Phil: Check, check, check, one two. Check, check, check, one two.
Hey guys it’s Phil from Smilinggardener.com. If you haven’t checkout out my free online organic gardening course you can do that right on the homepage of Smilinggardener.com
Today we’re talking about permaculture garden design. What conventional garden design often focuses on is the aesthetic of the garden and the functionality of the garden so just where things go and how the garden looks.
Which is fine for most people especially if you’re a non-gardener you just want to have a tree that looks nice or a plant that looks nice. Like, I have a Redbud in the background here. It’s not the best specimen which is why I actually took it and planted it.v
If the redbuds are in flower, people come out they want to buy that tree because they just want something that looks nice. That’s entirely fine and that’s a lot of what gardening is, just making something that looks nice.
What we’re talking about today is making an ecological approach to garden design where of course we want it to look nice, we want it to work well, but we also want to look at nature and we want to think about it as a integrative kind of system where we’re trying to improve biodiversity and clean up the soil and filter water, do a bunch of things that are just improving the health of our little space here.
And not only because we want to be good to the planet, because we want to have a garden that works really well and that doesn’t always require our inputs that takes care of itself.
And so that’s what we’re getting into today with this permaculture design. Permaculture really got started or at least the term was coined in the 1970s and it was the combination of permanent and agriculture. So permanent is really talking about sustainability and something that can take care of itself sustainably and then agriculture is a lot about growing food.
The principles in permaculture are going to look different in every situation. Sometimes there’s a probably that I see in permaculture is where solutions that have maybe worked elsewhere are imposed into our garden because we think we need them.
So an herb spiral is a way to grow a bunch of herbs in a small area and it’s kind of a cool thing in the right situation but now a lot of people think they need an herb spiral because it’s a permaculture thing, but with permaculture we really want to focus on the design, on the strategy and on thinking about the principles.
So, the principle is really trying to work with nature instead of trying to conquer nature we’re trying to use the energies that are coming on our site, and trying to manipulate them just in such a way that it can help do some of the work for us.
A big thing with permaculture that we’re trying to do is to observe and interact with our landscape. If we can somehow spend a few seasons looking at our landscape and observing it we can learn a lot and these are fairly common sense things.
It doesn’t have to be difficult if I just look at my forest garden, this very young forest garden I’m putting in behind me, basically kind of a holistic orchard, I noticed observing, that there’s a wet area down there seasonally during the spring and sometimes in the winter and so that’s where I put – you can maybe see the white blossoms back there – my pear trees, my pear trees can take a little bit moisture whereas my apple trees aren’t into that so I have an apple tree right here and another one off camera here, they’re up on a high spot.
So that’s pretty common sense but it’s just things like that. Maybe you can see behind my redbud which has the nice purple flowers right now, there’s a cherry tree.
It’s kind of right behind there, but it’s a little bit marginal in this area and so I have in the sheltered part of the garden where it’s protected from wind it’s kind of nice and warm in there, so it’s just a fragile tree and that’s going to help with that.
So it’s really just common sense all the time but it gives us a lot of clues as to how we can work with the landscape and it really can minimize our labor and the inputs we need to bring in and then the problems we encounter if we do this kind of working with the energies and all the things that are going on in our site.
So in nature nothing is lost and that’s what we’re trying to mimic in our landscapes, too. If we can look at all of the elements in our landscape and figure out how we can provide for them then we can do a lot of good.
And what I mean by elements are things like fruit trees like an apple tree or a veggie garden or my compost pile or a pond or a greenhouse or any kind of major part of the garden. That’s an element and that element needs some things in order to be optimal and that element can give a lot of things to us, too, if we can learn how to use them.
So that could be so many different things it can mean that under my fruit trees I’m trying to plant herbs and other beneficial plants that are going to help that fruit tree and we call that guilding a fruit tree, we call that a guild.
It could be that I put my compost bin somewhere where I can take the heat from that compost and do something with that heat – maybe it helps to heat a greenhouse – or maybe on the other hand maybe the greenhouse…if I put the compost bin in the greenhouse maybe the greenhouse helps to keep the compost bin warm throughout the winter.
So what we want to do is just keep looking at all these elements and on and on and on with the greenhouse I should be capturing water off that greenhouse maybe down in some plants that need a lot of water.
