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The word "Permaculture" was coined in the 1970's by Australian ecologist, Dr. Bill Mollison, as a contraction of permanent and agriculture. While Permaculture is a holistic approach to farming it goes far beyond as a design system for permanent agriculture and ecological human settlement. With the current agricultural practices, we may soon discover our planet will no longer support our ever expanding human population. Permaculture or integrated farming addresses those needs in that it works with a set of ethics that suggest we think and act responsibly in relation to each other and the earth. For the purposes of this newsletter I am going to focus on Sustainable Agriculture as it relates to the family farm. Whether that be 50 acres or just one. Integrated farming offers positive solutions to the problems facing the world; using ecology as the basis of designing integrated systems of food production, housing, technology and community development. During the past twenty years, permaculture has grown into a global grass - roots initiative, a blossoming movement that diversifies with new cultural adaptations. The main focus in permaculture is the design of landscapes that produce food. Emphasis is placed on multi-use plants, cultural practices such as sheet mulching and trellising, and the integration of animals to recycle nutrients and graze weeds. However, integrated farming calls for much more than just food production. Energy-efficient buildings, waste water treatment, recycling, and land stewardship in general are other important factors of permaculture. It is a philosophy that leads us to sustainable and ecologically sound ways to meet human needs. Among these are edible landscaping, keyhole gardening, companion planting, trellising, sheet mulching, chicken tractors, solar greenhouses, spiral herb gardens, and vermicomposting, solar and wind power, composting toilets, solar greenhouses, energy efficient housing, and solar food cooking and drying. Permaculture philosophy encourages us to work with nature rather than against it, it proposes prolonged and thoughtful observation rather than short term and thoughtless action. So before we reach for the seven dust and pruning sheers we should stop and consider the implications and consequences of our actions. What we seek is balance not a conflict, nor a struggle. The fight against scale, fire blight and aphids is a long and hard one that teaches us more about the price of toxic chemicals in the store than about natural systems.
Rather than discriminately eliminating "pests" which are quite likely important members of the ecosystem, the solution often lies in adding members to restore diversity and encourage beneficial relationships between species. Diversity is a factor of both the number of species in a community and the number of beneficial relationships between those species. In a nut shell, permaculture design is the science of assembling as many beneficial relationships as possible. This synergy is further enhanced by mimicking patterns found in nature. The use of herbicides and other toxic chemicals will distroy the natural balance of soil organisms, beneficial insects and your plants natural resistance to disease. So this year you kill all the weeds and next year the bad bugs take over because you also killed off their natural predators. So you have to spray more toxins to kill the bad bugs which kills honey bees and so you will have to spray another chemical to obtain pollenation. The balance of nature has been disrupted by all the chemicals to the point where you have no choice but to continue using them. When you use chemical insecticides and herbicides, they kill not only the surface pests you aim to kill, but also the microorganisms living in the soil as well, resulting in a less fertile growing environment yet. Herbicides kill earth worms. A garden filled with earthworms is a healthy garden. That's because earthworms turn raw organic materials into a rich manure called castings.
Another aspect is your choice of crops. Due to the inherent sustainability of perennial cropping systems, permaculture places a heavy emphasis on tree crops. Systems that integrate annual and perennial crops-increase biological diversity, and offer other characteristics missing in mono- culture systems. Thus, multicropping systems that blend woody perennials and annuals hold promise as viable techniques for large-scale farming. Central to sustainable agriculture is recycling methods such as composting. But it also includes water management systems like Keyline, greywater, and rain catchment. Permaculture empowers us to achieve local self reliance with home design for energy efficiency (like solar hot water tanks), water conservation (rooftop catchment cisterns); waste treatment (composting and wetlands); erosion control (earthworks) soil building; seed saving; home gardening; animal management; rangeland restoration; reforestation; forest gardening (multi storied orchards); fuel forestry; nursery establishement and other practical skills needed for us to be economically self -sufficient and ecologically sustainable. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way
Have a question about anything on my website or about gardening in general? Email me at LadyPackard7@gmail.com
"Yup, gardening and laughing are two of the best things in life you can do to promote good health and a sense of well being."