- "The pattern is design and design is the subject of permaculture" – Bill Mollison
A pattern is a design that occurs again and again because it works well to solve a common need. Patterns combine multiple elements, guilds or constructed objects and may be particularly useful as a response to a particular place. Studying patterns by using the permaculture principle "observe and interact" is a key to effective design.
The patterns that exist in nature make life self-sustaining and self-perpetuating, enable energy to flow and are a natural response to their surroundings. If we don't adhere to natural patterns, we stop the flow of energy and cause more work and lower yields. For example, in fields of the same area using plants of the same size, a straight line crop would be able to fit 36 plants, but a wavy line would be able to fit 45 plants. By sowing alternating compatible crops we can also improve yields.
Another permaculture principle "use edges and value the marginal" reminds us to incorporate this pattern into our design. Where two or more components join we get an edge. This is an area that can be very rich in productivity due to the natural accumulation of particles. It contains at least 2 species, plus species that are unique. By creating a beneficial edge effect we can improve yields. Designers should use edge as an opportunity to create a productive interface to capture, net or sieve plants or animals. So, when designing paths and tracks, garden beds, dams and ponds in your site ensure that you minimise wasted space, use edge effect and replicate appropriate patterns to maximum effect.
Some of the patterns found in nature are spirals, matrices and tessellations, nets, waves, spheres, lobes and branches. Patterns can also be found in society, time, song, dance and art.