I have been anxiously getting ready for this years planting season. This will be the 4th year I have will do a garden and I think I am finally getting close to my ideal state: a variety of produce right from my back yard, without chemicals or GMOs and with as little maintenance work as possible. I have my 10 raised beds setup and am trying out some home made drip irrigation and green house solutions this year that should reduce watering, eliminate most weeding and extended my growing season. Despite all of the these fixed investments though I will still have to spend some time every week keeping up with the garden.
While some may call me lazy (just come to my house on a Saturday for projects ;-)), what I really want is a production system that requires no maintenance. Now, I know that zero maintenance isn’t really achievable, but if I hold it out there as a goal, I will get closer than if I just accept what I have now. So in my quest for a zero maintenance production system I ran across the concept of permaculture. I’ll let you look at the permaculture site for a full explanation, but basically it is at its basic level an approach (or even a philosophy?) about how to grow things that are naturally in balance and in balance with nature.
Those of you that know me personally may think that I have completely gone around the bend with this one, but stay with me for just a few paragraphs more. Permaculture is most often applied to growing food, but I think it is applicable to growing anything – a business, a child, a dream. Take a look at the fundamental approach and imagine something you would want to grow other than a tomato plant as you step through them (steps from wikipedia article):
- Observation allows you first to see how the site functions within itself, to gain an understanding of its initial relationships. Some recommend a year-long observation of a site before anything is planted. During this period all factors, such as lay of the land, natural flora and so forth, can be brought into the design. A year allows the site to be observed through all seasons, although it must be realized that, particularly in temperate climates, there can be substantial variations between years.
- Boundaries refer to physical ones as well as to those neighbors might place, for example.
- Resources include the people involved, funding, as well as what can be grown or produced in the future.
- Evaluation of the first three will then allow one to prepare for the next three. This is a careful phase of taking stock of what is at hand to work with.
- Design is a creative and intensive process, and must stretch the ability to see possible future synergetic relationships.
- Implementation is literally the ground-breaking part of the process when digging and shaping of the site occurs.
- Maintenance is then required to keep the site at a healthy optimum, making minor adjustments as necessary. Good design will preclude the need for any major adjustment.
Now for the so what: I am of course going to be applying these things in a few of the experiments I try outside my 10 raised beds this year. I am going to try a specific application of permaculture called hugelculture to setup some areas to grow some more perennials (cranberry, blueberry, grapes, kiwis, etc). I am also going to see how I can apply this approach in business. What would be different for you if you applied permaculture principles to your next project?