Posted by: Small House Under a Big Sky Homestead | November 16, 2013

Permaculture Gardening – Our Goal

When we moved to our land 13 years ago the garden was a model of conventional gardening style. The design then focused on a large lawn with multiple shade trees planted throughout and around the edges, a raised vegetable garden bed in the back corner of the yard, and a perennial flower bed separating the bed from the lawn.


The fenced in vegetable garden in its original format. The foreground portion shows last fall added compost and maple leaves. Also on the right hand side, middle, is the black plastic section we are using to kill weeds. This fall this section will receive the maple leaves and then become part of the productive garden.

One result of that old system was that parts of our land sits lower than the other parts and in the spring those parts flood and as the shade trees grew larger the vegetable areas became too shaded. We can now only use about one-third of the fenced in vegetable garden for sunny vegetables. We are in the process of building a chicken run in the shady portion to take advantage of the shade trees and the exterior fence already in place.

Bins facing see studio

Our current bins for garden and kitchen waste, three sections in front and three in back. The first batch of compost has been shoveled into 5-gallon buckets and awaits being transported to my perennial beds.

I knew that I wanted to change the design over to a permaculture style system and I knew we had a lot of work to do to make that happen.

Gene grasses

Ornamental grasses after cut, in the garden cart and on their way to the large metal compost bin. Traditional fenced in vegetable garden seen in the rear.

For those of you not familiar with permaculture, it is an Australian concept of gardening, is an ancient yet cutting-edge technology. The ethics, principles techniques and strategies it employs are inspired by indigenous land practices around the world.

In contrast, permaculture build healthy soil, smothers weeds, promotes plant life while recycling waste products from the garden. Who would not want that in their garden?

The Twelve Principals of Permaculture:

  1. Observe and interact
  2. Catch and store energy
  3. Obtain a yield
  4. Apply self-regulation and response to feedback
  5. Use renewable resources
  6. Produce no waste
  7. Design from pattern to details
  8. Integrate rather than segregate
  9. Use small and slow solutions
  10. Use and value diversity
  11. Use the edges
  12. Creatively use and respond to change

These changes have has not been easy or quick and quite frankly we still have a long way to go. One successful change we have been able to make is our compost system.

Initially we built a three-part compost bin out of free repurposed pallets and $2.00 steel posts. This quickly proves to be too small for our needs. So we added three more bins to the back of our compost bin. Pallets work great for this purpose since they naturally have sufficient air flow due to the openings between the slats. Our structure is large enough and to generate sufficient heat in the pile and has removable boards on the front which keeps the dog and other roaming critters out of the compost while allowing me to rake out the completed soil when it is ready.

Empty bin front empty

With the protective board temporarily removed, I can rake and scoop out the composted soil.

Last year after being given some metal fencing by a friend who was removing it from his property, we added another large compost bin primarily for the heavier grasses that were not sufficiently breaking down in a year. I am working on developing a better system of watering and stirring of this large pile to help it along.

Wire bins entire

The large wire bin compost pile holds ornamental grasses and larger stemmed plants.

I hope this post provide you with an interest in learning more about permaculture.  There is lots of information out there, in books and on the web. It all starts from the ground up!

As always thanks for reading!

Small House / Big Sky Donna



  1. thanks for this info. my wife and I are just starting to do compost in a tumbler and are looking forward to a new garden next year. we are picking up lots of leaves from neighbors to place in the compost. May God Bless you in your endevours. Dwight

    • You are most welcome. I am in awe of how much reader interest this piece produced! I am always glad to inspire. Maple leaves make such great compost!! I just put about 25, 5-gallon buckets of homemade compost down and have plans for even more compost next year. It’s BLACK GOLD!!

      Small House / Big Sky Donna

    • You are welcome! There are some really great books out there too. Check your local lending library. Like everything we do, it is one step at a time. You can do it, I know!!

  2. Catching up on reading blogs- thank you for this post! I’ve known a bit about permaculture (mostly from YouTube videos) but hadn’t known the principles or much else. So this is a great stepping stone to learn more; I have a much smaller bit of land than yours but also have permaculture dreams and goals! Thanks again 🙂

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