What Is Permaculture?

I thought it would be useful, as an organisation which has permaculture at its core, to give a basic definition of permaculture. However, I was stopped short, while there are some great definitions of permaculture out there already, one thing that runs as a theme is that there isn’t really one, singular definition of ‘permaculture’.

At conception, permaculture was a contraction of ‘permanent agriculture’ referring to a sustainable system of crop growth taking into account inter-related internal and external factors for combined tree crop growth. But since then, permaculture has taken on a broader meaning; as a philosophy which can be applied in all situations – the idea is of considering wider inter-related factors with a focus on sustainability. This, very broad, philosophy can be interpreted and applied in many ways; the Permaculture association says:

“Permaculture combines three key aspects:

1. An ethical framework

2. Understandings of how nature works

3. A design approach”

And Permaculture Magazine describes permaculture as:

“1. Permaculture is an innovative framework for creating sustainable ways of living.

2.It is a practical method of developing ecologically harmonious, efficient and productive systems that can be used by anyone, anywhere.”

To bring this to TreeThinker’s application of permaculture and to put it succinctly, it is possible to define permaculture as the implementation of agricultural techniques and design processes which work with nature to be sustainable, not only in terms of local food growth but also in terms of the wider ecosystem.

The Role Of Observation In Permaculture

TreeThinkerObserveThe first of the twelve design principles of permaculture is: Design & Interact – emphasising the importance of taking the time to understand the situation in which we are designing.

Design can take many forms, big or small; whether it is deciding where to hang a picture at home or designing a building to hang it in, some common features exist between all forms of designing and, at the same time, some systems exist which can improve our chances of success. You will have used many of these systems before, permaculture helps us to develop a framework to help design go well.

Observation skills were once a vital survival skill for our ancestors; people relied on understanding what was safe to eat, when it would grow and where and where danger might lie. By observing our natural surrounding we are able to understand them and use them to our advantage.

In designing a permaculture growing space, some things to consider are:

  • Soil (Type, pH, depth)
  • Wind
  • Temperature: Over the year
  • Sunlight: shade
  • Microclimate
  • Moisture
  • Vegetation
  • Animals
  • Local resources

Once we have developed an understanding of a growing space, it is possible to ensure that we are planting things that grow well in that environment, rather than try to change the environment to suit what are we growing – which is more resource and labour intensive.

Top 3 Permaculture books for beginners

A reading list featuring top books for anyone interested in getting into permaculture:

Permaculture Design: A Step by Step Guide
Author: Aranya
ISBN-13 9781856230919
Giving a fantastic introduction to help get started in permaculture.
(To order: https://www.waterstones.com/book/permaculture-design/aranya/9781856230919)

Creating a Forest Garden
Author Martin Crawford
ISBN-13 9781900322621
A wonderful resource for making the most of a forest environment for growing food.
(To order: https://www.waterstones.com/book/creating-a-forest-garden/martin-crawford/joanna-brown/9781900322621)

The Vegan Book of Permaculture: Recipes for Healthy Eating and Earthright Living
Author Graham Burnett
ISBN-13 9781856232012
Useful guide to make the most of your permaculture crop.
(To order: https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-vegan-book-of-permaculture/graham-burnett/9781856232012)

Bonus Book:

The Humanure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure : Emphasizing Minimum Technology and Maximum Hygienic Safety.
Author: Joseph C. Jenkins
ISBN 096442584X, 9780964425842
A great asset for anyone growing food according to permaculture principles
(To order: https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-humanure-handbook/joseph-c-jenkins/9780964425835)