Do you want to get into permaculture?
Whether your garden is small, large, already existing or you are just in the creation stage, here are the principles of permaculture, how it works, and how to design an ecological and productive garden.
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The main principles of permaculture
What is permaculture?
Permaculture is a mode of cultivation (or, on a larger scale, an agricultural system) that uses ecological principles and traditional knowledge to reproduce a natural ecosystem in its sustainability, stability, resilience (i.e. - say its ability to return to its initial state after having undergone a modification) and its diversity.
More simply, permaculture reproduces what nature does: living beings, animals and plants, live there in equilibrium; the soil is nourished by plants which grow there and then die there; large plants protect the most fragile from the wind and the scorching sun; the plants are adapted to the soil and to the climate, and they reseed themselves on their own ... In a permaculture garden, the gardener acts a bit like an orchestra conductor: he ensures the general harmony but lets each instrument play its score .
A permaculture garden therefore represents an almost autonomous, perennial system, where the gardener lets nature take its course instead of going against it. It takes advantage of natural interactions rather than constantly correcting an artificial system. It deals with biodiversity and the natural recycling of matter, rather than aiming for monoculture with a lot of pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
The 10 pillars of permaculture
This is what the basis of permaculture is:
- living soil (earthworms, micro-organisms, organic matter, etc.);
- rich biodiversity (many cultivated and even wild species, varied fauna);
- crop associations on the same plot (no monoculture);
- closed-circuit operation: no waste generated, no or little exogenous input (no purchase of fertilizers, choice of traditional varieties that can be reseeded, green waste recycled on site, etc.);
- optimal use of water (rainwater harvesting, soil protection);
- produce a lot on a small area: crops in height, crops in stages, etc.;
- introduction of domestic animals (chickens, sheep, etc.);
- permanent soil cover (green manure, mulching, succession of crops during a season, etc.);
- very limited or even non-existent tillage so as not to disturb its balance;
- a small cultivated area but with good productivity.
Getting into permaculture: creating the garden
Observe and take into account the existing
Choosing to switch to permaculture involves completely rethinking your garden while retaining what can be. The first step is an observation step:
- What is the nature of the soil? Clayey, sandy, silty? Is it more chalky or more acidic?
- How is the garden displayed? Which areas are the sunniest or in the shade? On which side of the garden does the sun rise? How do the prevailing winds blow?
- What is the local climate like?
- Are there any slopes?
- What are the interesting elements to keep: a hedge, a pond, large trees, an alley, a grove, a wall…?
- What are the nearby water resources?
Depending on these different elements, you will have the first bases for the plan of your garden, the choice of plants to grow there (in particular by adapting them to the nature of the soil and the climate) and the location of the most suitable garden for each.
Draw the plan of your permaculture garden
A hedge allows you to visually fencing or partitioning, but it is also a refuge for a rich biodiversity (birds, auxiliary insects, etc.) from which the garden will benefit: do not hesitate to multiply the hedges, high or low. They are all useful interfaces between wildlife and the crops to be protected. However, be careful with their orientation: they must not hide the sun from other plants.
A pond or small pond are also valuable in permaculture: they attract many predators of garden pests (frogs, toads, dragonflies ...), and water stores solar energy and releases it in the form of heat.
A few tall trees are also useful for providing shade for vegetables that appreciate cool soil and fear the scorching sun.
In permaculture, the idea being to promote interactions, we will not isolate the henhouse at the back of the garden, but rather place it where the hens will be useful: near the orchard, so that they eat unwanted insects, or from the vegetable garden, where they will hunt slugs and snails. Likewise, rather than separating an ornamental garden from a nourishing garden, it is a good idea to install vegetables and fruit trees next to decorative flowers that are attractive to pollinating insects. The aromatics will be in their place near the vegetables, rather than in a planter in front of the house, because the vegetable plants will benefit from their repellent effect on certain pests.
To draw your plan, take into account the orientation of the garden (north-south, east-west), the favorable interactions to be created between the different areas of the garden, but also the existing elements that you want to keep, the crops that you want install, practicality (to avoid comings and goings, for example between the compost bin and the vegetable garden) and your desires!
Here are the elements that you can show on this map:
- orientation (North, South, East, West)
- living house
- access to the garden
- large trees already present or to be planted
- orchard and berry shrubs
- vegetable garden with the different vegetables to install
- space dedicated to seedlings with frame, nursery ...
- paths and alleys
- rainwater collector
- greenhouse (ideally, leaning against the house or against a south-facing wall)
- garden shed where you can store equipment, empty pots, tools, etc.
- compost bin
- maintained forest
- "wild" area: meadow, thickets
- henhouse, hutches, shelter and pens for sheep or goats ...
Read more: Permaculture, green manure and compost