three elderberry bushes.

Now I have water where I need it, not where I don’t, and none is wasted. You can recreate something like this in your own yard by creating a rain garden or a drainage swell.

HarvestingRainwater

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Harvesting rainwater is another permaculture facet that preserves water resources.

Like many rural areas, we don’t have access to city water on my farm, so I use gutters to carry rainwater to tanks for storage. I have rain gutters on practically every building so not a drop gets wasted.

This not only gives me water for later use, but it also keeps water from going where I don’t want it to. Instead of making little rivers under my eaves during a storm, it all goes into tanks.

Use rain barrels or other catchment systems in your garden to help capture water that might otherwise be wasted.

2. Hügelkultur

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Hügelkultur is a German word that means “mound culture.”

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It’s an ancient gardening technique that involves burying wood in your garden and it’s modeled after the natural decaying process on the forest floor, albeit at a faster pace.

In addition to adding nutrients, as the wood decays it soaks up water which is then released during dry spells. That makes this technique useful in areas subject to drought.

The use of hügelkultur utilizes raised beds (mounds). Decaying wood is placed in a ditch, and the soil is piled back on to make a mound. This concept often used in orchards with fruit trees and berry bushes because it improves drainage and soil nutrition.

Build a Hügelkultur Bed

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Look for untreated, raw wood around your farm, either from trees or unused construction waste. Rotting wood is excellent, but fresh cut wood works as well.

  • Mark off an area 3×6 feet.
  • Dig out the topsoil and place in a nearby pile.
  • Add sticks, branches, small logs to your trench. Stomp it down so that its compact.
  • Add bits of compost, plant waste, grass clippings, and additional soil between the gaps in the wood.
  • Keep layering wood and filler material to form a pyramid shape about 3 feet tall.
  • Top off your mound with a few inches of soil.

Once you have created your bed, let it settle. After a few months, the microorganisms are ready to start composting, and the soil will have compacted. Now you can plant.

Hügelkultur beds are great for vining plants that are heavy feeders like pumpkins, melons, and squashes. Soybeans, herbs, and borage are also good options.

Berry bushes thrive in hügelkultur beds. I was having a problem getting blueberries established. My heavy wet clay soil was not making my plants happy even after I amended the soil.

So I built a huge bed to allow the roots a little more room and to give them better drainage. When I was making the raised bed for my blueberries, I deliberately used plants and materials that were more acidic so that I would end up with a pH level in the happy zone for blueberries. Now I have a thriving berry patch.

Agroforestry

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Agroforestry simply means farming the forest. In permaculture speak, agroforestry can also mean bringing forest qualities into your garden and livestock areas.

Bringing the Forest to your Garden

Adding forest areas to fields by planting trees can improve the overall ecosystem of both your farm and the forest.

Trees can provide shelter and windbreaks for livestock and can help keep sounds and odors out of the neighbor’s yard. Some trees like hazelnuts also provide food as the nuts, twigs, and leaves fall into the livestock area. If you have a large pasture area, consider planting beneficial treesin it.

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Trees can provide protected areas for crops, as well, because they help control water flow, break up clay or rocky soil, and provide homes for beneficial wildlife.

Bringing your Garden to the Forest

Forest areas can provide often overlooked opportunities for farming. Mushrooms and nuts are two common crops that grow well in forested areas. Both are good food sources for chickens and pigs, closing those nutrient loops and making your property more sustainable.

Consider planting something on the forested areas of your property to utilize the benefits of the trees. Some ideal crops include:

  • Sarsaparilla
  • Arnica
  • Ginger
  • Wild indigo
  • Gotu Kola
  • Chicory
  • Wild yam
  • Some coneflowers
  • Hyssop
  • Ginkgo
  • Rosemary
  • Valerian
  • Feverfew

Domesticated Animals

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Incorporating domestic animals into ecosystems is a key element of permaculture. For example, let’s look at chickens.

Many of us have our chickens off to the side of the barnyard where they have a coop and a run. But kept this way, our chickens are not participating in the ecology of our property.

Chickens have the potential to do many valuable jobs such as cycling nutrients by foraging and producing waste. They act as weed and pest maintenance, reducing the need for chemical or biological controls, and they “turn” the topsoil via their scratching behavior. Consider incorporating your chickens into the overall layout of your garden.

Another useful animal is the pig. You can use a pig tractor to let pigs prepare an area for planting. They will dig and defecate, which eliminates the need for fertilizer, pest control, and a tractor to clear the space.

Don’t neglect smaller animals in your garden, either. Bees, other insects,and fish can all be valuable additions to your homestead.

