Permaculture is more than just a method of agriculture. It is a way of life, a movement. The roots of permaculture can be found in numerous cultures that date back to the dawn of humankind. Aussies Bill Mollison and David Holmgren structured it into what is now known as "permaculture," which is short for "permanent agriculture," in the 1970s.
Permaculture is described by Mollison as "the purposeful design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems that have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems" in his book Permaculture: A Practical Guide for a Sustainable Future. It is the sustainable provision of people's requirements for food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs by the landscape (Mollison, 1990).
Care for people, care for the land, and fair share—which refers to an equitable allocation of resources—are among the ethics that permaculture adheres to. A practitioner is guided in applying permaculture to their chosen system by a set of 12 permaculture principles, which were developed by Holmgren and published in his book Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability.
Aligning the principles with your plans is a fantastic place to start as you work to plan your herb garden using permaculture principles. Whether you are a novice or seasoned grower, I've included some suggestions for how each permaculture principle might help you plan your herb garden below.
Twelve Permaculture Principles for Growing Herbs
1. Pay attention and engage with others — "Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder"
The first principle should come first even though they aren't exactly in that sequence or chronological order. In order to understand topics like how water flows through the property, which sections receive sun and which don't, and what might already be growing there, we need to study and interact with the land.
Once we have this knowledge, we can confidently plan our herb garden because we will be placing plants in favorable environments. Because they are anxious to start planting in their first season, many farmers and gardeners equally neglect this stage. A grower should ideally spend the first year getting to know the land and engaging with it. While delaying planting and cultivation can be challenging, the suffering and difficulties you avoid will be worth it! Based on your own findings, you may create a comprehensive, informed plan that will probably save you a lot of time and trouble over several seasons.
Create a "Observation Notebook" where you will record observations for a whole year in the garden/on your land, whether you have already begun gardening or haven't yet broken ground. Precipitation amounts, a map showing where water flows after rain and where gets the most sun, what plants are growing, how the wind moves through the garden, and any animals or pests are a few examples of the types of information to keep track of.
2. "Make Hay While The Sun Shines": Capture and Store Energy
Your garden will produce in abundance at certain seasons of the year, and at other times it won't. This natural ebb and flow is understood by those who work with the soil. When planning your garden, it's a good idea to allocate extra time to harvesting during the seasons of abundance, which are often late summer and early fall. Give yourself plenty of time to process this abundance so that as little as possible goes to waste if you want to most effectively capture and store the energy you've invested in your garden, which eventually manifests in the shape of a copious supply of fresh herbs.
3. Have Yield: "You Can't Work On An Empty Stomach"
Getting a crop is perhaps one of the most thrilling aspects of producing your own garden. When plants don't produce as anticipated, whether you're growing herbs for sale or just for personal use and delight, it can be discouraging.
Although this idea may seem obvious, it is necessary to mention it as a reminder to not become so engrossed in the process that we lose sight of the end result. We gardeners take great pleasure in sowing seeds, hand-weeding, and watering our plants. At the same time, we want the result of all this effort, investment, and expenditure to feel comparable.
Action Suggestion: Keep a log of the yield each crop produces as well as the approximate amount of time you spend on each crop. You'll gain insight into how your time is being spent and where you might wish to spend more (or less) time. If you operate your garden as a business, this is particularly crucial.
4. Exercise Self-Control and Acknowledge Criticism — "The Crimes of the Dad Are Visited On The Children To The Seventh Generation"
This idea relates to the idea of learning from our own mistakes as well as those made by those who came before us. This could entail learning more before getting started by reading gardening books or articles like this one. You might know a seasoned gardener who can guide you in your endeavors and offer criticism on your garden. This person could be a friend or family member.
Although it is really beneficial to pick up tips from others in this way, you must finally draw your own conclusions from your own experiences in and with your own particular garden. The experienced gardener would attest that our mistakes often teach us the most valuable lessons. Even if it's painful, we must make these errors in order to learn from them and self-regulate. Things that didn't go as planned in our garden might be seen as great learning opportunities that help us make improvements for the following season, and so on.
Action Tip: Compile a spreadsheet solely for things you will do differently next season. Record at least two things that you learned during the growing season—at least two things—each month.
5. Let nature take its course by using and valuing renewable resources and services.
Planning your herb garden should take into account how you might use renewable energy sources like the sun, wind, and water. This could take the form of installing solar panels to power your garden fence, building rain barrels to collect water for your garden's irrigation system, or having a tiny wind turbine.
For larger projects involving structures, you might think about using natural building methods, such straw bale or cob, and arranging the building to best store energy, such as by including south-facing windows.
Create a strategy for one method you will employ renewable resources in your garden.
6. Create No Waste — "A Stitch in Time Saves Nine" or "Waste Not, Want Not"
Zero waste production may seem like a lofty ideal, but it is one that a healthy permaculture system should strive for. This principle focuses on coming up with original waste-diversion ideas. It challenges us to think about alternative uses for items we might otherwise discard, freeing up space in landfills and giving us something useful in the process. This can take the form of composting our kitchen leftovers so that we can use the garbage as future fertilizer for our herb garden in addition to preventing it from ending up in a landfill.
