Permaculture garden tips for creating your own at home

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There is masses of different types of gardens to plant – from flowers to vegetables, hydroponic to raised beds – but if you’re looking for an environmentally friendly and responsible way to get your hands dirty, a permaculture garden may be the way to go. “It’s a sustainable approach to working with nature instead of against it,” explains Jennifer Morganthaler, a plant expert and agricultural instructor at Missouri State University.

One of the primary distinctions between a permaculture garden and other types is that it only uses plants that work best for the local environment and climate, says Morganthaler. Due to its adaptability, permaculture gardens can grow under many different types of conditions. “A well-designed will create its own ecosystem that will keep the plants going and gradually provide quality nutrients back to the soil,” adds Morganthaler.

Before you dig in, however, there are a few things you should know about permaculture gardening, including the benefits, plus best practices for planting your own at home.

What is Permaculture Gardening?

“Permaculture gardening is basically the practice of designing your garden to harmonize your needs with the needs of the natural environment in a mutually beneficial way,” says Rebecca Sears, chief gardening expert for Ferry-Morse. “This involves considering your local climate, choosing the best plants, creating a nutrient-rich soil over time and recycling waste.” She points out that permaculture gardening is also referred to as a “closed loop”, “it means the ecosystem is self-sustaining and self-sufficient.”

The benefits of a permaculture garden

There are many benefits to creating a permaculture garden, the biggest of which is that it is a completely natural way to grow a garden, so it creates less waste. “Most of the raw materials from the garden are used or shared with the community,” Morganthaler says. “If there are waste products, they are composted and applied to the soil as natural fertilizer.”

Another plus is that you do not use chemicals to keep pests away. “In the natural ecosystem, natural predators will help with the work that some of the pesticides would have done,” Morganthaler says.

In addition, it allows you to create what you need. “Once the permaculture garden is established, you become more self-reliant and can produce a wide range of products from your soil and preserve any surplus to consume as needed,” says Morganthaler.

How to create a permaculture garden, step by step

1. Decide on location

First of all, to create your permaculture garden, Morganthaler recommends that you get acquainted with your surroundings to find the best place. “Observe the native plants, insects and any predators that are in the region and that visit your plant area,” she says. “Note when the place gets sun, and whether there are slopes, or whether the rainwater does not drain.”

2. Choose your plants

Here comes the fun part: picking plants. Morganthaler suggests first starting by researching what types of plants thrive in your natural environment. From there, she advises choosing a mix of annuals (which live for one season) and perennials (which live for many seasons) so you always have something growing.

That said, Sears admits perennials do better in permaculture gardens. “Because the concept of a permaculture garden is based on gardening as sustainably as possible, it is best to use perennials instead of annuals that do not have to be replanted every year,” she explains. “This will save you a lot of digging, sowing seeds and cleaning up at the end of each season, whereas using annuals in a permaculture garden would require much more soil nutrients to support their rapid growth rates.”

That said, if you need inspiration to start your very own permaculture garden, Sears suggests Purple Coneflower Seeds (Echinacea), Lavender Munstead Plantlings and Oregano Italian Plantlings. “It is best to plant your perennials in the spring or fall – you can also plant in the summer, but remember that they need to be watered more often, which is in conflict with the purpose of permaculture,” she adds. “You should also be aware of how much direct sunlight each variety requires, as this will not only help the growth of your plants but will also determine the layout of your garden.”

3. Design this plot

We lied. Designing your permaculture garden is perhaps the most fun part because the possibilities are endless. According to Morganthaler, a permaculture garden can have any shape. “You can use ground cover, shrubs, vegetables and fruit trees and stack them if the light and water requirements are met for each plant,” she says. “You can use raised beds at least six to 12 inches above the ground. Slab mulching – a process of laying compost, mulch, straw or cardboard right on top of the grass and planting directly in it – is another option for planting.”

4. Plant your permaculture garden

Time to make it official and get started planting. Morganthaler recommends starting with your taller plants and seeing how the light hits them. Then you can add smaller plants that need shade.

Professional tip: Take time for the planting process and adjust the design as needed. “This is a great time to double check your plant design or change it before you get too much planted,” Morganthaler says.

Morganthaler also recommends adding organic material, such as natural compost from your kitchen, bark chips or earthworm molds, to the plants without disturbing the soil.

5. Water your plants

Now that your permaculture garden is set up, the last step is to water your plants regularly. That said, for the sake of sustainability and because the plants need to thrive in the natural environment, Morganthaler recommends using the minimum amount of water needed. “An efficient drip irrigation system is a good choice as it places water directly at the base of the plants with little evaporation,” she says. “Another option, depending on local state and city regulations, is to collect rainwater and recycle it to an irrigation system.”

Principles of permaculture

According to Sears, there are many things to consider when creating your permaculture ecosystem. However, the best way to get the most out of your permaculture plot is to focus on plant stacking, which allows for more variety in your garden. “When designing your garden and choosing plants, think of a selection of vegetables, fruits and herbs to enjoy fresh produce at home, and consider accompanying planting to help with pest control, pollination and crop productivity,” she suggests. “By adopting practices like these and consistently taking care of your garden’s needs, you will be able to make a smoother transition to a greener lifestyle.”

No matter how your garden grows, you can be happy that it leaves the smallest possible eco-footprint.

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