Permaculture blog

Session 7: Design

Published by Gerald on 03 June 2012

This week the Permaculture for Transition participants met to get to grips with the actual permaculture Design Process.

Permaculture is primarily a design system, not just a collection of techniques; a framework within which many forms of knowledge are interwoven with the object of producing an edible landscape that mirrors a natural ecosystem, both in productivity and beauty.

It contains elements (trees, shrubs, ponds, dams, animals) which build systems to perform functions (food production, pest mangement, nutrient recycling, erosion prevention, creating sacred space).

A Design Framework S.A.D.I.M.E.T.(Survey, Analyse, Design, Implement, Maintaina, Evaluate and Tweak) was introduced- although this session limited itself to the first two of these.

The first stage of surveying is to stop and observe, observe the patterns of nature already using the land, what plants and animals already use the land, where are the shady spots?, how does the sun pass over it, both at midsummer and midwinter. Bill Mollison said that the observation stage should take at least one year.

Later in the session we learnt about analysing the data collected from the survey and some more permaculture terminology. We've already covered zoning in the first session, here we learned about sectors (what are the sun arcs in midwinter and summer, where are the frost pockets?, where is the prevailing wind? and much else).

We learned about trying to use elements having multple functions, for example if  a tree is needed for a hedge, use hazel as it provides nuts, can provide peasticks and recycles nutrients; this improves efficency and yield.

Then there were examples of multple elements providing a function, such as using water butts and ponds to gather water; this increases resilience.

Other areas covered were:

Increasing edge, using curves and keyhole beds

A raised keyhole bed, an example of inreasing edge

Using guilds, arrangements of plants that are beneficial, such as an apple tree with comfrey planted at its base to provide nutrients, and hoverfly attracting plants to help control pests

The above is also an example of stacking, making best use of a vertical space. The herb spiral is perhaps one of the best known permaculture examples.


All in all a busy morning and lots to take in.  Now the participants are off to develop their own designs...