Difference Between Organic Gardening and Permaculture

The Permaculture garden is a lot more than an organic garden. It is a designed garden.
It is a system that is focused on closing the fertiliser loop by using waste, and reducing the dependence on inputs by creating healthy soil and diversity of produce.
It is also responsible for its waste, it aims not to pollute the surrounding environment, i.e. neither with excess nitrogen released into the water systems, nor weed seed into any natural systems.

It uses design to minimise the gardeners chores and energy input. Repetitive and mundane hard work is the joy of few people doing permaculture. Variety and observation keep people engaged and excited about growing food. Permaculture activists are motivated by reducing their ecological footprint and developing a varied healthy lifestyle. Permaculture needs to engage all people of different ability, not just young strong people who can shovel compost.

It aims to imitate nature. Visually this is the most noticeable difference between organic gardening and permaculture. In permaculture gardens (home systems is the more holistic term) there is rarely bare soil, the conservation of soil and water is a high priority. There is a more complex use of space. Plants are allowed to set seed and are interplanted for pest control. You are unlikely to see plants in rows.

The permaculture system aims to harvest and maximise water, sun and other natural energies, e.g. wind, dust, leaves, bird droppings.

The permaculture system aims to provide nutritious food and habitat for people AND native animals and birds.

What’s the difference between Organic Farming and Permaculture?

Basically, Permaculture uses organic gardening and farming practices but it goes beyond these practices and integrates the garden and home to create a lifestyle that impacts less on the environment.

Organic Farming promotes the use of natural fertilisers, making use of the natural carbon cycle so that waste from plants becomes the food (fertiliser) of another. In organic farming however, as with ALL farming, minerals are being lost from the farm every time a truck load of produce is carted to market.

Permaculture goes one step further. Permaculture brings production of food closer to consumers and the consumer’s wastes back into the cycle. It also reduces the energy wasted in transporting the foods by producing the foods where the people are. In permaculture the people contribute in their daily life toward the production of their food and other needs.

When is Permaculture not organic?

There will be times when a permaculture system is not strictly organic because it is using local resources rather than importing certified organic resources or perhaps the designer wants to increase diversity by bringing in unusual plants/seeds from another source that is not organic.

Re-purpose local resources

This is not usually due to an intentional use of pesticides, but often due to the use of a by-product that would otherwise be wasted. We could use old shoes as pots for plants, an old truck tyre/tire to hold the edges of a pond. Sometimes the choices are difficult and we have to do a quick cost/benefit analysis.

Permaculture Can Convert A Resource

We would need to weigh the benefit of a using a free local waste (ie. horse manure) versus supporting a good organic supplier who may be in another country. When we design well, the permaculture system can act as a cleanser or processing agent. Sometimes, we can transform then utilise a polluted waste (within what is realistic achievable). In the case of the horse manure, we could ask the owner about their anti-worming medication, check that it can be broken down by high-temperature composting then go about re mediating it before using it. Good permaculture design will aim to have a better output than input. Organic gardening may not have checks to reduce the system’s impact on the wider natural system.

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Making fuel out of poop

At NASA’s request,University of Florida researchers have figured out how to turn human waste — yes, that kind — into rocket fuel.

Adolescent jokes aside, the process finally makes useful something that until now has been collected to burn up on re-entry. What’s more, like so many other things developed for the space program, the process could well turn up on Earth, said Pratap Pullammanappallil, a UF associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering.

“It could be used on campus or around town, or anywhere, to convert waste into fuel,” Pullammanappallil said.

In 2006, NASA began making plans to build an inhabited facility on the moon’s surface between 2019 and 2024. As part of NASA’s moon-base goal, the agency wanted to reduce the weight of spacecraft leaving Earth. Historically, waste generated during spaceflight would not be used further. NASA stores it in containers until it’s loaded into space cargo vehicles that burn as they pass back through the Earth’s atmosphere. For future long-term missions, though, it would be impractical to bring all the stored waste back to Earth.

Dumping it on the moon’s surface is not an option, so the space agency entered into an agreement with UF to develop test ideas.

Pullammanappallil and then-graduate student Abhishek Dhoble accepted the challenge.

“We were trying to find out how much methane can be produced from uneaten food, food packaging and human waste,” said Pullammanappallil, a UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty member and Dhoble’s adviser. “The idea was to see whether we could make enough fuel to launch rockets and not carry all the fuel and its weight from Earth for the return journey. Methane can be used to fuel the rockets. Enough methane can be produced to come back from the moon.”

NASA started by supplying the UF scientists with a packaged form of chemically produced human waste that also included simulated food waste, towels, wash cloths, clothing and packaging materials, Pullammanappallil said. He and Dhoble, now a doctoral student at the University of Illinois, ran laboratory tests to find out how much methane could be produced from the waste and how quickly.

They found the process could produce 290 liters of methane per crew per day, all produced in a week, Pullammanappallil said.

Their results led to the creation of an anaerobic digester process, which kills pathogens from human waste, and produces biogas — a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide by breaking down organic matter in waste.

In earth-bound applications, that fuel could be used for heating, electricity generation or transportation.

The digestion process also would produce about 200 gallons of non-potable water annually from all the waste. That is water held within the organic matter, which is released as organic matter decomposes. Through electrolysis, the water can then be split into hydrogen and oxygen, and the astronauts can breathe oxygen as a back-up system. The exhaled carbon dioxide and hydrogen can be converted to methane and water in the process, he said.

The study was published last month in the journal Advances in Space Research.

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