Permaculture Principles

What is Permaculture?

The word “Permaculture” is the combination of the two words
permanent and “culture“. 
Two Australian men named Bill Mollison and David Holmgren coined the term in the 1970’s.  It is a philosophy that allows us to use the resources that we have around us to their fullest potential. 
By observing and learning from our environment, such as how nature replenishes its soil, how nature protects and conserves its water resources, how nature has adapted to the specific climate of an area—we can learn how to imitate these natural processes when we are designing our farms or gardens. 
The more closely that we can work with nature, the more likely we are to establish a balance which will provide us with the things that we need without hurting the environment.

* “Permaculture is a design system that mimics natural eco-systems with positive impacts on human and environmental health”
* “Designs of sustainable Living”
* “System of natural farming in which the farmer co-operates with nature”

The three ethics of Permaculture
- Earth Care
- People Care
- Fare Share

8 Sayings in Permaculture:

v See Solutions, Not Problems

v  Observe, Learn and Share (Nature is the best teacher we have)

v  Be Diverse (Nature always plants a variety)

v  Be Efficient (Use everything to its fullest potential)

v  Everything works together (Think cooperation, not competition)

v  Conserve Energy (Let nature do the work)

v  Think Ahead

v  See the whole picture

If we are going to leave a sustainable future for the generations to come then we are going to have to start seeing things in a new way.

When we look at things through the “eyes” of Permaculture, we often see that the current ways of doing things are the cause of our difficulties.

For instance, why do we get so worked up about fertilizer subsidies when we don’t need fertilizer?
Why do we debate the dangers of multi-national corporations owning our seed companies when we don’t need the seed companies in the first place?
Why do we let all of our water run away during the rains causing floods, erosion, and property damage and then we complain during the dry season when our boreholes run dry?
Why do we base our entire diet on one introduced foreign food when there are over 500 local foods to choose from?
Let’s start to see solutions not problems!


Live as though you're going to die tomorrow,
but farm as though you're going to live forever.”

Patrick Whitefield


Much of the soil became nutrient depleted.
It’s time we begin to heal the land so that it can give us the things we need to stay healthy and strong.

One of the most important things that we can begin to do is return ALL organic matter to the soil.
The practice of gathering, sweeping*, and burning organic matter is one of the worst things that we continue to do.
These materials have many nutrients that plants need to grow.
If it is burned, the majority of these nutrients are destroyed leaving mainly potassium.

When we buy and use chemical fertilizer we are simply feeding the plants but not the soil.

Plants need at least 15 nutrients that we know of to grow healthy, resist diseases, and produce food for us to eat.
Chemical fertilizer generally only provides the three main nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium)
The remaining ones: sulphur, calcium, magnesium, manganese, boron, zinc, aluminium, silicon, copper, iron, molybdenum, and chlorine are usually left out and it is hoped that the soil still contains some of these things to assist with the growth process.
This is why it becomes so important to start feeding the soil and not just the plants.

Nitrogen is constantly being removed from our soil by crops, rains, and other natural processes.
In order for plants to grow healthy, there must be a constant renewal of nitrogen, not just a one-time application.
Why is the percentage of nitrogen often too high?:
Firstly, we are not returning enough organic matter to our soil and we are not intercropping with enough nitrogen-fixing plants.
Secondly, we allow too much water to run off our land during the rainy season.
This erosion, along with depletion from the sun and wind, takes away what little nitrogen may have actually had a chance to build up in the soil.

Next is phosphorus which helps with the development of strong roots, fruit development, and disease resistance.
Phosphorus is released through the decaying of organic matter.
Most of the time the percentage of phosphorus is so high in chemical fertilizer because  we aren’t allowing any organic matter to decay in our fields!

As for potassium (also referred to as potash), the reason that this percentage is in chemical fertilizers is often so low is because so much is being burned that there is already plenty of potassium available in the soil.


