Recently we attended a talk on the subject of permaculture. The speaker began by asking us what our concerns are regarding the world we live in. The words global warming, sustainability, pollution, population are a few of the words that popped up from around the room. Almost everyone contributed a word and each word seemed to evoke some kind of crisis.
She then began to explain what permaculture is. The word “permaculture” is a composite of the words “permanent agriculture.” Permanent agriculture may seem like an oxymoron- we are accustomed to the idea of food coming from huge fields that are tilled under and newly planted every spring, and plied with chemicals of many kinds. But those fields are a big reason why the idea of permaculture is an important one. It is an idea that addresses the issues we are concerned about- mainly sustainability and how we can better care for the environment.
Permaculture is a way of using land that creates maximum productivity and sustainabliity at the same time. It consists of methods that work with the earth, not against it. It is organic in the best sense of the word. And, it goes beyond what we know of as agriculture by making use of methods that work with nature. What i find most captivating about it is that it gives us a way as individuals to actively help this planet to heal. Through these methods each one of us can create a healthy food-providing environment in our own yard.
The methods apply equally to backyard gardening as they do to acreage. The speaker showed her plan for her 1/2 acre suburban yard. She had scoped out the various areas of the yard that differed from others. Some of these are self explanatory such as sun exposure, but others not so immediately evident such as a strong current of wind through the backyard requiring a windbreak, and a swampy area in one corner- good for plants that like wet feet. The heat from the house on the south side- good for strawberries and lots of other things. How the east side of the house always seemed like the perfect place for the family to gather. She explained how observation helps us learn what different areas of the yard will be good for.
And this is just the beginning of the concept of permaculture. It also involves using native plants, creating guilds which are groupings consisting of a variety of plants, making maximum use of veggie garden space, swales and other means of capturing and using rain water, using plants to draw nutrients from the soil, creating habitat for beneficial insects and other helpful wildlife, and i guess you can see by now that permaculture is a broad concept with many sub-topics.
This is an area of land use methods that we are currently researching and exploring. We’ll be blogging on various topics within this subject as we begin to explore them ourselves. -jmm