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A permaculture system is a unique landscape where all the plants and animals live in balance in a self-sustaining ecosystem. It commonly involves developing a garden or farm where the plants and animals are put together in such a way that they support each others' growth and development. The garden or farm may very well change over the years, but it always remains productive, requires little input once established, and is environmentally sound.

Growing organic vegetables in the permaculture garden

  • Build soil to good structure using compost, manures, green manures and mulch to supply plants with balanced nutrients. Minimise tillage.
  • Provide good drainage - vital for a successful vegetable garden. If you have clay soil or if your site is in a low-lying area then prepare a raised growing bed 30cm above the natural ground level. Use retaining materials such as untreated timber sleepers or bricks to support the raised bed and ensure the soil does not fall away. Provide sufficient drainage holes at the base of any retaining material so water can readily drain out from the bed. Slotted drains (agricultural pipes) may be needed if poor drainage prevails, but remember that you need to design the vegetable plot so that the water has somewhere to run.
  • Use balanced watering. Water at critical times to avoid plant stress.  
  • Use healthy seed and plants; pest and disease resistant varieties and certified virus free seed where possible. Always check expiry dates on seed packets and choose strong, green seedlings. Some seedling producers actually "starve" their plants purposely to keep them from becoming root bound when contained in punnets or flats. Such plants are often leggy and pale in colour (i.e. they are nitrogen deficient). Treat starved seedlings by spraying the foliage with a liquid plant food such as a soluble seaweed fertiliser.
  • Choose plants to suit the site and the soil. Select planting times to avoid specific pests, diseases, cold or heat.
  • Select as many perennial plants as possible – use annuals as ‘fillers’ only.
  • Monitor the garden for potential weed, pest and disease problems before they take hold.
  • Provide habitats (grow suitable plants and flowers) to encourage natural predators.
  • Provide ventilation between plants
  • Avoid monoculture – plant a diverse range of species. Try companion planting.
  • Cover the soil with mulch to protect the soil from damage through exposure, to encourage and protect soil organisms and to hold in moisture.
  • Practice crop rotation.
  • Monitor pH levels.
  • Sow a green manure or cover crop in fallow beds in autumn or winter and dig the plants into the soil before they reach maturity (i.e. before flowering) in spring or just leave them on top of the soil as mulch. However do not grow root crops such as carrots and parsnips after the addition of manure or a cover crop, as it makes them fork. Grow and harvest leafy crops first then sow carrots/parsnips (without any more additives) as the following crop.
  • Don't overcrowd plants - resist the temptation to plant small seedlings too close together as this will result in less than satisfactory growth, even with good soil preparation. Plants starved for space and light will rarely produce a good crop. Spacing is important for sunlight and for root spread. Overcrowding will also reduce ventilation around the plants, making them more susceptible to disease, such as fungal rots.
  • Maintain adequate levels of nutrients without over fertilising. Annual vegetables grow rapidly and use a lot of plant food. The compost you incorporated in your seed bed preparation may not be released fast enough to keep up with the plant's capacity to grow. Top-dress the soil of the vegetable plot with a suitable organic fertiliser.
  • Harvest regularly – over-ripe vegetables attract insect pests.

Learn about Permaculture with ACS

Permaculture I, II, III and IV were originally developed as part of an Advanced Certificate. These 100 hour courses can be studied individually and each one builds on the previous one.

Permaculture Systems and Advanced Permaculture are more demanding and intensive courses intended as higher and more academic levels of study. Though only 100 hours each, together they cover much of the same ground as Permaculture I, II, III and IV.

Do not attempt to do all six.

Start with either Permaculture I and  move to II, III and IV OR start with Permaculture Systems and move on to Advanced Permaculture.

Permaculture is particularly prescient as we look to ways in which we can better manage our environment, and live in better harmony with the world around us. Permaculture is not passing fad, it was created in the 1970's by Bill Mollison and the term Permaculture directly references the principle of permanent (sustainable) agriculture.

Permaculture systems can be developed on different scales, meaning that they are also relevant to those seeking to find a more self-sufficient approach to their lives.

Our Permaculture courses are studied by distance learning, and can be started at any time. Students are guided and supported in their studies by our excellent and highly knowledgeable tutors. If you have any questions, or would like to know more, please get in touch with our specialist Permaculture tutors today.

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