As we move into an age of peak oil concerns and resource scarcity it is important to face these challenges with a positive acceptance and react with sound and well thought out decisions. The following piece is not meant to be a comprehensive description of permaculture, rather a primer describing some of the basic principles and design strategies relating to urban and suburban residential sites. It is a complicated and very far reaching discipline and this should only act as a guide for those who want to explore more. I have listed some texts at the end of the article to get you started.
First, lets briefly define permaculture. Permaculture is a design method and a set of skills for creating resilient human habitats and healthy ecosystems. It is modeled on natural patterns and addresses food production, shelter, energy, water, community, culture and health. Applying these principles to the way we organize ourselves in the landscape increases resilience in the face of energy, environmental, and economic uncertainty. It also presents us with one of our best opportunities to create healthy systems that continue indefinitely.
I feel another important definition to make clear is that of resilience. Resilience is the ability to weather challenges, shocks, and change without significant damage. This has varying scales ranging from personal and household to neighborhood and community. There is a massive amount of information loaded in all of these definitions but it’s important to know what we are working towards when we think about permaculture in designing our home gardens.
There are many strategies that can be used to achieve a highly functional, high yield, low input, beautiful garden. Here are just a few of the simple ones that can done by just about anyone.
Imagine yourself walking down your neighborhood street. Pears and apples are hanging down from the mature trees that cast shade on the area, cooling you from the summer heat. Small kiwi fruit hangs from a vine that is climbing up a Persimmon tree. On the ground is an assortment of herbs, native wildflowers, vegetables, and berry bushes. The ground smells rich and inviting because of the soil that has been built by this diverse and productive plant community. A neighbor comes out of to greet you and provides you with some vegetables that they grow specially in their garden, that you don’t have. Turns out you have a wonderful complimentary element and next thing you know, you are hosting a small get together with friends, family and maybe even some people you’ve only just met, eating food grown in YOUR neighborhood, in YOUR garden.
The paragraph above is something to leave you with that will hopefully paint a picture in your mind and change the way you think about your residential landscape. Every property no matter the size has the ability to be a catalyst for social interaction, education, and health. As permaculturalist Geoff Lawton puts it nicely; “you can solve all the world’s problems in a garden”
Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway
Edible Forest Gardens Vol. 1 and 2 by Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier
Paradise Lot by Eric Toensmeier and Jonathan Bates
- Jon K.