Coming from the phrase “permanent agriculture”, permaculture garden is defined as “a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labour; and of looking at plants and animals in all their function, rather than treating any area as a single product system” by Bill Mollison in his Introduction to Permaculture book. The concept of permaculture garden has adapted designs and features that allow it to be sustainable. As a Gen Z youth living in today’s world, the idea of sustainability is very vital.

“a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature…”

Bill Mollison in Introduction to Permaculture

As mentioned, permaculture concepts or principles focus on the ecosystem’s function as a whole, allowing the interaction between both biotic and non-biotic elements in the garden. It allows for a sustainable way of approaching and meeting human needs while maintaining the environment’s wellbeing simultaneously. Once the permaculture garden is established, it does not require a lot of maintenance besides watering and harvesting or adding compost/mulch. It is an efficient concept to become self-sufficient while still holding on to the idea of sustainability.

Recognizing that different climates and areas require different approaches, the principles of permaculture are also very adaptable in meeting these differences. This concept of adaptability considers the type of crops planted in each garden. No two gardens in different environments will have the same plants, as a permaculture garden promotes to utilize plants that work best for the local environment and climate. Even with the differences, permaculture techniques allow each garden to thrive in its own way.

Photo by Elias Morr on Unsplash

Permaculture Design Principles

According to different sources, there are many different permaculture design principles. However, here are some permaculture gardening techniques:

No Dig Garden: The process of digging to plant crops kill beneficial organisms that nourish the soil. Without these decomposing organisms, the soil in the garden will become nutrient deficient. No-dig beds also ensure that soil drains well in humid climates, which allows water preservation. Some of the popular no-dig methods are raised beds, sheet mulched beds, and hugelkultur.

Keyhole Garden: Keyhole garden is a technique that ensures efficient use of space for gardening. They also allow an easier harvest since all the crops are condensed into one spot rather than in rows of singular crops (which makes the garden more susceptible for pests – therefore, using Keyhole Garden allows efficient use of space while also reducing diseases and pests)

Mulching: Organic matter waste that is commonly thrown away in conventional gardening can be processed and used to improve the soil of permaculture. Again, being sustainable! Mulching insulates the soil, trapping the heat inside the soil from the cold, which retains moisture in the soil even more. They also help maintain a moist soil and help protect the soil from erosion. The decaying of the organic matter over time will also help soil nourishment.

Source: Dyatmika Community Garden

Companion Garden: As permaculture focuses on the interaction within the ecosystem, it is righteous to think about what crops would work with each other, therefore supporting the ecosystem even more. A good combination of crops could potentially help with attracting biodiversity, controlling pests, and even soil nutrition. For example, culinary herbs and some flowers are useful for repelling pests, while other flowering plants are excellent for attracting pollinating insects.

Rotational Cropping: When the same plant or plant family is used repeatedly in the same soil, there will be a depletion of certain nutrients that are absorbed most by the plant. This not only reduces the fertility of the soil but also makes the crops more prone to pests and diseases. When using rotational cropping, gardeners will switch the type of crops planted in the same soil overtime. This allows the soil to be balanced with nutrients. The cycle usually starts with soil-enhancing beans before planting any other crops that require a lot of nutrients.

Green Manure: Still revolving around the idea of sustainability, rather than using chemical fertilizers, most permaculture gardens will utilize their garden space to create their own green manure. If all the crops are harvested, the soil will not receive the nutrients that were lost in the production of those crops; therefore, many gardeners grow green manure. This is where they crop solely to cut them down and use them as a compost to feed to the soil, and it’s often done as a part of crop rotation.

Rain Barrels: Rain barrels are used to catch rainwater, which not only preserves water, but also provides extra nutrients for the soil in the garden. Keeping a hydrated garden is crucial to ensure the growth of the crops, but also to attract wildlife to the garden. This wildlife will not only enrich the ecosystem but also help fight off pests that may disrupt the growth of the crops.

Permaculture Garden in Application

Dyatmika Community Garden – Bali, Indonesia

Source: Dyatmika Community Garden

Having their first community garden two years ago, Dyatmika School has adapted and implemented the concepts of permaculture to their garden and now calling it the Dyatmika Community Garden or DCG for short.

Following the technique of No-Dig Gardening, the DCG has utilized raised beds in their garden. This technique was chosen as the climate of the environment is very humid, and the raised beds would help with water drainage through the soil, making it a very suitable technique to be applied.

The concept of sustainability is also transferred through the zero-waste concept. All the waste products of the garden are composted and mixed with home-made fertilizer and are recycled back into the garden.

Source: Dyatmika Community Garden

While the DCG may not have implemented all of the permaculture techniques, they have demonstrated the permaculture principles and promoted sustainability and self-sufficiency. They have also managed to incorporate educational purposes for the different subjects and extracurricular while still following the principles of permaculture.

Having a garden following the principles of permaculture is something that could be followed by other schools, organizations or businesses across the world or even merely for individuals in the comfort of their own backyard. It is these small steps of being more sustainable that would collectively lead to a better future.

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