Permaculture Design Principles

Core principles condensed from Toby Hemenway.*:

  1. Observe. Thoughtful observation of all the elements in all seasons with consideration of the specific site, client, and culture should precede any action.
  2. Connect. Place design elements to create useful relationships and as many beneficial connections as possible for a healthy, diverse ecosystem.
  3. Catch and store energy and materials.Opportunity for yield is enhanced by collecting and storing resources.
  4. Each element performs multiple functions. Stack elements in space and time to add function and beneficial connections.
  5. Each function is supported by multiple elements. Apply multiple methods to important functions.
  6. Make the least change for the greatest effect.  Understand where your efforts will achieve maximum benefits—“leverage.”
  7. Use small-scale intensive systems.  Start with the smallest system that will do the job. Repeating a small system that works, with variations, is called “chunking.”
  8. Optimize edge. Diversity at the intersection of two environments encourages energy and materials to accumulate.
  9. Collaborate with succession. Accept the trend for systems to grow from immaturity to maturity and work with it.  Mature ecosystems are most productive.
  10. Use biological and renewable resources. Renewable resources reproduce and grow.  Favour them over non-renewable resources.
  11. Turn problems into solutions. Look for the seeds of solutions in the problems themselves and use the opportunity for innovation.
  12. Get a yield. Design for immediate and long-term returns.
  13. Be creative. The limits of diversity and productivity are often found in the designer’s limited imagination and skill.
  14. Mistakes are tools for learning. There are few penalties in mistakes you learn from.


*Toby Hemenway, Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, pp. 6-7.

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