Permaculture Pros and Cons
When you set out on your journey to create a more sustainable, eco-friendly garden or farm, you’ll likely come across the term “permaculture”. Permaculture is a type of agriculture process aimed at creating ecosystems that mimic those you’ll find out in nature. At its core, permaculture is a way of designing and an agricultural philosophy. It’s something you may take at basic levels or pursue more intensively as a way of life. We will discuss the pros and cons of permaculture in this article.
In this article, you’ll learn a bit more about what permaculture is, as well as its potential benefits and drawbacks.
Examples of Permaculture
Before we get right into the pros and cons of practicing permaculture, let’s look at some real-world examples.
- Personal Vegetable Gardens – Yes, growing veggies is a very basic example of permaculture! If you garden in an eco-friendly, natural way, you’re already practicing permaculture. Remember, it is essentially just imitating systems that exist in nature, so starting a garden and using natural methods for things like pest control and fertilizing certainly counts.
- Vermiculture – Vermiculture, often called worm composting, is the practice of using worms to create rich compost. You’re setting worms up to do what they do in nature, meaning you’re engaged in permaculture.
- Rainwater Collection – When you collect or harvest rainwater and use that in your garden, you are watering your crops in a natural, sustainable way. You are using what your environment gives you.
- Food Forests – Food forests are more advanced than your basic vegetable garden, but they’re a fantastic example of permaculture. Food forests layer different types of edible plants, fungi, and animals together until it becomes a self-sustaining, natural system, which is the very goal of permaculture. These are all designed to imitate natural, resilient ecosystems and usually involve seven different layers that work together to live and thrive.
- Natural Building Practices – This type of permaculture centers around using natural materials (like cob, bamboo, adobe, and more) to create buildings, homes, and other structures to minimize environmental impact.
The above list is only a glance at a few permaculture practices, but it illustrates how easy it is to get involved and incorporate them into your life.
Pros and Cons
Now that you have a grasp on what counts as permaculture and a basic idea of what it is, let’s explore its benefits and potential drawbacks. There are many benefits to permaculture, as you may have guessed when you saw “vegetable gardens” at the top of the list of examples. To be truly conscious of your environment, though, you need both sides!
The Pros of Permaculture
If you’re already practicing sustainable gardening, farming, or living in general, you’ll probably guess some of permaculture’s biggest benefits. You may have embraced several of them already without realizing how they tie into this particular philosophy!
One of the main tenets of permaculture (and sustainability in general) is that we should use what is available in the natural environment first. This includes things like harvesting rainwater, planting companion crops to protect and nourish one another, and making your own compost.
Permaculture potentially reduces several different types of pollution, including air pollution, groundwater pollution, and soil pollution. It steers you away from using harmful chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and other treatments, as well as working to reduce the amount of material used in gardening.
Think about it: not reaching for chemical sprays and powders means you’re not purchasing products housed in plastic containers. You’re putting less into massive landfills that cause pollution. You’re using less heavy equipment because you’re doing the work with your own hands. All of these things lead to less pollution of all types!
Limit and Protect Against Risks
Perhaps one of the most impressive benefits of permaculture is its ability to create long-term protection against risks to your garden and farm. Certain practices, like monoculture, come with risks to your plants and soil. Permaculture promotes diversity in the way you plant, and it encourages you to include a multitude of different plants that support each other.
This means you’ve protected your crops against things like pests and disease while restoring balance to your soil. This helps with everything from plant growth to soil erosion.
Reduces the Loss of Biodiversity
Permaculture seeks to prevent (and undo) the effects of harmful, unsustainable farming practices. Certain harsh practices, like deforestation, have destroyed natural habitats around the globe. Several species of animals and plants have become endangered or gone extinct as a result, but a large shift toward permaculture can slow the effect and prevent it from occurring to such an extent in the future.
The Cons of Permaculture
Even the most worthwhile things come with some degree of risk. There are many upsides to permaculture, but you may face roadblocks along the way.
More Suited to Small-Scale Farming
Critics of permaculture often say that it’s a practice more suited to small-scale operations and farms or gardens. While it’s true that it’s easier to institute permaculture designs and practices for smaller gardens than giant agricultural efforts, it isn’t impossible.
Permaculture doesn’t have to serve as a solitary approach. For instance, areas may combine permaculture with sustainable forestry for a broader effect.
Limited Knowledge and Funding
Many farmers aren’t familiar with permaculture, so there’s a lack of knowledge on how to proceed. Widespread educational efforts are difficult, and many may not have the money it would take to shift their farming techniques to something new.
Short Term Losses
Permaculture is a long-term solution. The switch may lead to some short-term losses, like smaller crop yields and some financial loss for farmers. However, proper permaculture rectifies that situation itself, and practitioners trade short-term losses for long-term gains.
Neither permaculture nor sustainability is a one-size-fits-all thing, so understanding and embracing the goal helps steer your efforts. You may choose to incorporate certain elements, while others pick different branches on their paths.
If you’re interested in the concept of permaculture and want to know how to incorporate native plants into your garden and landscaping, be sure to join us on July 22 for a presentation with the expert botanist and author, Margie Hunter. You’ll learn about the benefits of native plants and even see a few that we use here at Stony Creek Farm. We hope to see you there!