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Ten steps to an Organic Permaculture no-dig Garden

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Ten steps to an Organic Permaculture no-dig Garden

This page was researched and produced by Anne Goddard, who lives on a 5-acre property called "Gaya's Gift" close to Bundaberg, Queensland.


No-dig GardenPermaculture is a method of producing foodstuff in a closed loop that maintains a self-sufficient system.

In any habitat animals, plants and micro-organisms work together in harmony.

Organic permaculture takes the closed loop one step further to include insects - both pest and predator. When pesticides are used against insect pests, both pest and predator are eliminated. As most insect pests breed much faster than predators in the food chain, the pests will return quicker than the predators, eventually causing havoc which will result in further applications of pesticides being necessary.

The need for continual pesticide application causes the evolution of pests which are immune to pesticides and stronger and stronger applications become necessary.

In an organic permaculture garden, the balance is retained. There is no need for applications of pesticides, the predator and prey are maintained in a balanced loop with plants, animals and insects. Once an organic permaculture garden is fully established the human need do nothing but add mulch, plant, water and harvest the crops as they ripen.

As the food produced originates from the elements (organic, permanent), the natural elements of a permaculture garden are fully utilised and permanently protected.


Permaculture and Ecological Design Program

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Permaculture and Ecological Design Program

Permaculture and Ecological Design are systematic approaches to human settlement that are rooted in the ethics of caring for the Earth and human communities, and guided by the uniqueness of each situation. The courses offered at OAEC are designed for those who are, or plan to be, farmers, gardeners, land managers, landscapers, home or land owners, builders, educators, or activists.

The following video gives you a taste of what you might expect from the Permaculture Design Course held at the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center (OAEC). This course has been offered at OAEC since 1994 and is the longest continually offered permaculture design course in California.

Brock Dolman has trained and certified over 500 students in 27 two-week “Permaculture Design” certification courses at OAEC over the past 13 years.  In this last year, Brock has been joined by Kendall Dunnigan, a community organizer and teacher with over fifteen years of hands-on experience teaching and facilitating the cultivation of ecological literacy and community environmental change.  The national magazine Permaculture Activist calls this “a certificate course presented by a winning team of California’s most experienced teachers…OAEC has some of the most diverse gardens in North America, plus comfortable facilities for visitors.” It is common to hear our graduating permaculture students state in their evaluations, “This course has changed my life.”

In OAEC’s Permaculture courses, students learn through group study and analysis, culminating in the presentation of a site design project. The 80-acre OAEC site is full of the results of hands-on design projects implemented by permaculture students, including numerous erosion-halting gabions, nearly a quarter-mile of infiltration swales, forest fuel-load thinning, natural building elements, sheet mulching, and food forests.

Permaculture Program Offerings:

OAEC staff also consult with farmers, ranchers and landowners around Northern California, helping them integrate ecological design principles and practices into their land management programs. Call Brock Dolman (ext. 206) for more information or email him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


List of Permaculture Projects

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In the years since its conception, permaculture has become a successful approach to designing sustainable systems. Its adaptability and emphasis on meeting human needs means that it can be utilized in every climatic and cultural zone. However, at the moment the large proportion of practitioners are only likely to be inspired individuals and there is a distinct lack of broadscale permaculture projects. Nevertheless, permaculture has also been used successfully as a development tool to help meet the needs of indigenous communities facing degraded standards of living from development of land and the introduction of industrialized food.

This article lists some examples of permaculture sites.


Zimbabwe has 60 schools designed using permaculture, with a national team working within the schools' curriculum development unit. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has produced a report on using permaculture in refugee situations after successful use in camps in Southern Africa and Republic of Macedonia. The Biofarming approach applied in Ethiopia has very similar features and can be considered permaculture. It is mainly promoted by the non-governmental organisation BEA, based in Addis Ababa.

Arab Countries

A permaculture project has been developed in Jordan by the Permaculture Research Institute headquartered in Australia and run by Geoff Lawton. The project is strategically located in the desert land near the Dead Sea.



The development of permaculture co-founder David Holmgren's home plot at Melliodora, Central Victoria, has been well documented at his website and published in e-book format [1].

Designed from permaculture principles, Crystal Waters is a socially and environmentally responsible, economically viable rural subdivision north of Brisbane, Queensland. Crystal Waters was designed by Max Lindegger, Robert Tap, Barry Goodman and Geoff Young, and established in 1987. It received the 1996 World Habitat Award (assessed by Dr Wally N’Dow) for its "pioneering work in demonstrating new ways of low impact, sustainable living". Eighty-three freehold residential and two commercial lots occupy 20% of the 259ha (640 acre) property. The remaining 80% is the best land, and is owned in common. It can be licensed for sustainable agriculture, forestry, recreation and habitat projects.

City Farm Perth is an example of community permaculture in an inner suburb of Perth, Western Australia. The farm was constructed on a brownfield site in 1994, and is a focal point for permaculture education, as well as community music and art.


Tikopians practice an intensive permaculture system, similar in principle to forest gardening and the gardens of the New Guinea highlands. Their agricultural practices are strongly and consciously tied to the population density. For example, around 1600 AD, the people agreed to slaughter all pigs on the island and substitute fishing, because the pigs were taking too much food that could be eaten by people.