* So what does over-sweeping do that is so bad? First of all it removes precious organic matter from the soil. This organic matter is food for the soil that gives nutrients that plants need to grow. So, along with organic matter, we are also removing important nutrients when we sweep.
It exposes the soil to the harsh effects of the sun. The sun bakes our clay soils until they are hard and compacted like a brick or like tarmac.
▪ It kills the beneficial microorganisms living in the soil and help to make it healthy.
▪ It also prevents rain water from sinking into our soil and filling up our wells. Instead, the water runs off quickly causing erosion, gullying, and even flooding.
Instead of sweeping massive areas of our land, why not try to reduce these areas by creating pathways, garden beds, and sitting areas near to the house. This way, we can still sweep small areas to keep the yard looking tidy, but all organic matter can be swept into these garden beds to feed the soil and help provide food for our families.
We can plant fruit trees in these beds that will give food for years to come with very little work and can even take advantage of used water that we normally throw away onto the compacted over-swept soil.
We can plant vines that will use the house to climb on providing even more food while at the same time helping to keep our houses cool in the summer heat.
These vines can also provide shade for our sitting areas so that our guests can feel cool while they are eating the fruits of our trees.
We can also plant all of the food groups in these nutrient-rich beds to ensure a healthy diet and access to foods throughout the year.

Water Harvesting

When it is rainy season, it is a great time to begin your water harvesting!
Every drop of water that falls on your land should stay on your land.
Don’t let anything run away or be wasted.
There are several ways of doing this.
Firstly, remember the four “S’s” of Permaculture:
Stop - Spread - Sink – Shade


If you have water that is running across your property, try to use the soil to redirect it so that it spreads out over the land.
To do this you can use another ‘S’ word, a “swale”, which is a type of permanent ridge.
Dig a channel along the contour of the land to stop the water and then plant perennial crops on the top of the ridge to make it strong and permanent.
Good crops for this can include lemon grass, vetiver grass, fruit trees, jatropha , tephrosia, or anything else that you know will be deep rooted and last for several years.

These swales will help to stop and spread your water, thus allowing time for it to sink into your soil.
The plants that you establish on the top of the swale will also act as shade to help hold the moisture once it has gone into your soil.

Secondly, the use of mulch is essential for helping to harvest your water throughout the year, but especially now during the rains.
Mulch is generally any type of organic matter such as leaves, grass, maize stalks, rice husks, animal bedding, etc. that is used to cover your soil and protect it from being damaged by the sun, wind and raindrops.
As this mulch breaks down, it becomes compost to feed your soil.
This organic matter will also act as a sponge in your soil, absorbing large amounts of water, allowing the water to filter into the soil, and shading it so that it stays there for a longer period of time.

Thirdly, water harvesting tanks may be designed to harvest rain water off of roofs and other structures.
Basically this simply entails guiding the water through some sort of channel (such as split bamboo, plastic bottles that have been cut in half, gutters made out of tin, purchased rain gutter, or whatever else you can think of.
This water is then directed off the roof and into some sort of container (such as an old oil drum, a cement tank, clay pots, etc.).
This water can then be used to wash clothes, bathe, mop floors, etc. and finally poured onto your Permaculture guilds when it is finished.

Lastly, plant trees!
Lots and lots of trees of all types (mostly for food, but also for fuel, building materials, etc.)
Trees absorb and store massive amounts of water in their trunks, roots, and leaves. During the dry season, this moisture is slowly returned to the soil and the air, causing boreholes to remain full, rivers to continue running, and rain clouds to be formed.
If you’ve ever seen rivers stop running during the dry season, take a look and see how many trees are left around it.



Use of Water Run Off











Water from the pump is not used and attracts flies >>>> diseases.

Water from the pump is used in a much better way : plants grow >>> food.








Water Wasting








Water Wise Use



A Permaculture guild is a group of plants that are all working together to help each other grow strong and healthy.

A good guild should contain the following aspects:

*Things that feed the soil
*Miners and Diggers

One of the first things that we use a guild for is to provide us with food.
Remember that diversity is the key to good health. Try to include all of the food groups when you are planting a guild.
This would include:
staples, vegetables, fruits, legumes & nuts, fats and even animal foods (such as the chickens that are helping turn your soil and give you manure, or the caterpillars that are attracted to certain trees).

Things that Feed the Soil
Legumes are trees and vegetables that are able to take nitrogen from the air and change it in the soil into a form that other plants can use.
This is called “fixing nitrogen”.
Legumes generally produce their seeds in pods, so even if you don’t know if something is a legume or not, you may be able to guess just by looking at the type of seeds it has.
Examples of legumes include: all beans, peanuts, pigeon peas, acacia trees ,tephrosia, etc.
Other things that feed the soil include compost, compost tea, mulch, manure, and animal bedding.


Groundcover is just what it says…something that covers the ground.
Groundcover is important for protecting the soil from the damaging rays of the sun as well as helping to shade the ground and hold moisture for longer periods of time.
It can also help to inhibit “weeds” (good plants in the wrong place), so that there is not as much root competition.
Examples: sweet potato vines, pumpkin, cucumbers and anything else that will vine or spread across the soil.
Mulch is also a form of ground cover.


