Permaculture is a concept that aims at the creation of permanently functioning, sustainable and natural cycles. Originally developed for agriculture, it has become a principle of thought, which includes areas such as energy supply, and landscape planning and design of social infrastructures.

Basic principle is an ecologically, economically and socially sustainable management of all resources.

  • 7.1 Planning aids
  • 7.2 design principles 7.2.1 design principles according to Mollison
  • 7.2.2 Advanced design principles according to Holmgren
  • 8.1 zoning
  • 8.2 Optimization of boundary zones
  • 9.1 aquaculture
  • 9.2 Forest Garden
  • 9.3 Transition Towns
  • 9.4 green manure, mulch, no-till


" Permaculture is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems. The philosophy behind permaculture is a philosophy that works with and not against nature, a philosophy of continuous and deliberate observation and not the continuous and thoughtless action; they considered systems in all their functions, rather than requiring only one type of income from them, and it allows systems to demonstrate their own evolutions. "


Permakulturell designed living are regarded as systems in which the coexistence of humans, animals and plants will be combined so that the systems function indefinitely and the needs of all elements are met as far as possible. In the design of such systems and integrative approaches and insights from systems theory, and deep ecology biocybernetics be applied. Here, the attention is focused not only on the individual components of a system, but especially to the relations between them and their optimal use for the development of productive systems.

Goal of permaculture planning is the preservation and gradual optimization in order to create a self-regulating system, which requires at most minimal intervention to remain permanently in a dynamic equilibrium. Here, the short-term satisfaction of needs and the future generations are facing equivalent. The system should always remain productive and adaptable. Model are usually observable self-regulation processes in ecosystems such as forests, lakes and oceans.

Beginnings and development

Mid-1970s, developed the two Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren ideas for building long term profitable agricultural systems as a sustainable alternative to the prevailing industrial agricultural system. In principle "discovered" them the cycles of already known in Europe organic farming for themselves and their continent again. They observed that industrial agriculture soiled by their preference for monoculture and the massive use of pesticides soil and water, reducing biodiversity and surrendering formerly fertile soil erosion. Today, these observations are confirmed worldwide and the conditions in the industrial agribusiness increasingly criticized.

Mollison and Holmgren coined the term permaculture for their new approach. It was created from the combination of the terms permanent agriculture (Eng. ' permanent agriculture '). The term permanent agriculture was already used in 1911 by the American agricultural scientist Franklin Hiram King in a similar sense to describe the sustainable farming practices in China, Korea and Japan. 1978 Mollison published his first book on this concept ( Permaculture One). Three years later he was awarded for the discovery and description of the principles of this form of natural farming with the Alternative Nobel Prize.

Mollison and Holmgren Permaculture defined initially as planning, development and management of integrated, self- evolving systems of perennial and self-propagating annual plants and animal species that are consistent with the given environmental conditions and the needs of their users. Over the years, expanded and refined them their design principles by these proven in hundreds of projects. Here, they were becoming more aware of the need to integrate social aspects.

Thus, a holistic - integrative approach was to design social settlements in harmony with naturally grown habitats in terms of a permanent culture during the 1980s from the original agricultural concept. Over time, learned permakulturelles thinking and action on the global networked newer social movements a rapid spread. Today Permaculture also be implemented in many other fields, such as architecture, urban and regional planning as well as in the co-operative economy and software development.

Developed by Mollison and Holmgren design using patterns has parallels to 1977 presented by Christopher Alexander Principle of Pattern Language (see below, form principles ).


Since the terms " Permaculture " and " Permaculture " are trademark is not protected and there is no nationally recognized training occupation for learning permaculture in Germany, has established its own world-renowned education system under permaculture followers. The basic training takes place in the form of " Permaculture Design Certificate" courses ( PDK or English PDC) world. Where the basics of permaculture in at least 72 lessons are taught. Courses are based on the book ' Permaculture Designer's Manual' by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren and are offered by many institutions. They are aimed deliberately at anyone, even without prior knowledge.

