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What Is Permaculture?

Permaculture is a system of horticultural design modeled after patterns found in natural ecosystems. A natural ecosystem has a huge number of relationships between its component parts: trees, understory, ground cover, soil, fungi, insects, animals, and people; so does your backyard. By emphasizing the relationships created among elements by the way they are placed together, synergy develops between those things so that they work together to support each other; each element serves multiple functions and the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

In this way, permaculture minimizes waste, human labor, and energy input by maximizing useful connections between components. For example, some plants may be grown for food next to others that have tap roots that draw nutrients up from deep underground, make nitrogen available in the soil, attract beneficial insects, or repel harmful insects. This diversity reduces vulnerability to disease and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment. Chemical pesticides and fertilizers, which can leak into the groundwater and work their way up the food chain, are no longer needed. Even in urban areas, we can increase biodiversity and restore diminished landscapes and ecosystems, while creating beautiful gardens.

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