New Zealand

There are many well established living examples of permaculture practice in New Zealand. Rainbow Valley Farm is the premier model. Rainbow Valley Farm was established in 1988 by Joe Polaischer and Trish Allen. The 21 ha. organic farm was designed on permaculture principles and ethics. [7]


Permaculture: Spreading the Green Gospel

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Stephen Brooks is the co-founder of Kopali Organics and a correspondent for Planet Green’s G Word .

Combine the words “permanent” and “culture,” subtract a few unnecessary letters and you end up with one amazingly efficient term - “Permaculture.” How does that roll off your tongue? You have just derived another one of those brilliantly synergistic terms, a single word that signifies an entity bigger and more productive than its individual pieces. And this is exactly what the term Permaculture set out to do - Permaculture doesn’t tell you what to do, but tells you how to think in a systematic and logical way that is efficient for you as well as the planet.

Permaculture ,coined by Tasmanian Author and Scientist Bill Mollison in the mid 1970’s is often defined as an approach to designing human settlements. It specifically defines the development of perennial agricultural systems that mimic the structure and interrelationship found in natural ecologies. It’s these very natural ecologies that have worked so well for thousands of years on this planet and permaculture teaches that these successes should be our greatest teachers. Bill Mollison watched as important decisions for his island homeland were being made by the Australian government dealing with water treatment, garbage disposal and food production and was appalled by their short sightedness. These are critical decisions to our survival as a species and they are being made by people who may not have what is best for us and for our planet at the forefront of their minds.

I first learned about permaculture in 1998 after I had already been living for several years off the grid in Costa Rica. In fact, I was already learning and applying the key principles of permaculture learned from the Costa Rican native and indigenous people long before I had ever even heard the term itself. I quickly ran off to take a three-week intensive permaculture design course offered on the Big Island of Hawaii. It really rocked my world. It was more than just learning about the principals of designing community. It was about learning these principals while actually living in community where these very design decisions were in practice. We had a bicycle powered laundry machine and were planting things according to how much we used them and how much attention they needed. For example, large fruit trees that only need to be visited a few times a year to prune and harvest were planted further from our house and delicate salads were planted in areas nearby that received lots of attention. It just made sense.


I often compare taking a permaculture design course to a computer that recently had an anti-virus program installed. From that moment on no matter what that computer does, it is going to have to pass through the anti-virus test. I find a permaculture course to be like that for any person. After taking the intensive course, no matter what decisions that person makes, or whatever system he/she designs, it is going to pass through the deep ecological test in their brain instilled by taking the course. It’s funny because it all just seems so simple and obvious. The ethics of permaculture are: care for earth, care for people and distribution of surplus. Seems pretty straightforward. Permaculture is not directly about agriculture but efficient design in general and can be applied to all aspects of life.

The way I personally describe permaculture is: How can we meet our goals and while using less energy. It is often assumed that by the word energy I mean coal, gas or electricity, but this includes our own physical, mental and financial energy as well. People all over the world mostly have very similar goals when it really comes down it. We strive for happiness through things like a comfortable home, nice friends and family, abundant good food and an all around level of sufficiency. So how can we meet this lofty goal as a species? I honestly believe if permaculture were taught in grade school we would be way closer to achieving this and people would be living a much fuller and more rewarding life. Through thoughtful and efficient design, responsible use of resources and the permaculture ethic, care for Earth deeply imbedded into our corporations and government’ constitutions the world would be a much cleaner and happier place to live.

Stephen Brooks is a jungle tropical fruit farmer in Costa Rica, the co-founder of Kopali Organics and is the Food Field Reporter on Planet Green's G Word.


Lots of Life in One Place - Permaculture Demonstration Farm of Arina and Scott Pittman

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Arnia and Scott PittmanWith all travel and work away from home, it looked nearly impossible to attempt “walking the talk” at our farm. That was nine years ago, though, and we since have succeeded in turning our land and and home into a drylands permaculture and sustainable living showcase. Our practices and climate reflect the need for a more perennial polyculture system which is in the best tradition of permaculture. We also have to take into consideration the aesthetics and desires of our fellow community members, with whom we share the joys and the ownership of our ten acre oasis. 

After years of building soil, “growing” shade and biomass, increasing biodiversity, incorporating animals (and people), working with sun, wind, water, cold drainage and Mother Nature - we are now celebrating the gifts of good land!

Fruit trees’ bloom, native and honey bees, medley of medicinal herbs, milk goats, heirloom chickens and turkeys, a gang of loud guinea fowl, a restored wetlands teeming with fish, dragonflies, bugs and native waterfowl; rich gardens, pastures and orchards surround our natural home with its cutting edge energy and water management design. It is truly beautiful and rewarding to be alive in a permaculture oasis!

Farm of Scott Pittman

With the abundance comes food processing, sharing of surplus, recycling of nutrients, teaching and learning new aspects of permaculture life style.

Sample partial plant lists for guild planting in desert Southwest:

Farm of Scott Pittman


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