What is Permaculture ?

Many people have never heard of it, and even those practicing it often have trouble defining it! So what exactly is Permaculture?

The easiest way to think of it is as ‘ecological gardening’, but such a brief description doesn’t really capture the essence of it, so here’s a more formal definition:

Permaculture is a holistic design system that emulates systems that exist in Nature to create sustainable human settlements and food production systems which integrate harmoniously with the natural environment. 

It was co-founded by Australian ecologists Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, in the 1970s.

The word “Permaculture” is a portmanteau of “permanent agriculture” or “permanent culture.”

Permaculture is a movement concerned with sustainable, environmentally sound land use and the building of stable communities, through the harmonious interrelationship of humans, plants, animals and the Earth.

The focus of Permaculture design is on the relationship between all the individual elements and their placement in the landscape, to form stable, productive communities that replicate the synergy and efficiency of natural ecosystems, rather than the individual elements themselves.

Permaculture design is applicable to both urban and rural environments, and encompasses all ranges of scale, from an apartment balcony to a large-scale farm or village.

Being a design framework, Permaculture is concerned with much more than just the design of ecologically harmonious landscapes that produce food. As a system of design, it can encompass many different disciplines, which provide the techniques and methods to achieve the design goals.

…Permaculture can incorporate the techniques of organic gardening, biodynamic gardening, no-dig gardening, composting and a myriad of other sustainable gardening practices.

Therefore, Permaculture can incorporate the techniques of organic gardening, biodynamic gardening, no-dig gardening, composting and a myriad of other sustainable gardening practices. It can also use techniques of energy-efficient building design, water harvesting, waste water treatment and recycling for example.

Permaculture is a growing and evolving design system and has expanded to include economic and social systems that support stable communities, such as credit co-ops, Local Exchange Trading Systems (LETS) and eco-villages.

Two terms which come close to defining Permaculture, as suggested by ATTRA (The US National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service) are “ecological engineering” or “cultivated ecology“.

So, in a nutshell, that’s what Permaculture is!


52 Responses to What is Permaculture ?

  1. JimmyBean says:

    I don’t know If I said it already but …Excellent site, keep up the good work. I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, 🙂

    A definite great read..Jim Bean


  2. Garry says:

    Fantastic site.
    You’ve done a great job on the garden, and your knowledge is obvious,
    Thanks for sharing this information.
    Very inspiring.


  3. Blackthorn says:

    Thanks guys, appreciate to positive feedback!


  4. david hicks says:

    I hope to visit you folks in 9 or so days with the NERPG mob. david hicks……..


  5. Avis Gardner says:

    Thanks so much for your open garden yesterday, I learnt so much in such a short time…very inspirational and thank you too for all the plants…very unexpected and welcome gifts……am now enjoying your website, which is going to be such a help in getting our garden established……


  6. Cate Maguire says:

    Thanks so much for showing us through your garden this afternoon. What a fantastic inspiration – am off to explore the rest of your site now!


  7. Just discovered your site.. it is wonderful!


  8. Dave Champ says:

    very interested in what your doing and would like to subscribe to your newsletter ,
    thankyou Dave


  9. Blackthorn says:

    Hi Dave,

    Thanks! To subscribe, you can either put a tick in the ‘Subscribe by email to this site’ box at the bottom of the page when you type in your comment, or receive update notifications via RSS by clicking on the ‘Entries (RSS)’ link at the very bottom of the page



  10. Mdelmodes says:

    Thanks for the great site and info!


  11. Pete says:

    Great site… Thanks for sharing…


  12. dianne m says:

    First time here, very exciting.
    I have a peach tree. It chose its own spot, so I decided to leave it. I guess
    is is about 3 years old now. Healthy enough, until a few months ago when I noticed leaves dropping and small yellow spots on the leaf surface and brown dusty ones on the underside. Peach rust. After a bit of on-line research I discovered that the prognosis is not good over time for my tree, unless I do something i.e stripping and burn the leaves and spray with Lime sulphur in winter.
    What is your opinion on the use of Lime Sulphur? And if too toxic, do you have any other suggestions?

