Introducing The Principles of Permaculture Design – Using Nature as our Teacher

| 4/26/2011 11:39:18 AM

Tags: permaculture, permaculture principles, organic gardening, sustainable lifestyles, community, climate change, resilience, Maddy Harland,


an English bluebell wood in Spring  

 In my first blog, I introduced the ethics of permaculture. This time I want to explain the principles. We need these principles to provide a set of universally applicable guidelines that can be used in designing sustainable systems. Otherwise, permaculture becomes merely a lifestyle choice within an existing unsustainable system.
These principles can be inherent in any permaculture design, in any climate, and on any scale. They have been derived from the thoughtful observation of nature, and from earlier work by ecologists, landscape designers and environmental science. 

Each principle can be thought of as a door that opens into a whole system of thinking, providing a different perspective that can be understood at varying levels of depth and application. David Holmgren, the co-originator of permaculture, redefined permaculture principles in his seminal book, Permaculture – Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability.
 When I started giving talks about permaculture to all sorts of different audiences, I decided to write my own explanations and apply the principle not only to designing gardens and farms but to business, society and culture. 

Observe & Interact: 

This element of stillness and observation forms the key of permaculture design. In a world of ‘fast’ everything, having the capacity to observe the seasons, watch the changing microclimates on a patch of land, understand how the patterns of wind, weather and slope affect the frost pockets and plant growth, is an opportunity to begin to learn the deeper aspects of Earth Care. It also makes us more capable of making wise decisions about how we design or eco-renovate our houses and plan our gardens and farms. 

Catch & Store Energy: 
Intimately connected to observation is the art of capturing energy in a design – so that we minimize the need to seek resources from the outside. In a garden this is about avoiding planting tender seedlings in frost pockets in spring or maximizing solar gain by siting a greenhouse/conservatory on the south side of a building so that we can both extend the season and heat a house with passive solar gain. We are attempting to capture water, sunlight, heat, soil, biomass and fertility whenever we can in order to become more self-resilient.

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