As far as we are concerned here at The Edible Garden Company, permaculture means “using natural ecosystems as a model for the sustainable production of healthy organic food with only a beneficial impact on the environment”.
Permaculture systems have been used around the world for thousands of years (and still are in many places) until the advent of “modern” agricultural practices. However, the term “Permaculture”, short for permanent culture, was developed in Australia during the early to mid-1970s by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren who were looking for sustainable ways of producing organic food without having a detrimental effect on the environment.
In his excellent book The Earth Care Manual, Patrick Whitefield describes permaculture as “Taking natural ecosystems as the model for our own human habitats. Natural ecosystems are, almost by definition, sustainable, and if we can understand the way they work we can use that understanding to make our own lives more sustainable”.
If you walk through any woodland or forest and you will see one of the best examples of the abundance of natural ecosystems. From the canopies of the tallest trees all the way down to the leaf litter breaking down to release nutrients back into the soil, life is everywhere and all without any outside intervention. There’s no need for pesticides, herbicides, artificial fertilisers, digging, weeding or tilling. Everything in a woodland fills a niche. Now, imagine if you could replace the trees with nut and fruit trees and the shrubs with soft fruits and the undergrowth with vegetables and herbs – that is a perfect permaculture system. But permaculture doesn’t have to be on anywhere near such a grand scale, it can be as simple as growing a few vegetables in a pot on a patio or some herbs on a windowsill, to a veg plot in the garden or an allotment, all the way up to a woodland garden. Permaculture is about low-impact sustainability using the resources available to you.
In the wider sense, permaculture is also about communities, where and how we build houses, schools, shops and workplaces. How and what we buy – is it sustainable, organic, seasonal and locally sourced?
For more information please visit www.permaculture.org.uk/