Mother Earth Living

Permaculture: Where Do You Begin?

A beginner's guide to permaculture.
By Carol Venolia
March/April 2005
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Observe. Watch the life and processes on your property over time; notice how they behave and interact. This will provide more valuable information than any handbook.

Make the least change for the greatest effect. Observe how nature works, then work with it.

Lay out your garden in zones. The zone nearest the house consists of your kitchen garden and other plants that need frequent attention. The zone farthest away is the area you need to visit least often.

Sheet mulch. Instead of pulling weeds (which is hard work and removes nutrients), cover them with a thick layer of cardboard or paper, then cover that with three inches or more of appropriate mulch (straw, woodchips, or turkey manure). The weeds break down and nourish the soil, beneficial insects and worms are attracted, and moisture stays in. And you can plant right into the mulch or through the cardboard.

Create healthy water cycles. Encourage water to serve as many functions as possible before it leaves the site clean and vitalized. Consider using drought-tolerant plants and drip irrigation.

Don’t export resources. Let fallen leaves and weeds serve as mulch, chip the tree trimmings, and retain water in the landscape.

Plant in guilds. Guilds are groups of beneficially relating organisms. For example, you might commingle nitrogen-fixing plants (which incorporate nitrogen from the air into their roots), mineral accumulators (whose tap roots draw up minerals), insectary plants (which attract beneficial insects), and food-producers so they work in concert.

Multi-task. Each element in a design can satisfy multiple functions; look for every opportunity to do so.








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