Building on this course offers in Germany including the Berlin Permaculture Academy on training as a graduate permaculture designer. This takes two to three years and ends with the well recognized in international permaculture network " Diploma of Applied Permaculture ". Both degrees are not recognized by the state in Germany. However, the Academy is since 2006 one of the UN Decade " Education for Sustainable Development " excellent project. Due to the professionalism of the training concept, the strengthening of an innovative and sustainable profession is sought. Since 2013 offers permaculture Campus (Hamburg) in northern Germany at a half to two years of training as a graduate permaculture designer.

The educational concept recommends the opening with small manageable systems (small scale design). Preferred method of learning is the Action Learning, thought and action are alternated.

Permaculture Ethics

The application of Permaculture in the sense of an inclusive, sustainable design of our living has led from the start to the formulation of basic ethical thought. These were and are continually being developed and form the basic attitude of permaculture thinking and acting. They should be considered as a guideline for any permaculture design, be it a garden, agricultural or forestry project, be it the construction of a house or an entire estate.

These ethical values ​​cover the above-mentioned ecological, economic and social components, and can be summarized with the following three terms:

  • Mindful dealing with the Earth ( Earth Care) - this ecological component aims at the careful and proactive handling of the natural resources (resources) that are seen as a gift from the earth for all living things. To designate a permaculture design to be sustainable, the natural regeneration cycles ( material and energy cycles ) of the life-support systems are to be deliberately planned and long term.
  • Mindful dealing with people (People Care) - this social component takes particular consideration for the self-determination rights of all people. Here the problem of freedom and responsibility is particularly clear. Allen to guarantee the right to a free customizable use of livelihoods, requires a balance between individual and community needs. From this arises an ethical demand for social justice. All people should have the same right of access to livelihoods (resources).
  • Self-limitation ( degrowth ) and income distribution ( Limits to consumption and growth, redistribution of surpluses ) - This economic component is derived from the limited resilience and regenerative capacity of the planet Earth. People should learn to exercise a sustainable self-limiting in terms of the satisfaction of their needs, as individuals and as a community. Therefore, the third component represents a conscious implementation of self-limitation and a (re) distribution of the surpluses achieved together. The latter also refers to the adequate return to natural cycles. This closes the circle to Earth Care and People Care, or overlap the three ethical aspects.


As a sustainable form of farming aims Permaculture from it, ensuring long-term profit will be and thereby minimize the amount of work (energy consumption).

Permakultursysteme show how individuals and communities with limited resources, space and time and an understanding of natural cycles can largely self-sufficient. Permaculture projects use it, inter alia, the storage of rainwater and solar energy, they use efficient, improve soil fertility and practice a natural waste prevention, in which the output of a system element is used as input for the other.

In the long term rather than short term

Permaculture looks ethically obliged to ensure future generations the greatest possible leeway. Soil, water and all other life-sustaining resources should be managed for long-term use and so preserved.

The international Permakulturbewegung supported and practiced the development of productive structures and systems that enable all people lead healthy, independent and peaceful life.

Cultural mix

The design and preservation of diversity is a central concern of permaculture. Naturally grown ecosystems are modeled. Culturally created systems are healthier, more productive and more sustainable if they are just as diverse. Mixed crops rather than monocultures are mentioned as an example.

For a permakulturelles design four aspects of diversity are important:

  • Biodiversity - the number of different species of plants and animals. It is an indispensable condition for building and sustaining ecosystems, as well as for a constant adaptability to evolutionary changes.
  • Genetic diversity - the number of different varieties and species of plants and animals. It is important for ensuring regionally adapted, healthy and sufficient food. Genetic manipulation and unilateral high breeding of certain species threaten the Permaculture according to human survival when other varieties are thus continue to be used, and also gradually disappear.
  • Ecological diversity - ecosystems / habitats with their wild plant and animal species, and the numerous niches, which they use for themselves. This different use of existing resources, in turn, promotes and ensures biodiversity and genetic diversity. This niche strategy is transferred to permaculture systems: For example, sheep eat short grasses, and cattle longer: what to leave behind the one eating the other. That is why someone can keep an approximately equal number sheep with a herd of cows, without extending the grazing area. Wheat or barley and beans and lentils also occupy slightly different niches, and it is known that such mixed cultures achieve a significantly higher total return than a monoculture of the same size. The same improvements through different niches can be achieved with a well thought combination of fruit-bearing trees and shrubs and farm animals.
  • Cultural diversity - in particular the different cultivation techniques, supply and disposal systems, architecture and settlements. Here, Permaculture close monitoring and planning with local / regional characteristics and the predominant use of available resources. This approach leads to the use of appropriate technologies and each relies on obtaining successful developed structures.

