Principle 10: Use and Value Diversity

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Did You Backup Your System?

A healthy Ecosystem is characterized by biodiversity. In nature, a variety of animal and plant species co-exist to create a stable environment. In a system designed with Permaculture principles, every function should be covered by other elements, a backup or duplicate.

Compost, Rainwater, a Woodpile & Preserves

For example, compost for your garden can be produced in a compost heap, rainwater harvesting is great insurance against drought, and a woodpile sits at the ready as a form of heat for warmth and cooking. Even the energy we store in the form of preserves will provide an alternative food supply in case of emergency.

Diversity and a Healthy Society

A diverse skill set develops transferable abilities into similar but unfamiliar roles that can open up new career opportunities. Financial investors are encouraged to have diverse portfolios. In the same way that a healthy diet consists of a variety of foods. A healthy, growing society is steeped in diversity and benefits from a large set of varied skills and abilities. The wisdom of diversity is everywhere.

Garden Example: Polyculture

In the interest of diversity, polyculture, an agricultural system consisting of many plants, is favored by practitioners of Permaculture. Not only is it inherently efficient because individual plants perform more than one function, but this cultivation method provides an essential backup plan.

If one crop fails in any given year, another will succeed and make up for this loss. A variety of plants that are of the early, mid, and late season varieties can help you hedge your bets when it comes to an unpredictable climate. If an early or late frost destroys one crop, there will be another to look forward to. In addition, pests and diseases tend to be plant-specific – pests will be unable to establish themselves and destroy an entire harvest.

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Are You Staggering?

Staggering planting times of similar types of crops also create a diversity of harvest time allowing time for all crops to be properly harvested. I used to plant all my lettuce at the same time and in the same place and inevitably every year it would all come on at the same time and much of it would bolt before we could use all of it. A person can only eat so much lettuce and it’s not a vegetable people get that excited about when given to them. To change this, I started planting the lettuce a few weeks apart, so I had a diverse and longer harvest.


Find ways to diversify your harvest period through staggered planting or plants that produce a harvest more than twice a season and stay away from poly-cultural plantings.

Here is a list of common plants that get harvested more than once:

  •  Broccoli - Can be harvested up to 2-3 times over 3 months

  • Tomatoes - Indeterminate varieties – This variety doesn’t have a predetermined life cycle and can be harvested repeatedly until a first frost.

  • Raspberries - Everbearing varieties produce once in summer and then again in the fall.

  • Strawberries - Everbearing & day neutral - A variety that produces flowers from the time of planting up to the first frost in the fall.

  • Cucumbers - Everbearing varieties

  • Cantaloupe - Can produce anywhere from four to eight melons in a season.

Forced Flowering

Another way to diversify your harvests is by forcing plants to flower, even in the winter. You can use force on a large variety of flowering trees, bulbs, and perennials. It’s a process in which the gardener tricks a plant into beginning its reproductive cycle thus forcing it to flower.

Image courtesy of Tree pear - Karl Egger

Flowering Trees

Trees that work best display full blossoms in the Spring. Cut a budding branch approximately 12” – 16” in length. While keeping the branch emerged in water cut small 1” – 2” pieces of the end of the branch and then make a small (approximately 1”) split from the freshly cut down branch. Finally set the branches into a vase filled with water and keep them indoors in a cool dry space. Change the water often, every couple of days, and then enjoy the beauty when they bloom. (1 - 2 weeks)

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Place bulbs that have been planted in containers, evenly spaced with their pointy side up in a cool dark storage area (35-45 degrees Fahrenheit) to trigger root and shoot growth. Takes 12 – 16 weeks.

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After planting the bulbs in containers place them in a cool dry space. Using grow lights set the plants up to be on a 12-hour cycle, 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness and 12 of direct grow light exposure. During periods of light exposure, ambient space temperature should not exceed 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Takes approximately 2 weeks.

Experiment to Strengthen Food Security

Applying creativity, extermination, and selecting a wide variety of plants to grow to ensure you will have healthier hardier crops with predictable yields. Designing your garden so that you stagger your plantings also gives you a more diverse harvest period that helps you avoid a glut of one kind of yield. Finally, play with forcing plants to flower early or growing crops that produce multiple harvests. It’s enormously powerful to know you can strengthen your food security by following the simple steps given above. Eat fresh food year-round!

Financial Example - Multiple Streams of Income

We embody the principle of use and value diversity when we think about having more than one revenue stream in today's economy. It is no secret that using multiple streams of income both active and passive (or semi-passive) is a financial structure the wealthy have used for hundreds of years to amass their fortunes. Unfortunately, creating multiple income streams is now necessary for people to make ends meet and/or save for investing or retirement.

The U.S. News & World Report 2010 

"Building multiple streams of income is no longer a luxury, it has become a necessity. If the high rate of unemployment and mounting job losses have taught us anything, it is that nobody's job is safe. Unfortunately for most people, their only source of income is from their job, which can be a risky way to live. Some couples may be more fortunate and have a spouse bringing in money each month, but they are still relying on a job for their livelihood."

