How to set up a permaculture garden

How to set up a permaculture garden

John, Passionate gardener, Cambridge

Guide written by:

John, Passionate gardener, Cambridge

47 guides

There's no right way to create a permaculture garden. While observation and design are generally the key words to keep in mind, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. That said, there are a few basic points to follow when getting stuck into permaculture. Read on for our top tips on setting up a permaculture garden.

Important features

  • Working with the environment
  • Creating an effective design
  • Observing and assessing your garden
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Observing your garden - 6 key points:


When setting up a permaculture garden, the first priority is taking the time to observe your space. This step is absolutely essential for deciding on the right design and will ultimately determine how productive your garden will be.


Use this stage to work out the strengths of your garden and how make the most of them. However, bear in mind that it's always helpful to keep your options open, so you can change or improve your garden in the future as needed.

1. Topography and microclimates

If your garden is sloped, think about sunexposure, wind (in terms of direction, speed and frequency) and any frost-vulnerable areas.

2. Sunlight


Make a note of any areas that receive direct sunlight for much of the day as well as any shady areas (behind trees, walls etc.). This is important for deciding where to put your plants or where to form an area for relaxing, and so on.

3. Surface water

Streams, ditches and ponds make for easy watering using either a watering can or via a pump system, whether you have a hand pump, surface pump or submersible pump.

4. Vegetation

The plants that naturally grow on your land will give you an idea of the type of the soil you have (provided you have a bit of background knowledge). Think about the location of any existing trees and what they have to offer, or whether they might need to be cut down.

5. Soil

The composition of the soil – in terms of clay, sand, lime and humus content – will help you to choose which plants to grow and which to avoid. With a little experience, you can determine your soil type simply by looking at it. If you're not sure, ask your neighbours or carry out a soil analysis.

6. Fauna

A healthy garden environment will be teeming with birds, insects and small mammals.

What do I need to start a permaculture garden?


Think about the garden materials you might need to outsource. This may include salvaged materials, waste vegetation, stones, or manure from a nearby stables or farm.

Make a list of all the elements you need or want: a play space for your kids, a chill-out area surrounded by flowers, a small orchard, a certain type of tree that you love, any animals you might want to keep, and so on.

Work out how much time you have to complete the project and how many pairs of hands you'll need. If you think your vision is achievable, get things going by drawing up a plan.

3 steps to creating a successful permaculture garden


This is where you'll have to start thinking about design. We're not talking about aesthetics or decoration here, but rather the following points:

  • layout;
  • resource allocation;
  • planning;
  • organisation.

1. Mapping out your garden

Now's the time to draw up your final plan for the garden making sure to mark out all the existing features. At this stage, you'll also have to map out the path of the sun through your garden and where the main shadows fall throughout your space. Take note of wind exposed areas, trees, water sources and slopes.

2. Dividing the space into zones


Divide your garden into several zones according to the position of your home. Generally speaking, the more an area is used, the closer it should be to the house.

For instance, your herb garden should be located closest to the house. Features like a hen house or shelters for other animals should be kept within easy access for daily feeding and cleaning.

Vegetables that are harvested less often (leeks, carrots, cabbage, etc.) can be a bit further away. Vegetables that are only harvested once a year (peppers, late potatoes, etc.) should be relegated to the edges of your vegetable plot alongside any fruit trees.

The bottom of your garden can be left wild to allow wild plants and flowers to thrive. You can also place piles of wood or grow hedges in this area to provide shelter for wildlife.

If you have a large enough space, your garden can be divided into as many as 4 or 5 separate zones.

3. Making the most of the elements

In terms design, exposure to things like wind, sunlight and visual pollution should be included in your initial plans. This will help you to make the most of your surroundings.

This is especially important for certain plants or when installing any outdoor structures. It's not just a question of simply visualising buildings, paths, plants, etc., but rather using their position to create an efficient and productive system.

Plants requiring plenty of sunlight should be kept in full sun or trained against a south-facing wall whereas large trees should be kept on the northern border so as not to cast shadow over your garden. Hedges can be used to cover up unsightly neighbouring buildings and a lean-to greenhouse can help to heat up your home!

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Hen house

Grow responsibly today, reap the rewards tomorrow


Permaculture and biodynamics are complementary methods that take a responsible and economical approach to gardening. Both techniques are aimed at making the most of our natural environment to help promote sustainable development.

Gardening with the moon helps to encourage abundant harvests, healthy plant growth and better seed quality. All of this can be achieved simply by following a lunar calendar based on the phases of the moon and the constellations.

Permaculture is an entire way of life which, beyond its application in organic gardening, aims to protect the planet today and for generations to come. By working with nature, recycling and using techniques like companion planting , you'll soon discover that permaculture has a lot to offer!

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Guide written by:

John, Passionate gardener, Cambridge, 47 guides

John, Passionate gardener, Cambridge

When I was young, I was already working in the family garden. Perhaps that is where my interest in plants and gardening came from. So, it was logical for me to study both plant biology and agronomy.   At the request of various publishers I have, over twenty-five years, written many books on the subject of plants and mushrooms (a subject that is close to my heart).They were mostly identification guides at first, but shortly after they were about gardening, thus renewing the first passion of my childhood.   I have also regularly collaborated with several magazines specializing in the field of gardening or more generally in nature. There is no gardener without a garden, I have cultivated mine in a small corner of Cambridge for the last thirty years and this is where I put into practice the methods of cultivation that will I advise you in as well.

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