Deep rooted plants, such as trees, will reach deep into the earth’s soil and bring minerals up to the surface.
Therefore, it’s important to eat the skins of foods (if they are edible), because that is where a great deal of the minerals is.
It is also why it is important to use the leaves of trees in compost piles so that those minerals are returned to the soil for other plants to use.
Diggers are any plants that help to open the soil and allow air and water to enter.
Examples of diggers include: cassava, sweet potatoes, yams, etc.


Any plant that helps to protect your guild is a protector.
If you want to protect your guild from insects, then it’s important to know that many insects find their food through the sense of smell.
If you plant strong smelling plants such as garlic, basil, lemon grass, the insects have a difficult time finding their food. Other plants such as marigolds will help to protect from things like root nematodes in the soil.
There are also beneficial predators that will help to protect your guild, such as frogs, lizards, birds, and ladybirds. Try attracting these to your guild with the use of shelter (i.e. a small pile of stones for them to hide in), water features (such as a bird bath that can be easily made of a broken pot or upside-down hubcap), and the addition of flowers, bird-berries, and hedges that will provide food and protection for all your protectors.
You can also protect your guilds from large animals like goats and people with the addition of things with thorns.


Many people claim that they don’t have enough land on which to farm.
What they are forgetting, however, is that they may have a lot of space.
If we look at a forest system (which is what Permaculture is based on), we see that nature stacks plants in many layers.
If we start to use this vertical space rather than just the horizontal, we can greatly increase our food production on just a small plot of land.
The use of climbers is one of the ways to do this.
Climbers will grow upwards and provide us with a whole other level of food production.
This is where Bill Mollison (one of the co-founders of Permaculture) joked that you will be in danger of falling food.
Examples of climbers that you can use include: beans, passion fruit, air potatoes, etc.


Climbers are only helpful when they actually have something on which to climb.
Many things can act as a supporter.
You may see beans climbing up maize plants.
This is a good example of increasing food production while using a nitrogen-fixing climber/supporter combination.
Trees can also be used to act as supporters as long as they are big enough to support the climber and that the climber doesn’t take over and prohibit fruit production (such as a passion fruit blocking the fruiting of a mango tree).
Other supporters include fences, walls, roof tops, houses and other buildings, etc.


Mulch is simply a protective layer of a material that is spread on top of the soil.


  • protects the soil from erosion 
  • reduces compaction from the impact of heavy rains 
  • conserves moisture, reducing the need for frequent watering 
  • maintains a more even soil temperature 
  • prevents weed growth 
  • keeps fruits and vegetables clean 
  • keeps feet clean, allowing access to garden even when damp 
  • provides a "maintained" look to the garden Organic mulches also improve the condition of the soil. 

As these mulches slowly decompose, they provide organic matter which helps keep the soil loose. This improves root growth, increases the infiltration of water, and improves the water-holding capacity of the soil. Organic matter is a source of plant nutrients and provides an ideal environment for earthworms and other beneficial soil organisms.


Mulch Materials:
You can find mulch materials in your own yard!
Lawn clippings make excellent mulch. They work wonderfully in the vegetable garden. The fine texture allows them to be spread easily even around small plants.
Newspaper, as a mulch, works especially well to control weeds. Leaves are another readily available material to use as mulch.
Leaf mould, or the decomposed remains of leaves, gives the forest floor its absorbent spongy structure.
Compost makes a wonderful mulch if you have a large supply.
Compost not only improves the soil structure but provides an excellent source of plant nutrients.



There are different ways to make compost.

Mainly you need “brauns” (Carbon based) “greens” (nitrogen based) and animal manure. 4 brauns = 1 greens


4 important points to make good compost:

  • There must be oxygen circulating
  • Must be moisture
  • There must be a balance between the different components
  • Good temperature (if it’s too hot the microorganism die)

To make a compost heap:

       Start with some sticks so oxygen can come through.

       Put the brauns on top (dried leaves)

       Than the greens

       Than manure.

       Repeat this until you have a heap which is 1m by 1m by 1m

       Last layer must be manure

       You can put water after every layer or only at the end.

       Put a stick in the middle.

