In a permaculture project, zone plans must be made. This is done by observing wind, sun, temperature, rain, water flow, and soil. It is an attempt to create good and sustainable growth conditions, based on observing and interacting with all the options.
Nature always pick the best adapted
Example: Plants we can only choose from the best knowledge - Nature always chooses the best-adapted plant. If the plant we choose is failing, that can mean back to the starting point. In other words, we are often guessing and hoping for the best.
Let nature choose
Another way would be to plant a mixture of plants that “could or may grow” in a given place and then let nature choose the plants that are doing well. So, if desired to cultivate fruit trees in an area, different families and forms of fruit trees should be planted and then let nature choose those who are doing well. In this way, we will make a self-sustaining pattern of plant guilds from the beginning.
Weeds are nature's answers
Regardless of which plants (weeds) grow by themselves, they are adapted to the place and therefore naturally productive. Some of the wild plants "weeds" can be beneficial in many ways. They are always nature's answers to which plants have the best conditions. It is therefore important to "take a good look" at what kind of weeds is growing as it is telling us what kind of useful plants can grow. If these useful plants are not appropriate for the project, it will also give a good idea of what to plant instead.
The most important way to capture and save energy is photosynthesis, the carbon cycle. Having multipurpose plants growing everywhere is the most effective way to capture and store energy.
All plants save energy
Horizontal water channels will capture and store water and energy. The water will sink in from the channels and overflow water is stored in lakes and fish ponds, from which the water can be reused for irrigation, with nutrients throughout the project. The energy is stored in the natural biological cycle in the form of living and dead biomass and especially plants store energy. The main goal of a permaculture project is to design to capture and store as much energy as possible in as many ways as possible.
All green technologies save fossil fuels
Green technologies like solar to heat and electricity, wind to electricity and water to flow energy from gravity, are very useful elements in permaculture. A mass oven is also a simple example of how to capture and save energy. It is heated for 30 minutes and the thermal mass get heated up and will release heat for the rest of the day. Many permaculture projects will use as many renewable energy technologies as possible and follow the new technological developments closely. The green technologies are not a part of natures biological circle, but all green technologies help to reduce contamination and save fossil fuels in the project and the energy it takes to produce and transport fossil fuels to consumers. Many permaculture projects are working with the idea of self-sufficiency this can only be achieved by using green technologies.
All life begins with microorganisms
In permaculture, everything starts with the soil microorganisms, bacteria, algae, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, etc. And then on to the visible worms, insects, small vertebrates and finally to plants and animals.
Everything lives in a symbiotic relationship
Every living creature in the whole food chain, from the smallest to the greatest, lives in a symbiotic relationship with all the others. Plants will keep beneficial microorganisms alive by feeding them energy and in retune receiving nutrients and a biological self-defense. Plants are not growing only on square meters of surface, as most people expect. Plants are growing in cubic meters of soil, with a vibrant and productive soil food chain, that goes as far into the ground as possible.
Crops in 7 to 9 layers
It is possible to grow crops in 7 to 9 layers that are growing both over and under the ground. This is done using companion planting of trees, shrubs, herbs, perennial and annual plants. Some trees will their grow deep into the ground and others not so deep, other crops will have roots in the upper soil layers, so they will not compete for the nutrients in the soil.
It is more likely that a mixture of plants supports each other, year after year in different in many ways. We know that some plants can only grow next to other plants and there is nowhere in nature, where only one kind of plants are growing all alone.
The microorganisms feed the plants with nutrients
All living organisms need the right biotope, and all biotopes evolve over time to reach the full potential of growth and production. The microorganisms feed the plants with nutrients, which, by means of photosynthesis, feed microorganisms with carbohydrates. A symbiotic relationship that will enhance and maintain soil fertility if it is not destroyed.
Use compost and compost tea
It is said that it takes 300 years to get natures biological circle up and running in a natural forest. With permaculture, we also build natures biological circle or something similar, but it can be done in 20 to 30 years. But to that, we need to produce compost and compost tea, use rapidly growing support plants and ground cover, along with a wide range of other interventions can facilitate the succession process.
