March 2022 – The Principles

One of my favorite times of the year is when the seed catalogues fill the mailbox and planning begins! What was learned, what can be improved, and what new ideas do I want to explore this year?! Through evaluating the previous year, I am able to grow, set goals and improve strategies for this year.

I remember the first time I heard the concept “the more that you change and alter the land, the more work you will have in the future”. Very simple words, but they resonated as we clear land and plant lawns that need mowing, we build garden beds that need weeding, and we take down natural trees and foliage to plant flowers which need lots of love and care. It seems every time we take away what naturally grows to plant what we want, we create more chores and maintenance. So how do we get the best of both worlds – less work with the plants we want?

You may have heard the term “Permaculture”, or perhaps you are well versed with its principles. I am trying to absorb as much as I can about some of the concepts and apply them to my own garden. Permaculture can be used in everything from a container to a garden bed to a field to a forest. I wanted to take the opportunity to share with you, the 12 Principles of Permaculture as expressed by David Holmgren.

These principles are thought-provoking concepts that when all are taken into account, we begin to grow and live with the natural world, as opposed to constantly fighting with nature “taking over” our spaces. These principles can be used in all aspects of our lives!

  1. Observe and Interact – By taking the time to observe nature, we can design solutions to our individual situations. It is actually advised to not make any permanent structures on a new-to-you property until after a minimum of one year of observation to know where the water flows, the path of the sun, rainfall amounts, the variety of different soils in different areas and the various microclimates in the area. By observing closely, and acting in response, we reduce the need to redo, or fix things in the future.
  2. Catch and Store Energy – When systems like rainwater collection are developed to collect resources while they are abundant, we will have a surplus when needed.
  3. Obtain a Yield – Ensure that all of your efforts pay off in useful rewards for any project. For example, if you are growing food, hopefully you grow enough to feed your family and maybe you can produce enough to sell or give away!
  4. Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback – Try to be open-minded always, and receive feedback constructively. Self-evaluate to identify things that could be improved and learn from your mistakes.
  5. Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services – Control over nature through excessive use of resources is both wasteful and expensive. Utilize what nature provides to try to minimize your impact. A great example is to have meetings outside in the air under the shade of a tree, instead of in a building with the air conditioning cranked.
  6. Produce No Waste – Think of everything that is considered waste, instead as opportunities and resources. Our society somewhere along the line turned into buy more, spend more, but there once was a time when things were appreciated, fixed and reused. Being frugal was an admirable trait that our landfills need us to return to! Use, Reuse, Repair, Repurpose, and Recycle!
  7. Design From Patterns to Details – By taking a step back and observing, we can identify patterns in nature which can be replicated in our designs. A spiral garden is based off of the pattern of the galaxy and utilizes a 40’ bed of growing area in a 1m high by 2m in diameter garden!
  8. Integrate Rather Than Segregate – Nothing is more productive than two or more systems working together. For example, chickens eat garden scraps, resulting in eggs and/or meat, manure for gardens and they keep pests away.
  9. Use Small and Slow Solutions – Slow integration of actions based on observations will be more achievable and resilient, and any mistakes will be of minimal impact with small changes.
  10. Use and Value Diversity – Diversity adds stability to any system. In the garden, if you mix your plants up in a polyculture design as opposed to monoculture, a particular pest will get confused and will be challenged to find the one plant it wants in amongst many other plants is doesn’t like.
  11. Use Edges and Value the Marginal – The edges of fields or ponds, or where the grass meets the forest are the most active areas with creatures and soils from two or more ecosystems. By utilizing and expanding the edges, you create more overlap and thus increase the biodiversity of an area.
  12. Creatively Use and Respond to Change – We can prepare for inevitable change by carefully observing and intervening accordingly. By planting more groundcover crops, you can hold in the moisture when the heat hits this summer.

As you scan your seed catalogues this Spring, or gaze upon your front lawn, think of the 12 Principles of Permaculture and perhaps you will plan a new garden bed with mixed veggies instead of rows, or reuse some of your recyclables for seedling pots, or turn some of your lawn into a pollinator garden resulting in less mowing or maybe you will finally make that rainwater harvesting system you’re been thinking about for years.

Everything is interconnected, and one action will have several reactions in various ways so move slowly, but observantly, and remember the 12 Principles!

By Angela Hicke – Van Isle Wild

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