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What is Permaculture Garden and How to Start Gardening? Beginner’s Guide

by Jonathan Foley
Published: Last Updated on
How To Create A Permaculture Garden

Permaculture garden differs from conventional in several ways. Conventional farms often relies on heavy use of chemicals and synthetic fertilizers to boost productivity, whereas permaculture gardening seeks to mimic natural systems and uses organic and natural methods to cultivate a healthy and diverse ecosystem.

What is Permaculture Garden?

Permaculture garden is an innovative approach to sustainable agriculture, designed to work in harmony with nature to create a productive and self-sustaining ecosystem. The term “permaculture” is a contraction of “permanent agriculture” and “permanent culture.”

It is a holistic approach that combines traditional farming practices with modern ecological principles to start sustainable and resilient permaculture farming that can support itself without relying on external inputs.

According to a report by the Worldwatch Institute, permaculture farming is practiced on approximately 10 million acres worldwide. This number is steadily growing as more people adopting these practices and principles.


Studies have shown that it can be more productive than traditional methods, while also being more environmentally sustainable.

For example, a study published in the Journal of Sustainable Agriculture found that permaculture farms in Nicaragua produced 22% more food per unit area than conventional farms, while also using fewer external inputs and generating less waste.

Permaculture gardening has many benefits, including the creation of a self-sustaining and resilient ecosystem that can support biodiversity and provide a reliable source of food and resources. By mimicking natural systems, they can also help to mitigate the effects of climate change by sequestering carbon and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Despite its many benefits, it faces several challenges. One of the main concerns is the lack of widespread adoption and knowledge of permaculture principles and practices. Another concern is the potential for them to become invasive or monocultural, which can lead to the loss of biodiversity and the destruction of natural ecosystems.


Types of Permaculture Gardens

There are several different types of permaculture gardens, each with their own unique features and benefits. Some of the most common types include:

  1. Forest Gardens: Permaculture Forest gardens mimic natural ecosystems by incorporating different layers of vegetation, from tall trees to ground cover. They can provide a diverse array of food and resources while also supporting wildlife and biodiversity.
  2. Aquaponic Gardens: Aquaponic combine aquaculture (fish farming) with hydroponics (growing plants in water). Fish waste provides nutrients for the plants, while the plants filter the water for the fish.
  3. Raised Bed Gardens: Raised bed farms are ideal for urban areas and small spaces. They are constructed by building a frame and filling it with soil and compost, creating a fertile and well-drained growing area.
  4. Perennial Polyculture Gardens: Perennial polyculture farms combine a variety of perennial plants, such as fruit trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants. This creates a self-sustaining ecosystem that can provide food and resources for years to come.

Types of Permaculture Garden


How To Start A Permaculture Garden – Step By Step Gardening Guide

Starting a permaculture garden is a sustainable and eco-friendly way to grow food while promoting biodiversity and regenerative practices. By implementing its principles, you can design a self-sustaining system that mimics natural ecosystems. Here is the list of key principles of permaculture that should be be followed:

  • Observe and Interact.
  • Catch and Store Energy.
  • Obtain a Yield.
  • Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback.
  • Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services.
  • Produce No Waste.
  • Design from Patterns to Details.
  • Integrate Rather than Segregate.
  • Use Small and Slow Solutions.
  • Value Diversity.
  • Use Edge and Value the Marginal.
  • Creatively Use and Respond to Change.

This step-by-step guide will provide you with a detailed overview of how to start a permaculture garden, including examples, management tips, and essential considerations.

Step 1: Define Your Goals and Assess Your Site

Before starting it, it’s important to clearly define your goals and assess your site. Consider what you hope to achieve from the farm. Are you looking to grow organic vegetables, herbs, and fruit? Do you want a pollinator-friendly habitat? Reduce water consumption? Define your priorities to guide your design. Some consideration for assessing your site are:

  • Sunlight Exposure: Observe the amount and intensity of sunlight your site receives throughout the day. Note areas of shade and direct sunlight.
  • Soil Quality: Examine your soil’s texture, drainage, and fertility. Consider conducting a soil test to determine its pH level and nutrient content.
  • Water Sources: Identify the availability of water sources on your site, such as rainwater, well water, or municipal water supply.
  • Microclimates: Notice variations in temperature and moisture across different areas of your site.

Example: Suppose your goal is to grow organic vegetables, herbs, and fruit while promoting pollinator habitats and reducing water consumption. Your site receives ample sunlight, has well-drained soil, and a rainwater collection system.

Step 2: Observe and Analyze Permaculture Gardening Site

Take time to observe and analyze the existing natural features on your site. This step helps you understand the site’s potential and design accordingly.

  • Vegetation: Identify the existing plants, trees, and shrubs. Determine their health and suitability for your use.
  • Water Flow: Observe how water moves across your site during rainfall or irrigation. Note areas of excess water accumulation or poor drainage.
  • Topography: Understand the slopes, contours, and elevation changes on your site. This knowledge will inform your design choices.

