I want to take a moment to address the idea that permaculture is only a kind of “gardening”. Nothing can be further from the truth! We create our world from the things around us, permaculture helps us arrange and optimize them. Sometimes, for any number of reasons, a garden is just not possible. Permaculture still has much to offer in how we arrange those things that are not a garden. 

That being said there is a great amount of leverage to be gained by interacting more closely with food. We all eat and it’s going come from somewhere. So, I’ll just throw out some guidelines that you can start with. Of course they are loosely drawn from permaculture’s principles.

  • Give yourself some time to find the right place for your garden. Limit your work and perhaps be ready to move it until you’ve had a couple of seasons under your belt. 
  • Generally work in the smallest complete chunk you can. That way you get to keep whatever you pull off. 
  • Bigger is not necessarily better. A small garden is a fine place to start!
  • Be on the lookout for natural patterns that you can take advantage of or need to guard against. 
  • Allow your garden to evolve. It will be what effort you are able to put into it and that’s OK. 
  • How much effort will it actually take? Multiply the time it takes by three.
  • Always be ready to roll with what happens. Sometimes your ability to work in the garden just stops or an explosion of growth can seemingly happen overnight. 
  • Consider a few perennials. I’ve got two kinds of strawberries, gooseberries, lovage, chinese lanterns, hops, mint, lemon balm, bee balm, lavender, mushrooms,  and rhubarb growing in the few square feet I have around my home, in addition to the ornamental plants that were already there. And some potatoes, all with less than an hours work this year. 
  • Alternatives? Support farmers and farmer’s markets first, local coops and stores next, before shopping at any supermarket.
  • It’s also it’s good to keep something growing even if it’s just one plant.

It’s pretty certain that someday people are going to have to be much more in tune with their food and where it comes from. But that someday is somewhere in the future. For now we just have to be ahead of any change that’s coming. In the meantime there are many other things that also need our attention. If gardening is not something you can really do, find a placeholder and then work on the aspects of your life you can change.

Learn how with a Permaculture Design Course!

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Published by Milton

C. Milton Dixon is an permaculturist, forager, educator, and and all around computer savvy guy. He is a farm consultant for Polliwog Farm and co-manager at the emergent The Cooperative at Dawn Farm. You can reach him at milton@permacultureproductions.com or 773.789.8887.