What is Permaculture Gardening?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPermaculture is a form of ecological design, a way to design human habitats (homes, gardens, farms, or cities) that cooperate with and sustain the earth while providing for human needs. It as an organic approach in which both natural systems and human communities meet their needs, now and in the future.

Permaculture gardens, farms, and habitats are practical and productive. Plantsvidstitch_image_041254_20150106, animals, and structures are placed in beneficial relationships, the yields of one supporting the needs of the other. There is little waste and eventually less work, but, most importantly, the wealth and health of nature is secured and we are surrounded by nature.

Montessori students, using nature as a model, imitate and intensify what nature does. For example, in nature worms do the tilling, so we, in turn, abstain from plowing and turning over the soil and simply feed the worms in a somewhat organized way called sheet mulching. Overall, some of the spaces of the landscape are left wild, abused land is restored, and a portion becomes highly productive gardens. The result is a sustainable landscape that is low-maintenance, organic, productive, and beautiful.

The term permaculture (as a systematic method) was first coined by Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in 1978. The word permaculture originally referred to “permanent agriculture” but was expanded to stand also for “permanent culture,” as it was seen that social aspects were integral to a truly sustainable system.

“Permanent Agriculture”

“Permanent Culture”

A form of sustenance that we can count on because we nurture it even as it nurtures us. And because of this, the cycle can continue perpetually .

A mature Permaculture garden (and we’re getting there on our 18th year!) is characterized by:

1. No tilling of the soil; the earth is sheet-mulched and worms do the tilling!

2. The growing beds follow the contours of the land so that all water and heat is absorbed.

3. The control of insect pests is through biological means, i.e. birds and other insects, not harsh, chemical pesticides.

4. Plants are very diverse, mufti-functional, and placed in communities called “guilds.” They support one another.

5. Fifty percent of the plantings are perennials and that means less work over the years. 

6.  Dwarf fruit trees, along with insecticidal plants and herbs, form “forest gardens.” These forest gardens are virtually self-sustaining.

7.  You maximize storage of rainwater, soil nutrients and solar heat with simple techniques.

8.  You place beds and structures in “zones” according to how much you use them.

9.  There are plenty of “people-places” such as paths, garden alcoves, and benches.

10. The aesthetic is more natural; it avoids squares, bare soil, and mass plantings.


You can apply Permaculture to virtually any landscape. When you do, you enjoy the satisfaction of a beautiful place that sustains, not destroys, the earth.



  1. Charlie Headington says

    What a great page! Thank you for describing Permaculture so well. The pictures are great too.

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