Welcome to the second part in our series of Permaculture basics. Chelsea and I are constantly learning more about permaculture and trying to figure out how to fit it into our homestead plans.
In today’s post I’m going to start discussing some of the design tools for permaculture. Specifically, I’ll be talking about David Holmgren’s 12 permaculture design principles. His design principles are kinda like a toolbox to use when designing your permaculture system.
Holmgren’s 12 design principles are:
- Observe and interact: By observing and interacting with nature’s ecosystems, we can apply what we learn to our own system. This is a very important step in the design process as it can show us how best to set up our permaculture system based on the local ecosystem. When we observe our local ecosystem, we can see what will work well in our area, and use that when we select what plants to plant and where to plant them.
- Catch and store energy: If our systems can store energy (and for that matter, resources like water) when it is abundant to be used when it is scarce, our system will require less inputs from us. Less inputs into our system is definitely something that we want to strive for, since the less we have to put into growing our food, the more self-reliant we can be.
- Obtain a yield: Make sure that we get something useful from the system that we set up. This one is pretty straight forward- we want to be able to produce a yield from our set up, as that is the main reason for growing our own food.
- Apply self regulation and accept feedback: The system should be set up in such a way that it can self regulate problems. For example, if we are having a problem with certain insects destroying one of our crops, it would be advantageous to grow some plants which attract predators for that pest insect. This way the system is essentially looking after itself, with our initial help.
- Use and value renewable resources and services: We should try to use solutions that nature has already implemented when possible, to reduce our reliance on outside inputs. To me, this principle ties very closely with my interpretation of principle number 2, catch and store energy.
- Produce no waste: We should try to use “waste” from the system as an input elsewhere. This is emulating nature, where in a forest, for example, leaves and branches that fall from trees act as a mulch or compost.
- Design from patterns to details: Observe natural patterns and try to implement them into the design of the system, filling in details to achieve the pattern.
- Integrate rather than segregate: Plants and animals should be put together in strategic combinations, rather than segregated. By placing things together that complement each other, we can reduce the required inputs. An example of this may be using chickens around some of your plants to take care of some pests and provide fertilizer.
- Use small and slow solutions: Small and slow solutions are easier to set up and maintain than larger systems.
- Use and value diversity: Having diversity in your crops will help to mitigate any pests or diseases that affect only a specific plant.
- Use edges and value the marginal: The edges between different habitats in nature provide a separate, unique habitat. For example, the edge between a forest and plains provides a place for plants and animals to live that wouldn’t be able to thrive in either of the two habitats alone.
- Creatively use and respond to change: The system will change over time, and if we carefully observe and interact with the changes, we can use them to our advantage or cause the changes to occur in a way with will benefit us.
These principles should help Chelsea and I create our permaculture system for our homestead.