How to Replace Irrigation With Permaculture

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Save water, time and money in the garden! Learn how to replace irrigation with permaculture design and let nature do the work for you!Save water, time and money in the garden! Learn how to replace irrigation with permaculture design and let nature do the work for you!

This is a guest post by Sunflower Craig of

When we think of irrigation systems and food production, we typically tend to think of large-scale farms with equally large-scale sprinkler systems. But even if all you have is a small garden plot, a couple raised beds or a few container plants, if you’ve ever used a backyard sprinkler, drip line, hose or even a watering can to water your plants, then you too rely on irrigation to grow your crops.

You’re probably thinking “um, ya… How else would I grow them? All plants need water after all!” But there are downsides to conventional watering and irrigation systems, and there is also a better way to ensure that your soil and your crops stay hydrated without costly, input-intensive irrigation methods. The answer (like so many things in the gardening world) lies in designing your property or garden with permaculture principles in mind.

Read on to learn how to reduce the need for irrigation or even replace it entirely by applying aspects of permaculture design to your garden and save water, money and time in the garden!


The problem with irrigation…

Irrigation (aka. “the watering of land by artificial means to nurture plant growth”) is an ancient practice dating back to around 6,000 BC. The introduction of irrigation allowed for mankind to grow and thrive by bringing water to the plants (crops) rather than having to grow crops right next to a water source or relying on the weather to provide adequate rainwater. Some of the very first irrigation systems in Ancient Egypt and China involved a network of irrigation canals, dams, dikes, and water storage facilities. This was a huge advancement in technology and laid the foundation for the agriculture and irrigation systems that have been in place ever since.

So, if irrigation helped propel the world forward to what it is today, what’s wrong with it?

For starters, irrigation can wash away vital nutrients from the soil, which means your plants aren’t able to absorb them. This can affect the overall health and yield of your crops and the quality and nutrition of the food that is harvested from them. Crops that are over-irrigated are also at greater risk for bacterial and fungal diseases. Over-irrigation of a raspberry bush, for example, will produce fruit that has little flavour. Over-watering of tomato plants can result in yellow leaves, root rot, blossom end rot and cracked fruits, among other things. 

On the other hand, when you rely on irrigation systems you also need to ensure your plants are getting adequate water and that the soil isn’t drying out too much as this can be equally problematic for your crops. All of this fussing over setting up just the right irrigation system or remembering to water by hand and water just enough but not too much can be a lot of work and requires a fair amount of mental energy. Not to mention it can be expensive too!

The overall goal of permaculture is to create ecosystems that can run themselves without much help from the outside, eliminating some of the inputs necessary for more traditional approaches to farming and gardening. Doesn’t it make sense then to use less traditional irrigation methods too?

Permaculture design is based on nature: Nature isn’t waiting around for someone to water her. Nature uses dozens of techniques to make sure all of the plants get the water they need. Observing these techniques and seeing how they can be applied to your garden or farm is well worth the time and effort up front as it will save you time, effort and resources later on.

To achieve true sustainability in your garden or on your homestead, it is necessary to work with nature rather than fight against her. This is the basic tenet of permaculture, and so swapping out conventional irrigation methods for those inspired by nature is just one thing you can do to implement this aspect of permaculture design to your farm or garden.


How to replace traditional irrigation with permaculture

Step 1: Observe and analyze

When switching from traditional irrigation to permaculture methods, the first step is to analyze your site and choose the most suitable spots to collect and store water.

Some examples of these measures are the construction of a pond or cistern, or the installation of swales (contoured ditches that catch and divert runoff water, slowing the flow and keeping water on your property for longer). The shape of your property, as well as its slope and contour, will determine the most efficient method of water collection and storage.

Save water, time and money in the garden! Learn how to replace irrigation with permaculture design and let nature do the work for you!