Use all soil layers
To achieve a good yield, it is also essential to create good symbiotic relationships between different plants and everything else alive, using the edge effects as much as possible. Capture, store and spend as much rain as possible into a deep well-drained root zone.
It's always about finding the right mutual beneficial element combination. To have different plants that are using all the layers of soil as far down as possible, because it is producing a more and more alive and productive topsoil which achieves higher yield.
The animals are always a very important part of the biological cycle, chickens, goats, pigs, cattle, etc. are catalysators that is speeding up the biological cycle. All permaculture projects need as many different animals as possible. There has always been a great diversity of animals everywhere in nature, the biological cycle does not work without animals. Especially ruminants are very important to achieve a good yield and a good biology in the soil.
All elements must have at least three applications
Using livestock as integral elements of a permaculture project will increase productivity, improve the soil and reduce labor, animals are tolls in a permaculture project. Using the multi-purpose methods and techniques means that all elements of the project must have at least three uses, but the more the better. In that way, a stable is not just a stable but has to be used in as many ways as possible inside and outside.
An output in nature is always the perfect input elsewhere
It's always about to watch the best use of all products derived from animals and plants. In the natural biological cycle (recycling system) an output from an element is always the perfect input to one or more other elements of the biological cycle. It is only about finding the most beneficial use an output.
It's always about following the natural biological cycles to get the right yield. The quality of products is an important part of the proceeds. Long-term thinking is about creating a productive self-sustaining ecosystem that builds more and more fertility in the future.
What you can grow you can eat
In many ways, a permaculture project is also about adapting to a new lifestyle. I have lived away from the western comfort and technology for many years and it is not difficult, after a few days, I found a new way of living and forget about all the high-tech. For permaculture projects, it is often about to cut down and live on what you produce.
Use bartering and sharing economy
In addition, it is always a good idea to work with other people to find new and better solutions. When someone has an excess of a product we can share. We also have the traditional barter in many parts of the world, which is about exchanging products and services without the money intermediary. If a sow gets 14 piglets instead of the eight that was expected, one can exchange for apples, potatoes or whatever is missing.
Must be an integral part of the project
People in a permaculture project must be an integral part of the project if the idea is to be as self-sufficient as possible. It's always about having the right balance of the project, as seen throughout nature.
In a highly productive year, we are harvesting storing and exchange products
There will be good years and bad years for the individual elements of the project. Take a typical example as an oak, some years they will not produce many acorns, although all growing conditions seem to be good, other years they will produce a lot.
That is a natural part of the life cycle of any perennial living organism. When a perennial element in permaculture project has a highly productive year, harvesting, storing and exchange is the rule of the day. That is how we must adapt to the natural life cycle of animals and plants.
Many dependent parts of the same cycle
With animals and annual plants, we can work more directly to influence and improve production from year to year. But only if we keep the biological cycle running 100% optimal and always remember that a permaculture project is one living organism with many dependent parts of the same biological circle.
We can never push a production element, it will have a negative impact on all other elements of the project, immediately and in the future. In other words, if the biological cycle is made to function with two pigs, it is not possible to put four pigs in, even if the neighbor will pay 1000 USD for each. We are not only putting 2 pigs more into the project, we double influence on the project.
The yield will increase, and the products will change as the plant succession and soil fertility building progresses. It is a process that requires self-regulation and accepting the feedback.
One man's waste is another man's gold
In some countries we throw many good things out, I never bought new furniture for my house. I always see only what is in the reuse stores before I buy. If they have not exactly what I need, I get them to call me when they are getting it. We get free websites where it is often possible to get many things just for collecting it and sometimes take it down. It is possible to build up a significant portion of a house just from the free-waste material.
Even supply problem
Much of the thinking behind many permaculture projects is to create a self-sufficient project using renewable energy technologies. It is possible to produce power and heat with the sun in the summer, in most of the world but where we have winter there will not be enough most of the winter. Wind energy can then produce the energy that is needed for most of the winter, but there will be many days with no wind and no sun in the winter.
A combination of solar and wind will work on most days and weeks in the summer months in a country like Denmark, but we will run out of power days even weeks in the winter, so a form of backup is needed. Batteries may be a solution, but there is a need for a buffer of at least 10 days.