Start your own composting system at home.
7. "Can't See The Forest For The Trees" - Design From Patterns to Details
This principle, which relates to the first principle of "Observe and interact," instructs us to take a step back and concentrate on bigger patterns as we prepare our design, and then fill in the details. Creating our herb garden with this in mind enables the gardener to start with the most crucial elements before moving on to the specifics so they can understand how everything works as a whole.
This idea also addresses a fundamental aspect of permaculture, which is to replicate nature when selecting plant species that would naturally occur in your habitat. For instance, permaculture recognizes the following levels of growth that plants frequently exhibit in nature:
-Canopy: large fruit & nut trees
-Low tree layer: dwarf fruit trees
-Shrub layer: berries
-Herbaceous layer: herbs, vegetables, flowers
-Rhizosphere: root crops
-Soil surface: ground cover crops
-Vertical layer: climbers, vines
The seven layer system is covered in greater detail here.
Besides from conforming to how nature works, the advantage of expanding in this fashion is that one layer supports another layer. To prevent hungry animals from eating your herbaceous layer, your berries may have thorns. Important nutrients are made available to nearby plants, such as trees and root crops, by cover crops. Trees give plants that prefer to stay out of direct sunlight the required shade.
Action Suggestion: Incorporate at least four of the layers together in one area of your garden by planting in layers.
8. "Many Hands Do Easy Work" - Integrate Rather Than Segregate
It is simple to see how large-scale monocultures, where crops like maize are completely separated from all other plants and there isn't a weed in sight, would violate this principle. This might sound like a positive thing, but when plants are planted together properly, they can work together to keep pests away as well as grow healthier and more abundantly than if they were planted separately.
Your job in the garden will be made easier in the long run by incorporating plants that can support one another in this way.
Action Suggestion: Plant one companion crop for every crop you grow. For instance, basil is often planted around tomatoes by gardeners as it might help discourage insects that like to snack on ripe fruit.
9. Take little, deliberate steps to solve problems – "Slow and Steady Wins the Race" or "The Larger They Are, The Harder They Fall"
The herb grower probably uses little, gradual remedies all the time; they just might not be aware of it. This idea encourages us to consider the long-term benefits for our gardens rather than constantly opting for a temporary cure.
Planting perennials is a perfect example of this idea in action, as any seasoned herb grower will attest to. Many perennial herbs require some time to establish and develop much more slowly than annual crops. Yet, they are worth the wait after they have established a lovely home in the garden. The first plants to appear in the spring garden are various perennial herbs like dandelion, chicory, sorrel, and nettles. Perennials don't need to be replanted every year, and their output is frequently excellent.
Action Suggestion: This year, add three new perennial herbs to your garden.
10. "Don't Put All Your Eggs In One Basket" and Appreciate Variety
Variety is a key concept to consider in the garden.
The garden can be made more productive and sustainable by incorporating a range of plants. A balanced system can sustain some loss due to weather, disease, insect pressure, or other problems without destroying your entire garden if your plant arrangement is diversified and well-balanced.
Different plants not only serve to ward off pests, but they may also be quite helpful if one of your crops lacks other crops that are similar to it. Planting multiples of each herb is one method the herb gardener might prevent placing "all the eggs in one basket."
11. Don't think you're on the right track just because it's a well-traveled path; use edges and value the marginal.
Using the nooks and crannies that are frequently ignored is a key component of this permaculture principle, which helps you make the most of your garden's space. This could take the form of planting on the edge of a forest, growing vining crops on the wall of your garden shed or house, or growing mushrooms in dark crevices.
Choose one spot on your property that is not "well-beaten path" and that you may use as a growing space by taking a fresh look at it. Set down at least one crop here.
12. Incorporate Change Creatively and React to It — "Vision Is Not Viewing Things As They Are But As They Will Be"
This relates to Principle 4's application of self-regulation and acceptance of feedback, but it has more to do with seeing the inescapable changes in nature and coming up with innovative solutions. Our aim in permaculture is to cooperate with nature rather than trying to dominate it. We have to adjust to changes in the weather, pest pressure, rainfall, and other uncontrollable factors. This calls for focus and the capacity for rapid, well-informed decision-making. The ability to envision how things could be in the future is another requirement.
Although the aforementioned may seem overwhelming, it will be well worth the effort to work through these twelve permaculture principles as they relate to your herb garden during the growing season. You will unavoidably gain knowledge about your garden, the forces of nature that affect it, and how to improve symbiotic relationships among all of these things. Following these guidelines should help to make gardening easier, more pleasurable, and smoother over time.
Holmgren, D. (2002). Permaculture: Principles and pathways beyond sustainability. Hepburn, Victoria: Holmgren Design Services.
Mollison, B. (1990). Permaculture: A practical guide for a sustainable future. Washington, D.C.: Island Press.