A Beginner’s Permaculture Garden Make-Over

A collection of patterns for an easy, low-work home garden.

One of our Permaculture principles is “Design from Patterns to Specifics.” These patterns create a garden that minimizes some of the most common draw-backs of home gardening: the work, the weeds, maintaining paths, watering, fighting pests and getting haphazard harvest results. They’re especially chosen to bring new life to that old, over-grown garden everyone seems to have in the back yard. 

This single key-hole design works for a garden between 10′ * 10′ to about 15′ x 15′. 

We use most of these patterns in all of our beds at Lillie House. Here are a few notes and details: 

Narrow entry path: paths are often difficult to maintain and a perfect place for weeds to invade.

Double-reach beds: at their widest (the corners) the beds should only be about 5′. This allows you to reach to everything in the bed (2 1/2′ reach from the inside and out) without ever having to step on the bed. 

Planted border: everyone loves border rocks and bricks, but they also make the perfect niche for difficult weeds to invade. Plant these niches yourself with mat-rooting herbs like thyme and deny weeds a foothold. 

Mulch basin “keyhole;” the narrow path opens to a more spacious work space. This mulch basin can be dug out to collect water much like a rain garden. The heavy mulch will break down quickly to feed your plants. Perennial plants might provide most of the material you need to keep this pit mulched. 

Perennials around the outside, room for annuals on the inside! This makes your garden an eco-system that’s hard to invade. Unlike most annual gardens, this one won’t quickly get over-run by grass. 

Nitrogen Fixers: Help your garden fertilize itself. 

Flowers: this will be a beautiful garden, too! 

Perennials: Perennials help ensure a good harvest year-in and out, even if you don’t have time to “plant your garden.” You might discover that you like the perennials so much you just let them take over! Just a note, I forgot to include a few of my favorites: Turkish Rocket, lovage, artichokes (needs winter protection) and rhubarb. 

Applying these patterns to an old under-utilized garden plot will “yield” a perennial harvest for little labor for years to come. Better yet, they will provide plant material to help expand a Permaculture design to other parts of your yard. 

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