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12 Design Principles of Permaculture

Alright, so you’re ready to jump into permaculture. Last week we covered the very basics of permaculture and today, we’re here to go over the twelve design principles in even greater detail! You may surprised to discover just how far permaculture can extend into your daily life! Let’s get right into it then, shall we? Here are the 12 design principles of permaculture:

  1. Observe and interact.
  2. Catch and store energy.
  3. Obtain a yield.
  4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback.
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services.
  6. Produce no waste.
  7. Design from patterns to details.
  8. Integrate rather than segregate.
  9. Use small and slow solutions.
  10. Use and value diversity.
  11. Use edges and value the marginal.
  12. Creatively use and respond to change.

Okay, I know. Maybe I’m getting a bit too ahead of myself by throwing this information at you, so let’s start with some background information. I mean, what’s permaculture anyway?

What is Permaculture?

Let’s just get this out in the open now, although ‘permaculture’ is in this article’s title, it doesn’t necessarily mean these principles are solely for gardening or permaculture purposes. It’s quite the opposite, actually. These are principles that are considered as the ‘rules of living,’ believe it or not, so keep that in mind as we go along.

Permaculture, in itself, is the act of mimicking natural ecosystem relationships into man-made agriculture. To put it in even simpler terms, it’s when we, as humans, attempt to recreate natural processes created by Mother Earth.

Permaculture is centered around caring for the earth and what it produces while being both equal and fair to our surroundings. I bet you’re finally going “ah, why can’t the rest of the society view the world this way?” Well, since you landed here, you’re one step closer toward making this world an even better place to live in.

Now, let’s see how the 12 design principles of permaculture can be implemented into the garden, as well as our daily lives.

The 12 Design Principles of Permaculture

Observe and interact.

You can also add ‘patience’ to this one because with observation comes patience. We must take the time needed to observe our surroundings and interact with them. That means putting down your phone (yes, I know, you hear it all of the time), taking a walk outside and enjoying nature as it was meant to be enjoyed. With permaculture comes observation, we look for the perfect location to place our gardens. A lot of the time, it can take a year to understand your area’s gardening seasons and lay of the land. When we interact with nature, we’re taking the time to understand it completely – sorry, workaholics.

Catch and store energy.

We should absorb the energy around us, whether it be from other people or simply by resting. It’s important we gather it in abundance. This way, in times of need, you can utilize it as needed. We develop systems that are made to create and store energy until we are ready to utilize them. Think about solar panels, they gather energy produced by the sun to then be utilized when it’s not around, in the night.

Moreover, look at ways to use the natural heat being produced in your garden. You may find your flock of chickens provide great heat for a small greenhouse or that a pond provides the necessary heat. Everywhere you look, you can find places to capture and store energy in new and creative ways.

Obtain a yield.

In other words, reap the rewards. There’s the obvious, you start a garden to produce a yield, but what about the less obvious? When you start a garden, you obtain a yield of both mental and physical health, allowing you to retain a healthy state of mind while being physically fit. When you’re not in the garden, you can obtain a yield in a variety of other ways. Interacting with the people you come across allow room for wisdom as well as educational growth. Therefore, producing a yield in gained knowledge and understanding.

Apply self-regulation and accept feedback.

This not only refers to ourselves but our surroundings as well. Understand how the world works before you go off and try to take it over. We must first have a grasp on who we are as a person, with self-control, before we decide to judge others. That also means we must be prepared to receive feedback, both negative and positive. When we plant our garden, we’re not always 100% sure it’ll survive throughout the year, but we must accept the results whether good or bad.

Use and value renewable resources and services.

We’re sure you’ve heard about nature’s abundant resources. There are endless ways to utilize them. I mean, look at soap nuts, it produces 100% natural and organic soap. They can be used over and over again until you’ve gotten all of the suds out. Insane, right? It’s the little things that we should appreciate. Utilize all of the resources you can, in and outside the garden, and value them for what they are.

Produce no waste.

If you think about it, nothing truly goes to waste when we utilize everything that comes our way. Look at trees, for example. Some produce fruit that we use to nourish our bodies. They grow every single year and have their seasonal cycles of leaf abundance and dried up twigs. Those twigs can be put into our compost, and even when the trees die, they are completely compostable. Always look for ways to reduce, reuse and recycle around the household.

You’ll be surprised how much less waste you create just by being mindful of what you are putting in the trash can.

Design from patterns to details.

There are tons of patterns in nature as well as society. Patterns are a natural product of mother nature’s work. They make the world turn as it does. When we find what works in the garden, we then practice the steps we did prior to produce only the best of plants. We notice the patterns and practice what works. Pay close attention to detail to ensure efficiency in what you produce.

Integrate rather than segregate.

When we observe, we notice things that we wouldn’t have had we not paid attention. Then we can decide where things should go. In the garden, it’s important to know which plants should be planted where. Who wouldn’t hate having our plants attack one another? When we take a step back to understand the elements and how they work together in our area, we can plant accordingly. Even in your home, you place items accordingly to compliment each other and produce an overall feel of whatever you desire.

Use small and slow solutions.

Small systems are far easier to maintain than large ones. We can keep track of things much easier when they are small. Having small batches of each plant you decide to grow allows room for easy maintenance and upkeep. In permaculture, we don’t strive for the quick solution, because the payoff, in the end, won’t be as apparent. We look for things that will work for the long run, and that often comes to us in time rather than right away.

Use and value diversity.

Diversity allows us to get used to everything all at once rather than one at a time. We then appreciate things in unison and harmony rather than individually. In permaculture, diversity is the smart way to go to ward off pests and harmful insects. They have less of an impact when we diversify our garden rather than individualize it. Try adding new plants to your garden every year to accompany your favorites and integrate diversity often. Include everyone in your life and promote diversity, that’s the reality of how the real world should work.

Use edges and value the marginal.

The interface between things is often the most underestimated and valuable. In the garden, we often measure and calculate the areas we can grow in and the areas we can’t. We align plants accordingly to make sure they don’t overlap, and we create paths or walkways to be able to navigate throughout our garden. Those are the areas we should appreciate the most, they bring balance to our garden. Without balance, there is chaos. Value the marginal of things and always read between the lines, as that’s often where the most valuable information resides.

Creatively use and respond to change.

Things are constantly changing in the world. It’s not uncommon to voice your opinion on those changes, it’s encouraged. We all have an opinion, but not all of us embrace it. When there is a change, we should respond to it and customize its results accordingly. In the garden, change is inevitable. Things that worked before may not work now, and it’s important we know how to tweak things to our liking. Just because things change doesn’t mean we have to settle. We should also change and integrate where it’s needed to keep things balanced and afloat.

When you utilize the twelve design principles of permaculture, you not only are embracing planet earth, but you’re embracing your existence on the earth. The world isn’t going anywhere, so it’s important we know how to work it to our advantage without disrupting the natural balance of things. The great thing is we can use these design principles of permaculture to our advantage in the garden and in our daily lives.


  1. Nice one

  2. Great Article….. my students for the summer will benefit from this

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