There is organic gardening which a lot of green thumbs employ. And then there’s permaculture. What’s the difference? Well, the one thing they have in common is the principle that we don’t need to use unsustainable products to produce food

Permaculture takes this concept to its logical conclusion by giving a farmer a framework to create a system that is sort of like a closed loop. All the parts of the garden work together to use as few resources as possible.

It’s energy efficient, very economical and produces a very high yield.

While there are hundreds of books on the subject, this guide will give you a few ideas to give you an idea of how it works.

1 – Harvest water

Whether your garden is small or large, there is almost always enough water to keep your plants healthy without having to actually use city water. The concept is that there is no shortage of water, it’s just a matter of not harvesting it properly if you find that your garden doesn’t get enough rain to sustain it.

There is plenty of rain to harvest by using the roof of your house or other collection methods. This is not the same as stormwater runoff that is often polluted. A rain barrel is one of the easiest ways to collect rainwater and then store it for future use.

You can also dig out a cistern to collect the rainwater if you want to make sure you never run low.

2 – Grey water

A lot of domestic use water gets wasted and just flows to a treatment plant that would otherwise be used again in your garden. This is called grey water as it isn’t clean enough to collect and drink, but does work to passively water your plants. 

You can configure your shower drain to run directly out to your garden as long as it passes through a gravel and sand filter to remove the soap and other residue. Now you aren’t wasting that water and the cycle continues. 

3 – Plan it out by the sun

Some plants love a lot of sun and others prefer a bit of shade. When plotting out your garden, take this into consideration. Gauge where the sun is throughout the day and when there is shade so you can plant accordingly. 

If you have lots of sun, you can use the plants themselves to create shade for others. Something viny that loves a lot of sun can be grown on an A frame trellis and then underneath you can plant something that prefers the shade

This is called plant stacking and is how the natural world operates. Walking through a forest provides a good example of this. There will be short shrubs around the floor of the forest and close to the paths. Then vines stretch up through the trees which cover everything below. 

If there is not really enough sun for plants that like warmth, plant them close to the house to take advantage of the fact that the house gives off heat when the sun goes down.

4 – Think about diversity

Have a plan for the entire year when planting so that you can be harvesting virtually year round. And if you plant correctly, you can have the soil regenerate itself so you don’t need to use fertilizer. For instance, you should rotate the plots and always add some kind of peas or beans to an area to replenish the nitrogen in the soil.

An example would be to have an area dedicated to early growers such as peas, radishes and greens. Another area for things that take a while like broccoli and another area for the things in between like tomatoes and peppers. Then rotate those areas for next year. You’ll be harvesting at least the fourths of the year and making sure that every area is as fertile as possible. 

This is called succession planting and when done correctly will not only provide food for longer periods, but it will help the soil replenish itself so you don’t need to fix it. You can even interplant so that when one plant is nearing the end of its life cycle there are already the sprouts of the new plants coming up after it.

5 – Companion planting 

Taking the succession planting idea one step further, you can plant things together that benefit each other. Some plants actually help each other grow better. For instance, you can plant corn and then have bean vines climb up the corn stalks while the roots of the beans provide nitrogen for the corn. 

Cucumbers and other growers will also work well here.

Some other types of companion planting are not just for the benefit of the soil, but can also attract the right insects to help the garden along. Different insects have different feeding schedules during different times of the year. So, having a diverse garden can help immensely in attracting, or even repelling different insects. 

6 – Compost

The cycle of life in nature is that the dead plants nourish the live ones. Then those ones die and the cycle goes on and on. The only fertilizer needed is what comes from the plants that have died and decompose.

You can achieve the same thing by utilizing a compost pile or bin to speed up the process. Anytime you mow the grass, trim the bushes or pull up some weeds, you can add it to the pile along with some straw and manure from whatever animals you have like chickens.

This is hot composting as the heap will heat up quite a bit as the bacteria multiply to break down the plants into a rich and fertile soil. 


The whole idea of permaculture is to let nature do what it does best. Though you will be coming up with the plan, when nature is in charge, then things happen in the best and most efficient way possible. It may seem like a lot of work, but you’re actually making your life easier.