How To Prepare a Yard for The First Permaculture Planting


Growing your own food and becoming more sustainable are goals and desires of many people who long for a simpler way of life, healthier food choices and a closer connection to Mother Nature. Permaculture is "permanent agriculture," and it involves not only the growing of food and the raising of animals such as chickens that give us food, but also the building of homes and even office buildings that make the smallest mark on the environment while sustaining human life in natural ways. Transform your suburban yard into a permaculture-friendly place by implementing a few techniques.

Step 1

Plan your project on paper before you begin. If you have existing fruit trees or vegetable garden, work around them. One of the principles of permaculture is for the elements in your design to be convenient to the location of your house and to each other. For example, if you plan to raise chickens, build their coop and yard near the area where you store their food and straw. Your compost pile is best when located close to your kitchen. If you have a large yard and want to introduce a sheep or goat, perhaps build their living space farther away from your home to reduce noise and smells from your living space.

Step 2

Plant fruit trees and other larger food-producing plants at the rear of your property so they don't shade smaller sun-loving plants such as vegetables. You don't need a lot---one apple tree, perhaps a peach or plum tree, several types of citrus and maybe a nut tree or two will provide plenty of fresh food for your family. Learn how to preserve these foods by canning them, making jams and jellies, pickling, drying and freezing.

Step 3

Plant a small herb garden close to your kitchen door. When it's easy for you to access, you'll use more herbs and learn to experiment with recipes that use them.

Step 4

Make sure you build good access to the various components of your yard by establishing pathways that make it easy for you to get around. You can lay landscape fabric, wood chips, gravel or other materials on your pathways to keep them weed-free. If you build cement paths, you'll never have to weed them.

Step 5

Decide if you will be collecting rainwater to water your plants. Many methods exist, from installing a large catchment tank to diverting rainwater from your eaves into buckets. If you want to drink rainwater, research safe methods of collecting, storing and filtering it.

Step 6

Set up at least one compost pile. It can be a simple pile on the ground or a purchased composter. Every time you prune any of your trees or take out vegetable plants at the end of summer, you'll want to chop them up and add them to your compost pile to make rich fertilizer for next year's plants.

Step 7

Design appropriate areas for animals if your community allows them. Keeping bees takes up very little space and will provide you with organic honey, not to mention pollinators for your plants. Chickens are easy to raise and give you the benefit of healthy eggs; they require shelter and a fenced yard.

Step 8

Construct an area where you can keep your tools, pot and transplant your plants and perhaps start seeds in a protected place. If you build a small shed with a greenhouse roof, it can serve as a greenhouse, potting shed and storage area for pots and tools.

Step 9

Consider installing at least a small solar energy system that you can use to heat your home's water, keep your greenhouse warm in winter and provide backup lights so you won't have to rely on the electric company 100 percent of the time.

Things You'll Need

  • Pencil and graph paper
  • Landscpe fabric or gravel
  • Fruit trees
  • Compost
  • Compost pile
  • Herb plants
  • Building materials
  • Solar energy (optional)


  • Designing for Permaculture Pamphlet; Bill Mollison; 1981
  • Permaculture Principles

Who Can Help

  • Sheet Composting
Keywords: permaculture design, backyard ideas, self sufficiency

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hiā€˜iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Barbara wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens," and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to Big Island Weekly, Ke Ola magazine, and She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.