Permaculture is a design approach for creating self-sustaining systems that support the health of people, the environment, and communities. It can be used to model gardens, agricultural systems, buildings, and other human environments after natural ecosystems. An edible landscape incorporating permaculture principles can bring countless benefits to you and your family. Here are 7 of the most compelling:
1. It will feed you.
In addition to introducing you to an array of delicious new foods, permaculture gardens provide families with a continuous supply of healthy, fresh, organic fruits and vegetables. This bio-intensive approach enables families to produce lots of food in a relatively small space.
2. You might just win yard of the month.
Think you can’t grow food and have a beautiful yard at the same time? Think again. There are many different ways to apply ecological principles to create a both abundant and attractive landscape. Permaculture gardens can very beautiful and rich with diverse colors, textures, lines, and patterns that can aesthetically enhance your home. Styles range from forested landscapes to ones that appear indistinguishable from conventional landscapes. What makes these divergent garden styles of edible ecological landscapes all similar is that they are based on nature’s template.
3. It’s good for the environment.
Permaculture landscapes reduce emissions and dependence on fossil fuels by offering alternatives to the transportation, industrial manufacturing, and pesticides involved in modern food production. When well-designed, these landscapes sequester carbon, conserve biodiversity, provide animal habitat, control erosion, restore soil, conserve water, and reduce chemical runoff into the surrounding environment and water supply.
4. It’s less work.
Ecological design and permaculture allow homeowners to create garden landscapes that provide bountiful food without pesticides and require little maintenance. Edible landscapes mimic natural ecosystems. In an ecological landscape, multifunctional species form synergistic relationships with one another to create an ecosystem that maintains itself. Diversity in age, structure, function, and species ensures that few niches are left open, so weeds and pests never get the chance to become much of a problem. Living mulch, contour swales, and intensive planting can greatly decrease or eliminate the need for watering. The majority of the plants are perennial, meaning they live year after year, and many self-fertilize or fertilize neighboring plants. Therefore, edible landscapes do not require the continual re-planting, tilling, weeding, and fertilizing involved in traditional vegetable gardening.
5. It can bring your community together.
Edible landscapes enrich communities by beautifying neighborhoods and strengthening their social capital. Just imagine inviting friends to your backyard one summer afternoon to pick ripe blueberries right off the bush, or a kind neighbor knocking on your door with a batch of freshly cut asparagus to share! Edible landscapes demonstrate how we can design our environments to encourage friendships and make healthy choices fun and easy.
6. You’ll be more resilient.
In addition to cost reduction and improved access to healthy food, edible landscapes and permaculture gardens are great ways to build environmental and human resilience into communities. They can enable homeowners and their families to be more resilient in the face of financial difficulties or other reasons for food shortage. They also provide a healthy habitat for bees and other pollinators, which helps to protect our future food supply, which is especially important today as we face colony collapse disorder.
7. It’s great for kids.
Edible gardens are a great way to get kids outside, active, and engaged with nature and the world around them. As urban gardening activist Ron Finley of Los Angeles astutely points out, they are also superb tools for making healthy eating interesting and fun.
“If kids grow kale, kids eat kale. If they grow tomatoes, they eat tomatoes.”
Time spent in nature is also critical to healthy development in children. According to Dr. Stephen R. Kellert of Yale University, “Play in nature, particularly during the critical period of middle childhood, appears to be an especially important time for developing the capacities for creativity, problem-solving, and emotional and intellectual development.” While edible gardens can give children safe and ultra-accessible space for unstructured play in nature, they can also serve as excellent classrooms as they are full of educational tools and opportunities for kinesthetic learning.