A Danish consumes 3,000 kWh / year. 2/3 of it is in the winter months and 50% of it in January and February. With four people in a house, this is 7920 kW in January and February, or about 130 kW / day, so a batterie backup will be very expensive.
A big part of the solution is to reduce consumption by insulating buildings and making passive heating. Use firewood for heating with rocket stoves and there are several other options to cut spending.
A biogas plant is a buffer
If you are in the countryside a biogas for electricity and heat, is one solution that can be the buffer for the lack of sun and wind when needed. It is possible to store manure, slurry and other biological waste forms, to produce methane during the winter. If you have the three energy forms together it looks like not just a zero-pollution project, it will be a negative pollution project that will reduce the amount of CO2 and CH4 air.
Be biologically regenerating
Absolutely zero waste can only mean that there must always be used biological regenerative methods and products. Everything must take place within the natural biological cycles. Repair and recycling instead of throwing out, it's about extending the life we renewable energy sources.
Many renewable energy resources
Renewable energy resources can replace the need for fossil fuels and even firewood in permaculture projects, all over the world, but it is a big challenge. Cars and machines run electric only with power from the sun, wind and biogas make some limitations in many places.
Renewable energy resources are an area where there is a lot of development in recent years. Tractors running on biogas in some experimental projects in Sweden. Hydrogen is produced from wind power, and fuel cell technology develops rapidly. Many other different options are on the way and old technologies from before oil and coal are taken up again.
Reduce the need for energy
Nevertheless, it is primarily a matter of reducing the need for fuel and energy-consuming technologies as much as possible. To reduce energy needs by reusing and extending the life of all materials is an important part of being a waste-free.
These are the same principles everywhere; a biological output is a product that always has a new and optimal use and is always a necessary input to another place in the biological cycle.
The output from one element is always the right input to another element.
A permaculture project should be viewed and managed as a "Closed Biological Cycle" where there is no external input and no waste, only new products. As they say in India, "The first harvest from a cow is manure"
Summer and Winter
The big problem is to find the best and most efficient use of an output throughout the year. It will be easy when everything is growing. But outside the growing season, it can be difficult as many permaculture projects closes down for the winter.
Biogas production, in winter for power and heat is probably the best way to use animal manure and plant remains. Extensive composting in the fall and over the winter will also be very important. All kinds of biomass to be processed and stored over the winter to be ready for spring.
Use the landscape options
Permaculture project is about to read and understand patterns in the landscape and then design the optimal solution using the landscape options in the most productive way.
Permaculture project analysis (example)
A newly designed permaculture project situated, Latitude 55.898488 and Longitude 9.300631, where the climate is cold to cool temperate. There are an old house and a workshop, some old trees most are oak trees.
The area Facing almost north-south, with a public road to the north and a dirt road on the east side. (fig1) The project is a ¼ of a hill and the land is sloping to the northeast, with a hole dug out to marl and then filled in part with building materials and other kinds of waste.
Rainwater runs from marl hole and down to the public road to the north. A drainage system is set around the house, which is leading the water out to the neighbor's field on the eastern side. The difference in height level is 5 meters (fig2) with marl hole as the lowest point when the construction waste is removed.
The prevailing wind comes from the west. Cold winter winds are from the northeast. In the winter months there is little sunlight as the field it faces away from the sun and the upper southern part of the field is surrounded by 10-15-meter-high forest. (fig3) The soil in the field changes from clay to stony sand, having a pH from 5.5 to 7.0. To see the entire permaculture designplan, click here.
The problem is the solution
*The above patterns for a permaculture project, provide many factors to work with.
*Much of the rain falls wasted.
*A complicated land map with underground construction waste
*Field turns north away from the sun
*Strong winds from the west,
*Cold winter wind from the northeast.
The problem is the solution, so while this project may resemble many obstacles, it also provides many options when the right solutions are made.
Prepare a zone plan
The field is divided into a southern part with little sun and sheltered from western winds, and the northern part with more sun and western wind most of the year. Zone 2 and 3 is divided after sun hours and wind. The building materials in Zone 1 and Zone 2 will be removed, while marl hull is dug out to a lake.
