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PERMACULTURE DESIGN PRINCIPLES

Permaculture Principles are based on close observation of nature, traditional sustainable agriculture systems earth sciences and common sense.

Below are definitions and examples of each of the Permaculture principles with relation to sustainable land management and property design.

DIVERSITY

Design for diversity and variety not monoculture. Aim to integrate a variety of beneficial species of food, plants and animals in the landscape. This builds a stable and interactive polycultural system that provides for human needs and also the needs of other species. Polycultures are stable as they reflect the design of a natural ecosystem.

Example:
In a diverse garden you will find many foods all year round to provide a healthy and balanced diet. There will also be habitat for animals and insects which help in natural pest control; flowers to attract pollinators and create a beautiful garden; herbs for teas, flavour and medicine etc.... Using this principle of diversity, you can create a garden which has much more food available in the same space. It is also recognises the need to provide and maintain the habitat for other species without which we could not survive.

EDGE EFFECT

There is more life on the edge where two systems overlap. Systems can then access the resources of both. Use the edge effect and other natural patterns observed to create the best effect. (There are no straight lines in nature.)

Example:
If a pond or dam has a shallow ledge it provides places for fish to breed, for plants to grow which can feed the fish. Also, with a wavy edge it can provide more edge for this habitat.

ENERGY PLANNING

Place things in a permaculture design to minimise the use of energy (human and fossil fuels). Utilise the energy and resources both on-site and from outside as effectively as possible. This also saves time, energy and money.

Examples:
Internal energy- eg. Use slope and gravity to move water rather than electric pumps.

External energy - eg. direct cooling breezes into your house with trees, but shield your house and garden from the strong winds, which can cause damage, or be unpleasant. Place the kitchen garden as close to the house as possible. It therefore has easy access for harvesting and maintenance and it is in view so that you can protect it from potential damaging effects (stray animals etc)

NUTRIENT CYCLING

In a natural system there is no waste or pollution - the output from one natural process is always the resource for another natural process. Recycle and reuse your local resources as many times as possible within a polycultural system.

Example:
Recycle nutrients on-site (eg food scraps to compost) so that you do not need to import expensive fertiliser. Also use your wastewater to water and fertilise plants - therefore not creating polluting runoff into nearby waterways. Plant roots take up these nutrients and turn them into food, in the process cleansing the water.

SCALE

Create human-scale systems and be space efficient. Choose simple, appropriate and effective technologies. Do as much as you are able. Start small and take achievable steps to reach your goal successfully. Create groups which enable people to feel they can actively participate, be involved in the decision making and feel a connection to and ownership of the process.

Examples:
Design to make intensive use of space - create multi-layered and diverse gardens. This allows you to meet your needs from less space and in a global sense maximises the space available for natural systems to maintain the ecological balance, which supports human and other life.

BIOLOGICAL RESOURCES

Use natural methods and processes to achieve a task. Find things in nature (plants, animals, microbes etc) that enjoy doing the task and minimise the inputs required from outside.

Examples:
Chickens like to scratch. In preparation for a garden bed, use chickens to scratch up the area eat the. weeds/weed seeds and fertilise it before planting. Comfrey (herb) has deep roots, which bring nutrients from deep down in the soil. The leaves can then be used to make a rich fertiliser instead of chemical fertilisers.

Compost worms like to decompose organic matter. While doing this they make holes in the soil which allows the movement of air and water (saves you from having to dig). They also leave natural fertiliser in the soil as they move through it, which feeds the plants making them stronger against pests and more nutritious to eat. Worms make healthy soil (healthy soil = healthy plants = healthy people). Therefore help the worms do the garden digging and fertilising for you by returning organic matter (their food) to the soil and by mulching the soil thus protecting their home (the topsoil).

MULTIPLE ELEMENTS

Support each vital need and essential function in more than one way (don't put all your eggs in one basket!). Also recognise that there's more than one way to achieve a task.

Examples:
In a monoculture garden, there is only one type of food available. If that single crop fails due to pests and diseases, there is no other food in your garden. Where possible grow many types of food - vegetables, fruits, leafy greens, herbs, tubers, grains, legumes, and nuts.

Also, don't rely on just once source of water - try to access as many sources as possible - river, dam, pond, tank, town water, bore, well etc... If one source is contaminated or depleted, there will be another source of available water (a vital need).

MULTIPLE FUNCTIONS

Everything has many uses and functions. In permaculture we aim to design so that every element performs at least 3 functions.

Example:
A tree can perform many functions - food, shade, timber, fibre, microclimate, habitat, soil improvement and maintenance, mulch, animal fodder etc.... Choose species, which have the most functions you require and place them where they can be of the most use and meet your needs most efficiently.

NATURAL SUCCESSION

Work with nature and the processes of natural systems. Facilitate natural growth and help to accelerate it naturally.

Example:
When establishing a garden or orchard, delicate plants need to be protected from harsh sun, wind and rain. Use hardy and fast-growing pioneer species to create a good environment for their growth and to provide protection.

RELATIVE LOCATION

Every element is placed in relationship to others so that they can benefit each other. Create supportive environments by placing things together which help to develop a self-sustaining system, replicating a natural ecosystem. From a functional perspective - those things used together, place together. This allows more efficient use of a space and minimisation of your energy in utilising these resources.

Examples:
Companion planting- ie plant garlic under citrus to help prevent aphids.

Where possible, place the compost heap so that it is easily accessible from the kitchen (for food scraps), and close to the garden where the finished compost will be used. In addition, it is good to place the compost heap uphill from the garden as the nutrients that leach from the heap will run straight into the vegetable garden and fertilise it without you having to do any work Š itÕs much easier to carry heavy loads of compost downhill.

 

SEED International
Sustainability Education and Ecological Design

50 Crystal Waters, Kilcoy Lane, Conondale, QLD 4552 Australia
ph/fax: +61 (0)7 5494 4833
info@permaculture.au.com
www.permaculture.au.com

(NB: SEED International was formerly known as Sustainable Futures)

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