Worksheet for Lesson 8:
Permaculture and Ecological agriculture

Learning Objectives:

1. Students learn what permaculture is (definition, countries where it is mostly applied, best practices)
2. Students learn about the ways in which permaculture promotes the efficient use of resources and the conservation of biodiversity
3. Students learn about soil characteristics, the benefits of permaculture on soil (reduction of soil pollution)
4. Students learn the role of weather stations in permaculture


Permaculture is a combination of permanent agriculture and permanent culture. It is an innovative framework for creating sustainable ways of living and a practical method of developing ecologically harmonious, efficient, and productive systems that anyone can use anywhere. The essence of permaculture is the design of an ecologically sound way of living – in our households, gardens, communities, and businesses. It is created by cooperating with nature and caring for the earth and its people.

Permaculture offers a ray of hope – a way forward. It offers everyone the chance to be part of the transition to a more eco-friendly, ethical and sustainable future. It integrates land, resources, people and the environment through mutually beneficial synergies – imitating the no-waste, closed-loop systems seen in diverse natural systems. Permaculture studies and applies holistic solutions applicable in rural and urban contexts at any scale. It is a multidisciplinary toolbox including agriculture, water harvesting and hydrology, energy, natural building, forestry, waste management, animal systems, aquaculture, appropriate technology, economics and community development.

The philosophy behind permaculture is one of working with, rather than against, nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless action; of looking at systems in all their functions, rather than asking only one yield of them; and allowing systems to demonstrate their own evolutions.

Mollison, B. (1988)

By adopting the ethics and applying these principles in our daily life we can make the transition from being dependent consumers to becoming responsible producers. This journey builds skills and resilience at home and in our local communities that will help us prepare for an uncertain future with less available energy. The techniques and strategies used to apply these principles vary widely depending on the location, climatic conditions and resources that are available. The methods may differ, but the foundations of this holistic approach remain constant. By learning these principles, you can acquire valuable thinking tools that help you become more resilient in an era of change.

Permaculture consists of three basic ethics:
Earth care – rebuild natural capital; the young plant represents organic growth, a key ingredient in sustaining life on Earth.
People care – look after self, family, and community; two people together, represent the need for companionship and collaborative efforts to affect change.
Fair share – set limits and redistribute surplus; the pie and a slice of it represents the taking of what we need and sharing what we do not whilst recognizing that there are limits to how much we can give and how much we can take.

How permaculture promotes the efficient use of resources and the conservation of biodiversity

In permaculture, nature does all the work, but for a permaculture garden to be sustainable, self-sufficient and properly balanced, it’s important to favour biodiversity. The fifth permaculture design principle is ‘Using Biological Resources’.

This design principle is concerned with using biological resources to do work or conserve energy, rather than using non-renewable energy sources such as fossil fuel resources. Wherever we can use a plant or animal to perform a certain function in our designs, this is our preferred approach. For instance, livestock can be used to keep the grass short rather than use a lawnmower, or plants may be used that attract beneficial predatory insects to control pests rather than use toxic chemical pesticides. It is critical to plan the use of biological resources early in the design process. It is needed to consider which biological resources will be utilized on the site, and what will be the strategy to manage them. These biological resources will form the very basis of the energy recycling systems, and as a result, determine how sustainable the design will be.

Biodiversity is a human perception which relates to the evaluation of all life on the planet. The concept is tightly linked to permaculture design through the conscious attempt to increase functional diversity in species assemblies and in the emphasis placed on the construction of energy-efficient ecosystems. Biodiversity, together with the fostering of life and soil fertility, is a key aspect of permaculture. Diversity ensures balance, even more so when it’s happening within a permaculture garden. Other aspects of biodiversity are not as valued in permaculture design. For permaculturists, indigenous ecosystem integrity and species richness are second to the functional relationships between species in a consciously designed system.

Food production systems designed from a permaculture perspective aim to maximize their similarity to nature and ecosystems, thereby providing an increase in biodiversity and ecosystem services, such as nutrient cycling, soil building, carbon sequestration, water infiltration into soil and uptake by plants (which can have a positive impact on erosion and flooding during major weather events) and reduction in the urban heat island effect. Since permaculture does not employ chemical fertilizers or pesticides, it can provide benefits to pollinators and water quality as well.

Soil characteristics, the benefits of permaculture on soil

Increasing awareness about the environmental limits of modern agriculture has led to the need for a transition toward a more resilient and biodiverse agriculture model. In this regard, micro- or mini-farms, inspired by the permaculture model and bio- intensive micro-gardening, could potentially play a key role in this transition.

