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How to start a Permaculture garden or farm-Design and layout setup guide

The permaculture design that should be considered before starting your garden or farm. We made a detailed permaculture garden design guide that explains every step from observation to implementation. We have divided the layout of our approach in three stages or parts. 

  • Planning stage 
  • Make the best use of your garden or farm
  • Implementation of permaculture

Planning stage

To start a permaculture garden, farm or a permaculture forest. There can be many things and factors to look for. Like geography of the area, type of terrain, climate of the region, type of soil or layer we have, objectives of our plantation, the native trees and plants which can be easily grown and self sustained easily, what kind of production of the plantation you need.

Geography and details of your area 

These details are relevant to the big scale or even smaller scale of garden or farm. Even if we have already acquired the land or we still have to choose, observing and using these features for our benefit can make a big difference.

Geography 

We have to first analyse topographical features of area or land. We should choose the land which has good depressions in many places and also increases in altitude at some points. These attitudes can be different features like hills, molehills and others. It will give us a natural flow to our water and you can use these features for our other benefits. If these kinds of topography or terrain is not available to us. Then it should also not be a problem. Because we can make trenches, swales and other features that will make depression. It will store water for our easy access and for our plantation, for most or all of the year.

Climate

Good thing about permaculture is that it is applicable to every corner of the world. Applicable in different geography and every climate of the globe. We just have to improvise the system according to our needs and according to our climates. 

Average rainfall

We should consider the average rainfall of our area so we can store the water and use it according to it. The hot climate region needs to store more water to make our soil more fertile. So if our client is in a temperate climate or tropical climate it will affect our yield.

Planing permaculture plantation with Average rainfall
Planning Plantation with rain
Soil type 

We should also consider the soil type if soil to grow plants is enough present in our area. We have to improvise more for the deserted soil.Other than that we have to look at what kind of soil is more prominent in our area like sand, silt or clay.

Microclimate 

After some years and work on our garden or farm we can develop microclimate that may be different from the climate of the region. This microclimate will be more visible for plantation as it will be a source of better temperature, more humidity, more resilience, and more access to water. But definitely this microclimate will depend on our area of permaculture land.

Native trees and plants

To grow forest even in our backyard which is quite possible, it is important to know the history of the plantation of the area. We have to look for the natural crops, vegetation and trees that have been growing for many years and centuries in our land. Observing this will help us understand our region more clearly and we can grow these natural plantations easily without much effort.

Objective of plantation

We have to clearly identify the objectives of our plantation. That we are gonna use it for our own needs.I To serve the community or it is for commercial purposes. We can meet all of these objectives with this kind of permaculture cultivation. But it is necessary to first set goals. It is always easier, more helpful and effective if you firstly want permaculture farming or permaculture gardening to fulfill your own kitchen needs.

Planning Objective of plantation
Objectives of permaculture design

Perennial/ annual

We have to study about the types of the plants we want to grow. Perennial plants for those that are recurring or appear for a longer time. Annual plants are the plants that occur once in a year.  little knowledge about these plants forehand can help us for the rest of our time. We can distinguish between them and grow them according to their type.

The plants produce fruits only seasonally or we are getting the vegetation round the year. We have to plan our plantation according to that.

Make the best out of our land

Permaculture is not that difficult that some people assume from this difficult word of permaculture. It has been applied and still going on in many countries knowing or not knowingly about this term. Many organic farmers do this kind of permaculture technique and call it organic agriculture.

Permaculture garden ethics and principles
Permaculture garden with ethics and principles

Ethics and principles of permaculture

When designing any permaculture garden the basic ethics and principles should be considered in every step. 

There are three main ethics of permaculture and 12 main principles. That we have discussed in detail in other articles.You can browse by clicking on the hyperlink.

Just giving the gist of these ethics and principles. The ethics are earth care, people care and fair share. The principles are Observe and interact, Catch and store energy, Obtain a yield, Apply the self-regulation and accept the feedback, Use and value renewable resources and services, Produce no waste, Design from patterns to details, Integrate rather than segregate, Use small and slow solutions, Use and value diversity, Use edges and value the marginal, Creative use and respond to the change.

Storage and supply of water 

The most important thing in permaculture farming is the storage of water, access, percolation in some cases and use of water. Different techniques in different conditions are applied to solve this issue giving a plantation its adequate water supply and making sure it is getting it. One way to achieve it is to make holes in such a manner that ensures the water supply for most of the time and most of the seasons. 

Making swales, trenches or holes

Making swales can be a good technique. It is a very small canal or very small type line layer shape. A straight line some feet deep depending on the rain falls or water from other sources we need to store. 

In gardens we can make smaller scale swales for trenches or holes to conserve water. Making them will ensure the constant supply of water to our plants. 

