Saturday, January 1, 2011

Permaculture vs. Gardening

I think we all know what gardening is, but to many permaculture is a new term. Permaculture is a combination of the two words: permanent and agriculture. It was coined in the 70s by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren for a system of farming they were developing. This system mimics processes and patterns in nature in the attempt to create more food and cut down on work in the long term.

Permaculture is mostly interested in the design process, but it also contains a loose group of techniques that is easiest described as, 'Best management practices for sustainable food growth'. 

I don't know when permaculture moved to the quarter acre lot, but it is a natural fit with farming's little sister, the garden. Permaculture matches well with today's interest in organic eating and gardening, preserving natural resources, and self sufficiency.

Here is a list of topics and practices that are common to permaculturists:
  • Sheet mulching
  • Forest gardening
  • Garden animals
  • Nitrogen fixing plantings 
  • Community involvement
  • Aquaculture
  • Resource management
  • Natural design and patterns
  • The influence of structures and gardens on each other

You will notice that 'community involvement' is not an idea you readily relate to farming and gardening. The sustainability Mollison and Holmgren were looking for stretches beyond the farm. For many, permaculture now means 'permanent culture'. For them permaculture is searching for a better way to live in the world.

At its base, permaculture is just a collection of good tools to make my garden better. I will always call myself a gardener first, because it is an old word that everyone understands. It is a way of life that that extends back to the beginning of history. But even with that history, it never hurts to reach out and choose a new tool or two. So I guess I am a permaculturist as well.


  1. Nice explanation for permaculture, Rook.
    I think more people will relate to it if we use the word more and in good context. ( which you have done)

    Permaculture is a shining light in a dark world.

  2. I dunno why is called "vs gardening..."

  3. Mostly because of a lack of imagination with titles. I think it did open some doors with people who have never heard about permaculture before.

  4. Great article, unfortunate that permaculture cant be understood fo what it realy is, so much more that gardening, farming or agriculture, it is a permanent human culture of coexistance with nature. it is a design method that can be used to design homes, businesses, social structures, economic or financial systems or anything yet always gets explained as something like gardening or farming but a bit better, actually permaculture is difficult to understand as there is nothing like it!