Whether you enjoy growing a small garden for your own family’s consumption or creating a landscape masterpiece, permaculture is a growing field of expertise. In areas where watering is a concern, the principles of using permaculture have become a way of life for those who enjoy gardening. With Spring in the air, it’s time to plan now how you’ll grow everything from perennials to annuals and vegetables.
An ecological design system using permaculture offers sustainability. Practiced for years, especially in warm areas with low rain or ground water amounts, the results have often been amazing. Permaculture, however, isn’t just for those who live in these areas. With water usage a concern for many self-sustaining households and those who simply don’t want a high water bill, the symbiotic relationship between nature itself and humans can create an efficient way to garden.
In the list, you will see examples of how permaculture is changing the culture of gardening.
If you have questions, feel free to contact me or leave comments below.
Subscribe to get free, instant updates on sustainable living on tapeunit.com
- Are you on Facebook? Follow Christina
- Contact Christina via email at email@example.com if interested in submitting ideas or to have her answer questions you may have.
This writer does not endorse any company or products, even if they are mentioned in her articles
Using wood chips for natural nutrients
Many who practice permaculture will tell you that the benefits of wood chips are part of the success of a garden. The chips don’t get tossed in the wind and will break down, providing natural nutrients.
If you’re starting in an area where there is a lot of grass or weeds, it is recommended to plant your bed by starting with a couple of layers of recycled newspapers spread out over the area where you will plant. A spread of four inches of wood chips will help conserve ground moisture that is important for your garden plants. The wood chips will help kill off weeds beneath the bed.
When you are ready to plant your seeds, you can simply pull back a small area where you are going to plant your seeds into the soil. Wait until the seeds have grown to a level above the chips before you place the wood chips around the plants.
It is not recommended to use any wood chips that are made from treated lumber. If you don’t want to buy commercially-sold wood chips, ask a tree removal company if you can have some of their leftovers. Many tree companies will be happy you are re-purposing what they would normally have to dispose of. If you are a do-it-yourself tree maintenance type, you can easily turn the trees and/or branches you’ve cut down into wood chips and recycle what nature provided for you.
Growing the no-till way
With watershed issues, many farmers are benefiting from a no-till system in their fields. The rotting leftovers from the previous harvest help hold water and nutrients for the next year’s crop.
As a gardener, you can apply the same lessons. The life forms (yes, worms count) that use the products left in the field have a symbiotic relationship with your soil. Tilling destroys that natural balance.
If you are starting from scratch and have not set up a garden before, try using grass clippings, straw or even bark chips. Covered beds reduce the number of weeds that steal nutrients and water from the plants you want to enjoy and/or harvest. Because the soil hasn’t been tilled, no seeds of plants you do not want will pop up to the surface, essentially creating an environment that requires little time and effort at keeping your permaculture garden on track and growing.
Hugelkulter beds to retain moisture
The principle behind Hugelkulter beds is to use organic materials to create a growing space that retains moisture. You can create berms or raised beds using this method.
A simple Hugelkulter bed can be made with tree branches or logs for the base. Think of the wood that is around you that has been downed by wind. It creates a new environment for new life. Your base will do the same as the wood you place as your base breaks down.
After you lay down the base, you simply cover it with soil and natural irrigation begins. A small bed would be around 1-2 feet high while a berm can be as large as 7 feet from bottom to top. How big of a Hugelkulter bed is up to you. The bigger the original bed, the more moisture retention you will receive in addition to natural fertilizer.
Another beneficial feature of a Hugelkulter bed will need little to no watering following the first year. Because you are using a composting system, the temperature in the bed will provide more ground heat and can result in a longer growing season.
Raised beds for permaculture
Many who practice permaculture have built raised beds. For those with mobility issues, this can be helpful for planting and harvesting as the height of the bed will allow ease of access.
The process is basically the same as any permaculture gardening spot. Some raised beds are created by using untreated lumber to make boxes and some (like the photo demonstrates) are created with bricks. Some creative gardeners have re-purposed stones that have been removed from farm fields due to their potential to break farm equipment like disks.
The bottom of the bed should be filled with non-treated lumber or harvested wood. Re-purposing old barn boards (if they were not pre-treated with chemicals) is common. Remember, the purpose of the wood is to retain water and charge your garden with natural nutrients.
The next step would be to add soil. While potting soil is easy to obtain commercially, most who practice permaculture use soil that has already been naturally processed or composted.
Using wood chips on top of the soil is a personal choice. Some gardeners prefer it while others have had success simply by planting directly into the soil. Weeds are held to a minimum due to the raised bed; it is not on the ground where the weeds tend to grow.
Watering your bed will keep the soil moist, but those who use this method often say that they need to water less often than a traditional garden that is created simply by tilling an area of the garden at ground level.
Practice permaculture using collected rain water
Storing rain water has become a popular method for gardeners, especially those who are into permaculture. As the photo shows, you simply find a container that can hold it.
Commercially you can buy barrels or rain water collection tanks. Creative gardeners have often found ways to re-purpose items (like refuse cans your trash collectors typically dump into their garbage trucks) and connect garden hoses to them in order to water their gardens. You can do a search for these items on any web browser and see the different kinds of containers for catching rain water and even some do-it-yourself bloggers that give instructions on how to modify them for efficiency.
Using collected rain water is ecologically friendly and can help prevent soil erosion from downspouts that create runoff through your lawn or even puddles of standing water. The rain water will also save you money by creating a natural source instead of chlorinated drinking water that comes from a tap.