Permaculture Gardening Tips for Food Production

Today’s non-fiction writing contest entry, “Permaculture gardening tips for Food Production” By Happy Camper

aquaponics grow bed with the cover off

Aquaponics grow bed with the cover off

Permaculture practice is based on:

ü  creating a sustaining cycle that nourishes the environmental balance

ü  utilising nature to maximise the rewards from plants for food

ü  Waste products going back into feeding the system

The purpose of this article is to encourage you to give it a go;  you don’t need pre-planned garden maps drawn by experts with pretty pathways, grafted fruit trees and ponds.  Sure this is a nice idea, but getting back to reality and a working class budget, you can create mini permaculture systems in their own containers, and extend this out to be a part of a larger system.

Even the smallest system is going to get you motivated to do more within your garden; the sky is the limit when it comes to ideas and planning.  You can easily put your own traits into the system, for me I have enjoyed immensely the conversations that it has provoked in regards to raising rabbits for meat and pelts, as 99% of people in my area think meat comes in a package from the supermarket.

You do not need to jump in and spend loads of time or coin on this, I aim to keep the system maintained on a daily basis and add something to it on a weekly basis.


Tomato growth in tote container with hydroponic method

Tomato growth in tote container with hydroponic method

I have created a very simple permaculture system within my urban environment, but specifically I have created it as a container based,  raised system that can be moved, even though I own this house, I plan on relocating in the next few years.

*Hands up who has moved house and had to leave an awesome garden behind !

My requirements are simple, cheap to establish, easy to extend, portable, can be neglected when necessary, high production and yield, I am aiming to provide 50% of my own produce this year, 75% by the end of next year and then onto 100%

This is how my simple system works:

1. Organic waste is fed to the rabbits or worm farm  (depending on the waste product)
2. Paper products go into the worm farm
3. The rabbit waste drops under the cage and feeds into a compost pile, wheat is growing in this compost pile
4. The purpose of the rabbits is to eat waste, create compost and breed for meat and pelts
5. Compost that is ready is added to a soil mixing container, as the compost is added, I add equal parts of saw dust and sand, also a sprinkle of water holding crystals (which get hydrated by organic worm tea)
6. Worm tea is used to fertilise the garden plants
7. The soil mixing container is hydrated by the run off from a vertical garden, which in itself is self-nourishing as there is a worm farm system built within the container, this within itself is a mini permaculture system, (see diagram and photo)
8. The soil mixture is used as needed in additional pots
9. Organic growth is utilised as food and organic waste is fed back into the system


Rabbits are eating and pooping machines.  They are great in a permaculture system, they demolish waste, produce fertiliser, have lots of babies in quick succession, grow up fast, are good to eat and have lovely pelts.  The only negative I have found with rabbits is the urine odour.

Rabbit hutch, wheat growing and compost underneath​

Rabbit hutch, wheat growing and compost underneath​

Where my system lacks is that I need to buy additional food for the rabbits, I intend on growing more wheat and extending my garden containers and garden beds to provide enough fresh fodder for them.  Even though there is only three adult rabbits (and five x week old kits) they get through a cup of pellets  a day each and roughly their own body size in fresh fodder each.

The ‘bunny berries’ can be used within the gardens without being processed.  If you don’t have rabbits, I hope that you consider getting some ! Time spent maintaining the rabbits once established (three rabbits): 10 minutes a day and 1 hour a week for cleaning


As an experiment I have two identical tote containers growing tomatoes in net pots containing hydroton. The tomatoes were bought within the same punnet, however two plants are growing in aquaponics and two plants are growing in hydroponics.

Note in a larger scale aquaponics system, the fish would be bred for food.  My intention is to assess plant growth rates.

Hydroponics Aquaponics
How does it work ? The plant is grown without soil and fed artificial nutrients The plant is grown without soil, the concept is that the fish waste fertilises the plants
Experiment growth @ 2 months 120cm 100cm
Cost to run Approx. $10 in nutrient Purchase cost of five gold fish $10, they are all thriving
Differences noticed Huge root growth into the water All the root growth has been eaten by the fish, probably explaining the smaller growth rate
Recommendation Not cost effective or organic.
I will not continue to use this method.
No ongoing cost if the fish don’t die off, totally organic.
Yes I will continue to use this method

Time spent maintaining these once established:  a few minutes every few weeks, very minimal

Having an operating worm farm is great ! They eat so much waste and return it to you as rich organic matter for the garden.  A healthy worm farm should have no odour, the only upkeep required is feeding the worms your scraps and adding about 5L of water to it per week.  However I have left my worms unattended for up to three months and they have been fine.

I have three worm systems operating.
1: The ‘Can-O-Worms’, purchased for around $70 this is my primary system.

2: Rabbit area, the worms are great and fast at breaking down the rabbit waste, my main concern is odour control with keeping the rabbits.  By breaking down the waste fast and growing wheat grass, the odour is completely eliminated.

3: Vertical container garden: There central pipe in the container is essentially the worm area, there is no need to add fertalisers to this container garden. The worms do require a small weekly feed of scraps and water the container as normal.

