Permaculture vs Traditional Landscaping

Permaculture is a new buzz word that has sprouted it recent years, but how is it different from traditional landscaping methods? In this article I explain the main differences in a simple and informative way.

Hamish O'Brien

5/21/20244 min read

Everyone is familiar with the sculptured appearance of traditional gardens. The vegetable gardens are all about straight rows and the flower gardens offer curved edges but are still rigid in their designs.

These old garden design styles make the landscape bend and bow to the demands of the gardener and that’s not always best for the environment. The modern permaculture garden designs work with the landscape and create productive gardens that are environmentally friendly and have a positive impact on the eco-system.

Check out some of these differences between typical garden designs and permaculture garden designs to discover the many benefits that working with the land can provide.

Soil Regeneration

Synthetic fertilizer, chemical pesticides and insecticides have caused the soil to be degenerated and depleted of the nutrients needed to sustain plant life. Gardeners and farmers have applied yearly doses of various synthetic products to the garden with the hopes of more productivity. Unfortunately, just the opposite has happened.

Synthetic products do not consider all the natural contributors which create healthy soil. In turn, something will die or struggle to survive as a result of the human interference. Traditional garden designs are dependent upon synthetic products to grow which results in tired/unproductive soil, degraded biodiversity and is financially draining.

Permaculture garden design will regenerate the soil and promote a healthy, thriving bio-diverse sub-culture that will promote the development of healthy, productive plants. There is a whole circle of life that nature has created in order to sustain healthy soil. Plants, fungi, insects and animals all have their positive input in this web.

For example, earthworms are a gardener’s best friend and they can only survive in a natural soil environment. As the earthworm tunnels through the soil, they leave behind nutrient-rich castings that will feed the plants organically. The worm tunnels also promote good airflow and good soil drainage. The tunnels also create space for plant roots to grow.

The regeneration of the soil reduces the work of the gardener or farmer because the bio-diverse sub-cultures and beneficial plants, aerate and fertilize the soil naturally.

Leave It Alone

Traditional garden designs dictate that old plant material and mulch should be removed and discarded. The permaculture way is to leave the decomposing material alone.

If there is a pest or disease infestation, then it’s appropriate to remove decaying plant material to prevent the spread of pests or diseases. But if the plant material is healthy, leave it alone.

The decomposing plant material will improve the fertility of the soil. As the organic material slowly decomposes and seeps down into the soil, the soil is regenerated with nutrients and soil becomes healthier.

The soil should not be tilled or disturbed to help prevent weed seeds from germinating because this leads to soil erosion and harming the sub-culture. Plants typically called ‘weeds’ actually have many benefits for the soil and a large majority are medicinal. Unwanted/unproductive plants are ideally outcompeted by more beneficial plants for the eco-system. These plants will reseed themselves when they are in an environment that makes them happy and provides them with plenty of nutrition and moisture. Choosing the right plants for the environment is key.

Once a vegetable garden has been planted, only minimal work should be done to it so the soil can regenerate and plants can grow naturally. Permaculture practices are work in this non-harmful approach.

Food For Pollinators

Allowing a diverse permaculture garden to grow undisturbed will also provide plenty of pollen and nectar for the pollinators. Permaculture gardens offer a wide assortment of blooming colors. Very attractive to people and passing pollinators. As the pollinators feed, they pollinate the vegetable plants so they can be productive. This is necessary for all plants that are not self-pollinators.

Traditional garden designs often eliminate many of the buds and blooms to promote the production of larger vegetables, fruits, and/or flowers. While this method is aesthetically pleasing, it’s not in the best interest of long-term agricultural practices.

We have already experienced a significant reduction in the bee population and they are our number one pollinators. If we reduce the number of pollen-rich blooms in the garden we will be producing less food for the bees and other pollinators. Less food for pollinators means less food for us.

To keep the pollinator population strong and help the bees rebuild their numbers, we must provide plenty of food for them. A permaculture garden design incorporates plants that will produce pollen-rich blooms for most of the year to feed pollinators.

A secondary benefit of this pollinator attraction is the fun you have watching the pollinators visit your garden plants. You may even consider adding a beehive box to the permaculture.

Uses Less Water

A traditional garden is established in the location selected by the gardener and planted with vegetation that may not be well-adapted to the environment. The location may be elevated, may have poor soil, and the plants may have a difficult time adapting.

Helping the plants to survive in an environment they were not meant to be in will require more water. Using more of this natural resource to help garden plants grow is labor-intensive and not eco-friendly.

Working with the landscape and using a permaculture design for the garden will allow plants to be grown in the garden that will not only look good but will also provide a useful function.

Low-lying areas are used to create rain gardens and planted will vegetation that will help absorb and filter excess rainwater. Elevated, dry areas are planted with drought-tolerant plants that help prevent soil erosion and produce shade, food, flowers, wildlife habitat, or a combination of benefits. – Low-lying sentence doesn’t make sense. Talk about people in hot areas.

Regeneration Vs. Manipulation

Traditional garden designs manipulate the landscape in a way that is unnatural and often unproductive. Intense labor and constant use of natural resources must be applied to get this type of garden to be productive.

A permaculture garden can regenerate barren, unproductive soil into rich fertile soil and it’s all done through working with the land, planting vegetation that provides benefits to humans and the eco-system, then managing the growth holistically.

We design gardens and landscapes which are regenerative to the environment, heal your soil and retain natural beauty. If you would like a free quote then please contact us now, and 07562 735 479.