Permaculture Principles - Maximum Effect for Minimum Effort

in Abundance Tribelast year (edited)

In this, and the subsequent posts I would like to revisit and complete the discussion of the Permaculture principles I started three years ago.

Efficience Is The Name of the Game

This principle should be a no-brainer, which not only investors and business owners will recognize, but anyone who believes in efficiency. That is reaping the greatest possible reward for the least possible input. There is really nothing wrong with this attitude, as it pays off being on the constant lookout for improved ways of doing things... as long as we don't compromise the long-term stability for short-term gains, which our modern industry and business tends to do. So let's take a look at how this principle can be applied on the homestead.

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Perennialize, Perennialize, Perennialize

We know how perennial plants are different from annuals in that they don't need to be started from seed each season, but keep growing and producing food over several years. While most people would correctly say "asparagus" at this point, I would rather say tree crops instead. Even if it's an oak tree, producing acorns which are generally not considered suitable for human consumption (there are edible varieties though), I'd still point out how they can be leeched and ground to be turned into a tasty paste for us, or they can be fed to pigs, which is another great source of human food. The point is, once the tree has grown to a decent size and starts producing, it can be basically left alone, requiring minimal care, while each year it will bestow a greater bounty on us. That is exactly what we want.

Self Seeders, Wild Species, and Volunteers

But let's get back to vegetables for a bit! Some plants, such as arugula, cilantro, dill, poppies, amaranth, mountain spinach, New Zealand spinach, or basil don't need to be planted more than once. If you leave them alone, they produce sufficient seeds and scatter them around to produce lots of young shoots in the Spring, provided you don't clear out the area. But since we're talking about minimal effort, you would not even dig up the garden to begin with, or remove the leaves covering the ground in the Fall.

I should also mention at this point, that permaculture likes to utilize wild native species whenever possible, if not directly as a food species (though there are very few plants that don't have at least one edible part), as a dynamic accumulator, a nitrogen fixer, or something that benefits pollinator insects. Best of all, once you have set up your garden in the first year, the second season will go so much more smoothly, not to mention all the subsequent ones. Your plants are going to spring up wherever they think is best, and if you maintain an accepting and easy going attitude, not only will you have to work less, but you'll enjoy a greater reward in yield.

Enjoy Being Lazy

Permaculture is sometimes referred to as the "lazy people's gardening". And it is certainly true: if you are smart, you let nature do all the work so all you have to do is a bit of management. That also means, you can't expect strait rows of only one crop. Nature likes a bit of chaos, so you better be ready to embrace it. Better yet, you should adopt it for yourself. If you have to seed, just scatter a mix wildly, let the wind help you carry it around, and leave them where they land. Be ready to share them with other animals, who may help you in your garden. After all, most members don't make it in nature either. But nature doesn't dig up the soil every year either, so again, you can save yourself this effort too.

Finally, you should always look for others who can do the work better than you. Fallen fruit in your orchard can encourage the growth of insects, manifesting in the form of worms. But going around, picking up apples every day during the season, how tiresome is that? So why don't you let some chickens do that job? Or better yet, pigs, who won't even leave a bit! As it's always the case in permaculture, use your creativity and imagination, and you can save yourself a lot of work. In the end, nature will step in, all you have to do is steer her in the right direction.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4 Pic: 1

To see my discussions of other Permaculture Principles, take a look at these posts:

Permaculture: A Starting Point

David Holmgren

  1. Observe and interact
  2. Catch and store energy
  3. Obtain a yield
  4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services
  6. Produce no waste
  7. Design from patterns to details
  8. Integrate rather than segregate
  9. Use small and slow solutions
  10. Use and value diversity
  11. Use edges and value the marginal
  12. Creatively use and respond to change

Bill Mollison

  1. Work with nature, not against it
  2. The problem is the solution
  3. Maximum effect for minimum effort
  4. The yield of the system is theoretically unlimited
  5. Everything gardens

Scott Pittman

  1. Cooperation instead of competition
  2. Every function is served by multiple elements
  3. Every element serves multiple functions
  4. Make the most out of energy
  5. Use the edge effect
  6. Everything is connected
  7. The problem is the solution

In your opinion, what is the most important principle of horticulture? In simple terms?

Well, since you're asking about the most important principle, I'd bring it back to the core ethical points, which virtually all permaculturists agree upon:

  1. Earth Care (caring for the living systems in this world)
  2. People Care (caring for the humans living in, with, and off this world)
  3. Fair Share (generating surplus and reverting it into the care of the earth and the people).

Just to clarify: this is permaculture, which includes horticulture (fruit trees and orchards) but also so much more than that.

Great post and grateful for your wisdoms. Looking at some amazing heirloom apples today and wondering what fruit trees I can fit, well, more fit where they'll have water in the drier months. Lazy gardening is great - though I just spent three days weeding haha. I think my chickens are lazy gardeners!!!

Well, if drought is an issue, find a spot where water tends to accumulate when it rains. As for space, if you keep your trees well pruned, they can produce amazingly on little space. Though my practical horticultural experience is limited, there are some great videos of how to bring out the most of fruit trees in small gardens.