I have been interested in permaculture for a long time. The idea of working with nature to take advantage of the resources you have available, and seeing the positive side of aspects that others might only see as negatives, really appeals to me. For example, here in the Pacific Northwest we often have slug problems. I have planted some seeds and lettuces and already see signs of slugs on the little shoots coming up. One of the sayings I’ve read that pretty much sums up permaculture for me is “You don’t have a slug problem, you have a duck deficiency!” We don’t have ducks (yet), but the idea is to find the root causes of why you might have a particular problem and what can you do to solve that problem, rather than applying short-term bandaid solutions that don’t get to the root cause. This is how I approach things like our family’s health too, so it only makes sense to think of our garden in those terms as well.
(As a side note, I’m training my chickens to eat slugs. A bit gruesome, but it would be awesome if it worked. Right now they ignore adult slugs completely, which is apparently common for chickens.)
I like the sustainable side of it too. A good, established permaculture garden could pretty much keep itself going for years with no interference from humans. Obviously, most permaculturists try and stick mostly to perennial food crops or ones that easily reseed themselves. Most of them do have a bed that is meant for more intensive annual vegetable gardening as well though.
One of the highest-recommended books in the permaculture circles is Toby Hemingway’s Gaia’s Garden. I got it out from our library, and loved it so much I bought it with Christmas money. I refer to it constantly when I’m out gardening. Our chickens have pretty much taken over all our time this year, so I haven’t done as much with the garden as I’d like, but another principle of permaculture in a new place is to watch and wait. Watch where the winds come from, where the sun shines, pay attention to warm spots and cool spots, see which areas get wet and which are dry, and use all the information to plan out future gardena and landscaping. It’s probably a good thing I have something to distract me or I’d be trying to do it all this year when I might be better off waiting and watching.
Another principle of permaculture that I really like is that everything should serve at least three functions. Nothing is purely ornamental. Plants can provide shade, nutrients to other plants, attract beneficial insects, deter other insects, be edible, be medicinal, and so much more. Plants are chosen for what they will add to the area and the other plants around them, as well as for how well they will work in the particular area. You wouldn’t plant a tree that likes dry soil in an area you know gets marshy, and vice versa.
I did order some fruit trees and berry bushes, because it can take a few years for those to actually start bearing in any great quantity. I wanted to get a head start on them. But I’ve just seeded clover (nitrogen-fixers) and insect attracting plants underneath them as ground cover for now.