Mankind is Natural
Many participants in the Permaculture movement, forget the idea of man as an ‘natural element’ in the garden. In other words, they try so hard to adhere to natural layouts, that they forget that the gardener must be a participant and living inspiration to the design. Central to permaculture are the three ethics: care for the earth, care for people, and fair share. Thus, our approach to permaculture includes thoughtful landscape architecture and a semi-formal design approach that puts man as a prominent and important element. Garden spaces are not just spirals of plantings, or random throwing of seeds.
Caring for people, in our humble opinion, means giving them pleasant, well-planned, and organized spaces to reside within… And that includes STRAIGHT LINES. 🙂
(See more under Principle 7.)
We used artistic and traditional “Sunset Magazine” California-living, Mid Century Modern Landscape design – often inspired by the legendary award-winning landscape architect, Garret Eckbo. This means, that we include all of the layers and interactions of permie principles ALL WITHIN a pleasing MCM architectural approach to the garden – creating living space nooks and crannies and outdoor ‘rooms.’ The focus is on useful livability that ALSO just so happens to include food producing surrounding plant life, which includes places for ‘natural’ man to rest, do yoga, meditate, play, or converse.
Principles of Permaculture
Here are the twelve (12) principles of permaculture as described by David Holmgren and our responses to them.
- Observe and Interact
“Beauty is in the mind of the beholder”
By taking the time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.
Observe what works and plant with enough order and organization to please the eye. Man is himself a part of nature and his mind creates straight lines, connections, pathways, and organization, which can be a thing of beauty.
Catch and Store Energy
“Make hay while the sun shines”
By developing systems that collect resources when they are abundant, we can use them in times of need.
We are currently using rain water catchment to water the garden through summer, and are looking into solar and wind power. We are also experimenting with hugelculture. And in some instances we have altered the physical landscape terrain with retaining walls and raised beds to improve drainage and even provide water retention, in one case building an experimental below grade basin.
Obtain a yield
“You can’t work on an empty stomach”
Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the working you are doing.
Although we know that ALL plants serve a medicinal or edible purpose, for now, we only plant those plants which we have knowledge on how they may be used. If we have a plant that arrives on its own – we endeavor to learn why it came and what purpose it serves.
Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback
“The sins of the fathers are visited on the children of the seventh generation”
We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well. Negative feedback is often slow to emerge.
We enjoy active participation in the local garden enthusiast community and look forward to sharing and learning more with our fellow gardeners.
It is interesting to note that although it may be ‘implied,’ nowhere in the ‘official’ permaculture principles do they specifically mention Organic or non Genetically Modified (GMO) gardening?!? However, we feel this is a very critical aspect of successful permaculture. Therefore, we use no harmful pesticides or herbacides. This can be challenging, but worthwhile knowing it is the right thing to do to “Care for the Earth” principle. We aspire to plant primarily heirloom or non-hybridized varieties of plants when possible. We also do not use ANY commercial animal products in the garden anymore. Originally when we began, we did use some fish emulsion in the raised beds, but now we have come to understand that the typical animal byproducts used in agriculture may come from very questionable sources. Animals who have been mistreated (or given cannibalistic feed or antibiotics, etc.) in turn would only end up in our garden through their waste products (emulsions, fish meal, bone meal, manures, etc.). We consider our garden to be free-range “veganic.”
Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services
“Let nature take its course”
Make the best use of nature’s abundance to reduce our consumptive behavior and dependence on non-renewable resources.
We have used recycled concrete, recycled rocks, and even recycled glass bottles in our landscape design. The Boca Park restaurant “Honey Salt” donated boxes and boxes of bottles for our glass collection program, as well as neighbors who all dropped off their used wine green bottles, beer bottle, water bottles to help create the outlines of our pathways. It should be noted that this technique was inspired by the work of Jules Dervaes Jr. at the Urban Homestead in Pasadena, CA. We have participated in the Master Gardener Orchard mulch program, and of course, mulched our own dead trees back into our yard.
Produce No Waste
“Waste not, want not” or “A stitch in time saves nine”
By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.
