Recently, Sustainable Renton hosted an excited group who were eager to learn more about the nuances of permaculture. Laura Sweaney was kind enough to share the knowledge she has obtained from two decades of experience in the field. The seminar drew a sizeable crowd at the offices of Sustainable Renton which focused on strategies for individuals to implement at home, including: sheet mulching, composting, zoning and layers, hugelkultur, herb spirals, and plant guilds.
The ethics of permaculture stress a holistic approach of limiting consumption, caring for the earth, and caring for people. It is a method of growing which incorporates traditional ecological knowledge with whole systems design. The general idea is to become productive towards natural systems as opposed to continuing the strain of our current consumption cycles.
When beginning a permaculture garden, Laura noted the important things to consider include planning for future yields, diversity, input & output, energy, wild-soil, a multi-dimensional design, and relative location. Minimizing the amount of non-replenishing resources used such as petroleum based products and precious metals allow scarce energy to be redistributed towards other projects.
Microclimates were also discussed as another aspect to consider when choosing the location of your plants. Laura emphasized, “If you have a corner of your yard that’s a bog or wetland, let it function as a bog or wetland.” It is almost instinctual to want to dig ditches or add soil from outside resources to change the landscape, but many plants love the excess moisture including rhubarb, celery, and fuki.
One of the last things covered in the class was the invisible structures of permaculture. Cottage industries, intentional communities, political and monetary systems, and farmers markets are all elements that play a role in a successful permaculture operation. However, personal relationships, the most tangible and critical structure, was immediately present in the room of enthusiasts. At the end of her talk, the space was adherently fervent and ready to begin networking with each other and working together towards a common goal.
by Joshua Reasoner and Steven Nguyen