Whether you’ve got three foot high weeds or swathes of bare soil, one of the biggest challenges for any gardener is knowing where to start. It can all feel a bit overwhelming and our responses vary from hacking it all down, to giving up before we even get going. I’ve certainly occupied both ends of this spectrum before, however with time I’m learning to take a step back and slow down.

The first and perhaps most important principle of Permaculture (more on this P word to come!) is Observing and Interacting.

In a world of action, taking time to observe is becoming increasingly overlooked. If you’re not ‘doing’ something then it’s not of value. You can see this in the debate between ‘dig’ and ‘no dig’ gardening methods.  According to some, unless you’re breaking you back turning your soil each winter, you’re not doing it right! In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth; time spent reflecting makes us infinitely more productive in the long run:

“We need action, but let’s make sure we plan that action well, so we don’t regret it later” Aranya -Author of Permaculture Design

When we stop ourselves and take a breath from the weight of urgency, we start to notice all kinds of different things. You begin to see the pattern of the sun and where the shadows fall. You start to notice how people move and where they choose to gather. You start to wonder why that bramble has been doing so well, when the passion fruit vine you’ve been providing round the clock attention still won’t produce a single fruit!

Of course, there is a balance to be struck. Sometimes diving straight in is exactly what we need and if you’re new to gardening the simple act of putting some seeds in the ground may be just the start you need. The key is making small changes and observing the results.  These observations provide the foundations to make wise decisions that last not for a few months (until you change your mind) but for generations to come. 

Observing the evolution of the community garden from space 2001-2018: