What is Permaculture?

Permaculture is first and foremost a design system. The set of design principals used in permaculture are derived from studying ecology and looking at relationships between individual ecological systems. These systems include things like climate, landform, access, and the gestalt (i.e., shape and size) of particular plants. While lessons from this holistic design process can be applied to developing an efficient system in any realm, permaculture design is conventionally applied to resource-generating biological systems, that is: food, fiber, fodder, and medicine.

A classic example of permaculture design is the forest garden. A forest garden typically mimics a mid-succession ecosystem. This ecosystem is characterized by patchy cover of shrubs and trees that form a mosaic-like appearance when viewed from above. Between shrubs and trees, perennial herbs cover the ground. To mimic this mid-succession system, one could plant fruit- bearing trees and shrubs and cover the ground with perennial vegetables, herbs, and flowers. The advantages to a garden like this arise from how relationships between the plants support one another as they would in a natural setting. This minimizes labor and inputs while maximizing the quality and outputs of the garden.

The forest garden is a fine model of permaculture, but anyone producing food and other biological resources can utilize a permacultural lens to aid their designs. An annual vegetable gardener could utilize permacultural design in crop planning, path layout, garden access, fertility regiments, tool storage locations, and material depot locations. Nothing physical really is or isn’t permaculture. It’s simply principles of design to help people establish structures with efficient relationships between the individual system components.

The plants we grow here were chosen due to their compatibility in a permaculture design context. We plant a lot of gardens here and often don’t have time to tend things closely. This means we need plants that are hardy, pest- and disease-resistant, and low maintenance in general. If you think you’d like trees and shrubs with these qualities, then look into what fruit- and nut- bearing species we have for sale:

An excellent book on permaculture is “Edible Forest Gardens” by Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier, but if you’d like a quick primer, the permaculture Wikipedia page does a pretty good job.