10 Steps to Implement Permaculture on Your Farm

Start where you are and work slowly toward your permaculture goal. These steps will help guide you to start growing plants in synthesis with your environment.


Permaculture is a study of the complex relationships between the many factors that can sustain a productive landscape. Growing according to permaculture principles helps minimize your effort in the garden while maximizing harvests. It promises continuity beyond the typical annual garden as well as benefits to many species and resources.

Permaculture is a term coined by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the mid-1970s. It’s a combination of the words “permanent” and “agriculture” (or culture). In Practical Permaculture, authors Jessi Bloom and Dave Boehnlein state that it’s similar to architecture and engineering in that it starts with a design approach.

“Whether we are designing a house, a chicken coop, a garden, a bowling alley or a schoolyard, permaculture is a process that starts with a problem and finds solutions. In permaculture, design decisions are first based on ethics and then incorporate the logic of natural systems. Mimicking nature’s patterns makes our lives more sustainable and less reliant on resources outside of our control.”

They summarize the concept by writing, “permaculture can be defined as meeting human needs through ecological and regenerative design.”

While the idea of gardening in nature’s image can seem appealing, sometimes the recommended ways to do so can be overwhelming. The key is to start where you are and work slowly toward your goal. Here are 10 ways you can begin a permaculture path.

1. Collect & Analyze

Permaculture is practiced in every state and many countries around the world. Seeing permaculture principles in action can truly inspire you, and talking to the practicing gardeners, sometimes called “permies,” can help hone your ideas, avoid pitfalls and access community resources such as free wood chips, tool libraries and local sustainability groups.

Many communities host garden tours that include permaculture gardens. Your local library, plant nursery or newspaper might list tours. Calling the county extension is another way to find a farm open to the public. You can also search for places offering permaculture design courses and visiting hours.

Reading can take you on a virtual permaculture tour. Find beautiful books at your library or browse online. Social media sites, such as Facebook and Meetup, contain local, regional and global permaculture groups filled with encouragement for the beginner.

As you collect, list the resources that speak to you and your needs. Take note of what exists on your property, your gardening goals, and your personal strengths and weaknesses.

2. Design Your Garden


You might plan to create an entire permaculture system from unbroken ground. You might transition an existing garden to permaculture style. Or you also might start a small permaculture bed or project. Regardless, take the experiences and goals defined in the collecting phase and begin defining a plan.

Permaculture designs include consideration for water sources and use; existing land elements, such as elevation and shade; perennial and annual plants, play and gathering spaces; and growth over time. Professional permaculture designers make detailed overlaid paper plans accounting for each of these elements. You can find permaculture design courses, books and videos to guide you in structured planning processes.

Alternatively, create a more casual design in your head or with sketches based on how you know you work and live. A property map from your county auditor or Google Earth is a great place to start a written plan because the physical boundaries and major structures are usually noted. Then you can draw existing plantings and resources in addition to those you intend to add.

There’s no single right way to design a permaculture space, and you can adapt your design to changing experiences, goals or needs.


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