What is permaculture?

What is permaculture?

You may have heard the term permaculture before but I often get asked what it actually is. There are a few ways to define it, but in short I generally say it’s a way of managing your land that works with nature instead of against it. So by observing and learning the natural systems you can mimic that in gardening and land use planning so that it functions a lot better than traditional agriculture/land use planning. Essentially, it’s working smarter and not harder. Everyone likes that!

A large part of designing a permaculture garden is the idea that it will be self sufficient and sustainable with little to no input from you. Sure the development may take a bit more work, but they pay off will be more food for less work over time. 

There are 12 principles to permaculture and they are shown below:


Permaculture is a huge subject and there is a lot to learn. Trying to explain it now would take me a long time to write, so my plan is to show you my design for my property and hopefully explain bits of it that way. 

For anyone interested here are a few of my favourite books on permaculture:

My permaculture design

Here is an aerial picture of my property, well some of it anyways. It is called a base map and I’ll be working off of it for most things.

This image is from Bing maps. If you can’t find good images of your property try your local government. 

Collecting information

Collecting all of the information on your property is the single most important thing to be done and it should be done before you do anything else. It is very important to observe your property for an entire year (through each season) to see how it functions. Some of the information you will need are:

  • Climate
  • Elevation
  • Contours
  • Water flow/drainage
  • Sun aspect/direction/angle
  • Wind direction
  • Direction of fire/frost threat if any

For my property, it is in a temperate climate, in growing zone 2b-3a (there are differing opinions) but either way it is cold in the winter and nice and warm for the short summers. There is an average of 101 frost free days for growing things, but the summer days are very long to make up for the short season. The elevation is roughly 340 above sea level and doesn’t change much around this part of the property. 

This map is from Google maps, but Bing maps provide a better image for my area. I would check both.

Wind direction is mainly from the West, and fire threat is from all directions but mainly from the West with the wind direction. 

Most water flows directly down to the river, or to the two small creeks along the property. 

Most of the structures face directly south, which is what you want in the Northern Hemisphere. This map gives you an idea of the sun aspect on the property.

From suncalc.net


Now that we have all the info, determining your zones is an important part of designing your permacutlure property. Your zones are determined by where you visit the msot and the resource that is found there. Here is a definition of the zones:


It is best to clarify your vision, values, and resources before determining the zones. Many of the things I would like to include on the property will take many years to work towards, and I’m sure that things will change over time. Here is a rough idea of what I would like to include.

Based on what I would like to include, here is a rough outline of the zones.

Now that we have the plan outline it’s time to dive a bit deeper. Next I will be designing the permaculture garden in more detail, including researching and and pairing up plants for the orchard area, making a herb spiral, designing the raised vegetable beds, and much more. 

Stay tuned for the next chapter in this permaculture adventure!

If you practice permaclture or have any tips for cold climate gardening I would love to hear them in the comments below. Happy planning!

Want to see a few scenes from the off the grid house? Check out this video!

Check out my youtube channel here: Self Sufficient Sarah YouTube Channel

2 Replies to “What is permaculture?

  1. Doodie from Canada would like to know if all these plans include an outdoor beer garden.

    1. The whole property is an outdoor beer garden! But I would like to put in an outdoor kitchen area eventually, maybe we can set up some off the grid kegs 🙂

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