Permaculture principles

Permaculture principles

Permaculture is an ecological design system for sustainability in all aspects of human endeavor. It teaches us how to design natural homes and abundant food production systems, regenerate degraded landscapes, and develop communities using patterns that exist in nature, Permaculture is built on some rules called permaculture principles.

The term permaculture was derived from the words “permanent agriculture” or “permanent culture”, but has evolved over time to mean a lot more.

Based on 12 key principles, or “tools,” to promote people’s health and happiness, as well as soil monitoring and water conservation. Both individuals and communities make use of permaculture principles to grow abundant food in small spaces, build natural water systems and create recycled waste-water systems.


In this article you will read the discuss the 12 Permaculture principles:

1. Observe & Interact

2. Catch & Store Energy

3. Obtain a Yield

4. Apply Self-Regulation & Accept Feedback

5. Use Renewable Resources & 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


You can also read: 


David Holmgren: Permaculture Pioneer and Ambassador of Change

What is Permaculture and how it works?

1. Observe & Interact

The first principle starts with being observant, taking time to be aware of your surroundings and understanding them. This means paying attention, slowing down, and getting to know your landscape. Observe the patterns in nature, listen to the wildlife, feel the wind, see how the sun moves across the sky. You can get a good idea of how your garden will grow.

Observe and interact with each other. This includes learning about the needs and those involved in this project. What is important to them? What is their experience level? What do they enjoy doing? How much time do they have to participate? Observing others will help you find out what part they will play in helping you accomplish your goals.

So interact with yourself. What is important to you? Are you interested in growing food for yourself or for your community? Do you want to grow flowers or herbs? Do you have a health concern that could be addressed by growing specific plants? Do you want a place where children can play safely and learn about nature? Think about what you like to do and what areas need improvement in.

2. Catch and store energy

This is the main function of a forest and its soils, and is how nature secures the future by building soil and creating a moist micro-climate, which then allows for the germination of seeds. This permaculture principle can also be applied to human settlements. For example, buildings should be designed such that they catch prevailing winds and direct them through windows and holes in walls (but not doors, as this would expose the dwelling to cold winds) to cool the interior in summer months. Excess energy should be stored and used at a later stage – for example, solar panels can be used to heat water during summer months when sunlight is more intense, but which can then be used in winter.

3. Obtaining a yield

One of the most important principle of permaculture. Without a yield, we are not sustainable.

We can refer to this principle in other ways — obtaining a return, being profitable — but the basic idea to grow something to obtain a benefit from it. We don’t just want to take as much out of nature as possible, we also want to give back in some way. There are many ways to do so, including preserving resources by planting trees and reaping the benefits of that effort into future years.

In developing countries, people often make money growing or harvesting food from their own land: They grow rice or bananas for sale in the market and use the profits for other things, like buying food for the household or investing in school uniforms for their children. In industrial modern society, however, we no longer have access to our own land. Instead we must work for someone else in exchange for wages, which is a limiting factor on how much food we can purchase with those wages.

After all the next step up from simply growing food is growing food to sell and using that income to buy more and more food while increasing your yield. The dream is to get your own business off the ground, so you can make.

4. Apply Self-Regulation & Accept Feedback

Self-regulation means awareness of the effects of our actions, and to respond appropriately. It is the practice of acting in harmony with natural processes. When we practice self-regulation we often find that we can achieve results without wasting energy, or causing damage to other systems, such as the environment.

Accepting feedback means listening to the various elements of a system and responding in a way that helps all the elements work together more effectively. Feedback is information that provides a response to an action or situation. Positive feedback (something good resulted from our actions) or negative (our actions created problems). Feedback is the helpful information that guides us towards making better decisions.

Basically permaculture principle Use, Value Renewable Resources and Services.

5. Use renewable resources & services

The use of solar energy, wind energy, and biomass of plants and animals are renewable resources. These renewable resources can be used to provide services that are not available from non-renewable sources. The services provided by the sun include light, heat for cooking and warmth, drying of foodstuffs, materials, and clothing; the movement of air for ventilation and wind power; evaporation for cooling; transpiration for humidity control; gravity for water supply; photosynthesis for food production; phototropism for directional growth of plants. Other examples include earthworms aerating soil; fungi breaking down dead organic matter into humus; bats pollinating fruit trees at night in temperate climates.

In the context of the design of human settlements, renewable resources are those used again and again without being used up. A renewable resource can be natural or man-made, such as:

  •  Sunlight
  •  Wind
  •  Rainwater
  •  Woody biomass
  •  Crops and plant material
  •  Compost
  •  Renewable energy sources (such as solar, wind and water power)

6. Produce No Waste

The sixth principle of permaculture, “produce no waste,” is one of the most challenging to achieve. However, it’s an essential concept that conserves our natural resources and protects the earth from man-made pollution.

In the past hundred years, human activity has caused the Earth to reach its carrying capacity. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), we have exceeded our sustainable limit, and there is no place left on earth that has not been affected by human activity. This means there is no place left where we can conveniently dump our waste. To reduce our impact on the planet, we must live more sustainably by eliminating waste.

