Small-scale, intensive site design

Using the principles of permaculture design, we can pack innumerable useful functions onto even a very small residential yard, such as are commonly found in suburban and urban areas. A couple of excerpts from Mollison and Slay’s Intro to Permaculture book:

“Contrast the large cleared areas of Australia and North America with the small, intensively-farmed areas in the Philippines, where the total land around the house is usually only twelve square meters” (=less than 130 square feet!): “out of this comes most of the food for the family. The house is often on stilts, with animals penned beneath. Garden surrounds the house. Scraps and trimmings are fed to the animals; manures are used on the garden. Trellis, holding passionfruit, gourds, beans, and other climbing vegetables, shelters the house from extreme heat and provides food for the family. Fast growing trees … are coppiced for fuelwood. So stay close to the house, and work towards developing small, intensive systems. We can plant 10 critical trees, and look after them, whereas we plant 100 we can lose up to 60% of them from lack of site preparation and care.” …

And similarly, garden/orchard plantings grouped around houses in Central America:

“Close to the house and more or less surrounding it is a compact garden and orchard some 20 square meters” (=less than 216 square feet!) “in extent. No two of these are exactly alike. There are neat plantations more or less grouped together. There are various fruit trees … And a thicket of coffee bushes in the shade of the larger trees. There are tapioca (cassava) plants of one or two species, grown more or less in rows at the edge of the trees. Frequently there are patches of banana; corn and beans are here and there in rows or patches. Climbing and scrambling all over all are vines of various squashes and their relatives: the chayote (choko) grown for its squashes, as well as its big starchy root; and the luffa gourd, its skeleton used for dishrags and sponges. The cucurbits clamber over the eaves of the house and run along the ridgepole, climb high in the trees, or festoon the fence. Setting off the whole garden are flowers and various useful weeds (dahlias, rosemary, gladioli, climbing roses, asparagus fern, cannas and grain amaranth).”

“… European gardens, often extraordinarily tidy, result in functional disorder and low yield. Creativity is seldom tidy. Perhaps we could say that tidiness is something that happens when compulsive activity replaces thoughtful creativity.”

(From Introduction to Permaculture; by Bill Mollison with Reny Mia Slay.)

And one of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Permaculture is not energy- or capital-intensive, rather it is information-intensive. It is the quality of thought and the information we use that determines yield, not the size or quality of the site. We are using not only our physical resources, but our ability to access information and to process it. Information is the most portable and flexible investment we can make in our lives; it represents the knowledge, experience, ideas, and experimentation of thousands of people before us.”

#PermacultureDesignPrinciples #SmallScaleIntensiveSystems