And so on and on we try to think about all these integrations. So what you really want to do is think about all the things you need in your garden all the products you want to get from it, all the things you need and also list all the major elements.
So fruit trees, greenhouses, all the things I’ve listed…compost…and think about how those things can all integrate with each other and provide for each other.
[Phil’s mom shouting] Hey Phil, how’s it going?
Phil: Great, just filming!
This was just a brief introduction to permaculture today what it means is observing your site, working with nature, trying to learn from nature. How can we mimic nature in our garden so that our garden takes care of itself? So we don’t have to do so much work and spend so much money and then we can go and start and permaculture somewhere else.
If you have any questions for me ask them down below and I will answer them. If you haven’t signed up for my free online organic gardening course you can do that down below. You can join me over on Facebook with my sister at Facebook.com/smilinggardener.
Before we even get to these permaculture principles today, it’s a good idea to take some time to choose your goals.
You may want fresh, healthy food, a space to relax and be inspired, impressive flowers to brighten up the street, a play zone for kids – the potential benefits are as diverse as people.
Conventional landscape design tends to look at gardens mostly in terms of aesthetics (e.g. bright fall color) and function (e.g. a privacy screen).
But this approach often doesn’t do a great job of designing the garden as a living ecosystem.
A holistic, integrated approach considers the ecological impact of the garden, which actually improves aesthetics and functionality in many ways, but also has many other benefits…
What Is Permaculture?
I filmed the video this spring, but this photo shows there was a lot more going on by August, and there will be a LOT more going on next year.
In the 1970s, a movement developed to create ecosystems that meet human needs by imitating natural systems.
A contraction of the words “permanent” and “agriculture,” permaculture principles have come to include a cultural component as well, encompassing everything from building design and energy generation to social and economic systems – and of course, food.
In some ways, it’s just a set of common sense principles, based on an ethic of care for the earth, care for people, and sharing the surplus.
These principles will look different in each situation. There are no set formulas that guarantee a good result.
Permaculture design is about learning to be good relationship managers. This is what I learned when I did my permaculture course in 2007.
Rather than seeing ourselves as conquerors imposing our will on a passive landscape, we learn to guide the interactions of the many living elements in our space with as light a touch as we can…
Permaculture Principles – Observe And Interact
If we want to imitate nature, the first step is to observe what’s already there.
Rather than jumping in immediately with a preconceived idea of how we want our permaculture garden to look, we’ll get a much better result in the end if we take time to watch through a few seasons.
We can notice things like where sun and shade fall through different seasons, what plants and weeds are thriving in which locations, where water pools in winter/spring or where the grass turns brown first in summer, what kinds of birds and other animals visit the yard, and so on.
This permaculture principle of observation doesn’t have to be difficult.
For example, I have a low spot in my garden that gets seasonally wet, so I put my pears down near there because they can take it. My apples are happily up higher where they won’t have to deal with that.
My one cherry tree is in a warm, sheltered spot protected from harsh winds because it’s a little more fragile.
It’s just common sense design much of the time, but it gives us clues to how we can work with the landscape.
We can minimize our labor and problems by cooperating with the natural energy flows of the space, and intervening where it will have the greatest effect…
Under my fruit trees, I have comfrey, nasturtiums and garlic (all in this photo), plus lots of other herbs, many of which will hopefully contribute to the health of the tree.
In nature, nothing is lost – there is no waste.
We can create gardens that work in a similar way, by considering each element we’ll include in terms of its needs and yields.
An element is simply anything we want in our space, like an apple tree, an organic vegetable garden, a compost pile, a greenhouse or a pond.
Each element needs certain things in order to function well, and can yield a variety of products or functions, including things we might not usually think of.
That could be herbs planted below an apple tree to attract pollinators and other beneficial insects for the tree, or a compost pile generating heat for a greenhouse (or vice versa).
It’s great to make use of as many of these as possible.
Start by taking time to make a comprehensive list of your own garden needs, and follow this with a list of the elements you’ll need to meet those needs.
Then you can brainstorm the needs and yields of each element, and see how they interact with each other.
You can place the elements in your garden in an integrated way that maximizes the beneficial relationships between them.
Do you have any interesting integrations between elements in your garden?
Or do you have questions about these permaculture principles, about permaculture design?
I hope so, because I’d love to answer them down below…