Questions And Answers On Permaculture Gardening

Rachel asks…

are plant guilds desirable to use in a permaculture-style garden?

is it possible to design a permaculture garden by using plant guilds? how does the size of the plot affect the decision? what are the advantages and disadvantages?

Home Gardener answers:


Yes it is a guide line for bio diversity planting
Permaculture gardens should be collections of guilds into niches.

As many as 8 or more plants planted with the same time frame in mind

,tall trees such as coconut palms and mangos.
Guanñabana or papapya underneath them(depending the specie of papapya ,Maradol is a pigmy papapya,and comes a level lower) ,
Banana to follow ,vines on the coconuts and the mango like vanilla ,
Sugar can beneath that,
Maybe some lines of corn (half shade corn)or bushes with fruits
Then things from half to one meter .pine apple or articoke
Pumpkins or other ground cover plants on the floor
Some low herbs and
Root plants like carrots depending the climate

Each place has its own species, this is just a tropical example
The whole resulting in a rough pyramid of plants.

There are no disadvantages ,the soil ends up healthy
and there are few pests.

The only possible disadvantage is small amounts of produce but of a great diversity
making the idea not so comercial
The Mexican Indigenous peoples of Oaxaca plant in a consecative time frame which is a traditional style ,

First they plant Agave(Tequila cactus) ,in lines ,
with a corn that is planted singular instead of the usual 3 seeds to a hole in between.,and the stem is stronger
when the corn has reached a certain hight they follow this up with a small climbing bean ,that utilizes the corn stem
and pumpkins and herbs are planted as ground cover ,
that will not be ripe untill well after , first the beans then the corn has been harvested
Guilds are models of compatibility merging with the concept of Companion planting

So bio diversity is the overall concept that is streamlined into companion planting (plants that are physically and chemically compateble ,)

And guilds is how we end up with stylized grouping to act as a guideline for the farmers.

Consisting of usually permanent plants or trees to provide shelter from the wind (vertical coverage )to act as niches,
or shade from the sun (high crowns)or structural (poles)
mixed with seasonals like ,vegetables or other utility plants .
you can do a heck of a lot on less than half an acre
the minimum size is a circle of a diameter of 30 metres .

Ideally because you want part of it as trees to provide a canopy that locks in the Humidity,as well as to bring shade and cool ness to part of the garden .

The perimetre should be a wall of some sort like bamboo or bushes
to have a niche effect and to further lock in humidity as well as temperature .
A tightly niched garden can differ by as much as ten degrees with the outside
going in both directions
my Garden in Mexico is ten degrees cooler than the road ,

but in cold places it can be ten degrees warmer .making all the difference of life or death ,in places that can have night frost


If you plant trees in a circle ,their crowns will shade maybe 8 metres each across .
So in order to remain with a sunny spot in the middle (for those veggies that need the light )the trees have to be about 30 metres apart.

But you can be smaller if you do a half moon garden .

Helena asks…

How should I start a permaculture garden?

I just read an article in Yoga magazine and was inspired to start my own permaculture garden but have no clue how to. Websites would be greatly appreciated.

Home Gardener answers:

Hi Lanie,

You’re asking about how to start a permaculture garden. I warmly, warmly recommend a book where an American woman travels to Australia (the birthplace of permaculture) and lives on a permaculture farm where she starts a garden in the middle of snakes, leeches, rain…. She doesn’t go very deep into permaculture as she travels all around the world on a shoestring, but it is a funny, touching, inspiring read. Part adventure travel, part life change, and a really really good vibe. I smiled throughout and wished it wouldn’t end. You can see the reviews on Amazon.

Here’s one bit about permaculture from that book.
“One example of a permaculture principle: the problem is the solution. Problem: the deer are eating my garden. Solution: eat the deer. Problem: slugs are eating my garden. Solution: ???

Her adventures on that farm are really funny.

You also ask about websites. The biggest permaculture resource is That is where I would start. From there, there are lots of friendly little sites. For instance, in Australia,, a permaculture farm. In fact, I would say that the best way to learn about permaculture gardening, if you have the time, would be to travel to Australia, where there are all these permaculture farms where you can volunteer under the program called wwoofing. The same kind of volunteering also exists in the States, particularly in Washington state, Oregon, North Carolina and Western Colorado.

