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SHS Garden Journal Blog

Permaculture Principle: Use Small and Slow Solutions

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Portable garden? Small and slow - start with what garden space you can manage

In our fast-paced busy lives, it is good to know that the small and slow is valued. Permaculture principle 9 “Use Small and Slow Solutions”, is all about recognising the natural pace of things.

Our garden could be more abundant and vibrant if we used quick–fix fertilisers and growth-boosting products, but at what cost? A plant that grows organically, and at its own pace will be more resistant to diseases and pests. The soil life will certainly be healthier in a balanced permaculture garden; any sudden influx of synthetic nutrients and minerals will disturb the delicate balance of soil biota. We won't be able to see it. We will be able to see vibrant flowering of plants above, but how long will the disturbance to the soil take to re-balance, and what are the long-term repercussions? 

A slow and small solution is to use worm juice, vermicast and home made compost that improves the soil and promotes healthy and hardy plants.

In large-scale farming, the addition of synthetic fertilisers creates a catch-22. The soil becomes dependent on this addition of nutrients and minerals to sustain yields, and is unable to rehabilitate itself into balance. Less life in the soil leaves plants more susceptible to disease, which then necessitates chemicals and pesticides to control these problems.

“Permaculture is…working with nature rather than against nature…of looking at systems in all their functions rather than asking only one yield of them; and of allowing systems to demonstrate their own evolutions.” (Bill Mollison Introduction to Permaculture)


Marigolds planted between snow peas - inviting beneficial bugs to feed on pests, rather than using quick-fix sprays that upset nature's balance

Supporting local Farmers' Markets is part of the Small and Slow approach. Food is sold not far from where it is grown. It is seasonal, it supports small-scale farmers and producers, and consumers are connected to their food source in a very real way. It may be slower than a visit to the local supermarket, but well worth the effort; and remember, like the snail, slow and steady wins the race. And if the prize is a healthy integrated ecosystem, it is worth waiting for.

Natalie Er, Seed Harvest Spoon Facilitator
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