    I look forward to hearing from you.
    Best to all and happy growing.
    Dianne M


    • Blackthorn says:

      Hi Diane,
      Unfortunately, due to climate here in Melbourne, peach and nectarine trees do need seasonal spraying of fungicide, and organic gardeneres use eithe Lime Sulphur or the copper based Bordeaux mixture.
      Both are OK, I’ve used Lime Sulphur before, it smells terrible but it does work well. It’s not one of those nasty toxic systemic fungicides, it’s mineral based, a recognised organic fungicide, and is simply made by boiling lime (calcium hydroxide) and sulfur together. I’ve seen organic gardening workshops that show people how to make this up at home. I definitely recommend using this or one of the copper based fungicides, otherwise the tree will be progressively weakened by the fungal attacks. Use the Lime Sulphur when the tree is dormant, before the buds swell. I do whatever I can to save a good tree!



  13. jodie says:

    Hi, what a lovely, informative site. We are hoping to visit your garden tomorrow for permaculture day. One thing I really like about what you have done is provide actual usable information about how to do stuff. Applying a bit of feng shui for information, let it flow out so more flows in – you should be expecting a lovely bubbling stream! cheers jodie


  14. Kerrie says:

    I was at the Sustainable Food Workshop in Preston last night. Your presentation was excellent. You also mentioned a tour of your garden later this month. I’d really like to join the tour if it indeed goes ahead. thanks again Kerrie


  15. azure says:

    You are such an inspiration! It is uncommon to uncover such thoughtful and informative blogs. Please keep writing!


  16. Rebecca says:

    Thanks for the wonderful information here, an inspiration


  17. Deva daricha says:

    Great teaching at the permaculture convergence this weekend


  18. Zanzibar says:

    I rarely comment on websites, but this has been amazing. I’m setting up my first garden, a courtyard 8m x 5m, following permaculture principles and the extra proviso that every plant will be “scented, edible, or both”. Thank you so much for putting the work into not only creating your garden, but into the blog design and clear explanations that make it possible for the rest of us to follow suit. You’ve been a great help!


  19. Michelle says:

    Thank you very much for information on your site. It is helping me very very much. We started with a project for people living with disability in South Africa & companion planting and organic is still in its baby phase this side, so I know that I will spend a lot of time on your site. Thanks again for the effort.


  20. mooneymouse says:

    I logged on this morning with the intent to find something I needed vs. wanted and here it is! So glad to have found you. I read about Permaculture in SageWoman and Crone magazines. I have a decent yard and a congenital green thumb. When the student is ready, the teacher appears. I suppose I need to get outdoors, dust off these “closed-in” blues and get busy. Yee haw!


  21. you are surely the best site about permaculture i´ve ever seen.
    thank you.


  22. Marcia Carvalho says:

    very interesting this site about permaculture.I want to learning every think about this kind of life. Thank you.
    I m having a new deep green conscience .thanks


  23. Julian Gerona says:


    I admire you for sharing your discoveries. Permaculture is the way to go indeed. As one famous inventor said “comprehend and copy nature”. After reading through your pages I went into my forest and studied it. A word of caution, “beware of over designing”. The forest is made by nature via a poo and forget scheme by birds and other small animals.Man is far better. I had actually came up with a plant and forget scheme after a few days of learning. This is because the knowledge you imparted has served as spring board for me. So to you and of course to Bill, Tons of thanks.



  24. RolandTheGun says:

    I have only just got interested in Permaculture and find that your site has a lot of useful and interesting information. I think I will be visiting quite often to borrow from your experience. I hope I will be able to contribute in a small way, too.


  25. Wonderful to hear. This will surely be useful in my involvement in a self sustaining community in Tamil Nadu, India.


    • Ruth Sancho says:

      Hi. I am going to India in April. Would there be any possibility to visit your community? I am a designer and artist who create play and artistic projects as art therapy for kids and patients. I would like to visit you and maybe do a workshop for a day if you want. Cheers. Ruth


  26. Ruth Sancho says:

    Hi all. Such a great project and movement. I am a designer who loves natural alternative medicine and food. Thank you so much for Permaculture. Willing to start my garden!! Ta!


