Permaculture in Survival
We live in an increasingly industrially reliant culture. A culture that relies on fast food, disposable goods, and cheap gasoline. A culture that is fast eating itself up. Enter Permaculture.
Permaculture is another way to look at the world and its resources. We will examine the definition of permaculture, its history, and the people who started it. Additionally, we will explore the future of permaculture. You may find that you are already applying some of the basic tenets of this small but growing movement.
The project will use local resources. It will involve smaller, more diverse crop planning and non-chemically dependent fertilizing, for example. Permaculture promotes smaller, sustainable farms and reduces dependence on industrial agriculture. It also encourages greater community interdependence.
It all began in the ‘70s by a wildlife biologist and ecologist named Bill Mollison of Australia. He saw the growing monster of the Industrial Revolution and its impact on our culture.
This kind of culture was bound to cave in due to its monstrous appetite. Rather than reacting negatively to this, he decided to take a more positive approach.
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Gaia’s Garden has sparked the imagination of home gardeners worldwide by introducing a simple message: working with nature, not against her, results in more beautiful, abundant, and forgiving gardens.
It’s fun and easy--even for the beginner--to create a “backyard ecosystem” by assembling communities of plants that can work cooperatively and perform a variety of functions, including:
- Building and maintaining soil fertility and structure
- Catching and conserving water in the landscape
- Providing a rewilded and biodiverse habitat for beneficial insects, birds, and animals
- Growing an edible “forest” that yields seasonal fruits, nuts, and other foods
He studied nature and concluded that it goes through sustainable cycles. Nature doesn’t need humans. Bill began to live and then teach his philosophy.
Before reaching the flower stage, we trim the weeds and allow them to become part of the mulch. This method kills plants without using harmful chemicals or toxins. It also improves the soil, creating a better environment for planting. In time the soil becomes healthy, and weeds and pests become less of a concern.
Ruth Stout is another voice in this community. Her ideas on “no-till” gardening have influenced people’s perception of weeds and weeding. Like Fukuoka, she purported never to need to weed but allowed plants to grow together. A gardener and survivalist’s dream!
All vegetation, both “good” and “bad,” builds the soil, leading to healthy crops and fewer pests. Once you build the soil, weeding becomes as simple as flicking out the weed without chemicals and pesticides.
Permaculture started small and quietly, but we must embrace it. To some extent, people will embrace permaculture. Industrial waste and mass transportation pollution are decreasing. Shipping food from across the country is expensive. It is sensible to buy local food or grow your own.
Permaculture has grown as a philosophy with a less intrusive approach. It has spread its ideas on living and using the earth. Nowadays, even Urbanites practice gardening and composting vegetable trimmings. It’s often associated with second and third-generation “hippies.” Yes, in all its varied philosophies, permaculture will impact our lives for the good.
The Core Concepts of Permaculture Design
To understand any subject that’s new to us, it helps to dig into its key concepts. Understanding permaculture basics helps people see practical applications in their lives.
We will focus on sustainability. Soil conditions should be minimally disrupted. We will also consider our interdependence with our neighbors. Permaculture contributes to the earth’s ecosystem sustainability. Let’s start by discussing how.
Naturally built-up soils don’t harbor disease and pests. Thus, you don’t need petroleum-based pesticides and fertilizers. Leaving the unused plant part on the soil saves labor and avoids soil amendment. Mulching aids water retention and thus reduces the need to water.
The ultimate in sustainability is when end-of-year harvest comes, you allow several plants to go to seed. You can cut down dying foliage and seed heads. Then, lay them on the ground with the mulch. The mulch will help seed for next year’s crops. This is a core concept of permaculture. Giving back everything to the land, except the fruits you eat, is its hallmark.
Permaculture embraces soil conservation and minimal disturbance of planting areas. Permaculturists prefer hand tools instead of tillers and tractors. Using hand tools avoids harming the soil in many ways. Heavier equipment compacts the soil, which makes the ground more difficult to use.