We can supply them with house supply water but that is not beneficial in the long term for exactly according to the principles of permaculture. So going in a natural way to store water will benefit us in the longer run even in small gardens. 

The water from these swales will move laterally perpendicular to its wall. The water will percolate, move and will be available for the far away plantation from it. We make use of these trenches by planting cover trees, vegetation or plants along the line of these trenches. We can use organic matter from different sources or make biochar of our own putting it on the walls of his swals. This will have many benefits like it will contain the water in the trenches for more period of time so it will be available later in the dry season or when the plants really need it. Also it will help the trees and plants that we are going to plant along these trenches. 

Sequence of plantation along these swales

The plants or trees that need the most water should be planted on the walls of these structures. This will be the trees that commonly grow longer. Then the other trees, plants or vegetables should be planted based on their size and their water intake. Here we can apply multi layer farming techniques. It is just a method of permaculture to utilise the crops and vegetation in different manners. In ordinary permaculture we have distributed power plants in different zones and we plant them in the same layers of plants after other layers of plants. In multilayer permaculture we cultivate different kinds of plants in very near distance one after another. Then we repeat these layers and sequence again and again. In these techniques every layer of soil and different sizes of plants help each other in growing better, consuming more efficiently, capturing more humidity, giving fuel to each other plant and so every plant becomes stronger.

Permacultural zones and sectors

Permaculture Zone 0 and 1

The house or permaculture shelter is the place where we can live. Shelter is more a temporary term and it can be used for the house for the animals. The house or inside the house can be called the zone 0. It is usually in the middle of the farm. Also  many times in a zone where it is surrounded by the layers of vegetables. It is a tiny home just like we see many tiny homes around the world. So it should be made with very care and having many things in mind. Keeping the shelter right next to the vegetables can help us in many ways. The area around the house can be called zone 1. The vegetables need day to day care and it will be easy for us to get to them. Also we can more easily protect them from the wind, heat and the sunlight. The design of the shelter should be according to the temperature, the sunlight it receives and the wind factors. The area of a land is located in a tropical area or the temperate location,It can alter the whole design. Design is made in such a way to break the breeze that can affect power crops and vegetation. one method to do this is to plant trees opposite in the direction of the wind so it will not be that fast and it will not damage much. Also to conserve most of the sunlight in colder areas there can be many methods that we can use. Like making the shelter and the vegetation face most of the sunlight. Making shelter little underground, making earthships to conserve the ground heat more in very cold areas. So making energy efficient in all the ways permaculture shelter will really help us for a long time. If making a tiny home then it should be very space efficient. In other words there should be a tiny space in a tiny home for every department of a regular home.


We can make the house with the material already present nearest. like making hempcrete from the nearby weeds and if we live in a very hot climate region then it can be the solution to prevent heat. Also making the earth ships to prevent from the extreme points and extreme sun. It can work both ways in very hot temperatures. The earth ship will not heat up that much because it is made of the materials like sand. it is also little underground or maybe half of it is underground which will help conserve the temperature inside. Also in very cold climates ships can retain the heat in the ground and insulate the cold temperature outside. 

Zone 0 and Zone 1 of permaculture farm
Permaculture farm zones

Zone 2

The other division of the zones can be done on the basis of ease of access to them. Zone 2 around zone 1 can be called home orchid. The things we can keep in zone 2 are the barns, the animals, fruit, berries, composting and other fruit and vegetables. It is a little more high maintenance area and requires daily visits.

Zone 3

Zone 3 can be called Farm from where we can keep large animals like goats, cows or we can grow the cash crops. It can be visited less frequently than the previous zones.

Zone 4

Zone 4 can be called the foraged zone. It is semi managed. It can be used for hunting and gathering.

Zone 5

The last zone 5 can be called the wild area. It requires the least maintenance or no maintenance.

These are just roughly made and ideal zones. The zoning, dividing your area into sectors can be changed as required. Depending on the ease of access, sunlight, wind importance, geography and other permaculture factors already explained. 

Implementation of permaculture

Permaculture techniques

Once again using the basic principles of the permaculture we can apply these techniques making different systems relying on each other.

Self sustaining 

The best thing about this permaculture garden or permaculture farming system is it is sustainable. Which means it requires very little maintenance and is not reliant on outside factors. It is kind of passive income and passive harvesting. The first months are the hardest and then it grows itself and multiplies itself with the passage of time. 

Minimalistic approach 

People don't look at the minimalistic element of permaculture gardening. It can be a stepping stone towards a minimalistic way of living.

In this we don't need our things from the outside world and also our necessities. We can fulfill our necessities and essential things to survive through this natural way. Nature provides the problem and also its solution. We are training ourselves to be reliant on ourselves not others. Moreover emotionally strong because of our approach to the natural and the material world. Permaculture farming is encouraging us to minimise our carbon footprint. It is an interconnected different natural systems with each other. The waste of one system is the requirement for the other and vice versa. Hence producing zero or minimum waste in the process.

