Permaculture was created by Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the 1970s. A hint to the meaning of permaculture can be found in the origin of the name itself. It is an abbreviation of the two words, permanent and agriculture.
Permaculture utilizes nature to create sustainable agricultural systems. Once set up a permaculture system should enable a far greater degree of independence from human input into the maintenance of the system. Permaculture can be scaled to suit whatever quantity of land is available for the project, from a small suburban block to a large farm.
Permaculture involves a concern for the environment, for the people, and for the future. The aim is to be always improving the environment. It involves consideration of the physical and emotional welfare of the people in terms of the provision of food and shelter and also with respect to the reduction in labour required to maintain the system. Finally, it demonstrates our concern for the conservation of our resources, which is achieved by recycling, by using renewable resources, and by the use of appropriate planning which enables various features of the system to act in a cooperative manner.
A key aspect to the practical implementation of a permaculture garden is the division of the garden area into various zones. This involves the placement of different zones of the garden in the correct position in relation to other zones. Those zones which require most attention should be placed closer to the home, which is a simple way to utilize time and energy more effectively.
Permaculture requires an understanding of natural processes and the utilization of these natural processes for the harmonious development of the garden. You will come to realise that working with nature is much more effective than working against it, and when the system is operating as it should you will benefit from the fact that nature is participating in your dream rather than fighting against it.
Another important principle of permaculture is the emphasis on looking after the people involved in the system. This care ranges from the care that you should invest in your own wellbeing to the care to be shown towards a whole community. After all, if you are concerned with appropriate and sustainable relationships within the various aspects of permaculture, then it should not be forgotten that perhaps our greatest resource is ourselves.
Permaculture teaches us that we should limit our consumption of resources so that we are living in a sustainable manner. If we can use manure from animals that are living within our permacultural system then we are better off than if we drive to another location to buy manure, thus using fuel in the process. Grass which needs to be kept under control should be fodder for animals rather than having to be mowed with a mower or slashed with a slasher being pulled by a tractor. So rather than having to use resources such as fuel in an unsustainable manner, this approach actually creates a resource in the form of manure which can be used to improve fertility and structure in the garden. These are simple but valid examples of living in a sustainable manner.
A very good example of a useful animal to have in a permaculture garden is the chicken. Chickens will clean up your fallen fruit and garden scraps, will create fertile garden areas and will scratch around straw and hay creating wonderful mulch in the process. And at the end of the day, they will reward you by providing you with eggs.
There are countless numbers of books and magazines available for anyone interested in learning more about the art of permaculture, and also many courses are to be found which offer a hands on approach. It is an approach to life and living which needs to be embraced today more than ever and we should remember the words of the co-founder of permaculture, Bill Mollison when he said, “Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple.”