Permaculture Ideals

, written by Jeremy Dore gb flag

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I have always been a bit of an idealist at heart. I suppose I just like to have a theory to explain what I experience. Give me a book on how things ‘should be’ and I’ll enjoy reading it and then debating the relative merits of the ideas. So when two friends of mine recently recommended that I take another look at permaculture I was certainly up for it. Previously I had thought of permaculture as a growing method for the really committed self-sufficient radical. What I discovered was something far more accessible and wide-ranging in application.

Permaculture (which stands for ‘Permanent Agriculture’) did start out as a method for creating self-sufficient growing systems with strong similarities to the organic movement. But the scope of permaculture has always been wider – looking at the whole impact humans have on their environment. Unlike strict organic standards, permaculture is more of a design method which has been spreading in influence and application since its inception in the 1970s.

The essence of permaculture is to design our environments to:

  1. Create sustainable agricultural systems which do not deplete the earth’s resources
  2. Minimise our impact on the earth, leaving as much of the natural ecosystems as possible
  3. Live holistically, so that our decisions in one area of our lives are in harmony with the rest and with our community
  4.  Increase the efficiency of what we do: ‘maximum contemplation, minimum action’

It is this last statement that surprised me the most. It means that, for example, we should order our gardens so that the most-used and most-tended crops are nearer the house (a system they call ‘zoning’). Or, that we should work towards community gardens where each person specialises in their own skill area, thus making more efficient use of our resources. In wider application it can influence how we travel to work, design towns or where we go on holiday.


What is refreshing about permaculture is that it can be applied widely, or in small steps, all the time bringing about a sense of purpose and rationale for positive change. Intriguingly, permaculture principles lead us to the conclusion that the most efficient way to live in the modern world is for most people to live in towns, reducing the amount of travel, and organise our food production cooperatively. All of this can start in as small a place as our own back gardens – where some quite brilliant ideas have emerged from this system: keeping greenhouses frost free by linking them with chicken huts for example.

I do like to indulge in a bit of idealism. But it’s even better when it’s bringing about a quiet revolution in communities around the world. So, for next year’s garden plan I think I’ll take another look at permaculture and report back any flashes of inspiration I get from the ‘maximum contemplation, minimum action’ mantra!  If you have taken any steps along the permaculture route then do add them as comments below...

A good resource for more information is the Permaculture Association.

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Show Comments


"Hi Jeremy. I am quite thankful that you have the skills and foresight to have created GrowVeg. I am the marketing director for (The International Institute For Ecological Agriculture), and we all know that permaculture and polyculture is the best way to help save our planet. Thank you for your ideals, efforts and web tool!"
Randy on Friday 22 February 2008
"I will watch out for your conclusions with great interest. I have all (it feels like it but only actually 4 or 5) the books on this and have been reading them for years, but find it difficult to implement the ideas as urban living gets in the way. For a start, much as we want to, the deeds to our house preclude the keeping of chickens; and so do the rules on our allotment."
lilymarlene on Wednesday 27 February 2008
"One good idea is to raise rabbits on weeds and mesquite store bought feed....and i live in prime mesquite country with an infinite supply of mesquite beans which rabbits love....and another byproduct is rabbit manure for the garden...the only drawback to this is that most seeds or all will pass thru the rabbits system and seeds will readilly germinate anywhere...But young mesquite plants are easy to terminate......Another idea i just thought of for winter is to locate part of the rabbitry inside a greenhouse to keep the plants and animal warm..."
al leyva on Saturday 5 December 2009
"Al, permaculture systems wher chickens or rabbits are kept in a hutch attached to a greenhouse (so the air can circulate but not the animals!) have a twin advantage - the air is warmed but also the rabbits or chickens breath out CO2 which boosts plant growth (many commercial greenhouses actually pump CO2 gas in for this reason) I have also used guinea pig manure in my own garden compost but recently stopped as I was unsure whether the hay might have been sprayed with an aminopyralid herbicide."
Jeremy Dore on Monday 7 December 2009
"I fail to see how 3 or4 chickens are not allowed on lots but I can go out my back door and have three dogs yapping at me all day. Maybe we need to work on changes on society values. I would love to have several chickens to rotate through my raised beds. Excellent bug control, I used a duck one year for slug and earwig control, worked great. I think in town lots the key would be only a few and have a portable pen...anyone seen this done?"
Rita on Thursday 16 December 2010
"Permaculture Ideals: The online Permacultre program that I did from Oregon State is proving to be Very Seriously Helpful to us in the design and building of our 4 acre " Give Back Farm ". The design...albeit with some modifications to suit Govt Agencies is attached to the front of our kitchen fridge to assist in staying on track."
Richard on Monday 14 October 2019

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