July 01, 2020

What is Permaculture?

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Permaculture is a way of caring for both the Earth and humanity. It strives for renewability, sustainability, and self-sufficiency. The three ethics on which the whole of permaculture builds are articulated in, founder, Bill Mollison's A Designers' Manual:

  • Care of the Earth: Provision for all life systems to continue and multiply.
  • Care of people: Provision for people to access those resources necessary for their existence
  • Return of surplus: to those two goals. If there is extra of something, use it either to help people or help the Earth. Never waste it. 

Let's assume we all care for the earth and want a more sustainable world. Recently we all saw the positive side effects on the environment due to the limitations the Covid19 virus set upon society. Less pollution and energy consumption was a strange and positive test we were all thrown into which let us see how our actions affect our environment.

With that in mind, we are then curious to explore other areas that might create long lasting and positive affects. Premaculture may not at first seem an obvious area of interest to organizations like TreeUtah, who strives to build a thriving urban tree canopy. Wouldn't any old leafy tree do? Yet, when we delve deeper into this area we start to notice that we can always take things further and not only reduce heat island effects but also create usable food sources for a fully integrated community plan. 

Could the answer be in planting "Forest Gardens?" We know the foundations of permaculture but what is a forest garden?

One of the best explanations are found here, "A forest garden is a garden that is designed to mimic the interrelationships that exist in a natural woodland environment. Wild trees, shrubs, groundcover and vines all grow together in a symbiotic fashion that requires no additional fertilizer, water, pest or disease control other than what the plants provide for themselves. In Permaculture these small groups are called guilds, and when you put many guilds together you in turn get a forest garden.

Picture the tallest trees planted to the north, then moving south, smaller trees with vines growing on them, then herbs and finally some ground cover. Since the tallest trees are to the north, all elements of the garden are stepped down in size to receive adequate sunlight from the southern sun." https://www.growforagecookferment.com/permaculture-forest-garden/

So, from here we see there are ways to take tree planting further. We can plan better ways forward to make the most beneficial use of our lands and how we can maximize the benefits for communities. Let us commit to planting trees in ways that invite us to engage in and to feel and taste the place we live in.

Can you think of a place that brings back memories of green space and local food? Maybe a walk along a path where you picked a sun sweetened stone fruit. When we plant with intention, we create a more diverse and engaging landscape. We see not only plants thriving but humans too.

There are many resources for learning more about permaculture. If you are interested in how to support more forest gardens in your area contact TreeUtah or visit

https://permaculture.usu.edu/index