Permaculture, also known as sustainable or regenerative growing, is a method of growing food and other plants in a way that mimics Mother Nature’s natural cycles; it also supports the entire ecosystem at large. Followers of this gardening practice can experience a more fruitful bloom and harvest season, while better caring for the earth they own. Ahead, everything you need to know about permaculture, including how to implement the method in your own yard.
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Each element of your garden needs to support another one.
If you want to employ permaculture practices in your garden, start by observing what you already have, says Grace Cavnar, the founder and CEO of Recipe for Success Foundation and Hope Farms. Next, “work with nature,” she says, to make a plan: Ensure that each element of your garden supports the other every step of the way, from seeding or planting new varieties to dealing with yard waste. “It is a learning curve to eliminate the chemical treatments that quickly dispatch with problems, like weeds and pests,” she explains. “But in learning how to implement permaculture tactics, a gardener is treating the source of issues, rather than just the symptoms which have a much longer lasting impact.”
Enrich your soil naturally.
Healthy soil grows healthy plants, Cavnar explains, and can be more resistant to attack from parasites, pests, and harmful fungi. “We always begin with the soil and the water,” she says, adding that soil can be clay, sandy, or loamy in nature. “We add compost and treat regularly with compost tea to enrich our soil’s microbial content. Our soils, however, are heavy clay, so we planted several rotations of cover crops, like cow peas, which we turned back into the soil or root crops, like turnips, which we simply let break down in place.” According to Cavnar, these additions cut the heavy clay and added nitrogen, and is a natural way of amending your soil.
Choose plants strategically—then let them be.
Cavnar uses companion planting to mitigate pests. For example, she surrounds her squash with nasturtium, borage marigolds, cosmos, or sweet alyssum; they act as a living mulch and also attract pollinators and beneficial predators (radishes, she says, can deter squash borers). “When a plant has run its course, we cut it back, but leave it in place to further nourish the soil,” she says. “You can just plant your new crop around it.”
There are no fast fixes.
According to Cavnar, there is only one true downside to using permaculture in your space: There are no fast fixes, since you need to let nature run its course. Another issue? Expect to go it alone, as most garden professionals don’t practice the technique. “Presently, it is challenging to find landscape maintenance experts who understand these methods,” she affirms.