The 12 Principles of Permaculture

edible landscape with bright red flowers

Permaculture is a natural approach to land management and settlement design. As a gardening philosophy, it seeks to incorporate and maximize dynamics found in natural ecosystems. At the highest level, permaculture is about thinking in terms of integrated systems instead of isolated parts.

Bill Mollison, one of the founders of the idea, has summarized the practice as, "The conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive systems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of the landscape with people providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way."

The Twelve Principles

The twelve principles of permaculture were developed in the late nineties and are designed to help individuals put permaculture into practice in their own way.

1. Observe & Interact

Observing is just what it sounds like. You take a look at the area you want to plant. What's happening naturally that's working well? This stage also involves observing and interacting with people who have successfully implemented permaculture in their lives.

What did they do that works well? Where can you learn from their mistakes?

2. Catch & Store Energy

This step is all about finding a way to add renewable energy to your plans, which can both lessen your carbon footprint and reduce your utility bills.

From a certain point of view, growing your own food can be considered catching energy from the sun and storing it. Likewise, good compost practices retain the energy of food scraps in your ecosystem, using them to power the growth of new crops.

3. Obtain a Yield

a clutch of healthy growing grapes

A yield isn't just physical. Working with the earth to provide food for your family is obtaining a physical yield, but there's more to permaculture than that. Your yield could be a sense of satisfaction, joy, or quality time with family and friends.

4. Apply Self-regulation & Accept Feedback

Being honest with yourself can be hard, but it's an important part of cyclical growth. Truthful analysis and humbly accepting feedback can help us weed out our problematic consumerist behaviors and become more eco-friendly overall.

5. Use & Value Renewable Resources and Services

Weeding out the use of finite resources is important. Do your best to incorporate more renewable energy practices in your garden and in your home.

6. Produce No Waste

Zero waste starts in your permaculture garden and expands into your home. Be conscious about how much waste you produce and work to weed out waste. This means upcycling and making smarter choices overall.

7. Design From Patterns to Details

permaculture homesteading garden with edible plants

Take everything into account when you are planting your garden. Use and leverage the weather patterns and sun for your gain. Work with the topography of the land and the natural tendencies of the soil, not against them. Every detail you incorporate brings you closer to a well-patterned garden.

Once you have done this, use that same mentality in the home to bring your life into harmony with your way of being.

8. Integrate Rather Than Segregate

Plant together for optimal growth. Integrate vegetables and flowers to reduce pest problems. Throw out the idea that you need to plant things separately and integrate your garden so that everything benefits from what they grow next to.

9. Use Small and Slow Solutions

No large problem can be solved overnight, and the same is true for your garden. Take slow, methodical steps toward solutions, allowing yourself to be an active observer on the way to resolution.

10. Use and Value Diversity

green vegetables growing in a permaculture garden

Diversity in the garden brings forth a rich abundance of food. When we only grow one plant, we limit ourselves and the potential of our garden. Plants (and people) grow better together, and when you restrict your garden, you limit the plants growing in your garden.

11. Use Edges and Value the Marginal

Recognizing the value of edges is essential in permaculture. In permaculture, the edge is where the garden and natural land meet and blend together. Edges offer new soil, and a new perspective, and should be embraced and celebrated.

12. Creatively Use and Respond to Change

Change can be hard to face and gracefully master, but when we can do so, we find peace. As the land around you evolves and changes, your garden must do the same to flourish. Don't make a radical change. Instead, observe the land and adapt as needed so you can take the changes one stage at a time.

The principles of permaculture will help you live a more fulfilled life all around, not just in the garden.