If you haven’t heard of Sepp Holzer, do yourself a favor and check out what he does. Sepp Holzer has 110 acres and uses no irrigation. He does this by having lots of ponds on his property (it creates more morning dew), not planting monoculture anywhere, incorporating hügelkultur, and more. So yes! It is possible to replace irrigation with permaculture!


Step 2: Establish plant guilds

The next step is to utilize plant guilds to establish a community of plants that are mutually beneficial and can maintain themselves.

Trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants, as well as animals and fungi can all coexist in a plant guild, each playing an important role in maintaining the ecosystem’s balance. Shade-providing trees like oak and pine, which are also drought-resistant, and nitrogen-fixing shrubs like black locust and acacia work together to prevent soil erosion and keep water from running off.
Save water, time and money in the garden! Learn how to replace irrigation with permaculture design and let nature do the work for you!


Step 3: Consider adding or converting existing garden beds to hügel beds

If you have the space, I highly encourage you to investigate installing a few hügel beds on your property. Hügel beds (or hügelkultur beds) are raised beds that are built on top of rotting logs and plant debris. As the logs and debris down they not only feed the soil and provide slow-release nutrients to your plants, they also retain and release moisture much better and for much longer than the soil in tradition garden beds. They are the ultimate raised garden beds!. This helps to make hügel beds more drought resistant as well.

Save water, time and money in the garden! Learn how to replace irrigation with permaculture design and let nature do the work for you!

Twigs and logs being laid down for a hügelkultur bed (Photo c/o


Step 4: Mulch, mulch, mulch!

Mulch is a covering of organic matter used around plants to prevent water evaporation and weed growth. In addition to these uses, it may act as a home for beneficial insects and microbes, whose presence helps keep the soil at a comfortable temperature.

There are many different kinds of mulch, from wood mulch to straw mulch, grass clippings to leaf litter and even living mulch in the form of cover crops. Regardless of what kind of mulch you choose, mulching helps the soil to retain moisture and is one of the best defences against soil erosion. It can be used on its own or in conjunction with plant guilds to reduce water usage and enhance soil quality. 


Step 5: Monitor and make changes as needed 

Finally, to guarantee your permaculture system is working efficiently, it must be periodically monitored and assessed. While the beauty of permaculture design is that it requires much less input on your end, you do still need to manage a permaculture garden or homestead to some degree.

You’ll still need to make sure the plants are healthy, check the soil moisture levels and make changes to the watering schedule as needed. You may create a more resilient and self-sufficient ecosystem on your property by following these steps and switching from traditional irrigation to water management strategies based on permaculture practices.


Save water, time and money in the garden! Learn how to replace irrigation with permaculture design and let nature do the work for you!

How to conserve water in the garden through smarter irrigation methods

While replacing traditional irrigation systems with permaculture is a noble goal, it’s not always feasible to completely dismiss irrigation, especially if you live in a particularly dry or drought-prone area.

Drip irrigation, also called soaker hoses, is an important part of permaculture-based water management in this case. Using drip irrigation at the base of plants rather than overhead watering helps to ensure plants only get watered where they need it: at their roots. This not only saves water and lowers the chance of evaporation, it can also prevent blight and other fungal diseases, as well as sunburn in plants.

Conserving water through irrigation is also possible with greywater and rainfall collecting systems. And you don’t need some fancy, expensive setup to get started. You can even make your own rain barrel out of an old garbage can and a few basic pieces of hardware. A little ingenuity and resourcefulness go a long way when it comes to both traditional homesteading and permaculture design!

Do you have any other tips for conserving water or doing things more efficiently in the garden? Comment below!




