Whether you already garden in a polytunnel, or are thinking about getting started, applying permaculture principles can help to dictate the right courses of action and can make it easier to understand how to create an ethical and sustainable garden system to feed you and your family. Let's take a look at the 12 permaculture principles set out by David Holmgren, one of the founding fathers of permaculture, and briefly discuss how each one can be applied in a polytunnel in addition the the central ethics of care for the planet, care for people and fair share:
Observe and Interact - Take the time to engage with nature in your polytunnel and learn lessons as you grow.
Catch and Store Energy - In the form of the biomass of plants, rainwater and solar energy for lighting and other needs.
Obtain a Yield - This is your harvest – do all you can to maximise it, making the most of space and time.
Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback - Learn from mistakes, take notes, improve you gardening performance over time.
Use and Value Renewables - Complete natural cycles by returning nutrients to the soil, use rainwater and solar energy.
Produce No Waste - Make compost, mulches and liquid feeds. Consider other ways to reuse household waste in your polytunnel.
Design from Patterns to Details - Don't miss the wood for the trees. Think about natural patterns, and patterns of behaviour in space and in time. Consider the overall layout before fixating on individual details of your polytunnel scheme.
Integrate, Don't Segregate - Plant polycultures, utilise guilds and companion planting. Join with family, friends and a wider community to expand and enhance your growing efforts.
Use Small and Slow Solutions - Think small, lose small. Start slowly when beginning to grow your own, or expand your growing operations.
Use and Value Diversity - Plant a wide range of crops, encourage wildlife to your polytunnel garden to help manage pests and for pollination. Diversity when it comes to planting choices to maximise chances of success.
Use Edges and Value the Marginal - Make the most of every inch of your polytunnel, think vertically as well as horizontally. Maximise edge through clever layout and design.
Creatively Use and Respond To Change - Guide and dictate change by observing carefully and intervening sensibly. See your polytunnel as it will be, think ahead, and act to make an impact in a positive way.
These are just a few hints on applying these principles in your polytunnel – but there is a lot more to learn. If you want to be the very best polytunnel gardener you can be – learn more about permaculture and help the world transition to a more sustainable and ethical future.