Principle 10: Use and value diversity

“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”


Principle 10: Use and value diversity

Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.

The remarkable adaptation of the spinebill and hummingbird to hover and sip nectar from long, narrow flowers with their spine-like beak symbolises the specialisation of form and function in nature. The proverb “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” reminds us that diversity offers insurance against the variations of our environment.

Get the album! Permaculture: A Rhymer's Manual


A wonder in the garden

Actively and playfully engaging in the natural world in her own backyard, Lucia experiences sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures that inspire intrinsic curiosity. Diversity pulls forth a natural sense of wonder and appreciation for life. Frogs croak. Wild grasses reflect in reverse image on the still pond. The images change as a stick is dipped into the water. Such experiences in nature go beyond the physical senses that help connect her with nature.  – Jen Mendez

‘A wonder in the garden’ photo taken in Maryland USA by Jen Mendez and featured in the 2016 Permaculture Calendar


Principle 10: Use and value diversity

Principle 10: Use and value diversity

Principle 10: Use and value diversity

Finding a balance in the garden

Replicating natural systems can reduce inputs and maintenance to our gardens. Anni Kelsey uses a mix of perennial plants; including vegetables, herbs, flowers and some ‘weeds’ in a polyculture to create a mini-ecosystem and boost biodiversity. Adding ‘chop and drop’ mulch and leaving the soil largely undisturbed supports the soil life-cycle, initially by feeding the fungi and bacteria and then in turn the micro-organisms, insects and animals that helps keep the system in balance.

Illustration contributed by Emma Lawrence.

Principle 10: Use and value diversity - Culture and community in the garden

Culture and community in the garden

Mr Shi Tao Mo with his plot in one of the 19 inner city public housing community gardens managed by Cultivating Community. Participating gardeners come from diverse backgrounds with over 55 language groups represented and a wide range of crops grown that reflect the tastes of the many cultures. The highly productive gardens provide tenants with access to land that they use to grow their own food as well as a place to meet with others to share and learn new skills.

Photo contributed by Rachelle Davey.

Principle 10: Use and value diversity

Tropical harvest from a botanical wonderland

In the wettest part of the driest continent, the Botanical Ark, in far north Queensland, has transformed degraded cattle grazing country into botanical gardens that preserve tropical plants valued by indigenous people from around the world. This almost unbelievable harvest of tropical fruits is just one of the products of their diverse system. The gardens also host an array of tropical plants used for their spices, medicines, cosmetics, fibres, oils, dyes and building materials.

Photo contributed by Robin Clayfield.

Principle 10: Use & value diversity

Anasazi sweet corn

As an experiment I’ve been growing this Anasazi sweet corn, an open pollinated heritage variety. Every cob is vividly coloured, the flavour is sweet, and so much heartier than the luminous yellow sweet corn I’m used to. This is the third cob I’ve picked – the first was deep red – and I’m looking forward to seeing if there will be any that are purely purple or blue.

Photo and text contributed by Joel Catchlove

Principle 10: Use & value diversity

A lettuce seed takes off

This seed taking off on the breeze reminds me of the free and independent spirit of permaculture. We grow our vegetables and save our own seeds for plant quality, our health, to reduce food miles, and as part of our strategy for food security and self-reliance. This little seed might land and germinate in another part of our garden.

Photo and caption contributed by Annemarie Brookman

Principle 10: Use & value diversity

Diversity alive in Afghanistan

Afghanistan remains the home of hundreds of village-bred varieties of fragrant cantaloupe rock-melons. Skilful farmers produce crops in areas that have very low rainfall, frequent sandstorms and both scorching and icy winds. Villagers save the seeds of the tastiest melons, and eat the rest as nutritious anthelmintic snacks. Seeds are part of dowries, as in many peasant cultures.

Photo taken at the Herat market 2003, contributed by Michel Fanton, caption by Jude and Michel Fanton

Principle 10: Use and value diversity - The teeming zillions

The teeming zillions

Two species of shrimp-like copepods, 1 to 2 mm long, are perfectly adapted to life in a rainwater pool along with other microfauna. Although closely related they all thrive together because each combs the water for different types of algae. Freshwater copepods reduce mosquito breeding through greater efficiency in harvesting the same foods, while marine copepods sequester carbon to the ocean floor on a monumental scale.

Photographed at Dragonfly Aquatics Nursery, Australia by Nick Romanowski

Next: Principle 11: Use edges... Skip to the ethics