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Hi! I’m Anna, and I’m a city girl turned modern homesteader who’s passionate about growing, cooking and preserving real food at home, creating my own herbal medicine and all-natural home and body care products, and working toward a simpler, more sustainable and self-sufficient life each and every day. 
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If you haven't checked-in lately, the last week or so, we've sorta been in the trenches of homesteading and life over here. While some make it out to be glamorous all the time there are high's and low's just as there are in life. ⁣

With all that's going on, I've been making a point to find my way back into the garden, which is not only needed to feed my family, but also for some personal spiritual nourishment. ⁣

I just want to take a minute to love on my favorite veggie today, Broccoli! 🥦 It's one we plant over-and-over and I'm leaning into its abundance this year. ⁣

Not only is it one of my favorites, but we've also found it's one of the easiest veggies to grow so if you haven't tried it or added it to your garden yet, there's no better time than the present. ⁣

I've got an entire post on How to Grow Broccoli from Seed here: if you're looking for any tips or tricks.⁣

In my "How to" post you'll also find a link to one of my favorite recipes for Cream of Broccoli Leaf Soup!

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Can I be honest?

Sometimes you've gotta take a step back and look at the life you've created for yourself and ask yourself "is this truly what I want?"

The other day I shared about losing two of our rabbits this week to Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease. The stress of losing them comes amidst a backdrop of heightened tensions around here...

From work pressures for Ryan to me trying to run a business and handle a very fussy, colicky 2-month-old (and a very busy 6-year-old), to things ramping up in the garden again and all of the other million things that need to get done (including multiple loads of laundry a day thanks to more spit up than I ever knew a baby was capable of producing), I finally felt like I was ready to crack this week.

Oh, not to mention we're doing this all on next to no sleep thanks again to our sweet boy.

I know this is all part of what we signed up for, but when it all happens at once, it can feel completely overwhelming. And when I'm completely overwhelmed and stressed out, that's exactly when I get sick too, which is exactly what happened a couple days ago.

Then yesterday (Saturday) I woke up feeling awful and decided to scroll Instagam as I nursed Noah. I saw other mothers with 6, 8 or even 10 kids somehow keeping it all together getting three square meals on the table every day while managing to keep a tidy kitchen and find time to Instagram about it.

I saw other homestead bloggers reaching new levels of success in their business that I can only dream about right now. And as I sat there in bed, covered in spit up with a ravenous baby nursing off me as I tried to console him, I felt sad for myself in that moment that I couldn't live up to the folks I was comparing myself to.

Later in the day I had to work, so Ryan took the kids to the beach and I stayed home. And I felt sad once again; Sad that I was missing out on yet another weekend with my family because I had created a life where I now have to work weekends just to keep up.

But the silver lining was that the work I had to do yesterday forced me out into the garden, and it was probably the most soothing thing I could have done for my soul.

(Continued in comments…)

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Sometime homesteading looks like homegrown vegetables and freshly laid eggs and sourdough rising on the counter.

And sometimes it looks like tears when you have to bury one of your animals 😔

Ryan went out to feed the bunnies yesterday and Flopsy -our little black and white bunny- was laying dead in the pen. There was no blood, other than a little bit by her mouth. Seems like something internal happened. We’re not sure what.

Evelyn helped lay her to rest yesterday. It was a hard weekend for her. First she stayed with grandma and went with her to put her sick, 17-year-old cat down. Then she came home to the news that Flopsy was gone.

But I believe she’s more resilient because of it. We talked to her about how death is a part of all life, and allowed her to go through the stages of grief and process it however she felt she needed to.

Homesteading isn’t always sunshine and rainbows and snuggly barnyard animals. Homesteading teaches us hard lessons and helps us to become stronger and more resilient by challenging us daily.

Yesterday was a sad, hard day. But I’m glad we got to experience it together as a family.

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A few years ago, Forbes published an article titled Dear Homesteaders, Self-Reliance is a Delusion.

Let’s unpack this…
What does self-reliant really mean? Is it actually achievable, or just a pipe dream?⁣

Over on the blog today I'm unpacking all of these thoughts, and the things I do know for sure as a homesteader, mother and member of a strong and self-reliant community. ⁣

But I really want to hear from you! Post in the comments below what self-reliance means in modern times, or what steps you're taking to be more self-reliant. ⁣

Read the full article here: or at the link in my bio

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The spring issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine is out now!

It’s that time again...

