What Sets Permaculture Apart from Traditional Landscaping?

The dangers of traditional landscaping, ranging from the impact of harmful pesticides and fertilizers to the over reliance on constant watering from diminishing sources, are becoming more well known today, and as such the landscaping industry is slowly evolving. Many landscaping companies are starting to offer organic options and water wise alternatives such as all native plantings, which is a great step forward from destructive practices, but there is a whole other dimension to landscape design that most of these miss which the system of permaculture & regenerative design embodies. Whether you are new to the concept of permaculture or a certified designer looking for a concise way to explain permaculture to your friends, this article will go over the key differences between traditional and even organic landscaping, and quality permaculture design.

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Beauty with Functionality

Instead of just asking “What would look beautiful here?” permaculture designers will ask “Of the plants that would look beautiful here, which can provide some useful function to the people &/or the greater ecosystem?”. This might mean planting a fruit tree instead of a regular tree, creating plant synergy through companion planting, or choosing a native variety over a fancy exotic so it thrives with less maintenance. Beyond this, permaculture design takes into account the most efficient ways to boost the productivity and resilience of a space with minimum input, utilizing methods of rainwater catchment, passive irrigation, mulching, earthworks, compost tea and more. Permaculture designers will ask, how can we get animals to do the weeding and fertilizing for us while they graze? How can we build soil where we need it, from waste products, instead of hauling it in? Instead of having beauty at an environmental cost, with permaculture design you have a space that is beautiful, productive, fun to maintain, and ultimately regenerative to the land.

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Beyond Sustainable

Sustainability is a common buzzword these days, and while it is great that people are seeking to do less harm to the environment, even better is to go further and do positive things that actually regenerate the environment. For designing a garden it might play out like this: A traditional landscaping company might rely on fertilizers, pesticides, and inefficient sprinklers in a “destructive” design that wastes water and harms the soil. An organic landscaping company would forego the harmful chemicals in a more “sustainable” design that lessens environmental impact. A permaculture design, however, would be engineered to be resilient, water wise, produce useful things like food, and actually build fertility in the soil over time, creating a truly “regenerative” design. Of course not every inch of a landscape can be beautiful, productive, regenerative, and require zero maintenance all at once, but permaculture design is distinct from traditional landscaping in that it will always seek these qualities in the context of a client’s needs and available resources.

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Beyond Organic

Permaculture landscape designs not only will never use GMO’s or harmful chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides, they will utilize techniques to restore soil, capture rainwater, and increase fertility over time naturally. Some of the methods that permaculture designers employ to make a landscape regenerative include utilizing vertical spaces, planting nitrogen fixers and dynamic accumulators, strategic placement of insect repelling plants, installing earthworks to increase passive water catchment and infiltration, and promoting soil microbe growth via activated biochar, compost, biofertilizer, and other natural amendments. In addition to enhancing the long term fertility of a space, permaculture designers will also look for opportunities to turn a space productive, and there’s nothing more local, organic and healthy than an heirloom fruit, vegetable or herb from your own back yard!

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Designed with You in Mind

Permaculture design has immense benefits for the environment compared to traditional landscaping, but there is also an “x-factor” that further sets it apart, and that is how it takes you into account. At the heart of permaculture is an ethic of caring for people and designing environments with the people that inhabit them in mind. What this means is that a client’s needs, desires, daily habits, and available time all play a role in designing a landscape. This could manifest as planting your grandmother’s favorite rose in an auspicious place, putting fragrant flowers within view of a space you like to sit, placing an edible herb garden outside of the kitchen for easy access, or placing a drip irrigation timer somewhere you walk by every day so that it is easy to monitor. Unlike traditional landscaping, permaculture takes the big picture into account and is specially tailored for your life, your space, and your goals.

If you’d like to learn more about how permaculture design can enhance your landscape and your life, contact Symbiosis Regenerative Systems here for a free phone consultation & good fit call with our Founder and Lead Designer Mike Wolfert.