One of the biggest challenges in reducing waste is finding creative ways to reuse what would otherwise be considered trash or garbage. You may even find that some things you previously threw away can be used as valuable resources for your home and garden.

7. Design from patterns to details.

The first step in permaculture design is to observe the patterns of nature, patterns of the local landscape and patterns of human interaction with the landscape. This step can be done through a process called pattern language, developed by architect Christopher Alexander.

This move involves observing and recording your observations of the landscape in a way that allows you to identify the most important aspects of your land. Once you have identified these aspects, you begin to work with a pattern language that allows you to understand how these aspects interrelate with one another and where they lie in relation to one another.

Once you have identified the patterns and observed the interactions between them, you can begin to make decisions about how you want to change your land based on your findings.

For example, if there is a high level of sun exposure on the north side of your property but low levels on the south side, it makes more sense for a garden to be placed on one side or the other based on what types of plants grown.

It also makes sense to plant trees where they will provide shade for buildings that need it during summer months but not block sunlight during cold winters when there is less daylight available throughout most days.

8. Integrate Rather than Segregate

Permaculture eighth principle Integrate Rather than Segregate.

Because Permaculture is sustainable design. It provides a framework to understand the world and our place in it. Permaculture principles are tools that help us achieve this goal.

Certainly this principle guides us to understand that each part of a system can play many roles in relation to other parts. It also helps us to look for ways to integrate beneficial relationships between elements of a system, rather than separating them out. This can help us avoid the ecological consequences of excessive specialization.

Because permaculture systems are designed so that each element performs multiple functions, and each function is supported by many elements. For example, in a home garden, we could design the garden so that herbs grow around fruit trees, intercropped with shade-loving leafy greens such as lettuce and spinach. The herbs would benefit from being planted close to the nitrogen fixing roots of the fruit trees and they would provide their own shade and pest control for the shallow-rooted leafy greens. The herbs and leafy greens would also provide food for insects that would pollinate flowers on the fruit trees and help those fruits set.

9. Use Small and Slow Solutions

Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making them more sustainable in the long term.

Bigger is not always better — for example, a garden that is small but richly planted with trees, bushes, herbs and vegetables will provide more food than a large area planted with one crop. And it will be easier to maintain than a large area.

The same principle applies to buildings — you could build one big house with lots of rooms (and lots of heating bills), or several small houses where people can share amenities such as laundry, kitchens and bathrooms.

Another example is water collection — instead of having one huge tank that collects rainwater from your whole roof, you could have several smaller tanks that collect from smaller areas. You may not get as much water in total, but the system will be much easier to build and manage.

10. Use and Value Diversity

Functional diversity is a key principle of permaculture design. It increases stability, resilience, and productivity by providing for multiple functions within the same space. Some examples of functional diversity in permaculture include:

  • Use livestock to produce meat, manure, wool, milk and eggs
  • Grow crops that produce edible fruits or seeds, flowers or herbs
  • Plant green manures to increase the organic matter and fertility of the soil
  • Plant windbreaks that provide privacy from neighbors, block wind from damaging plants, and protect areas from erosion
  • Use ponds that harvest rainwater for irrigation, provide habitat for wildlife, and add beauty to the landscape
  • Incorporate habitat for pollinators into the design to increase food production.

11. Use Edges and Value the Marginal

Edges are places where two different environments meet. Examples of edges include:

  • The shoreline of a lake or pond
  • The edge of a forest
  • The interface between a lawn and a perennial bed
  • The area at the top of a slope

Certainly the edge effect is most notable in aquatic systems, but it also applies on land to varying degrees. The edge of a pond or lake has more diversity and productivity than the open water. More plants grow there, including more species. The edge is also where sunlight is available during more hours of the day, creating a warmer microclimate. Animals will use edges as pathways, creating corridors for wildlife movement. Accordingly to maximize those benefits, plan your plantings to make the most use of edges and to create more edges.

On land, some plants grow along the edge between two different habitats. For example, some vegetation might be tolerant both of wet conditions in shallow water and drier conditions on land. Such plants can be useful as they filter nutrients from runoff before it enters ponds or streams. They also provide habitat for wildlife that move between terrestrial and aquatic habitats.

12. Creatively Use and Respond to Change

The only thing certain about life is that it changes. And yet many of us resist change, even when we know it is inevitable and sometimes beneficial. But there is a positive aspect to change, and that is creativity. So when we accept change as inevitable finally we can then open our minds to the possibility of new ideas.

Permaculture teaches us that those who have the least resistance to change are the most adaptable, thereby increasing their chances of survival. The species best suited for humans to model in this regard are weeds. Weeds are opportunistic, resilient, flexible and resourceful.


In summary, the twelve Permaculture principles really provide a very strong framework for understanding and applying permaculture in any situation. They can be applied to any aspect of our lives from where we live, to what we grow in the garden, to our relationships with other people. All of these things have an effect on the environment, so let’s make sure we’re doing what we can to make those effects positive.

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