Whether you are new to polytunnel gardening or are a complete beginner, permaculture can give you a design framework to guide your actions. Permaculture is a term that derives from the words 'permanent' and 'agriculture', or more broadly, 'culture'. It can help us to grow food, organise systems and design modes of operation for an ethical, green and sustainable future. Permaculture has three overriding tenets. These are:
Care for the planet.
Care for people.
Fair Share / Return of Surplus to the System.
When we apply these three tenets, we have a framework for right action in a polytunnel garden. Understanding how these ethics are to be applied is key to success in a sustainable garden. By thinking about how to meet these three ethical requirements, we can build a way of doing things that works for us and our planet.
First of all, by growing our own food in the first place, we are reducing our load on the planet's resources. We are reducing our carbon footprints, our energy, land and water use. We are beginning to work towards taking only our fair share, thus helping to care for the planet we call home and for the rest of humanity.
But how we grow that food will have an impact. Permaculture ethics teach us that we should garden organically. By doing otherwise, we would be harming both people and planet. Delving deeper, we can see that the methods of organic gardening we use can help us to return surplus to the system.
For example, we grow food, and compost kitchen waste. This kitchen waste can then be fed back into the system in the form of compost. Mulches and liquid feeds can be made from excess biomass, which will also feed the plants and complete the cycles.
Over and above these three central tenets, permaculture also offers us further ethics, in the fields of natural systems and resource management. In terms of natural systems we should minimise footprint, conserve, rehabilitate, preserve and avoid invasive species. In terms of resource management we should return whatever we take, we should withhold support for damaging systems and we should manage responsibly. Each of these sets of ethics can also be applied to polytunnel gardening.
By gardening as intensively as possible within a polytunnel, we can minimise the footprint used for growing food, as well as our own impact on the planet. By caring for local wildlife and following organic gardening practice, we can also ensure that we conserve and preserve. By taking care of the soil we can rehabilitate land. Making the right planting choices can help prevent invasive species.
By composting, and completing natural cycles, we can return to nature what we have taken. By growing our own food in a polytunnel throughout the year, we are withdrawing at least some support for a damaging agricultural system, and by our gardening efforts, we can manage all the natural resources at our disposal responsibly.
Thinking about permaculture ethics can help us all to make the right decisions in our polytunnels.