Permaculture principles . . . the first six

“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”
~ Dwight Eisenhower

Principles that can be applied in all situations and places are used when designing permaculture activities and projects. There are variations of permaculture principles, based on two models: those of Bill Mollison and those of David Holmgren (the co-founders of permaculture). Bill Mollison’s are very useful strategies for practical designing, and David Holmgren’s -below- cover a more ethical/philosophical approach, and reflect how permaculture has evolved.

To become familiar with permaculture principles, a simple exercise is for each principle, think of examples of how you: have applied it in your life; could apply it in your life in the future; have observed it applied by others.

  1. Observe and interact

Applied in your life: Vegetable garden site. Before siting the vegetable garden plot we scoped the available sites within our property, settling on the flattest area, south-west corner of the backyard exposed to the east to north course of the morning sun, warmed by neighbour’s adjacent corrugated iron shed but protected from westerly & southerly winds and hot afternoon sun by the shed and a mature jacaranda. We also observed the local habitat and opted to cage the garden in wire netting to keep out large birds, possums, bandicoots and our dog.

Could apply in your life: Groundwater catchment. Our property slopes downwards at the front, north and east side. Currently during heavy rain excess ground water drains naturally from the site or is directed away from the house and neighbouring properties via ag-drains.

Observed it applied in other: Bugs for Bugs. While monitoring the health of the citrus trees in our Tafe production horticulture orchard we observed a proliferation of scale, and as part of an Integrated Pest Management strategy released beneficial predator Aphytis wasps.

  1. Catch and store energy

Applied in your life: Wood heating. We harvest windfall timber from a nearby family member’s property for woodfire heating our home in winter.

Could apply in your life: Seed bank. Leaving a portion of crops to go to seed, with the purpose of harvesting for future crop plantings, and sale of excess.

Observed it applied in other: Apiary. Local beekeepers obtain harvest of honey, honeycomb and wax, as well as promote pollination of plants.

  1. Obtain a yield

Applied in your life: Water waste not. We reuse as much water as we safely and practically can: toilet, bathroom sink and shower waste water is directed into a standard septic tank, pit and rubble drain system; an occasionally-used bathtub runs into the front garden, washing machine water is hooked up with a hose and sprinkler to the front yard; kitchen sink water is diverted into two 20 litre containers used daily to hand water the vegetable and herb garden.

Could apply in your life: Cash crops. Create and apply permaculture design and practices to our residential property to increase production of herbs, vegetables, plants and seeds surplus to household needs to sell or swap at local markets.

Observed it applied in other: Preserving tradition. Extended family members and friends get together at tomato harvest time to process homegrown tomatoes in bulk into bottles of passata to be shared between the families.

  1. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback

Applied in your life: Plastic not fantastic. When I was developing a practice of reducing the amount of single-use plastics in our household, a friend gave me some suggestions and a set of beeswax wraps she had handmade from recycled fabric to use instead of plastic-wrap which prompted further behaviour modification, and we’ve now considerably reduced the amount of single plastic turnover.

Could apply in your life: Soil health. Our tomato plants in their current raised bed location developed fungal blight therefore will need to be planted in different locations for several future seasons.

Observed it applied in other: Pay it forward. Intensive horticulture strips nutrients from the soil; therefore, after we harvested our production horticulture garlic crop grown at Tafe, the plot was rotated and sown with a green manure crop including nitrogen fixing legumes.

  1. Use and value renewable resources and services

Applied in your life: Top soil. To avoid buying growing media for our vegetable garden raised beds we created our own onsite by combining earth dug up from the neighbouring vacant field with composted organic material from our chicken coop, plus layers of straw and newspaper.

Could apply in your life: Hot compost. We have a bay for cold compost production but the next step is to assemble correct amount and ratio of brown and green / carbon and nitrogen materials and follow the proper construction, methodology and processing time to kill weed seeds and pathogens and create a rich, dark, fine substance high in nutrients and organic materials boost our soil.

Observed it applied in other: Beef it up. Neighbouring farmer with a small herd of cattle he breeds for household milk and dairy products, manure for vegetable garden, household meat and for sale of progeny.

