Permaculture is an important cultivation and design technique and an ecologically harmonious way of living. The name suggests what it is about. It comes from permanent and culture, its ideal being to develop a sustainable and ecologically harmonious form of agriculture and horticulture that meets the needs of humans and animals within the eco-system. It is not to be confused with the organic movement, though the two are quite compatible with each other. Permaculturalists believe that the design technique is a design for living and that it should stretch into the whole of a permaculturalists life. The ideal is that the whole of a person's existence should run with the grain of nature rather than against it.
Permaculturalists attempt to cultivate in harmony with the environment, so that minimum energy will be expended in the cultivation process. Thus all permaculture begins with observation of the site where growing will take place. The observer takes note of all environmental l conditions and reflects on what has been observed. He/she will then design a cultivation system that relies on plants that are harmonious with the growing environment. By growing with the flow of nature growers expend less energy than those who try to grow against it. This would avoid energy expensive use of heated greenhouses to grow crops that are not suitable for the environmental conditions at a site.
Permaculturalists divide land into zones. Zone 1 is the dwelling and its immediate environs. Zone 2 is the productive gardens close to a house. Zone 3 is orchards and farm land. Zone 4 is land less amenable to humans, such as moorland and natural woodland. Zone 5 is wilderness. Few sites have all five zones, and most have only zones 1 and 2. In Britain there is little zone 5 land. Permaculture values edge, as it realizes that edges of one plot or piece of land can be quite productive and are sometimes wasted. You will also note that it is not obsessed with straight lines, and a permaculture site might have paths and beds which are curved and sinuous, going along the lie of the land or its surface features.
The aim of Permaculture is to maximally utilise resources and energy before they leave the system. Thus the ideal permaculture system will have no waste, as waste is a sign of failure. The design will be such that all waste will be re-used. Composting is an important part of the process, but waste usage extends much wider than this. Permaculture systems will be designed for minimum energy use and maximum returns. In common with the organic movement it realises that the earth ahs top be nourished rather than exploited, and most permaculturalists follow organic methods. However, Permaculturalists believe that a bare piece of land is an error, and they like to keep land covered. This will involve either growing some crop on it, even green manure, or keeping it mulched. Mulch might be plant remains, seaweed etc.
Permaculturalists place emphasis on perennial crops rather than annuals, although annual crops are important as part of diet. Perennials are thought to be a more economic use of energy, as they regrow every year without having to be replanted. The movement is not committed to vegetarianism, though some Permaculturalists are vegetarians. Also important to the movement is the idea of forest gardens. These are gardens that blend various kinds of trees and shrubs with some vegetables and bushes. Permaculturalists like them because they utilise the vertical dimension as well as the surface.
The Permaculture Association credits courses in permaculture. The initial course is a certificate. There is a teacher's course and a diploma for more advanced designers. Various course providers are credited to offer these. Some magazines have sprung up to promote the permaculture message. I have a certificate in permaculture, but for me it involves a lifelong growth of knowledge and personal development in the ideas of the movement.
Below is a picture of a forest garden in Africa