People who talk about permaculture often mention that it is a system or a toolbox for making sustainable designs. If this is so then what are the tools, or principles by which permaculture helps us to design?

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These are 12 principles of Permaculture elucidated by David Holmgren, which I pulled off of here and added a bit to.

These are not the only accepted principles of permaculture, nor the only phrasings.

  1. Observe and Interact – “Beauty is in the mind of the beholder”

By taking the time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation. We can also learn about how nature solves problems, and apply her solutions and patterns to our designs.

  1. Catch and Store Energy – “Make hay while the sun shines”

By developing systems that collect resources when they are abundant, we can use them in times of need.

  1. Obtain a yield – “You can’t work on an empty stomach”

Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the working you are doing. Identify both things that you have and how you can use them, but also things that you need and how you can obtain them.

  1. Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback – “The sins of the fathers are visited on the children of the seventh generation”

We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well. Negative feedback is often slow to emerge. Be attentive to all feedback.

  1. Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services – “Let nature take its course”

Make the best use of nature’s abundance to satiate our consumptive behavior and dependence on non-renewable resources. See value in renewability and sustainability.

  1. Produce No Waste – “Waste not, want not” or “A stitch in time saves nine”

By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste. Be aware of natural cycles and how materials are transformed.

  1. Design From Patterns to Details – “Can’t see the forest for the trees”

By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.

  1. Integrate Rather Than Segregate – “Many hands make light work”

By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other. Organisms developed together and need each other.

  1. Use Small and Slow Solutions – “Slow and steady wins the race” or “The bigger they are, the harder they fall”

Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and produce more sustainable outcomes.

  1. Use and Value Diversity – “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”

Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.

  1. Use Edges and Value the Marginal – “Don’t think you are on the right track just because it’s a well-beaten path”

The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.

  1. Creatively Use and Respond to Change – “Vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be”

We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing and then intervening at the right time.


When appling these principles try to think of them as something that is second nature to you. My home gardening is not in full use of all the principles at this point,however I can see the long term benefit to implimenting permaculture principles. For example use principle #9 in maintaining mini eco systems even in small raised beds with polyculture that has eliminate the need for any chemical pesticides and fertilizers. By the way a raised bed need not always be a framed box. Layer on layer of mulch and compost over time becomes a raised be with the added benefit of soil improvement. With principle #10 this has helped me with advance planning and knowing what to expect from the impact of a plant or mini eco system. Permaculture mimics nature and you begin to graps the overall concept in a way that you see permaculture as gardening in motion working within itself and by itself yet enjoied by other.

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