The 12 principles of permaculture

The 12 principles of permaculture

One way permaculture differs from other methods of gardening is that it is not just a set of practical techniques; it is a way of thinking and of adapting to a particular ecology. Whether you are starting a new garden, or introducing permaculture practices to an existing garden, these principles will help you to understand the design process. —Christopher Shein

The Twelve Principles of Permaculture

1. Observe and interact

Permaculture relies on an understanding of your site and local conditions. Ideally, you should observe your site for a year in all seasons, learning the patterns of sun, wind, heavy rains, flooding, hail, snow, animals, noise, views, and the like. Even if this is not possible, do a thorough assessment of the site’s intrinsic qualities and visit nearby gardens to see what grows well in your area.

2. Catch and store energy

There’s a nursery rhyme about a squirrel collecting nuts during the summer to tide him over during the barren winter, and the permaculture principle of catching and storing energy echoes this lesson. There are many ways to catch and conserve resources when they are abundant so that you have access to them when they are unavailable. For instance, a greenhouse can catch and store the sun’s energy to keep plants warm. With clever placement, a greenhouse can even provide passive solar heat for other buildings. Canning abundant summer produce for lean winter months is a way of storing food energy. Harvesting rainwater or recycling greywater from the house prevents valuable irrigation water from being lost to runoff or the sewage system, and provides water energy during dry months.

3. Obtain a yield

Of course the whole purpose of an edible garden is to yield crops. But there are other less tangible—but no less valuable—yields from a permaculture garden. A yield may be the exchange of skills or information from one gardener to another. Community gardens are good examples of this principle, where neighbors work together to mulch paths and build raised beds, tool sheds, fences, and trellises. School gardens are places for experienced gardeners to teach the next generation how to grow their own food. Elders can share their wisdom, young people can share their enthusiasm and energy, and people from different cultures can share seeds, plants, planting calendars, and growing techniques.