My Journey to Broke & Back

I shared in the first post of this series, Introduction to Permaculture – My Journey of when I was relying on what I thought was a very secure job and a securely invested nest egg. I was wrong on both accounts and almost lost everything. Having a retirement savings account and even a 6-month emergency fund was not enough when the proverbial shite hit the fan.

 If I had been diversified like I am now I would have had other sources of income to rely on. When I started rebuilding, I committed to myself that I would not make the mistake again no matter how long it took me to build multiple income streams.

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With a focused effort, I was able to create three forms of revenue in three years of making this promise to myself. Now, years later I have rebuilt my savings and regularly contribute to my investment accounts. I would not have been able to rebuild as quickly as I did if I had settled for just one form of income. It did and still does require demanding work, but it is far better than the alternative.

Hey, How Did You Do That?

I often get asked how or what I do (did) to create new revenue streams. I usually reply with a two-word answer, the internet. I first established a brick-and-mortar design and consulting business that worked well for getting me back on my feet, but I was treading water, so I had to find a way to increase my income.

I kept asking myself, how can I leverage the internet to help build and expand my brand more quickly?

Get Published

The first thing I tried that worked well for me was self-publishing on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform. I enrolled in an online program to learn how to self-publish and market a book on KDP. Next, I created Gilbert Garden Publishing LLC and went to work like a madman creating content. I now have several books published (some under a pen name) and I also help others publish theirs. I have been scaling, automating, and outsourcing that business so that it continues to make money with fewer overhead costs. The thing I like most about this business is that the products are earth friendly, and no by-products of the process end up in the landfill.

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Rent It

The next business I set up was turning three-quarters of our empty house into an Airbnb. We no longer rent out our home but it worked extremely well as a short-term strategy that worked for us but we realize it isn’t for everyone. If, however, you do want to give it a try a key to success is having solid standard operating procedures that you follow, with few or no acceptations. Keeping it simple and communicating it clearly will mitigate most of the problems the less prepared proprietors suffer.

Master Minded Accountability

I am a member of an online business accelerator mastermind group which meets once a month for group coaching sessions. We receive monthly education as to what viable opportunities are out there and how to take advantage of them. We keep each other accountable and give each other emotional and mental support that many times a small business owner needs in order not to feel isolated and overwhelmed.

Blended Tribes

 I now have a growing website, Blended Tribes and I have monetized some of its content via affiliate marketing. With affiliate marketing, I am promoting products that I use and love. I only promote sustainable products and services that I can personally vouch for. I love promoting luxury green products that make you and the planet healthier.

More Streams Please

I now have a lifelong commitment to building multiple revue streams, so my future is financial security. The internet is filled with a plethora of opportunities and has changed the game completely. I am using the formidable power of the internet every day to design, produce, promote, and sell my next project.

Image courtesy of Manuela Adler

For What Are You Using the Internet?

Don’t regret that you missed taking advantage of the golden “early” years of the net.

Health Example - Build Resiliency Through Diversity

How much variety do you have in your diet? I’m about to share with you your findings from a study that revealed some very telling and frankly frightening findings regarding the damage our repetitive diets are causing us. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a landmark report examining the susceptibility of human and natural systems to climate change. It highlighted the lack of resiliency in the global food system, stemming from a sweeping decline in food diversity.

Nutritional Options Needed

We currently have available to us over 30,000 edible plants to choose from growing all over the planet. However, 90% of the world’s calories are provided by only about fifty crops worldwide with the average person consuming less than fifteen various kinds of plants. Diverse ecosystems produce a variety of nutritional options and augment good health. Sadly though, global food diversity is in swift decline, and our collective diet is weakened resulting in a future of health insecurity and decline.

The average human needs somewhere between fifty and a hundred different chemical compounds/elements to be healthy. With too few, a variety of food to choose from our bodies lack the required constituents to remain healthy. Today wheat, corn, soybean, and sunflower are the main staples of many people’s diets as these resources are inexpensive to produce, easily converted into meat and processed food, and of course, are HIGHLY profitable. However, with this narrowing of options comes an increase in illnesses.

Grow Stuff!

Don’t like the picture I just painted? If not, then let’s paint a new one. As I stated earlier, one of the truest forms of rebellion today is to grow your food, as much as possible and as many different varieties as you can. It is also important to continually try new varieties. Eat with the seasons, remove processed food from your diet and eat only free-range grass-fed meat.

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Get Involved

Get involved in an organization that is helping fight this decline in our food supply. For example, there is the Right to Food movement founded by Olivier de Schutter, which set out to reformulate the global food system into a diverse thriving organic network of local agroecological farms. The vision is that these local farms are more ecologically friendly, way more sustainable, and embrace diversity as opposed to our current global food system.

Join us

Join us in our quest at to save the planet one permie principle (aka a 'Better Choice') at a time.