  1. Produce no waste

Applied in your life: Love leftovers. All our household food is either eaten, stored as leftovers and eaten later, fed to chickens or dog, or nutrient cycled via compost or Bokashi.

Could apply in your life: Grow again. The grain we feed our chickens comes packaged in woven sacks which are able to be upcycled into garden bags.

Observed it applied in other: Bulk it up. Horticultural materials such as soil, sand, potting media, mulch we used at Tafe were sourced locally, delivered in bulk and stored in bays rather than purchased as bagged products.

“We do not consider our principles as dogmas contained in books
that are said to come from heaven. We derive our inspiration,
not from heaven, or from an unseen world, but directly from life.”
~ Mustafa Kemal Atatürk

Strike4climate collage
#strike4climate #globalclimatechangerallynambuccaheads #globalclimatechangerally2019

Your thoughts? Comments welcome.

Between now and July 2020 I’m studying Certificate IV Permaculture via Tafe NSW and the National Environment Centre flexible online learning. Studying online, I discovered, involves a lot of writing. This year of study, I think, might lend itself to some blog posts… follow along if you are interested in learning what I learn during my permaculture journey.

11 thoughts on “Permaculture principles . . . the first six

  1. You are really making me think about all the ways we try to be frugal and conservative. Some things are successful and some could be more so, but at least being engaged in the process gives one a chance to improve. I’m not a demonstrator so yesterday, those who are, were speaking up for some of the rest of us, I was doing my own quiet version of conserving materials and energy at home. Some of us are quiet achievers.


    1. It’s all a learning process. I recently -just for fun- took a quiz about the most efficient way to reduce energy consumption… choices between reducing transport, home energy use reduction, eating less beef & dairy, etc … and I got it quite wrong. The answers were targeting big consumers and industry refrigeration-airconditioning efficiencies. Addressing our domestic consumption is part of a bigger picture but quite essential to the overall process. And quiet advocacy and pressure for change is driving shifts in technology. Talking the talk garners critical attention but walking it is change in action.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Doing this simple exercise is a great way to extend your thinking. For example it’s obvious for “Catch and store energy” to think about solar energy, which of course is so important. However it is also important to think about other energies, as you have done with the seed saving and the bees.
    By the way, our local library has set up a seed library. I am not sure how it works, but I will certainly investigate.


  3. Love this. Have been able to tick off a couple of things, such as waste water and no food waste, plus I allow everything to go to seed and self seed, or I collect and sow the next year. I also save supermarket escapees. 🙂 These are the gourmet lettuce that still have their roots attached. We take most of the leaves and I plant the base in a big pot out on the deck. They’re growing like crazy. 🙂


    1. I love vege garden shortcuts… self-seeding is my favourite propagation method. Thanks for the idea… my current crop of lettuce is just about done, I’ll try your method while my new seedlings grow. I also fasttrack shallots by buying a bunch from the supermarket, eating the green tops and planting the white bottoms, then harvest the regrowth. Also, I prefer long red bell peppers to red capsicums but I couldn’t find seed packets so I bought one from the supermarket, sowed some of the seeds and got 4 plants and a year of peppers, plus saved seeds, which I must get started for this year.


  4. These are all doable principles, and I find it’s best to start small and keep building. While I was in Germany last year my niece and I were able to experience living more simply and organically, especially learning to recycle on a much higher level than we do in the US. It was a 16 day experience of living mindfully. I was amazed at how easy it was and how much better I felt, doing the right thing by our environment. There is much for all of us to learn about being more cognizant of small changes we can make.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s not until you look back and see far you’ve come that you realise those small steps, incremental changes have made a big difference. I found a 5 year old shopping list the other day, and out of 50 things only about 5 haven’t changed, plus we shop less. Back then in our city life we were focusing on buying better and recycling, reusing, now post-treechange we are buying less and doing even more for ourselves. Less money, more life, and better for the environment. But I figure I’ll look back again in 5 years and see how much further we’ve come. Much of our awareness and progress has been thanks to generously shared information and inspiration by others on the their own journey.

      Liked by 1 person

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