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Created in Australia in the 1970s by Bill Molisson and David Holmgren, permaculture is a science of housing and an art of managing human ecosystems. Accessible to everyone, it applies to housing, energy, transport and social relations. Lionel from the Garden of the Tightrope walkers in Milhars in the Tarn explains to us today the key concepts of permaculture and how to create his permaculture garden.
A definition of permaculture?
It is always difficult to have a definition of permaculture. Originally, this word was coined by Bill Molisson and David Holmgren. It meant "permanent agriculture" and sought to intelligently compile agricultural practices to recreate a balanced ecosystem. Since then, the scope of permaculture has widened and Molisson, himself, today defines the word permaculture as a contraction of "permanent culture". Used everywhere, whether on the scale of an apartment or a city, a vegetable patch or a farm, this art aims to develop human, ethical, sustainable and robust ecosystems that will integrate harmoniously in natural systems, to produce abundance.
What are the ethical principles of permaculture?
The ethics of permaculture can be summarized as follows: take care of nature (soils, forests and water, etc.), of humans (yourself, the community and future generations) and share equitably (limit consumption and redistribute surpluses in particular).
What is the function of a permaculture garden?
The objective is to be inspired by nature to create an edible ecosystem, that is to say that it is to use the forces of nature (fauna, flora ...) to set up a system in balance, which requires very little human intervention to generate abundance. Abundance for humans but also for insects, soil microorganisms, in short, the abundance of life.
How to choose the space dedicated to your permaculture in your garden?
The first step consists in observing the terrain: shaded area, in the sun, exposed to wind, frost and standing water. Then comes the part called "design": what will I put and where? The aim is to put the elements that require the most care as close as possible to the house: vegetable patch and aromatic herbs, then further away the chicken coop and the orchard. Finally, it is important to leave a "wild" space or at least where we will intervene little in order to let nature take its rights. This area can in particular be useful and interesting for observing what is happening in places where there is no intervention.
What are the factors to consider when creating a permaculture garden?
What is great with the permacultural approach is that it adapts to all terrains. It's about using the strengths and weaknesses of a pitch to make the most of it. It is about going in the direction of the place, making with and using its strengths and weaknesses. There is no point in trying to plant rock plants on waterlogged terrain. We can plant plants that love water in these areas and create, in the driest areas, raised cultivation mounds that will keep plants from getting their feet in the water. Permaculture is above all common sense, logic, reflection, intelligence. And therefore, also knowledge. It is not enough to follow a manual, but to be sufficiently documented and informed to be able to apply your knowledge to your place.
Are there any constraints?
There are no constraints, but obviously, the permacultural approach implies not using chemical inputs. We can go as far as the practices of Fukuoka, a benchmark in permaculture, which never works the soil and uses no fertilizers, compost or biocides. It is important to understand that as soon as we intervene in the garden, we create an imbalance. Adding fertilizer may nourish the plant, but it will also burn soil microorganisms. We thus enter a circle which will force us to intervene again to "repair".
Is permaculture suitable for small spaces?
Permaculture is particularly suitable for small spaces, because it considers the 3 dimensions, the volume of a place more than its surface. In nature, there are 7 stages of cultivation: canopy, medium-sized trees, shrubs, grasses, climbing and creeping plants, root plants ... If you consider your small garden as a volume, it There are multiple possibilities to better organize and take advantage of the entire volume.
Does permaculture represent a real difference compared to other gardening approaches?
Not really! What she also offers is to consider all the elements of the garden. You will understand, everything is linked. An important idea of permaculture to remember however: a need must be met by several elements and an element must meet several needs. For example, the hen is useful to produce eggs, to provide fertilizer through its excrement, and to leave in the orchard, it cleans the worms of the fruits.
What advice would you give to someone wishing to create a permaculture garden?
To learn, to read, to visit places, to observe your garden carefully before getting started. To draw while trying to compile everything the person has learned, and above all to start small. A Japanese proverb says "The best fertilizer is the shade of the gardener", that is to say that what works best is the care you give to your garden. It is better to make small and take great care of it than to aim big and not be able to assume. Obviously leaves to enlarge later.