These days, buzz words like sustainable and green are tossed around everywhere. One that we are starting to hear a lot more about lately is permaculture. What is it and how do its principles apply to our lives?
In short, permaculture is the very model of sustainable agriculture. Permaculture systems are designed specifically to be sustainable and self-sufficient, meaning that they can largely maintain themselves. As a movement, permaculture followers subscribe to the basic ideal that they take care of the earth, and the plants, animals and people that inhabit it.
Permaculture designers are in it for the long haul, so they go beyond the normal one or two season garden, thinking ahead several years and planting fruit and nut trees and perennial edibles in such a way as to maximize their potential growth in the available area. This is accomplished through the use of layer planting beginning with the highest levels and going all the way down into the soil itself.
Fruit and nut trees provide a canopy and protection from wind, rain and sun. Shrubs create a lower level of protection and provide berries. Next comes the traditional garden-type edibles that include annuals and perennials you might usually see in a garden. Tubers and root vegetables like potatoes and carrots are the primary components of the next layer, followed by green manure-type crops that act as ground cover, help to minimize erosion, and enrich the soil. A final layer is comprised of vertically growing plants like beans and peas.
Of course the basic eco-friendly ideas like rainwater harvesting, composting and layer mulching all play an important part in the permaculture mindset. Each part of the bigger picture comes together to help create a seamless web of life that is self-perpetuating and sustainable for the earth, the plants and the animals (including humans) that are a part of it.