Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Permaculture uses landforms, mulch, and layered plantings to create a gardening environment that uses little supplemental water. An added bonus is that properly mulched permaculture rarely has enough weeds to complain about. Permaculture can be used in designing vegetable and herb gardens or for complete ornamental landscape designs.

Here is a little snapshot on how the elements of permaculture work in the garden and landscape:


Permaculture often depends on berms and swells to best utilize and conserve water. Plants are placed according to their needs for drainage or moisture and the type of wind and sun exposure they prefer. By utilizing berms and swells any irrigation water is utilized twice. Once as it is applied to the top of the berm. And again as that water migrates down through the berm to the lower levels. Berms and swells also discourage run off and concentrate moisture in the low areas. Carefully designed berms and swells are very efficient at water and soil conservation.


Many permaculture landscapes are heavily mulched. The bottom layer of the mulch is often a few inches of cardboard or newspaper, or even both. This is often topped with several inches of straw or woodchips, and occasionally the whole is covered with weed cloth and then a decorative mulch. The mulch is refreshed several times a year. All this mulch is effective at reducing plant heat stress, conserving moisture, feeding worms and soil micro-organisms.

Layered Plantings

In permaculture gardens and landscapes you will often find 3 or 4 distinct vegetative layers. These are designed to reduce heat stress to the plants (and people) and also to reduce moisture evaporation from the soil. Here is a little snap shot of what that might look like: In the garden – Canopy Layer; fruit and nut trees trained to develop open crowns. Under story; shorter fruit bearing shrubs and arbored vines. Ground level; seasonal annual or perennial vegetables, often grown in filtered or partial shade. In the landscape- Canopy level; tall open crowned spreading trees, Under story; mid sized trees for color, fruit or other interest. Sub story: shorter trees or shrubs for variety, fruit, or color. Ground level - low-growing, often shade loving plants.

Between the landforms, mulch, and layered plantings permaculture gardens and landscapes are extremely water efficient. Once established they are very low maintenance and fit into a busy life with ease. However, these are not gardens that are born in a day. Study and experimentation are necessary before jumping into the planning stage. For more information see: Or ask your local librarian or bookstore to recommend some books. One title you might find useful is Permaculture in a NutShell, by Patrick Whitfield, Permanent Publications, (June 1993)

That's all for now - see you back here in a few days . . .

Sponsors? I am starting to notice lots of sites picking up my posts . . . I wonder if it is too soon to be thinking of sponsors? If you would care to advertise on my blog contact me by e-mail. I am going to be very picky about the companies I choose for sponsors. Harvest –


rambles2003 said...

I think the correct Permaculture term is "swale", not "swell".
I found your blog through Google because I wanted to know how to spell Permaculture "berm". Is it "berm" or "burm"? Now I'm not so sure.

Harvest said...

Your right, it should be swale, not swell . . . And I have always seen it spelt berm-- but who the heck knows . . .