  27. Philip says:

    Dear Mr.Lawton, you are a real King in your own right. This is the way forward. Once I get myself more established (real estate, etc. somewhere in this world) I plan to personally get in touch with you for advice on Deep Green Permaculture and sustainable organic gardening for self-sufficient people. Well done, and keep up your good work…. Thanks. Philip.


  28. oughdir@hotmail.com says:

    Hi Angelo, I have found your blog so inspirational. I live in central France (not mediterranean), please keep us updated with your garden and other projects. You have a great way of communicating all this knowledge you have, if only I could have a fraction of this!
    I read your blog like a book, love every bit of it. I wish we had a warmer climate to graft the aubergines onto the devil plant, the only solution here would be under glass. I have just made a hot compost heap today!
    All the best, please put something on youtube every month, or just keep posting blogs.
    How would your garden look like in our climate I wonder? What would you try and grow?


  29. Leigh says:

    I have to say that is the most succinct definition I have seen so far. Thank you.


  30. Michele Sanguinetti says:

    Hello Angelo, your wonderful site and easy to follow instructions inspired me to build a hot compost 8 days ago, I was so excited to feel the heat growing daily, and have started turning it. I may have overheated it because it was just so damn exciting to be generating that heat! It looks like it’s working though and today I built 2 more heaps. Many thanks for the fabulous information, Michele


  31. Travis Toler says:

    great site. Keep up the hard work this is serving as my main goto source now after reading this site almost start to finish. Love the projects and all the hard work you have done, thanks for sharing.


  32. Hi, I am so glad to see that at least some people are into permaculture which is much older than mentioned here. I wrote articles on this subject for the Horticultural society when it was in Canterbury before its move out west (1986) under the names of Breda Wede & Petal Pusher (now hijacked by a Malvern Nursery) and have been trying to push these concepts to drought, bushfire and salinity affected properties since winning a Science Talent Search prize in 1953 on the Natural control of Pests to counter the introduction of Myxomatosis and pesticide/weedkiller poisons. So keep up the good work while I continue to try and influence Councils and landscapers to really investigate the benefits of biodiversified permaculture and safe/suitable trees for varying areas. Rosemary Courtier (nee Horton) rosejhorton@gmail.com


  33. Ania Zamecznik says:

    Hi Angelo, Your site just keeps getting better. I visited your garden a while back with Pete the Permie and found your garden to be one of the most inspirational I have ever seen. Sorry I missed the Open Gardens Day. (I still have to drop the photos and audio over to you) Mine is not nearly as good, but then I am really a now and again gardener (when time, weather and health allow) and my biggest issue is Morning Glory [Monster]. Everything is still in pots in Year 3 and I just can’t help but add more, with many sitting on my front fence for the western sun heating the stone and brick. The birds are winning the fruit harvesting race and the possums are eating all my passionfruit leaves and shoots. This year I hope to finally complete my star picket and wire mesh fruit tree cage (two years in the building) and place a chook house inside it for a few bantams with fox protection. Keep up the wonderful work – regards, Ania


  34. This looks like a great blog! We are currently awaiting a public housing transfer which we have no idea about when we will get minimal notice about moving, but my head is overflowing with ideas to get started with after moving and I think I will get some more exciting ideas now I have subscribed to your blog through RSS 🙂


  35. Darcy Paulo a. Calvo says:

    awesome! I’m one with you in keeping the Movement. We are to work and replicate your permaculture thoughts in our farm in sogod, Cebu, Philippines. should you guys visit cebu, pm me and I will be glad exchange thoughts. God bless our our endeavor!


  36. goh says:

    Great work ! Getting it done now on our farm.


  37. Great Work!! I became a fan of your DIY projects. Keep it up……………


  38. Benjy G. Sheffield says:

    Please add me to the Deep Green Permaculture Blog Email List. I enjoy what I am reading and would like to learn more!

    Thanks so much,


  39. Marie Lucas-Gear says:

    I am looking forward to learning new gardening ideas.


  40. John Chong says:


    May I know what is the cost of building a typical food forest like this ?
    What are the major cost elements involved?



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