What is Permaculture?

What do I think it is?

Permaculture is a vector through which people can learn and apply themselves to affect change in a landscape toward a regenerative, life-supporting food forest system. Well at least that’s how I see it. It is a set of principles and techniques that is freely available to read about on the internet, and courses are run all around the world to disseminate its message.

But what is it really?

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia:

Permaculture is a philosophy of ecological design which attempts to develop sustainable human settlements and agricultural systems modeled from natural ecosystems.

Check out the wikipedia article on permaculture from time to time; it’s an expansive subject and it’s growing all the time.

Who teaches it?

I did a permaculture PDC course in Perth with Terra Perma – changed my life in two weeks. PDC courses are also run around Australia and abroad. There are also plenty of good books available.

How can I get involved?

PermacultureWest is the main organising body for permies in Western Australia. If you’re in the area (even passing through!), check out the website calendar for what’s happening and where. Also you can get in touch with local groups who gather regularly and are often doing workshops and permablitzes you can join in with.

Permaculture in Shaun’s Backyard

Before I heard about permaculture, I was working on composting, worm farming and planning to grow a lot of annual vegetables. Luckily I didn’t get too far with the latter, as permaculture completely turned my head around. I approached the backyard with my training in design, and have never looked back. Each element in my backyard is now a subject of much study. I’m forever considering how useful something can be. For example, the old shed I was going to throw away has become a chicken coop, a trellis, and (the roof) a water collecting surface. Those were the intended functions, but since it’s positioning I’ve noticed all sorts of other things happening. It casts shade in different patterns from winter to summer, creates cool undisturbed areas between itself and the nearby fences, and serves as a windbreak for my mulberry tree. I’m always excited by an additional function for something!

Permaculture has become such a broad umbrella, incorporating almost anything considered ‘sustainable’, including a lot of green technologies like biogas and biochar. Looking at it this way, you could say that all of my projects are permaculture, although my use of pvc pipe is shameful! (always get it second hand!). The truth is, many people are practicing permaculture without even knowing it. Next time you prune your roses, and drop the cuttings on the soil to break down, that’s chop’n’drop pruning, a common permaculture practice.


3 comments on “What is Permaculture?

  1. Could you post a master plan of your backyard? I’m still learning about permaculture, and struggle the most with the design. Case studies seem helpful.

    • Hi Jamie, thanks for your request.

      If I had a detailed design to show you, I would gladly present it, but the truth is I did a number of sketches and with each thing I learnt the design changed dramatically. I stopped drawing after a while and spent more time standing in the backyard wondering. It has mostly evolved one idea after another, as I learn more. For example, I have four young leucaena trees growing very quickly in a spot I never intended for them to grow. I decided to bend them over and grow them into an archway. Then I noticed I could grow climbing beans on the strings. Who knows what will happen next!?

      As for design, there are Permaculture Design Certificate courses running all over the world, and all the information is on the internet. Keep on learning! The basic principles are easy to understand, but it takes time to see how they can be applied. If you are designing for yourself, I recommend implementing in small steps.

      Best wishes

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