What is Permaculture: Definition, Principles & Best Practices

What is Permaculture: Definition, Principles & Best Practices

Jun 20th 2024

Permaculture is a self-sufficient and sustainable growth of the agricultural ecosystem. It produces food by following the natural cycle of our ecosystem. In recent years, permaculture has become a buzzword on farming platforms due to increasing interest in sustainable agriculture. Nature is a powerful force that can self-heal and provide abundant resources to all living beings on Earth. Permaculture is a concept of connecting resources, land, people, and the environment in a manner that produces no waste and encourages the use of closed-loop systems seen in nature.

Are you looking to create a garden, landscape, or farm that is sustainable and adaptable, like a natural ecosystem? A permaculture approach can help you grow food harmoniously with nature using available resources. There are numerous innovative sustainable farming methods, but can permaculture be the most valuable approach in agriculture? Read below to discover everything about permaculture, from its definition and history to principles and practices of permaculture.

What is Permaculture? Definition & History

Permaculture refers to creating and maintaining agriculturally productive ecosystems that are stable, diverse, and resilient, like natural ecosystems. It is a prominent approach to agriculture that focuses on sustainability and the connection of ecosystems. Permaculture is becoming a popular toolbox set of ideas for gardeners and farmers. The word permaculture combines 'permanent ' and 'agriculture,' which means creating edible landscapes and gardens that benefit the local ecosystem.

Bill Mollison, an Australian environmentalist, first introduced permaculture in 1970. Since then, it has gained immense global popularity as a sustainable alternative to traditional farming or agriculture. When Bill was asked to define permaculture, he once gave a broad yet simple definition:

"Permaculture is a set of permanent systems for persistent human existence."

This approach is developed to create a self-sustaining environment where everything works together to nourish and support one another. It includes using renewable and natural resources to grow food and recycling or reusing waste to minimize waste and pollution. This agriculture form takes inspiration from nature to create synergetic farming systems based on sustainability, resilience, crop diversity, and natural productivity. Permaculture is all about working with nature rather than against it and letting our ecosystems function smoothly without disrupting the natural cycles.

Permaculture Ethics

Ethics are the foundation of permaculture design. Permaculture uses a set of ethics to connect us to the landscape's ecology and potential. These ethics are:

  • Earth Care
  • People Care
  • Fair Share

Earth Care

We are as healthy as our planet. According to this principle, whatever farming method you choose should never harm or change the natural ecosystem of our Earth. We need to preserve the Earth and ensure our agricultural practices don't harm or perish the planet's functioning. Caring for waterways, forests, and diverse life forms benefits us.

If we take water from an aquifer, we will replenish the water. We can create ponds and other water-catchment systems in our lands to provide water for food production. Caring for the Earth will help support the second ethic, caring for people.

People Care

Caring for people involves caring for ourselves, our community, and our household. It emphasizes that everyone should support each other and cooperate rather than compete so the environment will prosper. It is a step away from consumerism, allowing us to avoid products that exploit people. Sometimes, it can start with creating an edible landscape that is both beautiful and fruitful, which can inspire others.

We never exploit our farmworkers. We must pay our workers a fair wage and give them a fair share of the food they grow. Because of permaculture, they would have more prosperous lives.

Fair Share

The last ethic involves sharing the abundance generously. Everyone should get their deserved share without discrimination. Farm laborers need to have first dibs on crops since they made it happen and would possess ownership of the farm. In addition, the yields also need to be distributed to those in need.

The 12 Principles of Permaculture

Permaculture principles help us build a site to utilize and value all land resources. These principles are not rigid rules but guidelines that help us model nature in our garden or landscape design. David Holmgren founded permaculture and developed a list of 12 principles. Permaculture was introduced and evolved and continues to expand through these principles. Everyone who believes in permanent agriculture follows and practices these principles that are the same everywhere, regardless of location, time, or situation.

The 12 principles of permaculture include:

1. Observe and interact

This includes observing nature and paying attention to your landscape before making any changes or decisions. Observing and interacting with it will help you understand the landscape, such as the plant's natural growth pattern, wildlife species' venture, climate conditions, and more.

