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Where to Begin When Evolving a Piece of Land into a Permaculture Site

Students of Geoff’s Online Permaculture Design Course have question-and-answer sessions where Geoff fields a number of questions every week and answers them via videos. This question was pulled from the 2021 collection. Consider taking the free Masterclass for an in-depth dive into all things permaculture


I have a piece of land, I am new to permaculture and farming, how do I start the process of evolution? It seems like I would need to start with the selection of species and then the assemblies they will fit into so I can then begin to experiment and observe. Earthworks might be needed but I think I should wait so I know what the earthworks should help fix, this is overwhelming where do I begin? How do I decide where to act when I have so little information to inform my decisions?

Key Takeaways

By the end of the course, you will know what to do. It definitely isn’t a matter of getting your species together, save putting a little garden in to get some food production underway and have something to feel good about. It’s better to wait until you have a deeper understanding so that the right stuff is more likely to be in the places when putting a design together.

The general approach, before anything else, is to think about water first, access routes, and then the structures. We want to look for the highest places to store water, the highest contour lines on the site, and work with our design possibilities from there. Where there is water there is life, so we want it to be easy to access throughout our property.

Access is expensive and expensive to maintain, so it’ll need to have multiple uses, such as acting as fire breaks, supporting windbreaks, harvesting water, and so on. But, access should harmonize with the water system. In general, access routes should be along contour lines or right along ridgelines.

With water and access routes in place, structural placement begins to reveal itself as we can see the advantages and disadvantages to different locations in the landscape.

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About Geoff:

Geoff is a world-renowned permaculture consultant, designer, and teacher that has established demonstration sites that function as education centers in all the world’s major climates. Geoff has dedicated his life to spreading permaculture design across the globe and inspiring people to take care of the earth, each other, and to return the surplus.

About Permaculture:

Permaculture integrates land, resources, people and the environment through mutually beneficial synergies – imitating the no waste, closed loop systems seen in diverse natural systems. Permaculture applies holistic solutions that are applicable in rural and urban contexts and at any scale. It is a multidisciplinary toolbox including agriculture, water harvesting and hydrology, energy, natural building, forestry, waste management, animal systems, aquaculture, appropriate technology, economics and community development.

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