Designing a permaculture garden

Variety is the key to success

Permaculture is a conjugation of two words, Permanent and Agriculture, and a way of practicing responsible stewardship principals. A basic principle of reciprocity where each living organism at the farm supports the needs of other organisms and is in turn, supported by the other organisms. The easiest way to think about it is a tree that drops its leaves in the fall (deciduous); the leaves are decomposed by fungus and worms which builds new topsoil. The tree is able to absorb the nutrients through its roots and feed off this new soil which closes the loop. It goes even further than this, the roots need oxygen to thrive. The worms tunnel up to the surface to feed, and then go deep underground. The worm’s excrement is left in the tunnels as they move and feed which provides oxygen and nutrients to the deeper roots. The tunnels also allow for water to percolate deep into the earth which help in times of drought. Without the worms and fungus, the trees would suffer and likewise, without trees, the worms and fungus would have to find a new source of food.

Three most important things to remember

Designing a permaculture garden or orchard is much the same concept. Planting nitrogen fixing plants next to plants that need large amounts of nitrogen creates a natural and symbiotic relationship.

There are 3 main principals in creating a permaculture garden

  1. Dorn work against nature, work with it
  2. Observe nature and correct deficiencies
  3. Everything should have multiple purposes

Don't work against nature, work with it!

Most of todays gardeners get upset when their vegetables are injured by bugs, so they spray chemicals to kill the pests. These pesticides are typically non-discriminatory and kill the beneficial insects as well which creates catch22 scenario. After this initial genocide of pests, you must continue spraying because the plants have no defense against the pests. Furthermore, these chemicals have unintended consequences. These chemicals can be washed off the plants and absorb into the ground killing the worms, bacteria and other beneficial insects. Some systemic pesticides have long lasting half-life’s that if not monitored or applied with the correct timing, can be absorbed by whoever or whatever eats them (you are what you eat).

Pesticide Alternatives


Instead of spraying to get rid of unwanted pests, plant to attract beneficial insects. Remember that this will take time because without a food source (the pests you want gone), the beneficial insects wont stay long. Companion planting is an effective strategy against unwanted pests. Marigolds, chrysanthemums (Mums), mint, basil, citronella grass, lavender, chives and petunias all have natural bug repelling compounds in them. Space out your plants and never plant two of the same vegetable next to each other. This is essentially a buffet for the pests, and they can walk from one dinner table to another. Instead, alternate the plants species as most bugs have a preferred food source so they have father to walk or fly before finding dinner or a mate.


No External Input Needed


A permaculture setup is a closed loop system needing no, or very little input from outside the ecosystem. In an ideal ecosystem, fertilizer and soil amendments will never be needed however there are minerals that cannot be obtained in nature are the exception to the practice of permaculture. If you think about a forest, no one is out there spraying for bugs, amending the soil or tilling it up each year. Nature takes care of everything if you let it, get out of natures way and be patient. It might take several years to get to where you want to be, but if you ask yourself “What Would Mother Nature Do”, you will be well on your way to sustainability.