Wishing you a beautiful garden (and weekend),


Elizabeth asks…

what is the importance of vegetable/herbs in a permaculture garden?

i need some help with this because i cant find it on the internet

it would also help if you told me the importance of:
water tanks

in a permaculture garden


Home Gardener answers:

Sarah, you would need to write a whole book just to cover the areas you list.

Permaculture is Permanent (agri) Culture.
So plants/trees/vegetables and herbs are essential parts of the garden. The idea is that you and your family become as auto efficient as possible, working with nature not against it. Using the least amount of human energy to provide a yield whilst enriching, not depleting the ecosystem. Permaculture is about creating beneficial relationships with plants, animals and other people.

So for example connections are made between different components. The chicken for example produces eggs, meat, feathers, manures as it walks around, it scratches so it weeds, eats bugs, they breed so repopulate, they free range. A chicken tractor (moveable pen) can be used so that chickens clear weedy plots of land for you and fertilize it. The tractor is then moved along to the next plot for clearing and fertilizing.

The bigger picture is that each component in the ecosystem is beneficial and reliant on the other. So animals are essential for the ecosystem. In my opinion, they do not have to be domesticated animals, they can be wild animals, but then I am a Vegan so my views differ from the majority of Permaculturists’ views on keeping animals.

Regarding Habitat: Permaculture is to live ethically and sustainably so we have to understand eco systems and how the natural world works. The key is to understand that we are a single system; not separate. Whatever we do locally affects other people and the environment globally. Local solutions provide the best answers, we have different climates, soils, flora and fauna. Different needs, wants, tradition and cultures. But by acting locally we must keep an eye on the Horizon by limiting the damage on the environment and people globally. For example Global Warming affects us all.

Permaculture seeks to design ways of meeting man’s needs by creating permanent high-yielding agricultural ecosystems. It is a solution aimed at how people can live on the smallest amount of land possible. The natural landscape (the rest, the wilderness is then not used by man) it is then left alone to heal and so it functions holistically.

Local responsibility ensures that people become as auto sufficient as possible both individually and as trading communities. Man is responsible for meeting his own needs for fuel, food and dealing with his own outputs and wastes.

Timber is grown on site in mixed native woodlands. This enriches the local ecosystem but its basis is the opposition of meeting man’s needs by deforestation of the remaining natural and ancient forests/woodlands. Permaculture is a system of observation and least possible intervention both in terms of the home and the wilderness. It’s leading principle is that eco-systems will naturally re-balance if left alone.

Hence the desire to create high yielding ‘homesteads’ to meet man’s needs as efficiently as possible. By creating our own mini high yielding systems for our own use we use the least amount of everything possible. The Ethics of Permaculture are: Earth Care this is simply working with nature not against it. Limiting consumption and self limiting family size so there is less demand on natural systems/finite resources/finite land.

So I will give you lots of links for you to look at:

Download the free ebook Essence of Permaculture on David Holmgren’s website.
David Holmgren & Su Dennett
Holmgren Design Services

Mark asks…

where can i find information on desert plants for permaculture garden?

growing in the desert of israel. We have some popular desert plants here that people grow, but i am sure there are a lot of other things out there that we don’t know about. How can i find them.

At this point i am particularly interested in food plants.

Home Gardener answers:

This is a wonderful site on the desert plants of Israel, with pictures. Working them into a permaculture garden should be interesting.

Richard asks…

I’d like some advice about starting a permaculture garden in SW Scotland.?

The books seem to be geared to warmer climes. Up here its jolly wet, windy and can be a wee bit chilly like minus 10. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of help for Scotland. Things take a lot longer to get established and varieties are more limited. Does anybody out there have experience in Scotland or know someone who does that I can visit? Thanks.

Home Gardener answers:

I know someone who can play the bagpipes.

Bob asks…

Have you any easy ideas for a permaculture garden?