Sustainable optimization rather than maximization of short-term

The above-mentioned transfer of the niche strategy on agriculture illustrates this principle. Instead increase the grazing areas or grow monocultures to be economically efficient in the short term, allowing use of diversity to use (several breeds, mixed crops, ...), the area of ​​long-term or long-term efficient to keep the system small and the productivity total increase. Permakulturelle objectives, to better achieve.

A sustainable efficient design uses the existing resources better. This advantage is sustainable over short-term efficiency show us the waste-free nutrient cycles in nature. Plants and animals do not produce ' waste ', because they are part of a sustainable system that reuses the remains of an as food for the other, for example as feed or fertilizer. Therefore, the higher the diversity in a system, the more efficient the sustainable use of available resources. A purely out blank on short-term efficiency system would only pay attention to best utilize a single resource until it is finally exhausted; the other resources remain unused and waste away. Therefore designed for only short-term efficiency systems sustainable unproductive as sustainable efficiently used.

The photo shows how ducks, chickens and sheep undisturbed satisfy their needs. Simultaneously, the existing resources are used sustainably efficient; what do not like the one eating the others. The different niches enable cooperation in a relatively small space. Permakulturell designed systems use this successful ecological strategy for building and maintaining integrated habitats of humans, animals and plants.

Optimizing instead of maximizing

The understanding of ecosystems and the guiding principle of sustainable efficiency rather than just short-term efficiency leads directly to insight, to keep self-designed systems primarily by optimizing small, rather than increasing it to maximize returns. That would be seen in the long term a waste of energy, because the higher the variety used and their productive assets turnover, the less energy I have put into it in the system. Besides, the diversity increases the reliability of the system.

For this reason, paid more attention to the relationships between the elements in a permaculture design, than just on the elements themselves. In addition, small systems are in principle manageable than large, because we humans have a limited uptake in terms of complex processes. Systemic thinking requires complex thinking, but that does not mean complicated, as long as the system is small and the set of elements remains adequate.

An example of the intelligent use of small scale (small scale design) is the herb spiral. The photo shows how the land area required can be kept small by the use of different dimensions and levels with different soil profile. Especially in densely populated areas with little available acreage, this strategy is an appropriate and useful solution.

The design of larger systems, however, is best done in the form of a mosaic of subsystems. The formation of sub- sets in nature when reaching a critical size that is used for system preservation ( survival) and can be used as a strategy to optimize (rather than maximizing) understood. So there is an optimal size for all systems which, if exceeded would bring jeopardizing disadvantages:

  • Short-or long -term inefficiency ( decrease in productivity or efficiency, lower use of resources, overall negative energy balance )
  • Solidification ( decrease in flexibility, destructive momentum, collapse )

The optimal size affects both the spatial extent and the growth dynamics of the system elements: short distances and dense circuits are short or long term efficient than large-scale structures; Variety of relationships ( multifunctionality ) and limited growth (saturation ) of the elements ensure flexibility, durability and self-regulation systems.

Cooperation instead of competition

In order, for example, to maintain a garden that will feed us, long productive with the least possible expenditure of energy, we need strategies that we can use it largely left to itself. This includes the use of cooperative structures, such as a biological pest control. Produced with high energy costs pesticides not only distribute the ' pests ' but also the ' beneficial ', which can relieve us of much work. Namely, once the ' pests ' immigrate again missing the ' beneficial ' because they long found no food. Now the damage is only really great because the population of the ' pests ' out of control, what the recent energy expenditure increased.