Permaculture offers positive solutions to properly manage the biogeochemical cycles, eliminate toxic chemicals, and create an abundance of food while regenerating land. Application of artificial fertilizer and high nitrogen manures can create nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide. Permaculture has a variety of approaches to mediate, resolve, or avoid these unsustainable practices. Specifically, permaculture advocates for completely organic agriculture which avoids artificial fertilizers. When you farm organically, you don’t feed the plants, you feed the soil. Permaculture methods like composting, ‘chop and drop,’ no-till farming, and more efficient fertilizer application, like foliar sprays, increase beneficial soil organisms. These methods reduce or eliminate nitrogen or carbon escaping from soils.

Regarding soil management, permaculture designs seek to ‘slow, spread, and sink’ water. This reduces stormwater runoff, recharges the aquifer, and seeks to eliminate soil erosion, thereby reducing the amount of carbon and nitrogen which leave the soil. Furthermore, soil organic matter plays a fundamental role in soil, functioning by maintaining fertility through nutrient recycling, as well as increasing nutrient retention.

Some of the useful permaculture techniques and their benefits on soil are:
Greywater – it may look “dirty”, but it is a safe and even beneficial source of irrigation water in a yard. If greywater is released into rivers, lakes, or estuaries, its nutrients become pollutants, but to plants, they are valuable fertilizer.
Hügelkultur – a practice of burying wood to increase soil water retention due to the porous structure of wood acting as a sponge when decomposing underground.During the rainy season, sufficient buried wood can absorb enough water to sustain crops through the dry season.
Composting – an organic fertiliser produced from plant and animal waste by partial aerobic decomposition by microorganisms through the composting process.
Compost can be added to soil to help plants grow. Compost enriches the soil with humus, increases soil fertility, and increases its water and air capacity. It makes the soil airy and plump and improves plant growth and development.
Agroforestry – a land use management system in which trees or shrubs are grown
around or among crops or pastureland. This intentional combination of agriculture and forestry has multiple benefits, such as greatly enhanced yields from staple food crops, enhanced farmer livelihoods from income generation, increased biodiversity, improved soil structure and health, reduced erosion, and carbon sequestration.

Examples/Case studies from real organic/permaculture farms

Organic farming is an agricultural system that uses fertilizers of organic origin such as compost manure, green manure, and bone meal and places emphasis on techniques such as crop rotation and companion planting. Organic standards are designed to allow the use of naturally-occurring substances while prohibiting or strictly limiting synthetic substances. Labour input, carbon and methane emissions, energy use, eutrophication, acidification, soil quality, effect on biodiversity, and overall land use vary considerably between individual farms and between crops, making general comparisons between the economics of organic and conventional agriculture difficult. In the European Union, “organic farmers receive more subsidies under agri- environment and animal welfare subsidies than conventional growers”.

Case Study 1

Permaculture as an ecological design system for sustainability, teaches us how to design natural homes and abundant food production systems, regenerate degraded landscapes and ecosystems, and much more. Besides that, in all countries, there is a specific calendar that shows when the best time is to start the growing season, and that stands for seasonality. Seasonal food is important for health and the environment because it helps preserve local and small-scale farmland and at the same time supports local agriculture and farmers who choose to farm sustainably. Growing our own food is an act of defiance against conventional, environmentally degrading agriculture and shows more self-sufficiency, which is so important in times of crisis.

Source: interview-with-jo-dave/

Case Study 2

Mirosław Angielczyk is an example of the fulfilment of the American dream – from a punter to a millionaire, but in the Polish version. The businessman from Koryciny, Poland is living proof that dreams do come true if the faith in them is strong enough and there is no lack of determination to make them come true. He started as the youngest companion on his grandmother’s and her friends’ expeditions in search of herbs. During his studies, he maniacally visited Warsaw shops just to smell the aroma of dried plants. After such an introduction, the choice of his life path was obvious.


Case Study 3

People often ask whether it is really possible to make a living from permaculture, the approach to growing that works with, rather than against, nature. First of all, it is important to point out that there are really two different questions in the above. The first question is whether there is sufficient interest in permaculture to make money from design, disseminating information, teaching, etc. The second question is whether a permaculture approach can generate enough income for a farm or smallholding to become a self-sustaining (and perhaps even profitable) business.


