Let Us Cultivate Our Garden

Submitted by: Marlene Barrett

It’s a busy time of year for the Organiclea crew of volunteers and workers at Hawkwood Nursery in Chingford: there’s the Tuesday all day harvest of soft fruit, tomatoes, courgettes, beans and a whole range of salad leaves.

Then on Wednesday we pack over 200 bags of fruit and vegetables ready to be sent out across Waltham Forest by electric milkfloat and bicycle trailer.

But we recently found time for a weekend away in a beautiful spot in Epping, which combined camping, open fire cooking and enjoying the sunshine with learning all about permaculture.

What is permaculture? Ask Graham Burnett, our tutor, this question and he will probably start by asking you the same question back. You might answer: “Isn’t it something to do with gardening?”

The Organiclea crew gather in the harvest

The Organiclea crew gather in the harvest

The answer is yes, but it’s much more than that. Permaculture is a design approach for living more lightly on the planet, rooted in an understanding of nature’s patterns and cycles. It is often associated with and used in gardening, but its insights and tools are applicable to all aspects of our lives.

Through observation of natural systems, permaculture shows us how to design places, spaces and communities for us to live on the planet sustainably. Organiclea used permaculture principles and methods to design our operation when we took on Hawkwood Nursery.

This meant spending time observing and mapping the land before we got too busy with day to day tasks to see the wood for the trees. And it meant time observing and mapping the people too – exploring who is here, who we’d like to work with and how we can create beneficial connections between our work and other community initiatives that help save time and effort, and bring people together.

The word ‘permaculture’ comes from ‘permanent agriculture’ and ‘permanent culture’ – it is about living lightly on the planet, and making sure that we can sustain human activities for many generations to come, in harmony with nature.

Permanence is not about everything staying the same. It’s about stability, about deepening soils and cleaner water, thriving communities in self-reliant regions, biodiverse agriculture and social justice, peace and abundance.

It was great to invite a varied group of Organiclea’s trainees, workers and volunteers, of different ages and backgrounds, to come together to share and learn more about permaculture. But the spreading the word doesn’t stop there – Organiclea will be running an Introduction to Permaculture course in September.

This two day course offers an overview of permaculture principles, design methods and processes, and an opportunity to see examples of permaculture design implemented at Organiclea’s Hawkwood Nursery site.

September also sees the national Permaculture Convergence taking place in our neighbourhood, as people involved in permaculture projects from all over the UK come together in Gilwell Park, to share and learn and inspire each other.

More details about this event at www.permaculture.org.uk.

Organiclea is a workers’ cooperative based in the Lea Valley. We grow food, distribute food and plants, and support other people to grow food and enjoy the connections good feed creates. You can volunteer at our growing site and on our market stalls; join our box scheme; sell us your surplus produce or learn how to grow: find out more at www.organiclea.org.uk