How to Start a Permaculture Vegetable Garden


Permaculture is the result of combining the words "permanent" and "agriculture." The concept is the development of sustainable agriculture. The permaculture garden sustains itself through the establishment of a closed eco-system in which each element contributes to the continuation of the growth and decline cycle. A permaculture garden is sometimes referred to as a no-dig garden, as one of the tenets of permaculture is to disturb the earth as little as possible.

Step 1

Determine a location for your permaculture garden. The location should be close to the house and have six to eight hours of sun as well as some shaded areas. If you are starting with lawn area, remove the grass. Lay down cardboard or newspaper mulch approximately eight inches thick on the newly exposed earth.

Step 2

Use organic soil to create your beds. This first application, should your garden be successful, will be the only time "outside soil" is used. Build up your beds in mounds, allowing for paths between mounds so you have access to your plants. Your beds need not be columns of neat rows. You don't want to plant all your tomatoes in a row, all your beans in a row, and so on. You want to mix your plants to take advantage of companion planting and mimic nature's landscapes.

Step 3

Install an irrigation system. Use a drip system that allows for slow, deep watering. Add a small water feature, such as a pond, to attract birds and frogs. These are predators and will aid in pest control.

Step 4

Seed your beds. Plant seeds only as deep in the soil as necessary. Plant the vegetables, herbs and flowers that are indigenous to your region and plant according to the season. Sustainability in a garden is more easily obtained if the plants are adapted to your local climatic conditions such as temperature and rainfall. Include flowers and herbs that will attract bees and butterflies, as these will aid in pollination and pest control.

Step 5

Add a 6-inch layer of mulch over your seeded beds. Irrigate the beds and monitor for seedlings. Remove weeds, but do not use herbicides.

Step 6

Build a compost pile. This can be in a commercial composter or other container. Add kitchen scraps and grass clippings to your compost and continually turn. If you have chickens, add chicken bedding and chicken manure to the compost.

Step 7

Monitor your garden for pests and predator insects, for worms and for butterflies and bees. If you see all of these life forms present, you are on your way to a successful permaculture garden.

Step 8

Each season, harvest your vegetables and cut the stems down to the ground. Leave the roots and add the stems to the compost. Do not till your beds. Add your compost and mulch from natural materials found on your property, continually building on the healthy soil without disturbing the earth.

Things You'll Need

  • Mulch
  • Organic soil
  • Compost
  • Seeds


  • Vegetable Garden

Who Can Help

  • Read about companion planting
Keywords: Permaculture gardening, starting a sustainable garden, what is permaculture

About this Author

Shelly McRae is a freelance writer residing in Phoenix, Ariz. Having earned an associate degree from Glendale Community College with a major in graphic design and technical writing, she turned to online writing. McRae has written articles for multiple websites, drawing on her experience in the home improvement industry and hydroponic gardening.