Become a Permaculture Consultant
In its strictest sense, Permaculture is a system of agriculture based on perennial, or self perpetuating, plant and animal species which are useful to man. In a broader context, permaculture is a philosophy which encompasses the establishment of environments which are highly productive and stable, and which provide food, shelter, energy etc., as well as supportive social and economic infrastructures.
In comparison to modern farming techniques practised in Western civilisations, the key elements of permaculture are low energy and high diversity inputs. The design of the landscape, whether on a suburban block or a large farm, is based on these elements.
A well designed permaculture garden will fulfil the following criteria:
*Upon maturity it forms a balanced, self sustaining ecosystem where the relationships between the
different plants and animals do not compete strongly to the detriment on each other. The garden does
not change a great deal from year to year, but it does none the less still continue to change.
*It replenishes itself. The plants and animals in the garden feed each other, with perhaps only minimal
feed (eg: fertilizer) needing to be introduced from the outside.
*Minimal (if any) work is required to maintain the garden.
However, initially there may be high maintenance in order to get the garden going and established.
Weeds and pest problems are minimal due to companion planting and other "natural affects" which parts
of the ecosystem have on each other.
*It is productive. Food or other useful produce can be harvested from the garden on an ongoing basis.
*It is intensive land use. A lot is achieved from a small area.
*There is a diverse variety of plant types used. This spreads cropping over the whole year so that there
is no time when a "lot" is being taken out of the system. This also means that the nutrients extracted
(which are different for each different type of plant or animal) are "evened out".
Example: One plant takes more iron, while the plant next to it takes less iron...meaning iron doesn't get
depleted because all of the plants have a high demand for iron. The diversity of species act as a buffer
one to another.
*It can adapt to different slopes, soil types and other microclimates.
*It develops through an evolutionary process changing rapidly at first but then gradually over a long
period perhaps never becoming totally stable. The biggest challenge for the designer is to foresee these
ongoing long term changes.
A permaculture system can be developed on virtually any type of site, though the plants selected and used restricted by the site's suitability to the needs of the varieties used.
For the culture of plants it is generally regarded that a north facing piece of land is most suited to productive plants because there is greater interception of light which produces greater fruit and yield.
The siting of the productive plants should therefore be towards north.
The siting of the house and other structures will depend on building design, construction restrictions, etc.
A suitable aspect will need to be determined for animal shelters and the animals.
The structure of a permaculture garden/system is made up of land, water, trees, soil, building, etc.
The arrangement and layout will mostly depend on personal preferences, providing the nine key guiding principals are followed (relative location, multiple functions, multiple elements, elevational planning, biological resources, energy recycling, natural secession, maximise edges and diversity).
Size, shape density and arrangement of plantings influences:
Temperature (plants make air and soil temperatures cooler in summer and warmer in winter).
Water (Soil is less likely to dry out under a tree canopy).
Winds (direction can be changed, strength can be reduced).
Deciduous trees loose their leaves in winter creating different environmental affects in winter to summer.
Frost (there is far less chance of frost beside or under the canopy of plants).
*Large trees dominate the system.
The trees used will affect everything else they create shade, reduce temperature fluctuations below
(create insulation), reduce light intensities below, reduce water loss from the ground surface, etc.
*There should also be areas without large trees in any system.
*The "edge" between a treed and non-treed area will be a different environment to the area with trees
and the area without trees. These "edges" provide conditions for growing things which won't grow fully
in the open or in the treed area either.
The north edge of a treed area (in the southern hemisphere) is sunny but sheltered while the south
edge is cold but still sheltered more than in the open.
*Pioneer plants are used initially in a permaculture system to provide vegetation and aid the development
of other plants which take much longer to establish. (eg: Legumes grow fast, fix nitrogen raise nitrogen
levels in the soil, and thus increase nutrients available to nut trees growing
beside them. Over time the nuts will become firmly established and the legumes will die out). Pioneer
plants are frequently short lived (but not always).
*Soil is composed of three main "ingredients". These are particles, air and water. Particles consist of clay,
sand, organic matter, living organisms, roots, nutrients, rocks, etc. Air provides essential gaseous
exchange areas within the soil. Water acts as a carrier for nutrients to the plant, flushes toxic elements
away from the plants, and like the other two "ingredients", keep the plant alive. The soil therefor will
influence the structure of the permaculture system.
Soil itself has a structure that can affect plant growth.
Variations in soil over a small site can have a great affect in creating different microclimates.
Temperature, light, water and air characteristics of a soil can vary from place to place according to such
things as the depth of mulch/organic material on the soil surface; the depth of topsoil (which may have
been eroded from the top of a slope and deposited at the bottom of a slope ...etc.
Adding mulch to an area, or working materials such as sand or manure into soil before planting can have
a long term affect on the type of microclimate created.
*Land with its variability in slope, depth of soil, potential for erosion, etc., will affect the permaculture
*Natural drainage needs to be considered due to the influence of rainfall and irrigation. If drainage is very
good, then heavy rainfall may not be seen as a problem. If drainage is poor, then water ponding may
occur and this could lead to plant death and water logging. The need for artificial drainage will need to
*Irrigation type, cost, design will both be influenced by the permaculture system, and may directly
influence the permaculture system. Criteria such as rainfall, humidity, plant selection, growth stage, soil
type, wind, climate will influence the selection and design of the irrigation system.
Large masses of water such as seas, oceans, lakes or dams will modify microclimates (ie: temperature
fluctuations are less near large bodies of water).
USING MICROCLIMATE MODIFIERS
By manipulating the things explained above, you can affect micro climatic conditions to create environments suitable for growing the plants you wish to grow in different parts of your permaculture garden.
Study Permaculture Systems, as a First Step to being a Permaculture consultant -click for details
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