So, what is permaculture anyway?

I took an urban gardening class today through the Solar Living Institute based on permaculture concepts. It was very interesting and inspiring. After a day of information intake, I’m usually overwhelmed, but today I’m not. I’m excited about all that there is to learn, and thrilled to notice that I have a solid foundation.

So, what is permaculture anyway? It’s a holistic approach to working with nature that integrates consideration of the earth, consideration of people and being fair socially, economically and to future generations. This is very similar to the Blue Movement, but is more concrete in how it can be applied. Unlike many other fields, permaculture has a set of guiding principles that helps you think about the project at hand.

One major principle is efficiency, which manifests in many ways, including:
-No til gardening by heavy mulching and composting
-Plant selection for your climate, which for us is drought tolerant for less watering
-Planting edible perennials so that each year your garden feeds you more with less work

Basically, putting a little thought and effort into the planning and creation of your garden so that only a little maintenance is required.

Another concept is creating ecosystems in your garden. This is done by planting many different plants together that get along – tall and short, shade and light, plants that repel each other pest’s, plants that pull up nutrients from the deep soil for other plants to use. This ties into efficiency.

There’s a lot more to this, and there are lots of resources to learn more. That was one of the great things about the class. The teacher cited many, many books, websites and organizations that are available in the bay area. It makes me really glad to be here now.

Here’s a list of the resources from my notes.

Gaia’s Garden
Build Your Own Earth Oven by Kiko Denzer
The Soil Food Web
The Earth Moved
Ann LoveJoy’s Organic Garden Design School
Food Not Lawns
Guerrilla Gardening
Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands
Author Ruth Stout
Golden Gate Gardening – a great book for gardening in San Francisco (Ynnej, can I have it back now?)

Back Yard Orchard Culture
Village Harvest
Alemany Farm is the largest urban farm. It happens to be about a mile from my house.
Ploughshares Nursery in Alameda
Urban Permaculture Guild
Solar Living Institute

Other resources I’ve found:
Occidental Arts and Ecology Center
Valley of Heart’s Delight run by a good friend of ours Susan Stansbury. They focus on reconnecting to local, seasonal, organic food on the Peninsula.
Urban Sprouts is an organization in San Francisco that brings gardens to schools, classrooms and plates.
Hidden Villa is a beautiful organic farm in Los Altos on the peninsula. They have a CSA program and a summer camp for urban youth and a hostel in the winter.
The Global Warming Diet written by a good friend of ours and a fabulous chef!
Ecology Center – does many, many cool projects, including farmers markets, an eco-house and demonstration garden in Berkeley
Slow Food Nation is a week long slow food extravaganza here in SF – all the information, food, and parties you could ever want. It’s hosted by the US Chapter of Slow Food International. Slow Food is a non-profit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organization that was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world.
Three Stone Hearth is a worker-owned cooperative, offering
nutrient dense foods to homes and families around the San Francisco Bay Area. You subscribe, they make healthy food, you pick the food you want from the menu for the week, you pick up or they deliver (which costs more of course). Yum!
Food Declaration – Declaration for Healthy Food and Agriculture which will call for healthy food, farms, and communities will be read aloud in a ceremony at Slow Food Nation on August 28th, in the Rotunda of San Francisco’s City Hall. Roots of Change will be working with Slow Food and other NGOs for the next nine months to collect hundreds of thousands more signatures using face-to-face meetings and the World Wide Web. These signatures will be delivered, along with a set of policy recommendations to policy makers in Washington in the Fall of 2009.
RSF Social Finance provides socially responsible investors, donors, for-benefit organizations, and social enterprises innovative investing, lending, and philanthropic services to promote environmental, social, and economic sustainability.
UpStream21 puts financial resources into small, successful, eco-friendly, privately owned companies, such as small farms and timber companies
The American Food System – A Commonwealth Club panel
Local Harvest helps you find farmers markets in your area no matter where you are in the US.

And because I could do this all night, here’s one last place where you can go to find all kinds of organizations of all varieties – WiserEarth with WISER standing for World Index of Social and Environmental Responsibility, is the first online database of all issues and organizations doing good work and it can be edited by the community.

Some Tips and Ideas from the class:
Duck eat slugs
Call local tree trimmers and ask for their wood chips. They’re often happy to give them to you for mulch because otherwise they often have to pay to dispose of them.
Consider turning your swimming pool into a swimming pond. There’s a company doing this in LA.
Remineralize your soil with rock dust.
Comfrey and Nettle are nutrient rich plants.
Mushrooms clean water and can act as natural filtration systems and give you yummy food!
Throw seed balls into vacant lots to encourage plants.
Prune the top 1/3 of your fruiting trees in the summer, after the tree is done bearing fruit, for fruit trees that have grown too tall to harvest by hand.
Try nasturium leaf pesto.
Make a potato column.
Mine the group genius.

Ok. I’m a little overwhelmed now. Still excited, but maybe just a little tired.
When I feel like there’s so much to learn and do that I don’t know where to start, I remember that I’ll start where I’m at with what I have and who I’m with.
That makes it doable.

Please let me know your favorite gardening and permaculture resources.

I’m going to pick the raw food recipes I’m going to make tomorrow. More on that later…

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One Response to So, what is permaculture anyway?

  1. Ben Zolno says:

    Thanks Velma!

    Looking for some links to pass on to a friend, happy I found yours.

    Ben Zolno, temporary resident filmmaker,

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