Permawhat?

Permaculture is a short name for permanent agriculture – and I came across it whilst researching organic gardening. I knew there would be great ideas out there, but I was really blown away by the amount of information available. Thousands of people across the world are trying all sorts of things out, sharing details on how to do it as well as result to encourage you to give it a go.

Do you remember when the term ‘Organic’ appeared? When I was young I don’t remember hearing it. Maybe I was just not paying attention on the weekly supermarket shop. Or maybe back then most stuff was farmed without chemicals, and that was just the way it was. There was no need to label it. Nowadays sadly the opposite is true and unless it is blatantly labelled as organic it’s a pretty sure bet that chemicals were used on the produce we buy. Given the option wouldn’t most people prefer chemical-free food? It’s a no-brainer, isn’t it?

Permaculture goes way further than organic farming, and seeks to balance human interaction with nature across the whole ecosystem. It’s a way of natural farming that improves your land and increases plant success. How? By looking at patterns in natural ecosystems and then essentially copying them. It’s the relationships within an ecosystem which make it successful, and by understanding them we can get them to work for us rather than struggle against nature. And let’s face it, in a battle between me and nature, nature is obviously going to win. In the long run a permaculture garden will improve the soil without using chemicals, produce more fruit / veg, effectively reduce workload for the gardener and look after the planet. What’s not to love!?

So back when I was stuck at a desk in the UK I devoured everything I could find online. There are lectures from the creators Bill Mollinson and David Holmgren. There are inspiring projects like one of the pioneers, Geoff Lawton, who took a site in the Jordan desert and created a nearly self reliant system that produces food all year round. Just look at this garden compared to the surrounding desert!

greening the desert

If that’s achievable in the desert then surely even novices like us should be able to create something in the tropics?? So I enrolled to do a Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC). This course covers soil science, water saving, planting strategies, natural building, waste management and more. As well as theory it shows live examples, so students gain practical experience. And the best bit is each student then puts all the information together by doing a ‘Masterplan’ for their real life project. All in the company of experienced people around to help and mentor. Excellent! Information plus plan plus sanity checks equals much more confidence! 

The Masterplan gives us a vision of what we would like to do, and helps us get there. Next post I’ll share our plan, along with some of the theory of what we hope to do….