The time when things begin ramping up in the garden, the barnyard and the home.

From trays of seedlings to baskets full of eggs, spring is in the air and I don’t know about you, but I’m here for it!

It’s also time for a brand new issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine, and boy do we have a good one for you…

In the spring issue, we cover a diverse range of topics from how to trade your skills for land to the realities of going off-grid, from seed-starting to what to do with too many eggs, and from the simple joys of a homemade herbal cocktail to the sometimes heavy emotional toll of raising meat animals.

In this issue, you’ll find:
🌱 What it really takes to live off-grid, with Tammy Trayer of Trayer Wilderness
🌱How you can trade your skills for a piece of land with the SKIP program from the folks at
🌱 Everything you need to know about seed-starting to set your garden up for success and abundance!
🌱 What to do with too many eggs! Author Mimi Dvorak-Smith shares 800+ ways to use ‘em up when your hens start laying.
🌱 How to make your own healthier cocktails with homemade botanical syrups
🌱 Dealing with the emotional toll of raising meat animals on the homestead

Visit to login to the library and read the spring issue (current subscribers) or subscribe for just $19.99/year to read this issue and gain instant access to our entire library of past issues!

#modernhomesteading #homesteading #selfsufficiency #springonthehomestead

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If you grow plants from seed (or if you want to), you’re likely going to want to start a few of them indoors. And if you start your seeds indoors, something that will make your life so much easier (and make your seedlings bigger, stronger and healthier) is an indoor growing stand with grow lights. ⁣

I've got a post I'm sharing with you today that will walk you through choosing the best type of lighting for whatever you're growing and then a step-by-step guide of how to make your grow stand, along with product recommendations if you want to make yours just like mine! ⁣

Ours can accommodate up to about 200 seedlings, but you can make yours as small or big as needed:)⁣

You can check out the post here or at the link in my bio. ⁣

Let me know in the comments what you're growing new, or what you're most excited about in your planting journey this year!

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Theme of the Month: ADIDAS ⁣
No, not the textiles brand, it stands for: 𝗔𝗹𝗹 𝗗𝗮𝘆 𝗜 𝗗𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗺 𝗔𝗯𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝗦𝗲𝗲𝗱𝘀 because it's officially March and we are in full swing around here! ⁣

Before you just start throwing seeds in the ground or into red solo cups on your windowsill, it’s important to take some time to read your seed packets and get to know each crop’s specific needs.⁣

Understanding the information on a seed packet is super important when it comes to gardening, especially if you want your plants to get a strong, healthy start and produce an abundance of food for you. And what gardener doesn’t want that?!⁣

Set yourself up for success and take a minute to read through my 𝘏𝘰𝘸 𝘵𝘰 𝘙𝘦𝘢𝘥 & 𝘜𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘚𝘦𝘦𝘥 𝘗𝘢𝘤𝘬𝘦𝘵𝘴 𝘎𝘶𝘪𝘥𝘦, before your weekend gardening plans begin. ⁣

Grab the guide link in my bio, or get it here:⁣

Happy Planting:) ✨

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This all-natural homemade toothpaste recipe is made with just four simple ingredients that are good for both your body and your bank account!⁣

I’m on a personal mission to replace every commercially-made, toxic product in our home with homemade, all-natural alternatives. One-by-one, I’m getting closer every day.⁣

The benefit of making all-natural toothpaste at home is avoiding the unhealthy additives found in most commercial toothpastes by substituting ingredients with proven benefits for oral health.⁣

So if you’re also on a mission to rid your own home of toxic products and replace them with healthy, all-natural versions that actually work, then I highly recommend whipping up a batch of this all-natural homemade toothpaste.⁣

Wishing you health, wealth and squeaky clean teeth… The all-natural way;)⁣

You can find the recipe here or at the link in my bio.