Such self-inflicted destructive feedback to develop the above-mentioned momentum and endanger the system up to the collapse. So instead of with lavish use of pesticides to try to compete with the ' pests ', helps the use of cooperative self-regulation to ensure the productivity with minimum effort.

The photo shows how ducks and geese are the gardener ends humans as cooperative helpers garden to the side. The ducks do many a slug problem and keep together with the geese, the grass on the paths short. This man has energy-and cost -saving benefits, including reduced maintenance costs while increasing overall revenues. On the use of pesticides and / or herbicides may be waived by a cleverly chosen plant and animal combination. With a high standard of self-sufficiency, this strategy has a correspondingly high value.

Design process

A complete design process involves a constantly repeating cycle of planning, construction and maintenance of design with the aim of a successive optimization. Be used while the observations and reflections from the action learning process. The following list contains an (incomplete ) selection of planning tools, design principles and considerations to maintain a design.

Planning aids

  • Planning by state differences: observation and analysis of a place by contrasting qualitative characteristics ( warm - cold, wet - dry, quiet - busy, sunny - shady, ... ) with the aim of assessing the given conditions is to allow better plan to follow. In temperate climates this planning tool is only complete when the analysis extends over all seasons.
  • Planning for Real: The entire design process is open from the beginning for all those involved, or interested. It all feasible data collection methods used ( interview, Open Space, paper computer, role playing, ...).
  • Data Overlay: superposing a plurality of transparent films, each special, variable itself planning elements included ( water cycle, acreage, living room, play and recreation areas, ...) in order to get an overall visual impression of the resulting transposition before implementation can.
  • Flowcharts: Graphical clarification of resource flows ( energy, materials, information) to (, feedback etc. ) to understand systemic dynamics.
  • Zoning and sectoring: design by linking given spatial and temporal factors ( sectors ), and even custom elements ( zones).

Design principles

Permaculture is based primarily on findings from ecological and social systems. The observation and reflection of systemic processes should result in the sense of systems thinking to a holistic understanding. To apply this understanding to every permaculture concept, freely combinable principles were developed.

Design principles by Mollison

From the observation of ecosystems Bill Mollison ran the following design principles from:

Advanced design principles according to Holmgren

In his 2002 book Permaculture. Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, David goes Holmgren a particular future challenges in terms of energy security of future generations. Some 25 years after Bill Mollison Permaculture One sees in the application of permaculture helpful instruments for a gentle and at the same time productive transition from destructive high-energy - industrial society towards a sustainable and life-friendly, low-energy culture. A German translation of his book is in the works.

He devotes the following design principles are each an entire chapter:


The maintenance of a permakulturell designed system aims to optimize in terms of long-term productivity. The extensions or refinements of the implemented design solutions is by continuous monitoring and evaluation. The aim is the best possible self-regulation by

  • Small and careful interventions
  • Priority use of low -energy and low-cost techniques

Examples of applied permaculture

The principles described above occur in the practical application is not as separate phenomena, but they are in many ways linked. For example, the optimized form by zoning boundary zones of self-organizing patterns, which in turn can enter into fruitful interaction with other elements of the system. In the following, here are some design principles are explained in order to clarify the related ideas.


One of the ways described above, we plan to Permaculture, is the zoning. It is used, inter alia, energy efficiency, for example, the optimization of distance to be paths. For a self- Agriculture zoning, for example, might look like this:

This zone system is to be regarded as an aid. It is not hard limits. The zoning as such is the requirements of a system free customizable and does not follow a rigid concept. Usually, however, are as shown above uses five zones, often extended by a so-called zone 0 It is more philosophical in nature and allows the viewer of such zoning to make himself the object of his considerations.

Optimization of edge zones

Under edge zone is defined as the transition area between the different elements of a system. They are the areas of interaction (relationship and exchange) between the individual system components. Depending on the desired effect, it may therefore be useful to increase border zones or decrease accordingly, so as to change the active area.

