What is Permaculture?

I’ve created a pair of mini posters to spread the word of permaculture and what it essentially means. I hope you’ll find them useful as stand alone pieces, but in this blog post I’ve also included more detail for those who want it!

Permaculture: A Basic Definition

The term ‘permaculture’ was developed by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the 70s; a hybrid of the words ‘permanent’ and ‘agriculture’. But, leaving the definition there doesn’t really do the concept of permaculture much justice.

Permaculture is a wonderful blend of ethics, nature, and design, all used together to create thriving, abundant homes, gardens, farms and communities. In essence, permaculture means living lightly on the earth.

Ethics are fundamental to permaculture, informing every decision, at every stage of the design process. The ethics are applied to design all sorts of systems.

Growing food in a thoughtful, future-focused way is the most frequent use of the ethics but they can also be applied to wildlife gardening, community design, business strategy, even our individuals ways of life. The key three ethics are: earth care, people care, and fair share. While entire essays could be (and have been) written on each ethic, we’ll start small with the core essentials in this post.


Everything is connected. All things on earth have value (even those we can’t use or sell). Permaculturalists act as stewards for the earth, regenerating depleted ecosystems, and allow thriving ecosystems to continue flourishing as they are. The best place to practice permaculture is somewhere ruined (probably by human activity). Fields used for conventional agriculture with abused, lifeless soil, or basically any golf course. When working on the land, we make the most of the space we have, ensure no waste, and replace what we take.


A commitment to meeting the needs of people through permaculture, and consideration for future generations as much as today’s population. This entails a just, sustainable society and culture; such a huge concept that people permaculture is often treated as its own framework.

In the context of gardens, this ethic could be seen in a public space planted with berries for visitors to pick straight away, and younger fruit trees that take longer to establish, but will provide good harvests for decades to come.

An extra element of the people care ethic is the positive snowball it creates. When more of our needs are met through permaculture, it’s more realistic for us to stop and see the importance of permaculture and the intrinsic value of life. It becomes easier for us all to act as stewards for the earth and reinforce the Earth Care ethic.


An idea of creating abundance and redistributing the surplus to where it will have the most positive impact for the first two ethics. Composting, gifting fruit trees to friends, setting up a soup kitchen are all effective ways to redistribute surplus. The fair share ethic also looks at living within our means, and taking only what we need, as the planet can't cater for more than that for much longer.

So. Permaculture. Hopefully you now know what it’s really all about, or you’ve found a way to eloquently describe it to those around you. I made this blog post because I’ve needed to explain permaculture to friends and family so. Many. Times. It’s fair that most people haven’t a clue - it didn’t really ‘click’ with me until I’d read three chunky books on the subject. I’ve distilled all that knowledge into a pair of handy posters that I hope will make permaculture that bit less confusing, and that bit more accessible. Feel free to share these images and this blog post via social media or print them off for your wall! Let me know if you do use them - I’d love to see!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this very first blog post on my own website. Thanks so much for reading!

~ Maddie 🌻


Derbyshire, West Hallam, Ilkeston, Nottingham

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© Maddie Raithby 2019
Horticulture & Garden Design