12 Permaculture principles: gardening pathways for successful sustainability

Permaculture definition is a design science that can help you create the life you hope to achieve.  

Permaculture principles and ethics can help you make decisions that are right for you and the land. Permaculture: principles and pathways beyond sustainability

12 Principles of Permaculture

12 principles of permaculture gardening ethics pathways beyond sustainability pdf examples

1. Observation

This is the number one principle in permaculture, and for good reason.  Taking the time to observe your site, interacting, walking around, watching and seeing how things are.  

These observations will be key in being able to make your design later on, dictating what we put into our design and how it’s going to flow.

2. Catch and Store Energy

Being able to store the energies that come onto your site are crucial to creating a sustainable homestead.

solar panel permaculture 12 principles gardening ethics sustainability
water storage permaculture 12 principles ethics sustainability

Methods include:

  • Solar panels catch sunlight and store it in batteries
  • Water tank catches and stores rainwater
  • Overflow water can be used to feed plants, which also helps store energy
  • Wind generators
  • Collecting and storing wood for heat and cooking
wind generator permaculture 12 principles ethics sustainability
firewood storage permaculture 12 principles ethics sustainability

3. Obtain a Yield

Get something more from what you do.  There are any number of ways to accomplish this:

  • Plant a fruit tree, which will yield edible food when it’s in season
  • Get eggs from chickens
  • Generating income from your homestead (crafts, youtube videos, produce, etc..)

4. Accept Feedback and Make Change Accordingly

If something does not seem to be working, do not keep doing it.  Learn from what is happening and make appropriate changes to encourage success.

Perhaps certain vegetables do not grow well in your area. 

Perhaps certain animals behave a certain way in different environments.

Perhaps some animals behave in a way until they reach a certain age, and then that behaviour changes.

Recognize that and introduce new ones that will thrive.

5. Use Renewable Resources

Whenever possible, seek to use resources that can be renewed. 

This naturally applies to energy, but also to ecological building, soil conservation, and planting perennial food crops.

The dangers of relying on non-renewables, technological fixes and speculative money are becoming ever more evident.

6. Produce No Waste

permaculture compost bins 12 principles ethics sustainability

Find ways in your designs to not create waste:  

  • Food scraps can be repurposed in compost or worm bins.
  • Cardboard can be used for sheet mulching.
  • Plant waste can be used for mulch
  • Dead trees can be used for firewood

7. Design from Patterns to Details

Look at the big picture of your design first, the pattern of what sustainable living might be:  

  • Where do you want to put a large tree?
  • Where do you want to put vegetables?
permaculture design patterns to details 12 principles ethics sustainability

Design the overall sections of your space first, then you can start refining the details appropriate for your particular site:

  • What kind of fruit tree? 
  • Which root vegetables? 
  • What herbs will complement trees and plants?

8. Integrate Rather than Segregate

Permaculture is not about whether you have a food forest, a swale, an herb spiral, or a chicken run. Permaculture is about how the food forest relates to and interacts with the swale. Or how the herb spiral interacts with the chickens.

By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other.

permaculture integrate rather than segregate 12 principles ethics sustainability
Allowing many different plant types to grow together will help promote a health and happy eco-system

You want find ways to brings things together as a cohesive whole:

  • Allow vegetables to grow amongst other plants
  • Allow animals to be free amongst the space
  • Allow certain welcome “pests” to repel and ward off unwelcome “pests”

9. Use Slow and Small Solutions

Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and producing more sustainable outcomes.

This permaculture gardening principles speaks of hand tools, of appropriate technology that can easily be fixed, and of relocation.

10. Value Diversity

Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.

  • Biodiversity creates healthy ecosystems
  • Diversity in terms of crops, energy sources, and employment, make for greater sustainability
  • Valuing diversity amongst people makes for a more peaceful, equitable society. 

11. Utilize Edges

The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.

Permaculture examples of ‘edge’ in nature are: 

  • Where canopy meets clearing in the woodland
  • Where sea and river meet land
  • Where the banks of streams meet the water’s edge
  • Where plains and water meet
permaculture utilize edges 12 principles ethics sustainability
We can increase the yield of the system by manipulating where two ecosystems meet and designing in their unique species through the edge effect.

The edge in nature is all about increasing diversity through increasing the inter-relationship between the elements:

  • Earth
  • Air
  • Fire (sun)
  • Water 

12. Creatively Use and Respond to Change

We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing and then intervening at the right time.

When we design with change in mind, we are allowing for a flexible stability that flows with the seasons, with the years and the generations that are to come.


Where do I start with Permaculture?

Starting a Permaculture Garden can be done in 8 Steps:

1. Familiarize yourself with your surroundings.
2. Design your garden layout.
3. Build your garden beds.
4. Choose plants based on your environment.
5. Add compost without disturbing the soil.
6. Plant your permaculture garden.
7. Add organic mulch to the topsoil.
8. Use an efficient and sustainable watering system.

What are disadvantages of Permaculture?

While the positives far outnumber the negatives, there can be some perceived disadvantages to permaculture practices.

– Skepticism because it is a relatively new concept
– It takes time to see the real benefits
– Short-term losses vs. long-term benefits
– Permaculture can look quite messy
– May lead to unpleasant smell
– Unwanted bacteria and pests may spread
– Famers are not used to it
– May not be sustainable for mass production

What are the effects of Permaculture?

Main benefits of permaculture can be identified as:
– Improved human health
– Increased environmental change resilience
– Reduction of input costs
– Improved soil biodiversity

Main challenges include:
– Pest infestation
– High initial labour investment
– Lack of proper knowledge of permaculture practices

Why should some vegetables be grown together and others not?

Nutrients and pests are the 2 reasons for growing plants together or apart.
If you put plants together that have the same pest problems, that may seem like an open invitation to the pest.
If both plants require the same nutrients, they may deplete the soil, and neither plant will thrive.
Then there are some combinations that work the other way, where the plants provide the nutrients for their partner plants.