A final key concept of permaculture is rebuilding the community. Our industrialized society has caused us to become detached from each other. This detachment extends beyond our families but also affects our communities.
We rely on government and corporations to fulfill our needs. This leads to lower-quality food due to mass production demands. It also reduces local job opportunities and increases reliance on external energy sources.
When you buy raw milk from the nearby dairy, you are supporting their work. The same goes for buying beef from your neighbor. Purchasing vegetables from a local organic farmer means better quality food. The food is also environmentally friendly.
This sustainable loop consists of profitable work and quality products. We need these products and get them from local sources.
We must work toward this future for our children and grandchildren. The global economy is growing and changing. The job market and food chain are often disrupted. To build an enduring culture, aim for sustainability and shared resources. This includes minimal soil disruption and interdependence.
How to Grow a Permaculture Garden
While we may be unable to make significant changes, many little changes can add to a revolution. A small way to make a big change is to grow a garden using permaculture techniques.
What makes a garden a small permaculture? Learn about garden preparation tools and techniques. Discover how to plant and tend to a sustainably raised garden. It takes far less time to garden in this way than you may think.
Tilling the soil introduces excess oxygen, which kills soil organisms. These organisms live on and around plant roots. This allows for weeds, which are less “picky” about the soil they grow in.
Preparing the plot is easy. Just lay down cardboard or newsprint. If the weeds are well established, cut them down before you layer the cardboard.
The thick cardboard mulch will kill the weeds, so existing vegetation is not a concern. So, we have eliminated dubious chemicals and poisons from your garden shed.
On top of this, you will layer 6 to 12 inches of straw laid out in rows so you can walk between hills. The idea is to keep the rows no wider than you can comfortably reach from both sides. Notice we didn’t till, dig, or poison the garden plot. It is so much simpler to use permaculture techniques in your garden.
Planting lettuce starts is simple. Pull back the straw. Poke a hole in the cardboard. Place the plant in. Push back the straw. This works even in heavy soils. The plant’s greenery slowly emerges from the mulch as it grows. You can encourage growth by gently removing older leaves.
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When it comes to weeding, it is a simple matter of snipping the emerging greenery and leaving it to add to the mulch. The idea is not to let the weeds go to the flowering stage, where they would quickly go to seed.
At harvest time, you take a head of lettuce, for example, and cut the head off and leave the roots. The lettuce leaves will keep growing until the first frost. You can keep picking and using the leaves.
Over winter, the roots will die and add to the soil. When harvesting beans or tomatoes, you collect the fruit. Then, you remove the greens and let them decompose with the mulch—no composting this way and no waste.
Learning permaculture is a responsible skill for homeowners and gardeners to learn. It is not as difficult as learning rocket science. Take a strong back and a rake to the garden next spring.
I’m the daughter of 2 original survivalists who moved from the north to sunny Florida. My mother, along with her parents, bought 30 mostly uncleared acres in 1938. The first home was made of pecky-cypress and built by a house-raising. My mother raised 10,000 chickens.
My divorced mother met and married my father in 1948. From pine trees on our property, he hand-built a log cabin. He also built a tarpaper-lined 65’x45′ pool with duck pond overflow. We had an artesian well for our water and powering our hand-built waterwheel for the pool. He built a substantial cantilevered roof workshop with a car pit in the massive cement floor.
Since my early teens, I have read a ton of books about survival, prepping, the bomb, an apocalypse, homestead living, and SHTF situations. As an adult, I continue to read sci-fi, survival prepping, and science. I practice a prepper lifestyle albeit a bit modified, read a lot, buy a lot, pack/store a lot of anything survival related.
Read my About Me post for more details on our self-sufficient living. I lived there until I went to college in 1968.
My SurvivalPrepperSupply.com blog strives to educate individuals on coping with natural and human-caused disasters using article posts about preparing for emergencies.