We only learned about permaculture last year when we were researching about the best gardening practices that we could apply to our project. After reading and learning a lot about it, we decided to apply its principles, not only in our gardening but also on how we can generally promote sustainable living. For us, it’s the perfect practice.
What is permaculture? It’s a design system for sustainable living that is pegged on three basic ethics: earth care, people care and return of surplus/sharing of surplus. It was conceived by Bill Mollison in the 70s. Permaculture promotes diversity, stability, resilience and abundance by designing a landscape modeled after a natural ecosystem. The practice of permaculture has become a global movement of people who are concerned about the environmental and economic crisis caused by the present system of exploitation and abuse all for profit. It is a political action.
So here we are, a bunch of women with little or no skills and experience at all in planting and building, daring ourselves to make a difference. With the permaculture principles in mind, we started making a small kitchen garden. We collected rich forest floor materials and lots of mulch (rice straw and dried leaves), and made some beds.
We planted a mixture of veggies using the seeds we saved, bought from farmers’ trade fairs, and those given to us by friends: mustard, string beans, french beans, pak choy (pechay), bitter gourd, romaine lettuce, sweet peas, chayote (sayote), squash and some herbs like sweet basil, rosemary, cilantro, oregano, Thai basil and a lot more. And just after a few weeks, we started harvesting.
For fertilizer, we used dried carabao dung from our neighbors. We planted some marigolds to act as natural insect repellant.
To this day, we harvest something everyday from our small kitchen garden. Believe it or not, we already have surplus. We are sharing some of our harvests with our neighbors, and it feels good.
We’re not experts. This is a learning experience for all of us and we still have a lot of learning to do.
We thank our friends Bong Ramilo and Gino Orticio from Australia for sending us a set of DVDs on permaculture produced by the Permaculture Institute of Australia (http://www.permaculturenews.org/), and Ana Mae Espejo from Fresno, California for the book Gaia’s Garden, A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture.
(Photos by Cye Reyes)