Use of beneficial animals

We can incorporate many kinds of different systems in permaculture farming. We build interconnected systems of nature. We create the solution of our problems from nature by nature. The waste material from animals like ducks, rabbits, cows, goats and others are the essentials for plants. Vice versa these plants will provide food for others and also for these animals. So creating value for each other, also produces zero waste minimising carbon footprint.

Beneficial animals like chicken
Use of animals in permaculture

Aquaponic

Aquaponic is one of the systems that can be integrated with permaculture. Aquaponics is basically an interconnected system of fish and plants. Both of these can be essential for each other. The waste from the fish alone can provide all the rare elements and the macronutrients nutrients that the plants need. With basic knowledge and expanding it with over experience we can make interconnected systems totally reliant on each other. We can grow food for our fishes and give the plants the natural fertilizer in return. In the aquaponics system the food for fishes can be the plants that can grow underwater, above and on the surface of the water. These are the plants that the fishes eat also we can grow other land plants like soybean or other protein rich plants. Fish need rich protein plants to grow healthy.

Composting

Compost is basically the organic matter that is turned into fertilizer for our plantation or crops. In permaculture farming we use some waste from plantations and other animals to make compost.

There can be many different ways to make different kinds of compost. We can incorporate many different systems of utilising the good sources of protein and other nutrients like from black soldier fly.

Black soldier fly

These black soldier flies are found naturally in the environment. We can capture it with the techniques, harvested and then use it to convert our ways fast into the best source of protein or biomass. We can then feed this biomass to our chickens, pigs and our fish. In addition to that these black soldier flies can also be fed to our animals. Black soldiers fly are considered to be very efficient and give a complete protein source for the fish. We have already discussed the benefits of fish in the systems in aquaponics and permaculture.

Types and examples of permaculture 

There are many types of permaculture like 

  • Multi layer farming
  • Spin farming
  • Hugelkultur
  • Zero budget natural farming
  • Forest garden
  • and many others 
Types of permaculture farming and garden
Types of permaculture farming

Multilayer farming

The bottom layer can be of any vegetable growing under the soil. Making it our first layer of the soil. The second layer can be of any plant that grows very near to the surface. The third layer should be the plantation that grows just a few feet above the ground. The fourth layer can be the most important  and the trees aur vine can be grown here. Which can grow longer and longer. it will create a shadow for the other layers and plantation. These can be many layers not only like 3, 4, 5 or more but making sure these are grown with some distance from each other.Making sure that they don't damage The other plants roots. Also so that the nutrients and water are equally available to every layer and plantation. 

The sequence, the type and the length of the plants and trees depends on you. We can also use the longest trees like the palms, then the legumes, fruits, then the shrubs  and in the last the vegetables. This sequence can be according to the length of the plantation. All of these can complement each other in the distribution of the nutrients, water and other resources. In permaculture diversity of crops and plants is very important. diversity is the strength and is the resilience from the outside factors that can destroy all of the plantation like floods and others.

Spin farming

Spin farming means small plot intensive farming. It is also a type of permaculture and it is more focused to get more financial gains from a small scale land. A Canadian farmer Wally Satzewich firstly started this kind of farming.

Hugelkultur

It is a type of permaculture in which raised beds are used to grow plants in them. These raised beds are made from organic matter, wood chips, waste, leaves and other materials.

Hugelkultur type of permaculture farming
Making of Hugelkultur beds

Food forest garden

Food forest gardens are one of the simplest types of low maintenance permaculture farming. If done organically in organic fertilizers. It can be a backyard garden applying the techniques of permaculture to grow abundant food.

Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) 

It is a type of permaculture and in this type of farming the initial investment cost is zero. It is dubbed as the new Green Revolution starting from the state of Karnataka in India by a man named Palekar. ZBNF is also called spiritual farming. 

Zero Budget Natural Farming is really helping the poor present class farmers of India who cannot buy the expensive pesticides and fertilizers.

There is a lot of work going on in India on permaculture and others farming techniques. There is an organisation named paani foundation which is doing good work and making acres of land cultivable for better use. India is basically an agricultural country also with a big population. In fact the second most populous country is India. With the growing need of food there is also need to provide enough for them. so turning towards advanced techniques like Aquaponics, hydroponics and techniques of permaculture. With this population there is also a problem of access to water. Using permaculture we can use water more efficiently and can present solutions to the problem on a larger scale.

People think that permaculture is just a farming technique but we don't realise that it is a whole thought process of lifestyle. It has social, economic and cultural ethics and principles to live by.  

What do you think about this whole article? Share your thoughts in comments and pin the pictures so you can use it later. 

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