A classic example of the different uses of this fringe effect is a deciduous tree:

  • In summer, the leaves of the tree increase its surface area relative to its volume and thus the time available for the photosynthetic active area, many times.
  • In winter, the missing leaves the surface decreases so much that the tree without freezing to death survives a certain period of cold weather.

The energy advantages of the resulting from the large and small active area edge zone effect are apparently so great that they outweigh the disadvantage of the annual reconstitution of the foliage.

Similarly, one can the particularly productive hem a Nutzhecke not just straight but invest in curved lines. Thus the available marginal zone is increased, without consuming much more area.

When energy-efficient home construction is ensured by reducing marginal zones ( here the outer walls ) the heat loss to the environment to minimieren.Hat a building, however, many projections, bay windows and extensions, as these act as cooling fins, as the surface strong in proportion to the volume increases. Ideally, the overall architecture is based of course on the passive house standard.

Examples of permaculture systems


In a fish pond, for example, not only one species of fish is reared, but several species of fish. The pond has areas of different depths and different planting. The predatory fish are not fed, but feed on other fish. These are but prior favorable niches for themselves enough so they do not become extinct. The system regulates itself as a whole largely self- Man fishing "excess" fish from.

At the same edible plants can be grown on the edge of the fish pond. More ( and some of the same ) plants can turn reduce the maintenance costs of the pond (cleaning plants). The increase in ecological diversity makes for a dynamic balance, increases flexibility and ensures continuous income.

Forest Garden

Construction and maintenance of forest gardens (English: forest garden ) in Europe based on a concept of the Englishman Robert Hart. In the Indian state of Kerala, there are already a centuries-old tradition, as in the Chagga on Kilimanjaro (in particular before the time of pronounced colonialism ). This natural forest management and extensive food production are combined.

A healthy ecosystem mixed forest consists of constantly regenerating trees, bushes, shrubs, herbs, groundcovers and tendril plants. This diversity of vegetation layers of different height ensures optimum light output and provides numerous niches for a variety of animal species living there ready; high continuous productivity in a relatively small space. This observation and the practical experiences from India were crucial for the development of a forest garden concept for the temperate climate in Central Europe.

The sketch shows how such an ecosystem principle can cultivate with a targeted cultivation of different edible plants: walnut and fruit trees in the high altitude layers, including berry bushes and fruit-bearing shrubs, and near the ground different herbs down to the ground cover. In the humus layer can be, for example, rhizomatous grow vegetables. An intelligent choice of cooperating plant communities tend to a self-sustaining forest garden can be set up for the food supplies for several years. The ecological diversity allows for flexibility and stability.

Forest gardens are examples of agroforestry systems.

Transition Towns

→ Main article: Transition Towns

Transition Town means " city in transition " or " city in transition ".

Louise Rooney and Rob Hopkins transferred Permakulturidee 2004, from the modest rural found application in the city. In its deliberations incorporated two other aspects: climate change and the oil production peak Peak Oil. They assume that the use of fossil fuels such as oil, coal and gas, although many people provides a high standard of living, but has also contributed to most of the social and environmental problems.

With the "energy revolution. The manual. Instructions for sustainable lifestyles " Hopkins published in 2008 a collection of ideas, experiences, approaches, examples and practical tools to bring in your own small town or district together a local plan B on the way. The return to local and regional economic cycles, so Hopkins will play a crucial role when go in a few years the gap between oil demand and delivery apart and the oil price will rise rapidly.

Green manure, mulch, no-till

Use of green manure the soil is loosened and improves tilth. Parts of plants of nitrogen- collecting (see nodule bacteria ) legumes such as sweet lupins ( whose seeds can serve as a protein- rich food or feed ), clover or black locust ( whose branches also good wood for plant supports yield ). Acacia branches in Africa and the herbaceous stems of perennial (eg, jerusalem artichoke) or protein-containing plants (eg comfrey ) are in whole or chopped as nitrogen-containing aufdüngendes mulch material. Paths between beds or furrows are inseminated with clover ( before seed formation mowed ) right next to it several times as a mulch is available in the year. Because of mulching come new methods such as no-till or minimum tillage used.