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Designing with nature

D.P. Beerda (MSc.)

Table of contents
Permaculture as a design system History and development How does it work? Main ecological principals (sun, water, wind, soil) 7 plant- and root layers 3 function guideline (importance of diversity) A living soil for quick nutrient cycles Zoning (planning your time in the system) Different types of resources

Permaculture is a design system

Permanent agriculture / permanent culture

Permaculture: The conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems to create the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems. Permaculture seeks the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter and other material and nonmaterial needs in a sustainable way.

History & development

Bill Mollison and David Holmgren launched permaculture around 1974 Reaction to conventional agriculture which brought many problems in Australia; droughts, eutrofication, wind erosion and loss of fertile topsoil By observing the woods in Tasmania, ecological principals were uncovered that formed the basics for permaculture

Build ecosystems that integrate humans into their surroundings again.

Main ecological principals

Sun, water and wind have a great impact on the basic design

Main ecological principals

Combine the main ecological principals and consider the direct surroundings and design wishes of the owner

7 plant and root layers

7 layers of plants catch the sun, 7 layers of roots pump up nutrients Maximum sun and soil use Big trees (walnut, buartnut, etc.) Small trees (apple, pear, plum, etc.) Climbing plants (grape, kiwi, bramble, etc.) Bushes (rasp-, gooseberries, etc.) Herb layer (herbs, vegetables, etc.) Ground crawlers(Pumpkin, cucumber, etc.) Root layer (Potatoes, carrots, etc.)

7 plant and root layers

Having 7 layers of vegetation creates many different habitats for a whole variety of different insects, birds, mammals etc. Big trees Small trees Climbing plants etc.) Bushes Herb layer Ground crawlers Root layer (walnut, buartnut, etc.) (apple, pear, plum, etc.) (grape, kiwi, passion fruit, (rasp-, gooseberries, etc.) (mint, spinach, etc.) (Pumpkin, cucumber, etc.) (Potatoes, carrots, etc.)

3 function guideline
Each organism has several functions in the system (minimum of 3) Each function of the system is supported by various organisms. (minimum of 3) (functional redundancy) This guideline invokes creative thinking and assures diversity in the system Diversity leads to stability

Short summary
Main ecological factors; sun, water & wind. Design with those, keep in mind the soil type and wishes of the owner 7 layers of plants and roots make sure that you use the sun and soil to a maximum and they form the basics for diversity in your system Each organism has several functions in the system, each function of the system is supported by several organisms Diversity leads to stability

The living soil

Some plants fertilize themselves and their surrounding by cooperating with nitrogen fixing bacteria. (rhizobium) (Beans, clovers, etc.) Many plants are symbionts with mycorhizea fungi so they penetrate the soil to a higher degree

The living soil

Soil organisms break down organic material and turn this into plant food. They form the essential part of nutrient cycling in the system

A living soil gives a healthy ecosystem and functions as a barrier to diseases

The living soil

Mulch with organic material to build up the soil over time Suppresses weeds Keeps the soil moist Stimulates soil organisms During decay, nutrients are released for the plant

Permaculture zones, a time planning tool for your permaculture design. Zone 0 is the house, safety and comfort Zone 1 is the direct surrounding of the house, you spend a lot of time here. Zone 2 is a bit further away and you are there each day. etc.

Zone 5 is the natural environment

Resources that disappear or degrade when they are not used - All organic harvest, rain, sunshine, etc. B) Resources that increase by using them -Knowledge, talents, cooperation, etc.

C) Resources that remain unchanged by their use -Bricks, a bath tub, etc. (be creative :-) D) Resources that are depleted by their use -Fossil fuels, certain ores, etc. (Great dependence on these resources is dangerous)

E) Resources that pollute and/or destroy when used -Pesticides, herbicides, etc. Permaculture primarily uses resources from category A, B & C it partly uses resources from category D and it avoids all use from category E

Permaculture as a designsystem
Logo symbolism Think in terms of inputs & outputs and closing cycles. Labour = Every need that is not taken care of by the system. Pollution = Every output that cannot by used by the system.


We can turn forests into deserts or deserts into forests, it is our choice -Bill Mollison-

More info?
-Introduction to permaculture, by Bill Mollison -The basics of permaculture design, by Ross Mars -Permaculture in a Nutshell, by Patrick Whitefield -Earth user`s guide, by Rosemary Marrow -..

Search online; sites, e-book`s, movie`s, plant databases, etc. (google, youtube, mininova, etc.) Visit people that already use permaculture and ask questions, share information and most important, start yourself Dont be afraid to make a mistake (or two) The worst thing which can happen is that a tree dies A permaculture system needs to grow over time, continously obeserving and learning will make you grow during that time.

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