Using permaculture in your yard doesn’t have to be an overwhelming proposition. Even the smallest, most rudimentary garden can benefit from some of the concepts that permaculture champions. Are you using any of these techniques on your property? Let us know!

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FAQs

What is an example of permaculture? ›

Examples include buildings that support outside plant life, backyard and balcony gardens, and energy-saving green initiatives such as the installation of gray water reclamation systems. The permaculture movement has its critics.

What is permaculture easy? ›

Permaculture is an innovative framework for creating sustainable ways of living. It is a practical method of developing ecologically harmonious, efficient and productive systems that can be used by anyone, anywhere.

What is the permaculture solution? ›

Permaculture employs systems thinking, looking at patterns, relationships and flows, linking solutions together into synergistic strategies that work with nature and fit local conditions, terrain, and cultures. Efforts to address the climate crisis must be rooted in social, economic, and ecological justice.

What are the 12 principles of permaculture? ›

The 12 design principles of permaculture
  • Observe and Interact with Nature. ...
  • Catch and Store Energy. ...
  • Obtain a Yield. ...
  • Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback. ...
  • Use and Value Renewable Resources. ...
  • Produce No Waste. ...
  • Design From Patterns to Details. ...
  • Integrate Rather Than Segregate.

What does permaculture gardening mean? ›

Permaculture gardens use techniques and practices that combine the best of wildlife gardening, edible landscaping, and native-plant cultivation into one low-maintenance, self-contained and productive ecosystem.

What are the 3 permaculture ethics? ›

Central to permaculture are the three ethics

The ethics earth care, people care and fair share form the foundation for permaculture design and are also found in most traditional societies.

Why is permaculture so important? ›

Why Permaculture? Ecological designers transform scarcity into abundance. The ecological design process balances human needs with the needs of other species. An ecological design creates systems made up of organisms, mechanisms, and feedback.

Why do we need permaculture? ›

The main benefits of permaculture were identified as improved human health, increased resilience to environmental changes, and reduction of input costs. The key challenges included high labour input, infestation of pests and diseases, and lack of knowledge on permaculture practices.

What are permaculture elements? ›

These are: ethics, abstract principles, science & design principles, strategies, and techniques. I list them in order of fundamental importance to the concept of permaculture. They are also listed in reverse order of how many there are.

What is permaculture and how does it work? ›

It is the harmonious integration of the landscape with people providing their food, energy, shelter and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way.” In other words, permaculture is a holistic, living-in-harmony-with-nature worldview, as well as technical approach for how to do so.

What is permaculture design? ›

Permaculture is design – a conscious process involving the placement and planning of elements, things and processes in relationship to each other. As such it is a way of thinking, and it is our thought patterns that determine our actions, so permaculture becomes a way of living.

How can I do permaculture at home? ›

Preparation of a Permaculture Garden
  1. Slash the weeds and drop them to the ground. Then sheet mulch it to prevent them re-growing.
  2. No cultivation is necessary. Feed from the top; straw, manure, minerals, let it feed itself. Essentially let the worms and the soil life do the cultivation.
19 Feb 2005

How do you make a permaculture garden bed? ›

Build a Lazy Bed for Growing Food (No Dig Permaculture Raised Bed)

How is permaculture different from organic gardening? ›

In permaculture gardening, energy is transferred from one source to another before leaving the system entirely. Whereas, with organic gardening, since fertilizers are used, the waste from one plant becomes food for another organism.

How do I start a small food forest? ›

STARTING FROM SCRATCH! How To Start A Food Forest Phase One

How do you prepare soil permaculture? ›

Some don't realize but the soil is actually the first thing they should look at .
...
How to Build Soil
  1. Lift the earth or soil. ...
  2. Add cardboard, newspaper or even old bed sheets or carpet. ...
  3. Add some nutrients like manure. ...
  4. Add mulch, and then add more mulch.
17 Aug 2020

How do I make my garden self-sufficient? ›

5 Tips for Planning a Self-Sufficient Garden
  1. Consider the Space You Have. ...
  2. Pick Your Staple Crops. ...
  3. Make a Preservation Plan. ...
  4. Use Succession Planting to Maximize Your Harvest. ...
  5. Make Sure You Have a Fall Garden.
7 Apr 2020

What is fair share in permaculture? ›

The third and final permaculture principle is Fair Share. This involves setting limits and redistributing surplus. To embody this ethic, one should take only what is needed. Excess should not be harvested, to ensure that there is enough supply for everybody.

What is permaculture in agriculture? ›

Definition Of Permaculture

Permaculture can be understood as the growth of agricultural ecosystems in a self-sufficient and sustainable way. This form of agriculture draws inspiration from nature to develop synergetic farming systems based on crop diversity, resilience, natural productivity, and sustainability.