Collect and recycle
No-dig beds of various kinds are being placed on the contour. Winter animal shed is located next to the lake, which must be a fish pond with carp and a natural swimming pool. (fig6) The compost production is also part of the mainframe design and the first element to be started, as the compost must be used for the establishment of the hugelbeds. Contour lines with horizontal water channels made for storing and draining water and recycling nutrition to the entire project. (fig7)
The most important channel is the one the passing by the greenhouse, solar panels and runs around the house and the workshop into the lake. That channel reverses overflow water to the lake from 4/5 of the project. From the lake, the water is pumped up to a water tank at the highest point and is used for irrigation all over the project. The lower 1/5 of the field is not in the water cycle plan. It must be separated from the remainder of the project and is used for black water (toilet water) and gray water, handwash, bath, shower, etc. the grey water is used for underground irrigation is added to fruit trees, fences, etc.
Integrated farming with re-use of water and nutrients
The first project design I made was in the Kalahari in 1985. It was to be an integrated farming system with recycling of water and nutrients. It was to produce fruit, vegetables, fish, milk, and poultry in a single agricultural unit. No one understood what I was talking about and what I wanted to do. Needless to say, I did not get funding to make the project. Only a very limited part was established with cows, vegetables, and chickens around a biogas plant. The idea was to create animal and plant units in an integrated circle biologically supporting each other and thus obtained a higher total production.
Everyone gets a chance to participate
See - Touch - Making - Taste: Permaculture projects must be open to all interested individuals and groups of people, so it will be well known to everyone what permaculture is and how we do and how we make the projects, so all get a chance to participate.
For all farming and agricultural schools
Permaculture projects will involve all kinds of agriculture and agricultural schools in a positive way by showing that it is possible to make a much more productive kind of agriculture by restoring the soil and working with nature. In Denmark, we have an idea of making an open house on farms when it is possible. This means that on certain days, everyone is invited to come and visit a farming business. Organic farming has a much-visited day the spring when the cows are let out on the pasture fields. The same can be done to integrate and inform about permaculture project.
Spread knowledge of permaculture
It is very important to spread the knowledge about permaculture. Fairs, associations, and marketplaces are obvious targets. The Internet provides a good platform to inform about permaculture projects by uploading videos, web pages, to be on Facebook and experience the many permaculture groups. There are many communication technologies can be used. But a good talk with people with a taste of the products when they come to visit the project is always best.
Make a sustainable plan for many years
Small and slow solutions and looking forward, making a sustainable plan for many years into the future. It will be about growing as many crops as possible in the same area. Building soil fertility is achieved by planting trees, to begin a succession of the plant that will increase humus, organic matter and biology throughout the root zone making it 3 to 4 times deeper.
The slow solution is always about building fertility
It will only give a few edible crops in the beginning and might not seem very smart. But the slow solution is always about building fertility and find the right plants and plant mixtures. It's always about building a productive and more sustainable production over time. It's about having time to enjoy and having time to understand and enjoy working with nature.
What is growing by itself
In a permaculture project it is about finding the plants, crops that are growing by themselves, "Go for the low hanging fruit" If a plant seems to meet the requirements to grow in a place or just some empty spots, plant it just to try to see what happens.
The soil should be covered with living plants the year round. The first year of a permaculture project it will mostly be annual cover crops. But this is all about is finding plants and plant mixtures that are beneficial where they are planted and beneficial throughout permaculture project.
To grow as many different herbs as possible is a good idea because it will reduce the work on the ground and helps to make the root zone deeper. It will also help to reduce, often eliminate the need for watering.
Which trees grow by themselves
It may be often being right to see a permaculture project as many small projects. Many plant projects will start in the greenhouse. An example could be, planting 5 different kinds of fruit trees, when it is not entirely clear which trees will be the best solution. The project is started with sowing or planting 50 trees of various kinds in the greenhouse and when they are ready, they are planted out on the selected sites and then it just to see which trees perform best, and then remove the other.
Nature always give a chance
What would nature do? It is often the first questions asked when it comes to permaculture. And the answer is always, nature will open the door, so everything can come in and get a chance. Any plant that can establish itself has a chance to grow and produce seed, thereby creating new DNA and genetic diversity.