Example: You notice that the south side of your garden receives more sunlight, while the north side is shaded by a large tree. You also observe that water tends to accumulate in a low-lying area after rainfall.

Step 3: Start Designing the Permaculture Garden Layout

Based on your goals and site analysis, make a design plan following permaculture zones that optimizes the use of space and resources in your permanent agriculture garden. Incorporate its principles such as:

  • Companion Planting: Select plant combinations that mutually benefit each other, such as planting nitrogen-fixing legumes alongside heavy-feeders.
  • Guilds: Create plant communities that work together to enhance soil fertility, pest control, and nutrient cycling.
  • Stacking Functions: Design elements that serve multiple purposes, such as using trellises for climbing plants to provide shade and vertical growing space.

Design the Permaculture Garden Layout

Example: In your garden layout, you can plan raised beds on the sunny south side for vegetables and herbs, with a trellis for climbing plants. On the north side, you can design a shade with native plants and a rain garden in the low-lying area to capture excess water.

Step 4: Prepare the Soil

Before planting, conduct a soil test to determine its pH level and nutrient content. This information will guide soil amendments. Then amend the soil to improve its fertility and structure. Here are some steps to follow:

  • Organic Matter: Add compost, well-rotted manure, or other organic matter to enrich the soil with nutrients and improve its structure.
  • Cover Crops: Consider planting cover crops like legumes or nitrogen-fixing plants to replenish nitrogen levels and enhance soil fertility.
  • Mulching: Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as straw or wood chips, around plants to retain moisture, suppress weeds, and improve soil health as it breaks down.
  • Soil Amendments: Based on the results of your soil test, adjust the pH level by adding amendments such as lime to raise pH or sulfur to lower pH. Additionally, add specific nutrients like phosphorus, potassium, or micronutrients if deficiencies are identified.

Example: After conducting a soil test, if you find that your soil is slightly acidic but rich in organic matter. To improve fertility, you add compost and incorporate a cover crop of clover to increase nitrogen levels and enhance soil structure.

Step 5: Implement Water Management Strategies

Efficient water management is essential in this farming method. Consider installing rainwater harvesting systems, swales, and mulching techniques to conserve water and minimize runoff.

  • Rainwater Harvesting: Install rain barrels or other rainwater collection systems to capture and store rainwater for irrigation purposes. This reduces reliance on external water sources.
  • Swales and Contouring: Create swales (ditches) and contour the land to slow down water flow, prevent erosion, and facilitate water infiltration. This helps to distribute water evenly across the farm.
  • Mulching: Apply mulch around plants to conserve soil moisture, reduce evaporation, and suppress weed growth. Organic mulch also improves the soil’s ability to retain water.

Step 6: Choose and Plant Suitable Species For Permaculture Gardening

Select plants that are well-adapted to your local climate and align with its principles.

  • Native and Perennial Plants: Focus on perennial plants, fruit trees, and native flowering plants that attract pollinators,  provide long-term benefits and require less replanting.
  • Diversity and Companion Planting: Aim for plant diversity to create a resilient ecosystem. Incorporate companion planting such as planting basil with tomatoes and marigolds with cucumbers, to maximize space utilization and enhance biodiversity.
  • Beneficial Habitats: Include plants that attract beneficial insects, birds, and other wildlife to support natural pest control and biodiversity.

The best plants are those that are suited to the local climate and soil conditions, and that provide multiple functions, such as food, medicine, pollinator habitat, nitrogen fixation, and erosion control. Here are some examples of plants that are commonly used in permaculture gardens:

Fruit and Nut Trees: Trees like apple, pear, plum, peach, cherry, walnut, hazelnut, and chestnut can provide abundant crops of nutritious fruit and nuts for many years. They also offer shade, wind protection, and habitat for wildlife.

Berry Bushes: Raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, currants, and gooseberries are all highly productive and relatively easy to grow in a farm. They can provide fresh fruit, preserves, and dried fruit for human consumption, as well as food for wildlife.

Perennial Vegetables: Asparagus, rhubarb, artichokes, and Jerusalem artichokes are examples of perennial vegetables that can be grown. They require less maintenance than annual vegetables, and can provide food for many years.

Herbs: Culinary and medicinal herbs like basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary, echinacea, and calendula are essential components. They can be used for cooking, teas, salves, and tinctures, and also attract pollinators and beneficial insects.

Nitrogen-Fixing Plants: Legumes like clover, beans, peas, and lentils are important because they can fix nitrogen from the air into the soil, thereby reducing the need for synthetic fertilizers. They can also provide food for humans and animals.

Cover Crops: Cover crops like buckwheat, rye, and clover are used in these farms to improve soil fertility, suppress weeds, and prevent erosion. They can be used as green manure or as food for livestock.

