HomeLifestyleFrom Chaos to Harmony: Using Permaculture to Design a Productive Garden

From Chaos to Harmony: Using Permaculture to Design a Productive Garden

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Maria Hrefna Hjalmarsdottir Ringdal
Maria Hrefna Hjalmarsdottir Ringdalhttps://herb-woman.com
I live on a small farm in Rogaland, where I tend to my garden following permaculture principles, which suits me perfectly as a herbalist. My garden thrives with plants that most gardens unfortunately lack. I graduated as a herbalist in the fall of 2023. Unfortunately, I have recently been diagnosed with cancer, leiomyosarcoma. This makes life a bit challenging for me these days (March 2024), and I expect to undergo surgery and chemotherapy, with uncertain prospects for the future. I have otherwise been more or less sick for about 19 years, which led me to become a herbalist. I have consulted countless doctors, often hitting a wall and not receiving help or being heard. However, this does not apply to all doctors I have seen, but a significant portion, which surprises me. This drives me to help those struggling with health issues. If I can contribute to someone feeling better, then I have gained a lot from life.Please reach out if you believe I can assist you through my studies in herbal medicine. I have less time now as I undergo cancer treatment, but I hope to become more available over time. Regardless, feel free to contact me if you wish. ... And yes, I am originally from Iceland and have backgrounds in marketing, IT, skincare therapy, viticulture, aquaculture, and most recently regenerative agriculture. I never stop educating myself; it's as important as breathing.

Does your garden resemble a wild jungle, with plants growing haphazardly and competing for space? Or perhaps you’ve always dreamt of having a lush and abundant oasis right outside your doorstep, but have no idea where to start? Well, fear not! In this blog post, we will take you on an exciting journey from chaos to harmony as we explore the world of permaculture. Get ready to learn how this revolutionary approach can transform your garden into a productive haven that not only provides food and beauty but also works in perfect harmony with nature. So roll up your sleeves and let’s dive into the fascinating world of permaculture design!

Introduction to Permaculture

Permaculture is a system of agricultural and social design principles centered around simulating or directly utilizing the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems. The word permaculture originally coined by Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in 1978, is a portmanteau of permanent agriculture and culture.

The central philosophy of permaculture is working with, rather than against, nature; of protracted & thoughtful observation rather than protracted & thoughtless labor; and of looking at systems in all their functions, rather than asking only one yield of them.

Inhabitants of a permaculture site are provided for through the design. Energy efficient houses are built using local materials. Water is harvested and reused. Grey water from sinks and baths waters the garden. Food is grown on site. Animals may be kept for food or other purposes such as draught power or fertilizer.

The 12 Principles of Permaculture

The 12 principles of permaculture are a set of guidelines for designing systems that are intended to last indefinitely. They were first developed by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the 1970s, and have since been adopted by farmers, gardeners, and homesteaders around the world.

The principles are based on observations of natural ecosystems, and aim to create human-scale systems that mimic the function and diversity of natural ecosystems. When applied to food production, the principles can help create gardens that are more productive, efficient, and resilient than traditional gardens.

1. Observe and interact: The first step in creating a permaculture garden is to observe the site carefully, taking note of things like sunlight, wind patterns, soil type, and existing plants and animals. This information will be used to design a system that works with the natural environment, rather than against it.

2. Catch and store energy: In nature, energy is constantly being cycled through living things – from the sun to plants to animals – and lost as heat. Permaculture systems aim to capture this energy and store it in useful forms, such as in soil fertility or in harvested water or food.

3. Obtain a yield: Every permaculture system must be designed to provide some kind of yield – whether it’s food, fuel, fiber, or some other useful product. This ensures that the system is self-sustaining and provides for the needs of its creators.

4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback: Permaculture systems should be designed in such a way that they can self-regulate, with minimal intervention from humans. This means creating systems that are resilient to outside disturbances, and observing how the system responds to changes in order to adjust it accordingly.

5. Use and value renewable resources and services: Permaculture systems should be designed to make use of renewable resources, such as energy from the sun or compostable materials from plants. Storing energy in useful forms is an important part of this principle, as is using resources efficiently.

6. Produce no waste: The goal of permaculture systems is to utilize all inputs and outputs in a productive manner, resulting in little or no waste product. This includes composting organic material for use as fertilizer, using harvested rainwater for irrigation, etc.

7. Design from patterns to details: Permaculture designs should begin with general observations about the site – such as prevailing winds or sun exposure – before moving on to more detailed design elements, such as growing plants or building structures. This ensures that the whole system works together harmoniously rather than being piecemeal and disjointed.

8. Integrate rather than segregate: Permaculture designs should include a diversity of elements that are integrated with each other in order to create a cohesive system. For example, planting a variety of food crops together can help support beneficial insect populations and reduce pest pressure.

9. Use small and slow solutions: Small-scale solutions are often more efficient and easier to manage than larger ones, since they require less energy and resources to maintain over time. The same is true for gradual changes, which can be more effective than sudden shifts in the system.

