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Permaculture (Self-Sustaining Ecosystems) – GIY Plants

Self-sustaining permaculture garden.

Permaculture principles can be applied to a variety of settings. Including urban and rural landscapes, gardens, farms, and even entire communities. It is based on the idea of working with, rather than against, natural ecosystems.

We will explain what permaculture is and the different practices you can learn, to get started.

What is Permaculture?

The term permaculture is short for permanent agriculture. It was coined in 1978 by Australian environmentalists Bill Mollison and David Holmgren.

Permaculture is an approach and set of practices designed to create sustainable settlements and agricultural systems. Practitioners aim to design systems that are as self-sufficient and self-sustaining as possible. Using a variety of techniques such as agroforestry or polycultures. As well as using animals for tasks such as soil fertility and controlling pests.

History of Permaculture

As mentioned Mollison and Holmgren coined the term permaculture in the 1970s. As a response to the resource depletion and environmental degradation that they saw. From the result of industrial agriculture and development. Although the term “permanent agriculture” from which permaculture was coined, was used before the 1970s.

Types of Permaculture

There are many techniques used within permaculture systems. We cover several of the most common below.


Vermicomposting with red worms.

Vermicomposting is a type of composting that uses worms, such as red worms or red wigglers. To break down organic material into a nutrient-rich soil amendment known as vermicompost. It is a simple and environmentally friendly way to recycle food scraps and yard waste. Producing high-quality compost that is rich in nutrients and beneficial microorganisms.[1]

Vermicomposting has many benefits. It reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers and reduced organic waste in landfills. Less waste in landfills means less methane, a strong greenhouse gas.

Besides, vermicomposting is useful for both large-scale and small-scale needs. From small backyard gardens, and schools to organizations like community gardens.


Hugelkultur bed being built with logs and wood chips.

The word “hugelkultur” is German for “hill culture” or “mound culture.”

Hugelkultur is a method of gardening and permaculture by building mounds or raised beds. These mounds or beds are made from wood and other organic debris[2]. Such as logs, tree branches, fallen leaves, and compost. The idea is to mimic nature and the decomposition process in the forests. These layers will decompose over time and enrich the soil with nutrients.

Hugelkultur has many benefits, such as reusing organic waste, building soil fertility, and conserving water. As the logs and branches decompose, the wood soaks up water for later use. Thus, allows you to grow a wide variety of plants. Including vegetables, flowers, herbs, and even fruit trees.

Rainwater Harvesting

Rainwater harvesting off the roofs of two sheds.

Rainwater harvesting is a process of collecting, storing, and using rainwater for later use. To be used for irrigation in your garden or landscape. Rainwater harvesting is an effective way to conserve and reduce reliance on municipal supplies.

So, it decreases the impact on the environment and can lower water bills at the same time. During times of drought or water shortages, it can provide a reliable source of water. Plus it’s free of chemicals like chlorine and fluoride, which are found in tap water.

There are several ways to collect rainwater. The most popular way is from roofs where a barrel, storage tank, or bucket is used. The rainwater catchment method that is right for you will depend on your irrigation needs, available space, and budget.


Agroforestry technique planting beds within trees on property.

Agroforestry is a land use management system. Combining the cultivation of crops and/or livestock with the integration of shrubs and trees. Its practices can take many forms, including agriculture and forestry techniques. To provide benefits such as improving soil fertility, increasing biodiversity, and extra income. Through the sale of timber and non-timber products.

Forest gardening is an example of agroforestry, where plants are grown with several topical layers. From trees that provide protection, shrubs, groundcover, and finally root crops. Also referred to as a food forest and has become popular in recent years.

Domesticated Animals

Domesticated animals like chickens used in permaculture.

In Permaculture, domesticated animals can be a great benefit. Helping create a more sustainable and self-sufficient ecosystem. Some make great companions or pets.

There are many roles where they can provide self-sustaining resources. Like food, natural fertilizer, and pest control to name a few.

Chickens can provide both eggs and meat. And goats can be raised for their milk and meat. Cows and pigs for meat as well. Chickens and ducks are proficient at eating insects that would otherwise damage your crops. All these animals will produce manure that can be composted[3]. Then turned into a source of natural fertilizer.

The advantages of permaculture include the:

Increased sustainability: Permaculture systems are created to be self-sustaining and regenerative. To continue to produce food and other resources indefinitely. Without depleting the environment or the need from external sources.

Biodiversity: Permaculture often includes a wide variety of animals and plants. Which increases biodiversity and a healthier ecosystem.

Efficiency: Permaculture is designed to be efficient and effective in its use of resources. And soil fertility, sunlight, and water to be productive systems.

Disadvantages of permaculture include:

Limited accessibility: If you have limited access to resources or land it can be a challenge. Or if physical ailments prevent you to take part in the tasks.

Initial cost: Implementing permaculture systems can require significant initial investment. In terms of time and resources, which may not be workable for everyone.

Lack of standardization: There is no single, standardized approach to permaculture. Which can make it difficult to compare and test different systems.


[1] Reza, Shamim (24 March 2016). “Vermicomposting – A Great Way to Turn the Burdens into Resources“. Permaculture Research Institute. Retrieved 24 December 2022, from https://www.permaculturenews.org/2016/03/24/vermicomposting-a-great-way-to-turn-the-burdens-into-resources/

[2] Wheaton, Paul. “Raised garden beds: hugelkultur instead of irrigation” Richsoil. Retrieved 24 December 2022, from https://richsoil.com/hugelkultur/

[3] Bohler, Damien (7 March 2016). “Permaculture Animals as a Discipline to the System“. The Permaculture Research Institute. Retrieved 25 December 2022, from https://www.permaculturenews.org/2016/03/07/permaculture-animals-as-a-discipline-to-the-system/

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