2. Obtain a Yield

Ensure you get complete rewards based on all the energy, time, and effort you spend working on something. For example, you need food and pay for the work you do.

3. Produce No Waste

The zero-waste trend began with permaculture. This principle involves valuing and properly using every resource so that nothing goes to waste.

4. Catch and Store Energy

Create systems that collect resources when they are abundant so we can use them in times of need. Nature provides resources at peak times, such as rainy seasons and droughts at different times in certain regions.

5. Use Renewable Resources

Make the most use of renewable resources to limit our consumption and dependence on non-renewable materials.

6. Use Small and Slow Solutions

It emphasizes everything going slowly at its own pace and not rushing through it. Small and slow systems are easier to handle and maintain than larger ones, using local resources better and producing sustainable results.

7. Apply Self-regulation and Accept Feedback

Discourage inappropriate activity or growth to ensure that systems continue to work properly. By better understanding how positive and negative feedback work, we can design self-regulating systems, which reduces the work required for repetitive and severe management.

8. Integrate Rather than Segregate

This principle advocates using things to support each other, work jointly, develop relationships, and avoid doing everything independently. It focuses on relationships that create integrated systems and develop communities of plants, humans, and animals that benefit from these connections.

9. Design from Patterns to Details

To understand patterns in nature and society, you need to observe them carefully. These patterns can form the foundation of our designs. For example, you can observe how beehives are created and the structure of snail shells and create your own.

10. Use and Value Diversity

Diversity decreases vulnerability to various threats and benefits from the unique nature of the environment. For example, plant a various things in your garden to support the soil ecosystem and pollinators.

11. Creatively Use and Respond to Change

Change is necessary. Careful observation and then timely intervention are likely to have a positive impact on inevitable change. Permaculture is about the long-term viability of natural living systems and human culture, but this longevity heavily depends on flexibility and change.

12. Use Edges and Value the Marginal

This principle tells us that the point at which two opposite things collide is where most interesting things happen. These are often the most useful, diverse, and productive elements in the system.

Importance of Permaculture in Agriculture

Permaculture provides numerous benefits, making it the best choice for people who own land and want to grow food. This includes everyone from farmers and gardeners to agriculture enthusiasts. Here are the advantages of permaculture farming, which highlights its importance.

Cost-effective: It costs less to grow crops than conventional farming because permaculture farming uses natural elements of the ecosystem and decomposes the waste into valuable organic matter for agriculture.

Produces Less Waste: The waste is recycled back to Earth as fertilizer or animal feed. Hence, the waste production is reduced.

Minimizes Chemical Exposure: Natural fertilizers are used to feed crops, reducing chemical exposure. Crops and soil are not exposed to harmful chemicals used in synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

Produces Less Pollution: When the planting and growing process is done using natural methods, the chance of creating pollution is rare.

Promotes Green Products: Using natural fertilizers promotes the production of greener products.

Reduce Land Degradation: Permaculture farming buries large volumes of rotting wood, leaves, and branches under the soil, resulting in garden beds. These materials decompose over time and create garden beds loaded with beneficial nutrients and organic matter.

Common Permaculture Agriculture Practices

Below are some permaculture practices you should follow for ecological and sustainable agriculture.

  • Understand your local climate and observe changes
  • Determine the plants that naturally grow in your climate
  • Store and harvest rainwater
  • Recycle greywater
  • Improve soil conditions by plowing and mulching
  • Try companion planting and diverse planting
  • Adopt an agroforestry system where herbs, vegetables, and fruit trees are grown together
  • Try vermicomposting to enhance the composting process
  • Use solar energy and wood stoves
  • Use natural materials to build land structures
  • Sheet mulching without tilling


Permaculture brings together people, land, resources, and the environment by using mutually beneficial synergies in natural systems. It is a sustainable and ecological system that combines various elements like natural ecosystems. Permaculture prioritizes principles such as minimal waste, renewable resource usage, conservation, diversity, and environmental design. It aims to create self-sustaining systems that work naturally without depending on external inputs, reducing negative environmental impacts.

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