10. Use and value diversity: Permaculture systems should incorporate both biological diversity – such as different species of plants or animals – as well as cultural diversity, which involves creating spaces that welcome people from different backgrounds and perspectives. This helps ensure that the system is robust and resilient to change over time.

11. Use edges and value the marginal: The edges between two habitats – such as between forest and grassland – can be incredibly productive spaces for growing plants or raising animals because they offer both sun exposure and protection from predators or weather events.

12. Creatively use and respond to change: Change is inevitable in any permaculture system, so it’s important to be prepared for it. This means designing systems that are flexible enough to respond to changes in the environment, and being open to creative solutions when things don’t go as planned.

Assessing Your Garden for Design

When you are ready to begin designing your garden, the first step is to assess what you have to work with. This includes taking inventory of the plants, animals, and other resources that are already present on your property. Once you have a clear idea of what you have to work with, you can start to think about how you can best utilize these resources to create a productive and sustainable garden.

In order to assess your garden, you will need to take into account a few different factors:

The climate in your area – This will determine what types of plants will be able to grow successfully in your garden.

The amount of sunlight that your garden receives – This will affect which plants will thrive and where they should be planted.

The soil type and quality in your garden – This will dictate what types of plants can be grown and how they will need to be cared for.

The available water sources – This includes both natural sources (such as rainwater) and man-made sources (such as irrigation).

Once you have considered all of these factors, you can start to brainstorm possible design ideas for your garden. It is helpful to sketch out your ideas so that you can visualize them more easily. Once you have a few potential designs, it is time to start making decisions about which plants to include and where to place them.

Design Elements: Water, Soil, Plants, and Wildlife


In permaculture, water is seen as a key element in the design of productive gardens. Water harvesting and storage are essential components of any permaculture system, as is the use of greywater (recycled water from household activities) to irrigate plants.


Permaculture systems are designed to work with the natural properties of soils, using techniques such as composting and mulching to improve their fertility and structure. In addition, permaculture gardens are often designed to include a variety of different soil types, which can help to improve plant health and increase production.


A wide variety of plants can be used in permaculture systems, depending on the climate and local conditions. Fruit trees, vegetables, herbs, and native plants are all common choices, and careful planning is needed to ensure that the right mix of plants is used to meet the needs of the garden.


Wildlife is an important part of any permaculture system, providing essential services such as pollination of plants and pest control. In addition, the presence of wildlife can help to create a more diverse and balanced ecosystem that can improve production in the garden over time.

Building Structures for Efficiency

Building structures for efficiency is a key permaculture design principle. By creating functional, multi-purpose garden structures, you can save time and energy while maximizing your harvest.

common garden structures include raised beds, trellises, and greenhouses. Each has its own set of benefits that can be tailored to your specific needs.

Raised beds are a great way to improve drainage and soil quality while keeping weeds at bay. They can also be used to create microclimates, which is ideal for heat-loving plants like tomatoes.

Trellises are perfect for supporting vining plants like cucumbers and beans. They can also be used to create shady areas in the garden or as a privacy screen.

Greenhouses provide protection from extreme weather conditions and pests, making them ideal for delicate plants or starting seedlings. They can also be used to extend the growing season by trapping heat inside.

Maintenance and Observation

Permaculture is all about creating systems that are self-sustaining and low maintenance. When designing your garden, think about how you can incorporate permaculture principles to make it as easy to care for as possible.

No matter what type of garden you have, there are some basic maintenance tasks that need to be carried out on a regular basis. These include watering, weeding, mulching, and pest control. By using permaculture design principles, you can create a garden that is much easier to maintain than a traditional one.

One of the most important aspects of permaculture is observation. Paying close attention to your garden will help you identify problems early on so that you can take corrective action. It will also help you learn what works well in your particular climate and soil conditions. Keep a journal to record your observations so that you can refer back to them in the future.

Alternatives to Permaculture Gardening

When it comes to growing your own food, there are many different approaches you can take. Permaculture gardening is just one option. If you’re not sure if permaculture is right for you, here are a few alternative approaches to consider:

1. Traditional gardening: This is the most common type of gardening, and it involves growing plants in rows in a sunny spot in your yard. You’ll need to till the soil, fertilize regularly, and weed often.

2. Container gardening: This is a great option if you have limited space or if you want to grow plants that require special care (like herbs). All you need is a container (or multiple containers), potting soil, and some plants.

3. Hydroponic gardening: With this method, plants are grown in water instead of soil. It’s a great way to conserve water and space, but it does require more setup and maintenance than other methods.

4. Aquaponic gardening: This is similar to hydroponic gardening, but with the addition of fish. The fish waste provides nutrients for the plants, and the plants help filter the water for the fish. It’s a closed-loop system that’s perfect for those who want to produce their own food AND keep pet fish!

Permaculture is harmony

Permaculture is a great way to turn any garden into an oasis of harmony. From design to implementation, permaculture gives you the tools to create a backyard that looks beautiful, but more importantly works for you in producing delicious food and providing habitat for beneficial insects and animals. With just a few basic techniques, it’s easy to get started growing your own food and creating a backyard paradise. So why not give it a try today?

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