Permaculture Notes: Patterns in nature.

Right now, I’m taking an awesome certificate course on permaculture, offered from the Regenerative Leadership Institute.  Something really cool about this course is the fact that you can also take it for free; if you take the free version it doesn’t come with the certification but, you still have access to the same information.  Ha.  MC Becky right here.  😛

For me, it’s very helpful share the information I learn here; it serves as a great study aid to solidify this stuff in my mind and it gives me great, fun content to write about on this website.  It’s multi-functional!  Yay!  🙂

Lately, I’ve been learning about observation and patterns found in nature.  Observation is a huge, huge part of permaculture.  In fact, some people might even say permaculture is observation at its core because permaculture is all about noticing and emulating the way nature does things, going with the flow.   Something you’ll see right away when you start observing nature is patterns.   When we take a look at these patterns and how nature uses them, we can start to incorporate them into our own designs.

2013-09-04 13.43.58For example, we often see a fractal branching pattern in nature.  This branching pattern works great for distributing resources and information.  It is expressed in the shape of trees, rivers and tributaries, it’s even found in us.

You see this same system of distributing nutrients and information in the human body with our circulatory and nervous systems.   We have already emulated some of these patterns in our daily lives.  Our roads and streets follow this to some extent, as do some of our systems of business, communication and management.

What are some other patterns and their applications?

Click here for an awesome tutorial on how to build an herb garden and why it's a good idea!Another pattern found all over the place in nature is the spiral.  The spiral is a very efficient shape for saving and maximizing space.  You can see the spiral expressed in the shape of some shells, water flow and wind flow, the growth of plants, the formation of galaxies, the torus, even the growth of human hair follows a spiral pattern.  Utilizing a spiral pattern in your garden designs is a great way to maximize the amount of space you have for planting.

A popular example of this is herb spiral gardens.  The garden forms a cone shape with plants spiraling up to the top of the cone.  This allows you to plant much more in a smaller amount of space.  The cone shape of the garden also makes it easy to access all parts of the garden and allows you to grow a more versatile selection of plants when it comes to sun and shade requirements.   This pattern is also great for building; spiral staircases for example, are a great way to save space in your building projects.  The size and scope of a spiral garden is limited only to the amount of space and imagination you have.

Click on this picture for an awesome guide to making a keyhole garden! We can see more examples of circular patterns in nature which we can incorporate into our designs.  One such example is the hourglass shape or torus, it’s also referred to as an apple-core shape.  This is another space-saving design we can use in gardening, we can incorporate a keyhole garden design into each end of the garden to maximize the amount our growing space and provide access to all parts of the garden.  Keyhole gardens are another great space saver, and they look cool too!

One thing you don’t see much in nature is straight lines.   Considering nature doesn’t often follow straight lines, it’s funny that conventional agriculture takes a very linear, angular shape.  Observation will tell us that straight lines tend to waste space and our practice of segregating plants into rows drastically throws of the balance and health of nature.  Our obsession with organizing everything into neat rows is actually counter-productive to growing abundant crops easily.

We tend to take an arrogant, overly logical approach to nearly every aspect of our lives.  When we stop to observe the natural flow of nature we see it’s dynamic, it curves around forming beautiful patterns and interacts with itself, nothing is separate.  The more we can realize this and incorporate it into our lives, the happier we will be in the long run we’re a part of nature after all.   🙂

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