A contraction of “permanent culture” or “permanent agriculture,” the permaculture concept has been around since the late 1970’s. Bill Mollison, an Australian ecologist, developed this system along with David Holmgren, one of his students. Permaculture combines principles from the fields of ecology, architecture, horticulture and agriculture. It also incorporates philosophies from economic, legal, and land use systems and is utilized by individuals, businesses and communities.

Permaculture involves design strategies for creating sustainable human habitats by following the patterns of nature and focusing on environmental preservation techniques. Numerous textbooks and pamphlets are available to assist with devising garden and greenhouse arrangements, foliage placement and even where to position your home on a lot.

Landscape principles are integral to the permaculture philosophy. The importance of designing ecologically friendly garden areas is a major focal point. This is accomplished through maximizing solar energy use and water consumption, strategically locating annual and perennial plants, and manipulating the micro-climate near your garden and home. The practice of multiple-use agricultural and horticultural concepts is an ideology that is used in permaculture design. For instance, grape vines may function as a food source, hedge, wind-barrier, and also provide a shaded area for other foods that require partial sun exposure. A pond strategically placed uphill from a garden space can provide natural irrigation for your food-producing area during dry weather while acting as a barrier to keep animals from entering.

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Permaculture teaches methodologies such as crop rotation, organic fertilization, recycling and composting. This includes techniques to attract bees and butterflies to gardens for the purpose of germination, sheet mulching techniques, or treating and using grey waste water in your garden.

The permaculture movement has reaped surprising benefits worldwide. An inner-city area in San Francisco, Hunter’s Point, created a permaculture community to respond to pollution, poverty and the high crime rate in the area. A youth development agency was created to help fight the poverty, violence and drug abuse prevalent in the community. The agency provides the adolescents of Hunter’s Point with training in the permaculture philosophy as well as giving them a sense of family and community responsibility. The benefits to the environment and to the attitudes of the citizens have provided hope for a higher quality of life in a neighborhood that was consumed with ecological, social and economic hardships. This Hunter’s Point plan has been a blueprint for many other programs that have been developed nationwide.

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Copyright Dan Flixton 2009