Time spent maintaining the worms once established:  5-15 mins a week


To increase output from a permaculture system such as this there needs to be a little forward planning.  This is what I would do with this particular system:
1: Use stockpiled seeds to sprout on a larger scale
2: Extend garden grow areas by utilising on ground space and prepare beds for seedlings
3: Increase rabbit breeding stock, hold back on dispatching younger rabbits to utilise for breeding
4: Find additional food source for rabbits, more breeding rabbits will require more fodder


What sort of permaculture principals are you already using ?
How could you extend your system if you needed to in a SHTF situation?
Any feedback on my simple system appreciated
Remember the collective knowledge of this group is HUGE, share your information with others

Prizes for this round (ends August 11 2014) in our non fiction writing contest include…

  1. First place winner will receive –  A $150 gift certificate for Fiocchi Ammo courtesy of LuckyGunner, and a Wonder Junior Deluxe grain mill courtesy of Kitchen Neads.
  2. Second place winner will receive – 15 Live Fire Original – Emergency Fire Starters courtesy of LPC Survival and a Survival Puck  courtesy of Innovation Industries.
  3. Third place winner will receive – a copy of my book ”31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness“ and “Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat” courtesy of and copy of “The Survival Medicine Handbook” courtesy of

Well what are you waiting for – email your entries today. But please read the rules that are listed below first…


  1. Tactical G-Ma says:

    Awesome info. Altho I don’t use permaculture, it’s definitely important to know how. We just don’t know what kind of conditions will remain after a major event. Thanks for the introduction.

    • Happy Camper says:

      Thanks G-Ma, what I like about permaculture is it’s easy to add to or extend the system. It’s such a cold winter here that hit fast about a month ago that most things have gone dormant.

  2. JP in MT says:

    I have always found this facinating. We are just starting our small experiments in gardening. I should have taken the picture and had MD share it, of our first 2 carrots and tomato. The carrots were about 1″ long and the tomato was the size of a pencil eraser. Looked just like they should have only miniature. We sure laughed. This year we are trying something else, but we are limited my climate and space.

  3. mom of three says:

    Wonderful it’s great to learn new ways of growing food.

  4. We have found the rabbits love sweet potatoes, leaf and potato.
    These grow all summer long with little or no care. The rabbits do well on Ethiopian Kale too, they love it. You need to change their diets with the seasons and if nursing or not.
    The urine problems can be solved with large airy cages over the worm beds. Nothing good will come from not letting the rabbits room to hop around a bit and breathe fresh air,and in shade in summer. Our worm beds are in ground, lined with web barrier cloth. We also add torn up corrugated boxes soaked in water and drained to the beds. We have more worms than we can count. We also add food scraps and coffee grounds.

    We use the worm fertilizer on our crops as liquid and compost
    with great results. Just some tips for you from those doing it.

    • Happy Camper says:

      Thanks Bebe for the tips, I’ve got potatoes on my to do list, I’ve been experimenting in grow bags without luck (too wet), I’m planning on getting some of my ground area tilled to plant spuds !

  5. Curley Bull says:

    What can I say, other than, very good article with very usable information. Thank you for writing it!

  6. This is the first year that i have planted in the garden that i have been dumping the chicken poop on. I tilled it under last year and it sat all winter and now, the squash plants are bigger than ive ever seen squash plants get. chicken poop fertilzer is getting put everywhere now.

  7. patientmomma says:

    Thanks so much! You give me hope that I could do something similar.

  8. Big Bear says:

    Great article! I had been thinking about some of the things you mentioned for a while but the segment on worms (no pun intended) jumped out at me. I’m going to get a 4 tray worm kit and get started. Not just for fishing and composting but to have as a protein supplement for the chickens I’ll be getting.

    Tanks again!

    • Happy Camper says:

      Worms are great, mine are currently munching through all the old paperwork I needed destroyed. I’ve split my farm several times without issue. The worm tea I get is way too much for me to use, I generally refill cleaned used milk bottles and give it to my neighbours. I prob get about 7 litres a week out of it.
      My bird cage is next to the main system to allow any bird waste to go directly into the system.

  9. Happy Camper says:

    Thanks for the feedback guys ! The only update since I wrote that article is that I’ve added 35 Australian Bass to the Aquaponics system. I’ve added four more rabbit cages to allow for population growth, and I’d I’m getting closer to stopping buying rabbit food because I’ve been feeding them my garden clippings and scraps.
    Funny things is that I did allow two of the bunnies to have a few days romantic get away on my balcony, they demolished all the low lying plants then worked out how to climb into some of the larger planters and munched their way through so much ! But I don’t mind, because technically the food production has stayed within the permaculture loop… Lol

  10. I’d call this “semi-permaculture”, but that’s not intended as a criticism, just that I’ve read a few of Bill Mollison’s books, including his gigantic “designers’ manual”, as well as Masanobu Fukuoka’s “The one straw recolution”.

    It’s a good start that can be extended after shtf, but I’d like to add a few points.

    I’ve always enjoyed the distinctive flavour of wild (or natural-fed) rabbit, but don’t overlook the fact that they have a two-stage digestive system. The soft pellets are designed to be eaten again (by the rabbits), and only the hard, dry pellets are true waste.

    Any kind of animal waste can be “too strong” for direct application unless it’s either diluted or composted, especially chicken manure. This also applies to worm casts.

    Try to keep things as natural as possible and you’ll find it easier to extend as required. Ideally a true permaculture needs land, but land isn’t available to everyone.

  11. Thanks for the article Happy Camper. I found new things to consider while reading it. Like you, my goal is to be self sufficient with food. Thank you for comparing the aquaponic and hydroponic systems.

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