How does permaculture help the environment? ›

Regarding soil management, permaculture designs seek to 'slow, spread, and sink' water. This reduces stormwater runoff, recharges the aquifer, and seeks to eliminate soil erosion, thereby reducing the amount of carbon and nitrogen which leave the soil.

Does permaculture use fertilizer? ›

Green fertilizer and permaculture

Green fertilizer, or green manure, is also a favorite option to structure and aerate the soil. The root systems of these plants penetrate the soil, while leaves and stems cover and protect it.

What is permaculture for kids? ›

Permaculture is about growing your own food with ecological design that works with people, our natural environment and ecosystems.

What are permaculture design principles? ›

The Permaculture Design Principles are a set of universal design principles that can be applied to any location, climate and culture, and they allow us to design the most efficient and sustainable human habitation and and food production systems.

Where is permaculture used? ›

Existing agricultural systems and land can be transitioned over to the principles of permaculture. Anywhere that you can typically grow food can be used for permaculture on a large or small scale.

Who created permaculture? ›

The movement's founders, Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, coined the term permaculture in the mid-1970s, as a portmanteau of permanent agriculture and permanent culture. In practice, permaculture is a growing and influential movement that runs deep beneath sustainable farming and urban food gardening.

What are the 3 permaculture ethics? ›

Central to permaculture are the three ethics

The ethics earth care, people care and fair share form the foundation for permaculture design and are also found in most traditional societies.

What is permaculture and how does it work? ›

It is the harmonious integration of the landscape with people providing their food, energy, shelter and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way.” In other words, permaculture is a holistic, living-in-harmony-with-nature worldview, as well as technical approach for how to do so.

What is permaculture and why is it important? ›

“Permaculture” as a practice, simply means observing nature, researching tools and techniques used by indigenous people in your bioregion, and engaging in a diligent, daily practice of balancing the needs of yourself and your family with those of the other species all around you.

What's the difference between agriculture and permaculture? ›

Agriculture is the practice of cultivating food for human consumption. Permaculture is “permanent agriculture” and integrates ecosystem patterns to improve the ethics and sustainability of farming practices. Depending on the scale, certain agricultural practices have environmental implications.

What are the values of permaculture? ›

Earth Care, People Care, and Fair Share are the three core values of permaculture. They make up the foundation of the design work on our property, but some permaculture designers have begun incorporating a fourth tenet to the process: the transitional value.

What is permaculture landscape design? ›

What is a permaculture garden design? According to Bill Mollison, cofounder and father of the movement, “Permaculture is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems.”

What is permaculture based? ›

“Permaculture is based on the observation of natural systems, the wisdom contained in traditional farming systems, and modern scientific and technological knowledge.

What are permaculture projects? ›

The permaculture systems demonstrated will include harvesting water, planting trees, permaculture guilds, building soil fertility, and animals in a permaculture system.

Where is permaculture used? ›

Existing agricultural systems and land can be transitioned over to the principles of permaculture. Anywhere that you can typically grow food can be used for permaculture on a large or small scale.

How does permaculture help the environment? ›

Regarding soil management, permaculture designs seek to 'slow, spread, and sink' water. This reduces stormwater runoff, recharges the aquifer, and seeks to eliminate soil erosion, thereby reducing the amount of carbon and nitrogen which leave the soil.

What can you grow in a permaculture garden? ›

Permaculture Plants
  • Comfrey (Symphytum spp.)
  • Mulberry (Morus spp.)
  • Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis fruticose)
  • Rose (Rosa spp.)
  • Red Hot Poker Flower (Kniphofia spp.)
  • Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)
  • Highbush Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum)
  • Jostaberry (Ribes nidigrolaria)

What is a permaculture no-till garden? ›

In the no-till world, instead of mixing amendments deep into the soil, slow-release organic fertilizers, compost, and/or mulch materials are added to the top of the soil on occasion. Those things, along with the left-behind plant roots, slowly break down to rejuvenate the soil and provide food for new plants.

What is organic permaculture? ›

A permaculture design aims to close the energy cycle and support nature in its ability to provide abundance. Organic farming nurtures both nature and us, the consumers. It also treasures soil health as the foundation for sustainable farming practices and it promotes the use of natural fertilisers.

What is a holistic permaculture farm? ›

It is an approach to designing ecosystems that are resilient and self-sufficient while meeting human needs. The idea about Permaculture started with food and food production; the term permaculture is a merger of permanent and agriculture.

Is permaculture the same as organic farming? ›

What's the difference between Organic Farming and Permaculture? Basically, Permaculture uses organic gardening and farming practices but it goes beyond these practices and integrates the garden and home to create a lifestyle that impacts less on the environment.

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