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Permaculture

Permaculture is holistic, integrated gardening/farming practiced globally. It uses the natural ecology and environmental design of a particular area to develop agricultural systems. The term permaculture was first coined by Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren. The concepts were first written about by Joseph Russell Smith in his 1929 book titled Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture. Chicago gardeners who are interested in the philosophy and methods of permaculture can learn more and join the Chicagoland Permaculture Guild founded on Dec. 5, 2006 at www.chicagolandpermacultureguild.com .

Breaking ice on Lake Michigan
Breaking ice on Lake MichiganPhoto by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Restoring ecosystems, preventing flooding, building soil, constructing landscapes and transforming barren land are some of the purposes of permaculture. The essential principles of permaculture are care for the Earth and its people and a return of any surplus. It stresses environment patterns and their functions and the species present in that environment. In order to locate this information it uses the science of systems ecology and the study of early, ecological land use patterns.

The specialties involved in permaculture are organic farming, agroforestry, integrated farming, maintainable growth and applied ecology. Hügelcultur, beekeeping and composting are some of the practices used in permaculture.

Those who follow permaculture use twelve principles to guide them. They observe their environment and slowly study the interaction of all life before making changes. They learn of ways to obtain and store energy. They produce a harvest and recycle waste. They use renewable resources and services, regulate their procedures and seek feedback. Changes to an environment are first designed from detailed patterns. They integrate, not segregate plants and respect diversity. They work in small areas, use edges and respect boundaries.

Home gardeners in the Chicago area can learn about and adopt many of these practices in their gardens.

Live long and well—garden.

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