What is permaculture?

At Patch of the Planet we use permaculture and ecological gardening techniques to help steer our garden design process. We call our approach simply “One Planet Gardening” – gardening and growing in ways that care for the one planet we have.

Permaculture is an approach to designing outdoor spaces that work with the patterns of the planet, rather than against them.

It uses knowledge of how flora, fauna, soil and the surrounding space and conditions all interact with each other and applies intelligent design principles to create thriving, healthy, vibrant spaces. Spaces that put the best of nature’s power to use, to the benefit of all.

It’s more than wildlife gardening and more than organic gardening, though it is both of those things too. It takes an all-round, low-impact and planet-friendly approach to working with a patch of land (large or small), recognising that we have just the one planet to live on. It’s also set of principles that help guide how we can go about living our lives too in similarly low impact ways.

Photo of sweet cicely by Lina Sabroe - https://www.flickr.com/photos/linsepatron/15758348130/
Sweet cicely with a welcome visitor

It’s about innovating, questioning the status quo and finding new ways of doing things. As a result, it tends to leads to spaces that are abundant, beautiful and thriving.

Aquaponics, forest gardens, no-dig beds, herb spirals and “hugelkultur” are just a few of the innovations you might find in a permaculture garden. Then again, you might just as well find none of them. At its core, it’s a smart and constantly developing approach that’s helping champion practical ways to interact with the land, and the planet, better. 

As the UK’s Permaculture Association puts it, it’s about “living lightly on the planet, and making sure that we can sustain human activities for many generations to come, in harmony with nature.”

“Ecological gardening” is a very similar set of ideas, but guided by a less detailed design approach than permaculture. It has the very same aims though – to create spaces that thrive in line with the way the planet works, making them sustainable long-term, and abundant now.

Our name – Patch of the Planet – sums it up for us. 

Our one planet gardening principles

Because of all of this, we have set ourselves a set of principles that guide how we work.

These are themselves informed by the principles of permaculture.

We get one planet to live on. Everything we use comes from it and all life on it is dependent on maintaining a healthy balance with the rest of the life that’s here too.

That creates an amazing opportunity for any of us with access to a patch of that planet. A chance to make those spaces wonderful and vibrant for us that can be a thriving patch for everything else too.

There are ways to look after a patch that work with the planet, not against it. Our planet is astonishingly beautiful and bountiful, so it’s no surprise that gardening guided by how the planet works can lead to astonishingly beautiful and bountiful spaces.

We call that one planet gardening – gardening as if we have just the one planet.

We’re on a mission to transform the country’s gardens and green spaces to ones that work in harmony with the world around us.

Our principles

1. We respect the soil
We never use synthetic chemicals to control life or to help life grow (or for anything else) because we think it’s unnecessary. (Here are some tips on controlling pests in other ways). Instead, we promote no-till gardening, encourage mulching and promote the importance of life in the “soil web.”

2. We work with nature, not against it
The natural world is pretty good at growing things. Using permaculture design techniques, we apply the expertise of nature in our designs. We maximise the use of edges and marginal areas – which are some of nature’s most abundant spaces, we design and encourage diversity and we mimic systems and patterns the planet has proven work well. Our spaces are naturally healthy and rich.

3. We reuse first and minimise waste
We always look to integrate whatever resources are available or created in a garden design and we aim to bring in no more than necessary from elsewhere. Where we use hard materials like stones, rocks, metal and wood, we look to use reclaimed materials first and only use new ones where necessary. There are some materials, like tropical hardwoods and newly mined stone, that we will never use new because of the impact on the planet.

4. We try to use available resources and we are low carbon
Why waste water, sunlight, heat, soil, biomass or fertility when you can put it to good use? Our designs look to make use of the renewable resources available in a patch. And we look to create gardens that will last. We aren’t in to fads.

5. We design for nature
We consider the needs of wildlife as well as people in our designs. We’ll add features in our designs that encourage wildlife, including natural predators that can help manage pests. We won’t use large amounts of night time lighting that impacts on night life or design spaces that are mostly hard landscaping that limits habitats for wildlife.

6. We design for abundance
Every Patch of the Planet can provide abundance as well as joy. We design edible spaces and we look to integrate a chance to harvest in to most of our designs. But that doesn’t mean we create traditional veg patches (unless you want them of course). We integrate rather than segregate throughout our designs.

7. We listen
We listen to you and what you need, we observe the land what it needs and we allow an iterative process that encourages ideas to develop naturally. Our designs start with patterns and only later move in to the detail. We seek and accept feedback and we welcome the chance to evolve designs.

8. We love small and local solutions
We will always prefer to work with the local, the independent and the niche first and we believe in supporting the local economy.

9. We promote and support a better way
We’ll stand up for better gardening, the protection of nature and a better, fairer and more balanced food system and we support local projects and initiatives.