What is Permaculture Gardening?

O. Parker

Permaculture gardening is a method of gardening that seeks to establish a balance with nature to create an edible landscape that is non-toxic, self-sufficient and sustainable. Permaculture gardening is an organic method of growing vegetables, herbs and flowers that works with nature to develop a healthy balance while maximizing space, creating diversity and encouraging wildlife. Instead of relying on chemicals, permaculture gardening uses beneficial predatory insects, companion planting, and composting to improve the soil, encourage plant growth and control harmful insect infestations.

Basil is often grown in a permaculture garden.
Basil is often grown in a permaculture garden.

A permaculture garden seeks to be a closed system, starting with plant nutrition. At the end of the growing season after the vegetables are harvested, the remaining plant material is cut down and left on the soil to decompose and improve the soil. Plant materials are also used along with vegetable scraps and other plant matter to create nutritiously-rich compost that is used in place of chemical fertilizers.

Pairing marigolds with vegetable plants helps to reduce insect pests, and are an important part of a permaculture gardens.
Pairing marigolds with vegetable plants helps to reduce insect pests, and are an important part of a permaculture gardens.

Predatory insects take the place of chemical pesticides in permaculture gardening, as these types of gardens are usually intended to be organic. In addition to being toxic, chemical pesticides kill off the the beneficial insects as well as the predatory insects. Establishing predatory insect populations does tend to take a while, but they usually can be attracted to the garden area by planting inviting flowers throughout the vegetable garden.

Companion planting is an important part of creating a permaculture garden that helps to control harmful insects while attracting beneficial insects. Marigolds planted throughout a vegetable garden, for example, can help deter pests, attract beneficial insects, add color and produce fresh flowers for the garden and the table. The herb mint has a strong oder that also deters pests and is a valuable herb in the kitchen and medicine chest. Other examples of important herbs and flowers that are used for companion planting are rue, garlic, chives, basil and thyme.

Permaculture gardening is about using space creatively in a garden or other living area. Vegetables, flowers and herbs that complement each other are planted together to create a visually pleasing garden where space is used effectively. A productive garden does not require a lot of space. Using permaculture growing methods, a few large containers on a patio or a series of window boxes and containers in an urban dwelling space can easily become a productive, sustainable garden. Permaculture gardening is also a suitable growing method for large farms that seek to be self-sufficient and sustainable.

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