To develop the student’s understanding of how to plan and develop a self sustaining, environmentally stable productive garden based on the patterns which occur in nature.
WHAT IS PERMACULTURE?
Permaculture means Permanent Agriculture. As the name reflects Permaculture is a philosophy and a practical approach to developing and designed sustainable human settlements. Permaculture brings together many different disciplines such as biology, agriculture, plants, animals, humans, ecology, soils, microclimates together to form a unique and visionary approach to many of our current global issues. Developed by Bill Mollison, permaculture is the way of the future and brings many timely answers to those searching for a better way to live.
COURSE STRUCTURE AND CONTENTS
There are 5 lessons in this course:
The basic theory and ethics of Permaculture.
2. The Environment
Ecosystems, the web of life and interactions between living organisms.
Soil management, fertilisers, nitrogen, cultivation, gas and nutrient cycles.
4. Climate and Water
The hydrological cycle, infiltration, microclimates, the Greenhouse Effect, water and plants.
5. Forest Systems
Biomass, how natural systems relate to agricultural systems.
Each lesson is completed with an assignment which the student submits to the school. This is marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.
Discuss the nature and scope of Permaculture.
- Apply an understanding of environmental systems to considerations given to how a Permaculture system is designed.
- Describe soils and the impact their characteristics have upon natural and man made environments.
- Explain the application of this knowledge to Permaculture.
- Describe characteristics of climate and water, and the impact their characteristics have on natural and man made environments.
- Explain the application of this knowledge to Permaculture.
- Describe forest systems and their relevance to Permaculture design.
WHAT YOU WILL DO
- Develop a good understanding of the scientific system of naming plants.
- Discuss some of the aspects which play a part in permaculture.
- Describe how permaculture is different to other forms of horticulture and agriculture.
- Visit an outdoor environment area determine what relationships the living and non‑living things might have with each other.
- Explain how a permaculture system operates. Considering: Relative location; Multiple functions; Multiple elements; Elevational planning; Biological resources; Energy recycling; Natural succession; Maximise edges-Diversity.
- Determine some of the characteristics of soil samples collected by you.
- Explain contour maps and how this information can be used to estimate potential effects on plant growth.
- Explain the relationship between soils and plant growth.
- Research different ecosystems such as arid deserts, savannas, mangroves, etc.
- Explain weather patterns in your local area. Determine why this knowledge may be important to the permaculture practitionist.
- Explain water within an ecosystem or permaculture garden and its application.
- Describing the microclimate of arid classification.
- Describe the differences between the three main types of climate zones such as Tropical, Temperate and Desert and briefly give your views on what major differences would need to be taken in establishing a permaculture system in each climate zone, compared with the other two.
- Consider the impact of plant communities on each other and to the rest of the ecosystem.
- Determine the effects of light, rainfall, wind, leaf litter, etc, on the growth of the plants you observed.
- Explain the importance of trees in a Permaculture system.
Applying Lessons from Nature
A big part of your permaculture education is to understand how plants and animals exist together. This involves learning about many different disciplines; from horticulture and agriculture to ecology, environmental science and climateology.
Areas of land which have been cleared and used by man, whether for farming, housing, or some other purpose, may through good permaculture design, be returned to a more natural condition (although it may be impossible to recreate the original ecosystem as it might have been if left undisturbed).
Some plants will grow well in association with certain species but not with others. When re establishing a natural environment in a previously disturbed area it is important to establish the right combination of plant varieties if the area is to remain stable and have the "self perpetuating" ability which a "real natural environment" has.
In order to revegetate an area successfully this way, it may be necessary to plant taller trees and allow them to establish properly before planting the lower growing plants as well as a vigorous weed control program to give your desired plant species a chance to establish.
Types of Plant Associations
There are many different types of plant associations and many different ways of categorising them. These include categories based on climate, for example warm temperate rainforest, cool temperate rainforest, alpine, arid etc; categories based on broad 'type' characteristics, for example deciduous forests, coniferous forests, wet or dry sclerophyll forests, grasslands etc: and categories based on individual plant genus or species, for example Eucalyptus, Pinus, Acacia, etc.
Examples of Plant Associations:
Pine trees (e.g. Pinus radiata) have a toxic chemical in their needles which discourages the growth of most other plants. When a pine plantation is young, other plant types may grow alongside the pines, but as they mature, most of the nearby plants will die, leaving a forest with very little growing other than the pines.
A eucalypt forest (or woodland) usually contains three types of plants:
- The Eucalypts (These are normally the tallest plants, and are called the "upper storey").
- Medium to tall plants (smaller than eucalypts) such as wattles.
(These are called the "middle storey").
- Low shrubs and ground covers (called the "Lower storey").
This three layer concept is common in permaculture designs, although the plants chosen are generally more productive. It is referred to as "stacking' in permaculture articles. The stacking will enhance the key principle 'relative location'.
This type of forest is more common in the northern hemisphere. It may be created as a self perpetuating environment however in some situations, though it may not have originally occurred naturally there (e.g. Australia). Examples of possible situations are in gardens associated with European style buildings or in zoos or wildlife parks where animals deriving from such deciduous plant communities are kept. Often the deciduous species will also grow readily in association with evergreen species. In their natural environments this could be with coniferous species (conifers), or in Australia with Eucalypts. In some areas of Australia, particularly moist cool areas, deciduous species have become naturalised, often displacing native vegetation.
Generally for deciduous forests the upper storey is made up of deciduous trees such as Ash, Maple, Birch, Oaks or Elms. The lower plants may be deciduous or evergreen shrubs.
In permaculture, various fruit trees with deciduous habits can be utilised to increase productivity for the land. The above mentioned deciduous trees are not common in permaculture gardens.
These consist of plants adapted to either short or long term periods of cold and snow. In many cases these communities are found in high mountainous, often windswept areas. Examples of plant associations that may occur within this broad category are alpine grasslands where the predominant vegetation is low growing grasses, bulbs, herbs and annual flowers, or alpine moss fields consisting predominantly as the name implies of mosses.
Depending on the location of the site, alpine plants may need to be considered. Plants that exhibit multiple functions should be considered in the design.
Legumes are those plants belonging to the plant families Mimosaceae, Fabaceae and Caesalpiniaceae. These families are well represented in Australia. Most plants in these families have small nodules on their roots containing bacteria that convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form suitable for use by the plant. This gives such plants the ability to enrich soils with nitrogen rather than impoverishing them. Legumes can be useful in this way in preparing soils for other plants or can be planted in conjunction with other species.
These legumes trees are used for stacking in permaculture designs. Forming the upper level, they provide a more protected understorey environment plus provide nitrogen into the soil.
OBTAINING A PDC