Medicinal Plants: Many herbs and plants like echinacea, yarrow, comfrey, and St. John’s Wort have medicinal properties and can be grown for personal use or for sale.

Companion Plants: Certain plants like marigolds, nasturtiums, and borage can be used as companion plants to attract beneficial insects, deter pests, and improve soil health.

Step 7: Maintain and Manage the Permaculture Garden

Regular maintenance is necessary to keep your garden thriving. Implement strategies like crop rotation, pest control through natural methods, and regular pruning and harvesting.

  • Crop Rotation: Practice crop rotation to prevent soil depletion and nutrient imbalances. Rotate crops annually, following a planned sequence to minimize disease and pest buildup.
  • Natural Pest Control: Encourage beneficial insects by planting flowers that attract them. Use physical barriers, such as netting, to protect plants from pests when necessary. Avoid chemical pesticides that can harm beneficial insects and disrupt the ecosystem.
  • Pruning and Harvesting: Regularly prune plants to maintain their shape, remove dead or diseased material, and encourage healthy growth. Harvest crops when they are ready to promote continuous productivity.

Maintain and Manage the Permaculture Garden

Step 8: Continually Evaluate and Adapt

They are dynamic systems that require ongoing evaluation and adaptation. Regularly assess the garden’s performance, observe changes in plant growth, and monitor the overall health of the ecosystem. Here are some steps to help you continually evaluate and adapt your garden:

  • Observations: Regularly observe and document changes. Note any patterns or issues that arise.
  • Soil Testing: Periodically conduct soil tests to assess nutrient levels and pH balance. Adjust soil amendments as necessary to maintain optimal soil health.
  • Plant Health: Monitor the health of your plants, looking for signs of nutrient deficiencies, disease, or pest infestations. Take appropriate measures to address any issues, such as applying organic pest control methods or adjusting nutrient levels.
  • Biodiversity: Assess the diversity of plant species, insects, birds, and other wildlife in your farm. Aim to enhance biodiversity by introducing new species or creating habitats that attract beneficial organisms.
  • Energy and Resource Efficiency: Evaluate the efficiency of resource use, such as water and energy consumption. Identify opportunities to conserve resources through improved irrigation techniques, energy-efficient equipment, and alternative energy sources.
  • Feedback and Adaptation: Seek feedback from experienced permaculturists, fellow gardeners, or local agricultural extension services. Attend workshops or join community groups to exchange ideas and learn from others’ experiences. Use this feedback to make informed decisions and adapt your design and practices accordingly.

Additionally, you attend its workshops and gather feedback from experienced gardeners in your community, incorporating their suggestions into your farm management.

Remember, a it is an ongoing journey of learning and adaptation. Continually evaluate your garden’s performance, make adjustments based on your observations, and strive for greater sustainability and productivity over time.

Precautions and “No” to Dos While Starting Permaculture Gardening

Creating permaculture gardens require careful planning and implementation. To ensure the success and sustainability of your garden, it is important to be aware of certain precautions and avoid certain practices. Here are some precautions and “no” to dos to keep in mind:

  • Avoid Synthetic Chemicals: One of its key principles is working in harmony with nature. Avoid using synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, as they can harm beneficial organisms, disrupt the ecosystem, and contaminate soil and water.
  • Say No to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs): Choose non-GMO seeds and plants. GMOs are often associated with environmental risks and can have unpredictable effects on ecosystems.
  • No Synthetic Mulch or Plastic: Opt for organic mulch materials like straw, wood chips, or leaves, and avoid using synthetic mulch or plastic. Synthetic materials can contribute to pollution and have negative environmental impacts.
  • Avoid Monoculture: It emphasizes the importance of biodiversity. Avoid planting large monocultures, as they can be more susceptible to pests, diseases, and ecological imbalances. Instead, incorporate a variety of plants, companion planting, and diverse habitats to enhance the resilience and productivity of your garden.
  • No Excessive Pruning or Clearing: While pruning is necessary for plant health and shape, avoid excessive pruning or clearing of vegetation. Removing too much plant material can disrupt the balance of the ecosystem, impact beneficial organisms, and reduce habitat availability.

Remember, these precautions and “no” to dos are meant to guide you towards sustainable and regenerative practices in your permanent culture garden. By avoiding harmful practices and taking thoughtful actions, you can create a thriving and resilient permanent agriculture garden ecosystem that benefits both you and the environment.


In conclusion, the journey of creating a permaculture garden is a rewarding and transformative experience. By embracing the principles of observation, energy capture, self-regulation, and resource efficiency, you can design a garden that not only yields abundant harvests but also nurtures the natural environment. So, let your farm become a living testament to sustainable living, where creativity, adaptability, and respect for the Earth’s rhythms flourish.

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