What is the ninth principle of permaculture?

Use small and slow solutions.

In the fourth principle, we learned that we may not always get what we want from our yards. In the ninth principle, we remember that we may not get what we want as quickly as we might like.

Permaculture involves working with nature, and nature tends to do things slowly. This can be frustrating in our high-speed, instant gratification culture. But in the end, nature’s patient processes are often more effective than any quick fix we might use instead.

For example, when we plant a tree in our yard, we want to plant the biggest tree we can bring home. After all, we want a fully-grown tree, not a little sapling! But, the bigger the tree, the more trouble it will have re-establishing in its new location. A smaller tree, which can settle in more quickly, will soon start putting its energy into growing. Before long, the smaller tree will surpass the bigger tree.

Similarly, when we want a plant to grow, we try to help it in every way we can: we bring home fertilizers and pesticides from the store, douse the plant with water from the hose, and prune stray leaves. But the plant doesn’t need that much help. It will do much better if we simply put it in a location that gets the right amount of sun and water, if we prepare that spot by working compost into the soil, and if we let the plant decide which of its leaves it doesn’t need anymore.

Small and slow solutions are the process equivalent of appropriate technology. They require advance planning and plenty of patience. But in the long run, they lead to better outcomes for lower cost and with less backbreaking labor.

What is the ninth principle of permaculture?

What is the eighth principle of permaculture?

Integrate rather than segregate.

Specialization is good. A farm that raises only cows or only corn is going to be more expert in getting its product to market than a farm that tries to do both.

But specialization also creates problems. Traditionally, animals and plants were raised together, mimicking the way natural systems are structured. In this traditional method, the farmer benefited from the ways plants and animals work together. As one example, the waste from animals makes great fertilizer for plants.

In modern farming, this simple solution has been turned into two problems. Because animals and plants now are raised separately, farms with animals can’t get rid of the waste, and farms with plants have to pay to bring in artificial fertilizer. Financial costs and environmental harms are incurred on both sides.

Another example is the practice of raising plants in monocultures. In the past, crops were raised in mixed plantings. In the famous “Three Sisters” system, farmers planted corn, beans, and squash together. The corn provided a pole for the beans to climb, the beans pulled nitrogen from the air to feed the nutrient-hungry corn, and the squash shaded the soil to help the other plants conserve water. When these crops are raised separately, the farmer has to provide all the services that the plants would otherwise provide for each other.

Bringing together plants and animals with compatible habits lays the foundation for a successful garden, turning problems into solutions and shifting work from the gardener to the garden itself.

What is the eighth principle of permaculture?

What is the seventh principle of permaculture?

Design from patterns to details.

It can be tempting to begin your permaculture journey by picking a favorite project from That Blog and replicating it in your yard. But, the seventh principle encourages a different way of doing things.

Designing from patterns to details suggests a thoughtful three-step process for deciding what projects to undertake. First, ask what you want to accomplish. Do you want to attract wildlife? Which species would you like to see in your yard, and which would be unwelcome visitors? Or, do you want to produce food? Are you thinking about growing a few herbs, or eating a big salad from your garden every night?

Once you know your goal, think about what kinds of patterns will lead to the desired outcome. What functions will the project need to serve? How will those functions work together? Here is where you might decide that your yard needs a water source for birds, or that your vegetable garden absolutely must include lots of tomatoes.

Finally, decide how those patterns will be embodied in your project. Will the water source be a bird bath or a pond? What plants will you put nearby to provide cover for birds before they approach the water? And for those tomato plants, where will you put them so they get enough sun? How will you build up the soil to help the plants produce the biggest, most delicious tomatoes?

At the end of this process, you’ll have a plan for a successful project. Using the goal-pattern-details framework prevents us from ending up with projects that looked good on paper but don’t lead to the outcomes we wanted for our own yard.

What is the seventh principle of permaculture?

What is the sixth principle of permaculture?

Produce no waste.

Lawns in America consume more land area, water, pesticides, and fertilizers than any commercial crop. After investing all these resources in making the grass grow, the average American then spends 25 hours a year cutting it – in effect, harvesting. And what do we do with all this harvested material? We put it in the garbage.

This process is 100% waste. Permaculture practitioners do it differently.

They use free energy sources, like sunlight. They capture and store free forms of water, like rain and snow. They recycle yard waste and food scraps into compost. Everything is kept on site, and nothing is wasted.

This is how nature does it: every “waste product” becomes a resource for some other process. Because nothing sits around unused, we don’t find ourselves drowning in animal droppings or dead plants. Instead, we struggle to figure out what to do with fossil fuel emissions and disposable plastic: unnatural forms of waste that can’t get reabsorbed into the system.

By relying on natural materials and natural processes, and by bringing together processes whose wastes become each other’s inputs, we can consume less and waste almost nothing.

What is the sixth principle of permaculture?

What is the fifth principle of permaculture?

Use and value renewable resources and services.

Conspicuous consumption is a status symbol in America. By buying things and then throwing them away, we show that we’re rich enough to be wasteful. We do this with fossil fuels, with disposable products, and even with our time.

Lawns play into this value system. Historically, their purpose was to show that the property owner was so wealthy, he could afford to spend time and money preventing his land from producing anything.

Now, this lifestyle has reached its limits. Our wastefulness has impoverished the Earth to the point where it’s no longer possible to live that way. People who continue to waste are seen as behaving selfishly in a world that no longer has enough for everyone.

Today, most people value living more lightly on the land. Some ways that we do this are by driving more efficient cars, reducing food waste, drinking from reusable water bottles instead of disposable plastic ones, and taking shorter showers.

Some other easy ways to consume less are by changing what we do in our yards. For example:

  • Gas and electric lawnmowers depend on non-renewable fossil fuels. Unmotorized mowers rely on human labor, which is renewable and carbon-neutral. Better yet, we can just let the plants grow.
  • Commercial fertilizer is artificially produced through an environmentally-damaging process. Grass clippings, fallen leaves, and animal droppings contain the same nutrients as commercial fertilizer, and are endlessly renewable.
  • Yard work takes a lot of time. Gardening with native plants that are adapted to the area and can take care of all their own needs allows us to spend our time on other things.

Using free, abundant, renewable resources makes us look like smart people who care about our neighbors and our planet. Living less materialistically is now a respected choice that increases our status in the eyes of others.

What is the fifth principle of permaculture?