Case Study 4

At the organic farm of the Liebert family, everything revolves around the goat’s stable in Geratshofen. The enterprise managers have decided to present their animals in a new manner since goats still hold the role of exotic creatures in Germany. BioLiebert is an organic demonstration enterprise. Transparency and the strengthening of consciousness are important to enterprise managers. Since it cannot be determined if the criterium “regional” permits unrestricted consumption, the farm cultivates regionally and organically.

Source: content/ce6ef4b2-0e84-42bb-8cac-7f8ec683b9fd/IO2-CaseStudies-EN.pdf

Role of weather stations in Permaculture

A weather station is a meteorological device equipped to monitor real-time information on climatic conditions. By relying on sensors, it detects information about the weather and then converts it into electrical signs and shows the information to the user(s) according to the parameters defined. Some common parameters that weather stations measure are precipitation, humidity, temperature, atmospheric pressure, soil temperature, wind speed and direction, noise, illuminance, solar radiation (incident and reflected), etc.

Because weather conditions influence yield crops, such instruments become vital for agricultural purposes. However, professional weather stations are costly and their complexity requires specific expertise in order to work with them, which is why having a smaller, private weather station can be of great help for agriculture and permaculture purposes. For instance, with relatively small costs, one can create a portable, personal weather station and equip it capable of measuring the wind direction, wind speed and rainfall.
Credit: YODA Adaman
In most home weather stations, rainwater is collected in a rain gauge and self-emptied once measured. Weather data stored in the cloud can tell you when it rained last and how much you received. Some weather station models also have optional soil moisture sensors that can be utilized to know if the soil has the optimal water content. If you’re really into it, you might be able to use the weather station to measure how much water you put in the garden when watering. Using the cloud storage and logging features in your weather station, you can confirm what’s worked in the past and what hasn’t. You’ll learn techniques and tricks that have proven to yield good results based on certain weather conditions.

Another great feature most new home weather stations include is a forecast. It can be very accurate for the next several hours to a couple of days, making it much easier to decide whether you should pick early in the day or later in the day. Another great feature of a personal weather station is the capability to push notifications to your mobile phone. The benefit here is that you can set them so that you know immediately when temperatures approach the freezing point or winds reach damaging speeds. This would allow you to cover plants to avoid frost damage and bring potted plants into the garage if too windy.


• Permaculture Research Institute. (n.d.). What is Permaculture?
• (n.d.).,
• Deep Green Permaculture (n.d.). Permaculture Design Principle 5 – Using BiologicalResources,
• Green Communities Guide (n.d.). Permaculture,
• Mumm, J. (1998). Paper on Biodiversity and Permaculture,
• Nature Garden (n.d.). Biodiversity in permaculture for a self-sustaining garden,
• Auburn University. (2020). Food & Climate Change: A Permaculture Perspective,
• Grey Water Action. (n.d.).,
• Tombeur, F., Sohy, V., Chenu, C., Colinet, G., Cornelis, J. (2018). Effects of PermaculturePractices on Soil Physicochemical Properties and Organic Matter Distribution inAggregates: A Case Study of the Bec-Hellouin Farm (France),
• Wikipedia. (n.d.). Agroforestry,
• Wikipedia. (n.d.). Kompost,
• Wikipedia. (n.d.). Permaculture,
• Auburn University. (2020). Food & Climate Change: A Permaculture Perspective,
• Grey Water Action. (n.d.).,
• Tombeur, F., Sohy, V., Chenu, C., Colinet, G., Cornelis, J. (2018). Effects of PermaculturePractices on Soil Physicochemical Properties and Organic Matter Distribution inAggregates: A Case Study of the Bec-Hellouin Farm (France),
• Wikipedia. (n.d.). Agroforestry,
• Wikipedia. (n.d.). Kompost,
• Wikipedia. (n.d.). Permaculture,
• Auburn University. (2020). Food & Climate Change: A Permaculture Perspective,
• Grey Water Action. (n.d.).,
• Tombeur, F., Sohy, V., Chenu, C., Colinet, G., Cornelis, J. (2018). Effects of PermaculturePractices on Soil Physicochemical Properties and Organic Matter Distribution inAggregates: A Case Study of the Bec-Hellouin Farm (France),
• Wikipedia. (n.d.). Agroforestry,
• Wikipedia. (n.d.). Kompost,
• Wikipedia. (n.d.). Permaculture,

It's Quiz Time!

It’s quiz time!

Here’s a fun quiz that you could use to test your understanding of the key concepts covered in this lesson: