Eco Tip #8 Small-scale Permaculture: Creating a sustainable garden that provides for you and your family.
At its more basic level, permaculture is based on the idea that your garden should be an extension of its local, natural environment.
A permaculture garden considers your needs (i.e. production), but also the natural ecosystem, climate, and building up the best possible conditions for the longer term. Therefore, permaculture enthusiasts advise you to pay particular attention to soil nutrition and quality, as well as rejuvenating the earth.
The three permaculture maxims (and how to get your garden started).
While it's plausible that you are interested in starting a permaculture garden, the first step is to get acquainted with the culture's philosophy. Basically, what a permaculturist is supposed to ALWAYS have in mind is:
- Permaculture is a way to take care of the Earth.
- Permaculture is a way to take care of people.
- You should only take your fair share and return any surplus.
Knowing this, rolling out your garden will, reasonably, feel like a pleasure, rather than work. What follows is our best tips for you to plan and execute this garden, at a small scale, so that you can start scoring your first little victories.
We’re sure that, by the time you see the (literal) fruits of your labour, you’ll be hooked enough to continue on your own!
Getting started: A checklist.
- Be a detective: What's the natural environment like in your area? Figure out what the native flora, insects, and fauna of your region are. Get acquainted with the weather. See how water flows. How is your garden area? Does it have elevations, built-in structures? Do you have animals living on it? Every detail will count down the road, so you better get your story together, Sherlock!
- Be an ecologist: Have you figured out how you'll water your garden yet? A pro permaculturist uses drip irrigation systems and collects water from rain and everyday activities to make the most out of every action. Figuring this part first is essential so that the layout you'll plan in the following steps is easily adaptable to your watering capabilities.
- Play God: Ok, maybe you won't be creating anything from thin air. But, what would you add to your garden to make it perfect? For this point, figure out what plants adapt and thrive best in your local climate. Perennial is better, and there are always options in this regard. Second, figure out the best regional plants for attracting beneficial insects (such as ladybugs, spiders, ground beetles, etc.), deter pests, and help enrichen your soil.
- Be an architect: Once you know how you will feed (with water, soil, and sunlight) your plants and which ones they will be, you can start thinking about your garden's distribution. Make the most out of your space without creating an asphyxiating environment. Remember that, since you'll likely be using raised beds, you can take advantage of vertical landscaping to stack a specific type of plants over others and therefore optimize your positioning. Remember: Those with similar needs should stick together, whether they're humans or plants!
- Be an engineer: Build your garden beds (you'll find more than enough guides on the Internet for this) or look into sheet mulching. Follow the alternative you find better for your case. As you build, start executing your garden! You're likely to find flaws in your design, which is why it's ideal to begin quickly and small. Get the small failures out of the way immediately, and, as you go, improve on your ideas. Chances are you'll arrive at a better destination than initially planned.
- Pat yourself in the back: You deserve it! By getting started, you're now further than 99% of the world's population. This very well merits celebration.
- Take care of your garden through composting: Once your garden is started, you need to care for your soil. Chemicals are against permaculture's values, but you can learn about composting and become more sustainable in the ways you live. We recommend that you use a composter for this, which will allow you to make earthworm friends that you'll feed with organic mulch (leaves, newspapers, straws, wood chips, bark, grass, etc.) and organic matter.