Ways to Consider Water in Your Permaculture Garden Design

In a permaculture garden, water is always an important consideration: you need to think carefully about water in all permaculture designs.

As a permaculture designer, I know that efficient water management in a garden can be more than just a matter of best ecological practices. Aquatic elements in permaculture can both perform important functions and enhance the visual appeal and coziness of a space.

Below are some examples of permaculture water games from three of my recent projects. These ideas show how beautiful and useful permaculture designs can be and can help you think about how you can include water in your garden designs.

Permaculture ponds and chain of wetlands

There are various reasons why adding a pond can be a wonderful idea on many sites: I’ve written before about the benefits of adding a pond to your garden. But more holistically, a single isolated pond is not the only option.

In one of my permaculture design projects, I designed an integrated series of ponds and wetlands, to remediate and improve a rather swampy and underused site. Working with the natural contours of the land and the natural flow of water at the site, I designed a larger body of water that consisted of a series of ponds of varying sizes and depths, linked in a chain with wetland areas (reed bed type) planting.

This larger body of water was a key part of the design and will greatly enrich the visual appeal and biodiversity of the farm site.

A gravity-fed waterfall and an irrigation canal

I also recently worked on an artist’s garden in Scotland. The artist in question wanted to create a spectacular piece of water, in order to create an attractive view. She also wanted to make her garden not only a beautiful space but also a space as productive as possible.

The garden was mostly flat but had a steep slope at the northern end of the space. We decided to create a pond near the highest point in the garden, collecting water from the slopes above and feeding the water naturally from here via a rock waterfall to a canal, feeding a second pond and irrigating for a polyculture of flowers and garden vegetables.

The entire permaculture water feature has been designed to be visually appealing, while effectively managing water flow to make the most of natural precipitation and retain as much water as possible on the site.

Ponds with Chinampas and aquaponics integration

Ponds can’t just be visually appealing, biodiversity-rich features to add to a garden. Ponds themselves can also be features of food production. I designed ponds in which chinampas (rafts of plant matter) are built in which the products can be grown. Of course, there are many other edible pond plants that can be incorporated in and around the edges of the pond, including a number of aquatic and marginal plants.

Another great idea and element of common permaculture is to integrate a pond into an aquaponics system. The pond contains fish which fertilize the water. And that water can then be pumped around a hydroponics system in a number of ways.

An interesting idea is to place a pond partially inside and partially outside of a tunnel or other undercover growing area. The various habitats that can be created can increase diversity and open up a range of other interesting options for integration.

Adding a body of water inside a polytunnel or greenhouse structure can help regulate temperature by adding thermal mass, which can provide an increased range of possibilities in terms of concerns what you can successfully grow indoors. Higher temperatures in an undercover grow area can also allow you to breed different fish in cooler temperate climates, so this is something else to consider.

These are just a few ideas from my own design work, and there are many other interesting and intriguing options to consider when it comes to managing and using water in your garden. The main thing is to think about the best options for your particular site. Each site is different and presents its own set of challenges and opportunities. Always design for the terrain, climate and characteristics of your region.

Hope these ideas serve as inspiration for you and help you think big and think outside the box when it comes to adding aquatic elements to your own permaculture garden.

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