Home Gardener answers:

I suggest getting some books on the subject from the library. There are also a few good websites.

Here’s one titled “Ten Steps To an Organic Permaculture Garden”:

Remember, like any garden – there is hard work in getting started…but once you’ve established it, it gets easier to maintain.

Joseph asks…

Can anyone help with information on Permaculture and or forest gardening?

After seeing a programme on tv the other day that mentioned both practises I am interested in learning more about them. Any help would be appreciated be it information or hints on good books to read. Thanks in advance. I will chose a best answer if I am lucky enough to get any.
Thanks for your help. I forgot to mention I am in the UK but the information is still extremely useful.
It is more of a learning curve at the moment. We have grown some vegetables and are moving on to fruit soon. But in the long term we would really like to move in with my brother in law and his family and find a small holding and become as self sufficent as possible. They are more experienced vegetable growers and keep chickens. We have harvested some wild foods before ie fungi etc. So mainly research for knowledge at present. Thanks for all the help. I am sorry I can only chose one best answer.

Home Gardener answers:

I too saw the programme you watched.
I don’t know how much of a gardener you are so I don’t quite know where to pitch the level of help.
Permaculture has been around for a long time in the UK. It just has a fancy name now. It basically means producing food with as little interference as possible. Use that as an aim in whatever you are planning to do. If you have a little suburban back garden then a forest type garden is out of the question but this does not stop you working in a way that interferes as little as possible with nature.
You will need to learn as much as you can about the plants you want to grow. Without that knowledge there is no point then let them grow as nature intended.
Feed your soil first. Loads of organic matter brings the soil alive. There is no need to dig unless it is a hole to plant something just a good thick layer about 3 inches deep.
Plant the area sympathetically starting with the tallest working down to the understorey.
To be more specific I would need to know what you want to grow and how ‘back to nature’ you intend to go.
A lot of the things we consider weeds are in fact edible and very nutritious so do you want to pull that dandelion out or eat it?

Edit…There is a beautifully illustrated book called “Wildfood” by Roger Phllips. It has recipes for all the indigenous and naturalized plants you are likely to come across in UK and coloured plates so there is no chance of eating the wrong plant.
An older but just as useful book if you can find it is “A country Harvest” by Pamela Michael. This covers herbal remedies and beauty treatments as well as recipes.
Try and learn all you can about good companion planting.


You may have already come across this site but here is the link if not Speaks fo itself!
Read up on indigenous and naturalised species. These are the plants that will grow the best and have a complete ecological balance here. That basically means for every pest there is a predator and for every disease there is a cure.


Make sure your plans include water. A pond or lake will make a huge difference to your project. A whole new dimension. You can breed fish to eat and the water will bring in many beneficials including newts, frogs and toads. It will also give your ducks (You have to have ducks!) somewhere to freshen up:)
Good luck in your venture. I am jealous already!

Oooh just though of one more thing…Don’t be scared to make your lives easier…There are plants like THORNLESS blackberries out there!

John asks…

Tilling soil with Permaculture?

I’m starting a new Permaculture vegetable garden, but the only spot I can have it is part of the lawn. Any tips for tilling an extremely grassy area using the rules of permaculture? Thanks in advance!

Home Gardener answers:

Most permaculturists would suggest burying the lawn under deep mulch and never tilling it. Do a search for “lasagna gardening” for specific directions.

I practice permaculture in my yard, and I advise tilling it this year, and advancing to no- till practices in future seasons. If you have a rototiller, you might still need to break the turf up a little to help it chew up the grass. Otherwise, just get out there with hoe and shovel and do it. Your goal is to break up the grass, work a little manure or compost into the soil, and leave the soil texture fluffy. If you try to work wet soil, it will turn to sticky mud.

Remember that the home vegetable garden is an intensively managed zone, and management practices will be much different there than in a pasture or forest garden. Permaculture excels at designing low input systems, but a vegetable garden is a small, high input zone.

Have fun, and remember that gardening is an art. It takes a few seasons to get it right. But the knowledge is also in our bones- your ancestors lived this way for a thousand generations.

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