It's natural selection
There are always some of the seeds that will germinate and grow, but only a few will be growing plants that produce new seeds. These seeds can be better-adapted seeds and generation after generation, they become more and more attuned to the place where they grow. It's the way all plants have spread to most of the planet. It is natural selection. Some plant makes 10,000 seeds and if just one of these seeds is better adapted and grow, it is a huge success.
There is a huge diversity of plants and animals
Selection of good seeds and animals, year after year for generations in all parts of all countries, is the way we've got all our crops and farm animals. It is not natural selection the farmers do, but it has created a huge diversity of crops and farming animals adapted to the opportunities to live and grow where they are placed. The number of plant and animal species is important. Its biodiversity in a permaculture project is pointing into the future.
What is good for something is bad for something else
Some elements of a permaculture project will grow well, while others will have poor growing conditions, so what is good for some crops is bad for other crops else, and it will change from year to year depending on especially weather conditions. So, if the production of apples is low one year, the same growth factor produce many nuts in the same year.
Apple trees that fit into the ecosystem and therefore grows by itself
Example: I have looked at the wild apple trees around my place. Some of them grow very well and a few trees also produced good apples. I will take the seeds and some of them germinate and grow well since they are adapted to this region. But I do not know what kind of apples I get when an apple tree grows from seed. I can make cuttings from the wild mother tree and I know the apple coming out of it.
I can also leave a branch of the seedlings to grow to see if it is good or even better apples. That way I will use diversity to let the apples develop well and suit the environment where they are planted. It will promote the development of good apple trees that fit into the ecosystem and therefore grows by themselves without care and attention, they are adapted to this region and is part of the natural balance.
Find or create the best place for all elements
It's always about finding the most productive and smart places to place animals, fish, and compost, so everything is joint together. We all understand that it is important to find the right place and position for bee hives for the bees to be productive. The same applies to all other elements in a permaculture project. It is always about finding or making the best place for good production.
Both plants and animals are everywhere in nature
There are perfect growing conditions in marginal zones between different elements in a permaculture project where both plants and animals will thrive. It is important to remember that both plants and animals are found everywhere in nature, there is not suddenly a blank space with nothing.
Because it is the best place for these elements
Having wind in winter and full sun more than 15 hours a day during the summer in open areas. It must be appreciated and utilized for wind turbines, solar cells, solar greenhouse, garden frames and sun-loving plants because it is the best place for these elements if they adjusted with the right solutions. To create change and margins throughout a permaculture project is important.
A more productive overlapping is a microclimate
A fish pond with extended edges, to get more effect from the changes between water and soil. The area between water and soil is the most fertile marginal that exists. Also growing crops in layers creates ideal conditions for elements which thrive in a forest shadow. Changes or effect of changes is a microclimate and more productive overlap in natural conditions. The more changes glide over one another, the more differences can be created in a permaculture project the better it will be.
You can see all kinds of agriculture also permaculture as counterfactual. You can always ask the question, "what if" I had done this? - Do I try this? - It rains too much? Etc., etc., in a long and endless line of adapting to change and succession.
It's about succession
A permaculture project is about succession year after year, creating the conditions that provide the best opportunities to move towards more and more productive and self-sustaining projects. It is starting with the design of horizontal channels, hugelbeds, planting fast-growing nitrogen-fixing and other productive annual plants to improve soil quality and end with many food productive elements in a project looking like a natural forest.
Expand the root zone and improve the soil
While fast-growing nitrogen-fixing perennials, shrubs, trees are used to cut and throw, coppice forest, all to expand the root zone and improve soil quality and thus the potential for food-producing plants. It is a must to make compost and compost tea to get the right micro-organic balance back into the ground. It is all about starting a process that year after year will bring change with new opportunities.
Observe, interact and react all the time
It is constantly a matter of observing, interacting and reacting to any development good or bad. All empty places can be used and should be used for something, as that will always happen in nature. Any unwanted, animals or plants, can be replaced and competed out with beneficial animals or plants. It's always about growing the crop plants that will grow by themselves or grow the plants that will be useful in the project at some point later in the succession. Numerous niche productions will be able to thrive as the succession is mowing on and there will be a need for a reaction that will turn niches in a beneficial direction.