What is geometric permaculture? And why this permaculture is the future of our agriculture.
In Armonia, an area in Spain, we are currently creating a geometric permaculture garden. We have planted 34 trees so far on our way to create a unique food forest. What that means and why we do it, you can find out here in this article.
It's important to state that we are not scientists, biologists, horticultural experts or anything of that nature. We're just people like you who like to experiment. We are interested in re-forestation, re-naturalisation and the cultivation of untreated real food. We not only want to re-populate the world with green forests, but also to produce food and to get to know the plants around us. All of this is possible with geometric permaculture. But what is geometric permaculture?
"Permaculture is a concept that aims to create sustainable and natural cycles that function in the long run."
Permaculture is a somewhat different model to monoculture, a model in which any size field is plowed by machines; where only one kind of plant seed is grown, fertilised, sprayed and harvested. That's how we produce a large part of our food nowadays, though some of it is still produced by small-scale farmers who still till the fields by hand or with the help of animals.
Permaculture, on the other hand, is an attempt to build independent ecosystem with such biodiversity, that they function in a natural cycle. In permaculture you never find yourself standing in a bare field after the harvest. Rather, you create a flourishing garden that goes on producing all year round. The biodiversity and the fertility of the earth improves more and more as the years go by. Thus it's quite the contrast to monoculture, in which soil sometimes lies fallow after a few and years of production in order to regenerate. But permaculture does also have its “disadvantages.” It is very labour intensive, for instance, because human hands are required. Large machines don't tend to be used for permaculture. What distinguishes geometric permaculture from conventional permaculture is the basic structure and arrangement of the plants. It gives the symbiotic biodiversity a basic structure. The different types of plants are united in a composition, in a harmony.
Geometric permaculture is a cohesive natural horticultural system which takes its inspiration from honeycomb structures. Each circle has predefined beds for certain groups of plants, so that the plants protect, help and exchange each other. Similar to being in a dynamic and supportive network of relationships.
Interconnectivity - imitating nature's pattern
We consciously pay attention to the interconnectivity of nature. That is why we try to imitate the natural growth behaviour of trees in some forests. It can be observed that trees establish themselves at a certain distance from one another. We plant our fruit trees in the following pattern: 6 smaller trees in a hexagon at a distance of 3.5m from each other. If we plant trees that are much larger, we do this in a triangle with a distance of 7m. The network of permaculture can be enlarged at will and grow organically. The trees provide shade for the bushes, which in turn provide shade for the vegetables. A system that is self-contained and complements each species of plant. There are predefined locations for different groups of plants. We now explain this in the structure of the geometric permaculture.
The structure of geometric permaculture
Here's an example of how six trees can be planted in a circle. Place some stones and natural bric a brac in the centre of the circle to mark out a clear middle.
The area where one circle meets the next is called an "eye" because this is what it looks like from a bird's-eye view. We plant flowers in this small circle in order to imitate the colourful iris of an eye. This section of the land is essential for bees. Inside the eye, in the pupil, we grow sprouts and small plants for sowing.
If you form an upright triangle within the hexagon you will find the three locations for micro-ponds. They are small water reservoirs for tree species that need a lot of water.
If you create downward pointing triangles within the hexagon you'll have three places for micro-compost: there are three trees in a circle that tend to need more fertiliser in the form of compost.
This area is reserved for growing vegetables such as pumpkins, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes and so on. You can also plant root vegetables such as potatoes here, as well as shrubs such as raspberries or blueberries, or even small grasses and palms such as papaya or banana.
The area around the star should contain herbs which have essential oils because these plants protect the inner star from certain insects. So there's no use no use pesticides! Of course it also means you've got a range of delicious herbs to cook with, such as rosemary, thyme and mint.
Instead of plowing up our permaculture from time to time, we just continue adding more and more biomaterial and compost to our star surface. Even dry soil becomes nutritious again, since moisture can be better stored and can also survive periods of drought. We then call this the breast of the earth. Because, like mother earth, she provides us with valuable nourishment.
Why are we doing this? A closer look at life with nature.
The reason we do this in the first place is to create a place of life. We want to live where life takes place. No, I'm not talking about the hippest neighborhood in the next big city. I'm talking about a forest in which you can get to know yourself and your surroundings anew. We make our dream of the Garden of Eden come true by living among the fruit-bearing trees in natural buildings such as tipis and domes. It is real life in nature and with nature. An inclusive lifestyle instead of like in civilization, where an exclusive lifestyle is felt to be very luxurious and affluent. For us, the luxury is to be in touch with nature. Eat fruits and vegetables from the surrounding plants, feel the fire of the sun, bathe in the water of the nearby river and breathe clean air. An inclusive lifestyle is already taking place in our geometric permaculture garden and you are very welcome to join us unterstützen in creating this space. For this garden is here for anyone who wants to get on board with this kind of lifestyle.
Permaculture as a model for the Future
Growing a garden by hand may sound old-fashioned, but it is a place where people can gain authentic experiences about growing their own produce outside of city life and beach vacations. It's perfect for those who want to take part in a project that has a real impact on the world around us. When you work in the garden, you get your hands dirty, dig in the earth, move things, build something, pull something up and in the end the work bears real fruit that you can eat. An experience that we miss in our modern technological world. But this experience helps us to reclaim and enjoy traditional skills, so that we achieve more balance and awareness in everyday life. It gives us the knowledge of where things come from, how plants grow and what they need. It can change our lives.
The big experiment
We have developed this holistic permaculture system through our observation of nature. On our land in Spain we have already measured everything according to this principle and now have around a hundred circles. In the next few years we will be able to find out whether the plants will become more water-efficient, grow better thanks to the unique biodiversity and whether they will be protected from insect infestation.
On the map you can see the result of the survey of our country. The green circles are the honeycombs that have already been planted. A total of 34 trees have already been planted due to this small area of reforestation. Biodiversity is very important to us, so we have already planted many different trees such as almond, persimmon, fig, pomegranate, kiwi, peach, nectarine, nispero, cherimoyas, plum, quince, banana Papaya, avocado, date, mango, pecan, moringa, mulberry, lemon and orange. As you can see, this could be a true Garden of Eden.
We look forward to the future, where we can try out more closely how our Food Forest is growing and were allowed to taste the first fruits of our work after just nine months. We have already enjoyed some nisperos, cherimoyas, grapes, figs, watermelons, persimmons, lettuce, aubergines, cucumbers, chillies, beans and chickpeas. It will be an exciting journey. We tell you again about the next step in our geometric permaculture garden. We are planning to plant a lot more trees soon.