As a yard project, our garden produces no waste. Dirt has been recycled through Craiglist. Tree prunings are used as firewood. Greenwaste is composted or mulched. Unwanted plants have been given to other gardeners.
And, as far as the actual household is concerned, after years of asking, we finally got the city to provide recycling on our street. We are shooting for being a zero-waste property, but for now, we are doing intense composting and recycling.
Design From Patterns to Details
“Can’t see the forest for the trees”
By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.
We have observed that many permaculturalists think that to use permie priniciples – everything must be in curving or undulating lines. We believe it is NO SO. Early civilizations prove that mankind naturally tends towards putting his domicides and villages in reasonably lined up fashions. Man is a part of nature and man walks a straight line, not in a zig-zag. (And not like the Ministry of Silly Walks https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ZlBUglE6Hc). Therefore, we believe that formal plantings or crops in a line are acceptable in a permaculture design.
We design our garden outline in straight lines. Many of our trees may be planted in allées, but they will not be the same trees repeated one after another. They vary so that one does not necessarily interpret the planting as linear. Then we allow nature to express and ‘color’ between… and outside of the lines.
Integrate Rather Than Segregate
“Many hands make light work”
By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other.
We are members of the World Wide Organization of Organic Farmers (WWOOF) and have hosted woofers. We have paid close attention to the sun and wind patterns and planted accordingly. In addition, we are beginning to start companion under-plantings that will create additional plant relationships. We also use passive sun and shade positions – for instance, planting a more semi-tropical trees under mature desert tree to provide solar protection. And by planting multiple varieties of trees within close proximity to each other, the trees create relationship with each other (like redwoods circling each other in the Pacific Northwest forest!)
In addition, throughout the garden we have seating, work and recreational spaces integrated into each landscape room area that encourage relationships.
Use Small and Slow Solutions
“Slow and steady wins the race” or “The bigger they are, the harder they fall”
Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and produce more sustainable outcomes.
We have been working on this project since 2008, and in earnest since 2011. We are recently even more committed to using “Standard” size trees, because of their ability to live a longer life, even though they may require more care and pruning than Dwarf or Semi Dwarf varieties. We are planting this food forest for 10-20 years to come and beyond.
Use and Value Diversity
“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”
Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.
We are continually researching, educating ourselves, and looking for new and varied varieties and techniques.
Use Edges and Value the Marginal
“Don’t think you are on the right track just because it’s a well-beaten path”
The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.
We are eternally endeavoring to learn and grow and get feedback whenever and wherever possible. And there is no space in our yard from edge to edge that goes by unused. With thoughtful planning, every inch of the property becomes useful and valuable. In terms of Feng Shui, there are no dark corners where energy will pool and/or stagnate. the entire garden and yard circulates useful energy!
We have planted fruit-producing trees right up to the edge of the street. When people remark that people will ‘steal’ our fruit, we remind them that it is not stealing… we are giving the fruit to our neighbors! This is in alignment of the principle, “fair share.”
Creatively Use and Respond to Change
“Vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be”
We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing and then intervening at the right time.
When plants have a will to live in our yard, regardless of whether we have imposed their position or not, we tend to give them right of way… Thus we have come to terms with random volunteer plants” and so-called “weeds” like Lamb’s Quarters.
Also, initially we were using rock as mulch material in order to keep down the weeds. Throughout the years, the crab grass broke through and we heard it calling to us that it was there to break up the soil, add nitrogen and break it up for future planting. We have since removed ALL rock in any planting areas, and only used it for walking/work areas. Everywhere else, we use recycle mulch and the weeds are free to grow and eventually be mowed like grass.
The master plan vision we have for any property design is one of how the mature landscape will meld together and create a new ecosystem around the home.
Permaculture is an approach to designing human settlements and perennial agricultural systems that mimics the relationships found in natural ecologies. It was first developed practically by Austrian farmer Sepp Holzer on his own farm in the early 1960s and then theoretically developed by Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren and their associates during the 1970s in a series of publications. — wikipedia.org