The Difference Between Gardening And Permaculture

Edible Landscapes, Food Forest Design, Food Forests, Permaculture

Design Matters

Not everyone has the potential to live in an environment that can be certified organic. Most regions suffer from rain or wind-borne contaminants. However, through Permaculture design, we can make our patch greener and more sustainable.

Design features of Permaculture:

  1. It has an ethical core. The test is: if it isn’t good for the earth and good for people in a fair share, then don’t use it.
  2. Each site is designed to imitate Natural Systems. Permaculture uses biological resources and natural energies and observes the clever ways nature responds and adapts. Nature cycles the energy resulting in new waste. Efficiency is Natural.
  3. Permaculture uses a set of Principles, Strategies, and Techniques

Integration is Key

Permaculture uses organic gardening practices but it goes beyond. It integrates the garden and home to create a lifestyle that impacts less on the environment.

The Permaculture garden is more than an organic garden. Although organic food production often has many innovative elements, a Permaculture designed garden joins each of the elements into functional relationships.

Big, Little, and More

Permaculture thinking can be applied to many physical and social structures. It is energy-wise and collaborative to minimize the impact of culture on the surrounding environment. A good permaculture design has great potential. It can connect neighbors. The biggest Permaculture site in the world, The Chikukwa Project, has helped the whole community.

Permaculture design has:

  • Focus on closing the nutrient and water loop by using waste and reducing the dependence on inputs.
  • Creation of healthier soil and diversity of produce.
  • Responsibility for waste. There is an aim to eliminate waste. i.e. no excess nitrogen nor weed seed, is released.
  • Variety keeps residents engaged and excited about growing their food.
  • Imitating nature by conserving the soil and water, and genetic capital. There is an intensive use of space. Plants are allowed to set seed and are inter-planted for pest control. You are unlikely to see food plants in rows. The permaculture site will look more like a food forest with some open glades full of herbs and perennials.
  • Optimization of natural energies, e.g. wind, dust, leaves, and bird droppings.
  • Nutritious food and habitat for people AND native animals and birds.
  • Dependance on observation. Permaculture design is a mixed technology. Bill Mollison (the father of permaculture) said that permaculture, like a bicycle, is adaptable and has great potential but is only as good as the user.
  • Minimal risk. If we fail at permaculture, nature simply takes over. The soil will continue to heal, the forests grow and someone else can step in to rebuild our efforts.

Closed and Open Nutrient Cycling

There is a significant difference between closed and open food-production systems. In a truly closed system, energy is not lost it is simply transferred from one being or element to another. In a permaculture system, energy is ideally used by one element effectively and passed on for the benefit of the next before it leaves the system.

Organic Farming promotes the use of natural fertilizers, making use of the natural carbon cycle so that waste from plants becomes the food (fertilizer) of another. In organic farming, however, as with ALL farming, minerals are being lost from the farm every time a truckload of produce is carted to market.

The Ideal Permaculture ‘Farm’ brings the production of food closer to consumers and the consumer’s wastes back into the cycle. It also reduces the energy wasted in transporting the foods by producing the foods where the people are. In permaculture, people contribute in their daily life toward the production of their food and other needs.

When is Permaculture not Organic?

There will be times when a permaculture system is not strictly organic:

  • when we use local resources rather than imported certified organic resources
  • When we want to increase diversity by bringing in unusual plants/seeds from a non-organic plant supplier
  • Permaculture is capable of enhancing a supply and converting it to organic. for example: when we grow food plants along polluted rivers or roadsides to filter out toxins and break them down to safer levels. We know we may not be able to eat these plants but we can keep them as our ‘catastrophe’ backup.

Essentially Permaculture aims to close the energy loop by working with what we have. 

Resource –

What is a Food Forest?

A food forest is thoughtfully designed to produce maximum nutrition, beauty and abundance.