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It's that time of year 🌱 seed starting season! ⁣

I know you can feel it too. The transition from winter to spring is truly a special time. It’s when life begins again. It’s the very first taste of all that lies ahead.⁣

So before you go just planting any and every seed you can get your hands on, I've got a list of 8 Things to Think About Before Starting Seeds, to get you off on the right food! ⁣

I will walk you through, planning, sowing, containers, watering, lighting and more, and if that's not enough you can download my Seed Starting Cheat Sheet at the end to lay it all out. ⁣

I hope you're as excited as I am for the beautiful Spring season that lies ahead:)⁣

You can find the list here or at the link in my bio.⁣

What are you planting this year? Anything new you've never tried before? Share with me in the comments!

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Ever thought about growing mushrooms at home??

A great EASY way to get started is with one of these mushroom grow kits from @northsporemushrooms

All you need to do is cut open the pack, spray with a little water (the kits even come with a handy little spray bottle), and then sit back and watch the magic happen!

And seriously, watching mushrooms goes does feel a little like magic because they grow so fast you can practically see them growing, no time lapse necessary!

The mushrooms are ready for harvest in just a few days. No gardening experience or land necessary! Even a newbie homesteader in an apartment in the city can grow these babies!

This is a great way to dip your tow into the much bigger world of mushroom growing and harvesting, and to try out a few new varieties that you probably won’t find anywhere else.

I grew Pink Oyster Mushrooms, Lion’s Mane and Blue Oyster Mushrooms (all pictured here). I’ll be using the Pink Oyster Mushrooms in a rigatoni pasta for dinner tonight. I turned the Lion’s Mane into Lion’s Mane “crab cakes” and the Blue Oyster Mushrooms are delicious as part of a stir fry or sautéed in butter and spooned over sourdough toast.

If this reel intrigues you, you can grab your own mushroom grow kit (along with time of other mushroom related products, including fruiting blocks, outdoor log kits, medicinal tinctures, capsules and more) at Use code HOUSEANDHOMESTEAD for 10% off your order!

And if you haven’t yet, be sure to check out my interview with Louis Giller of North Spore Mushrooms in the winter issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine. You can also find my recipe for Lion’s Mane “Crab Cakes,” along with other delicious mushroom recipes and an in-depth feature on medicinal mushrooms including Lion’s Mane, Reishi, Chaga and Cordyceps in the winter issue.

Visit to subscribe or login to the library and read the current issue.

Mushrooms really are pure magic, don’t ya think? 🍄 ✨

#mushrooms #mushroomhead #shrooming #eatyourshrooms #mushroomsaremagic #modernhomesteading #urbanhomesteading #homegrown

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If you’ve been following me for any length of time, it probably comes as no surprise that I don’t exactly love relying on the grocery store to provide for me and my family, and that sentiment is only getting stronger as time goes on.⁣

Between supply chain issues, rising food costs and the plethora of unhealthy ingredients, chemicals and GMO foods on grocery store shelves, I’d rather toil in the garden and kitchen all year to grow and preserve my own food than have to rely 100% on grocery stores to provide for me.⁣

But that being said, we are in no way 100% self-sufficient so when I do go to the grocery story, I haveI have some ingredient guidelines in mind that I use when shopping for my family. ⁣

Check out my shopping tips, what I do and don't buy, and where and who I like to buy from here at this link or at the link in my bio.

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Usually by late February/early March, right about nowish, I’ve pretty much had enough of winter and the thought of enjoying a tropical fruit platter and a cold adult beverage on a sunny beach in *insert tropical vacation destination here* seems to be just about all I can think about...⁣

But with a newborn at home that's about the last thing on our to-do list right now! So this year, I will be visiting my tropical escape via my favorite Low-Sugar Mango Jam recipe. ⁣

If you do have tropical vacation plans, have a piña colada for me 🙏🏼, but if you don't then this recipe may be just what you need to "escape" for a few minutes into that tropical paradise:) 🥭🍹⁣

Check out the recipe here or at the link in my bio. ⁣

Let me know how the recipe works for you, and if add in any additional fruits to change it up!

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