       If it’s rainy season > make a cover

       Put your hand in the middle of the heap.  If it’s too hot for your hand >> time to turn the heap!  (this can be after 4-8 days)

Perennial Vines/Trees

Perennial plants are ones which you plant once, and they will keep growing and producing for many years.
Crops such as maize are considered to be “annual” crops because they need to be replanted each year.
With thoughtful incorporation of perennial crops, you can have access to more food year-round as well as benefit the annual crops that you are trying to grow!
The purpose of gardening with perennials is to get the highest return with the least amount of effort.
When choosing species to serve this purpose, use plants that: 

  • Are highly productive even in poor conditions  
  • Have multiple edible parts such as leaves, fruits, flowers, and/or tubers  
  • Contribute important nutrients to diet  
  • Provide multiple functions in the landscape such as ground cover, hedge, animal fodder, etc.  -Are competitive with weeds  
  • Are pest and disease resistant  
  • Require minimal care  
  • Enhance other parts of the landscape  
  • Can make use of wasted, low fertility, or unproductive spaces  
  • Can begin producing within 2-12 months  
  • Will continue producing for more than a year (perennial)  
  • Are easy to propagate and are widely adapted to a range of climates and soils

Perennial Vines:
*Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas)— can be managed as a ground cover in which case it will be used for its delicious young leaves and stem tips, rather than for the tuber. A patch of sweet potato managed for leaf production will also serve as a perennial source of propagative material for future tuber or leaf plantings.
*Passion Fruit (Passiflora spp.)—is a vigorous twining plant that can produce large amounts of fruit after a year. Many species of passion fruit can tolerate a large amount of neglect, while producing 2-3 crops per year. A beautiful addition to the landscape!

Perennial trees and shrubs:
*Moringa (Moringa oleifera)—is a tree which can be kept bushy by continual tipping of the new branches. The new leaves and tips are used in stir fries and soups. The African variety (M. stenoopetala) has a wonderful nutty flavour. Both species are drought tolerant, and have many other uses, such as medicine, water purification, etc.
*Cassava (Manihot esculenta)—is very easy to grow from stem cuttings, and is a prolific source of carbohydrates from its edible tubers. The cooked leaves can be eaten as a nutritious green vegetable. All parts of this plant must be carefully cooked to remove toxins. This plant is very hardy and grows in a wide variety of conditions.
*Pigeon Pea (Cajanus cajun)—is a remarkably useful and productive shrub or small tree. The young pods are used as a vegetable, and the mature seeds as a grain legume. Produces well even in dry conditions. Long lived agroforestry selections have an upright form and high vegetative growth, and can be used for fodder and green manure banks, as well as hedges and quick windbreaks.
*Papaya (Carica papaya)—develops fruit rapidly, usually within a year if well mulched and watered. Fruits can be eaten green or ripe. Young leaves can also be used a vegetable, and the plant has medicinal properties.
*Banana (Musa spp.)—is remarkably productive and useful, providing fruit, fodder and mulch material. Many varieties perform well in partial shade, and can be integrated into a stacked system.

Beneficial Wildlife

Construct a (little) pond on your land.
Birds, lizards, spiders, dragon flies, chameleon, frogs will be attracted.
They eat insects which harm the crops.

  •  Create a system for them.  
  • Provide a habitat by making little houses for them.
  • Construct bird houses.
  • Water features.


What are Permaculture “Zones”?
Zones help us to think about how we are using our energy and resources.
They also help us to reduce the amount of energy that we are putting into our systems.
Permaculture uses Zones 0 through 5.


For instance:
Let’s say that we have a borehole, the borehole in this case would be Zone 0. This borehole has standing water at the end of it and we would like to take advantage of this resource to help us grow some food.  (most human activity=the house)
The area with the standing water is Zone 1. This is the area in which we might do the most work or plant things that would need the most watering and care.
It may also be the area that we put things that we would be using on a daily basis. This helps to reduce our energy by not having to walk a long way or carry things a great distance. 
Zone 2 is less work, care, and watering by choosing plants that don’t need as much care such as fruit trees or drought resistant perennials. 
Zone 3 is even less work and mostly relies on rains for its moisture.
Zone 4 might include free-range animals and trees that take almost no care at all. 
Zone 5 is an area that should be left as wild as possible. This should be an area that is not touched by humans and it is reserved for nature to do its own thing.
This might include a living fence or natural boundary around your property. It provides habitat for beneficial creatures.

So as you can see, Zone 1 tends to be highly intensive in terms of your input and what you get in return, but as you move outwards towards Zone 5 your systems become less and less work by allowing nature to do more of the work for you.
Zone 0 is generally your home, your immediate living area, your office, or a point from which you are starting, such as in the borehole example.
Zone 0 refers to all the energy and resources that make up the house, office, borehole, etc.
Some energy and resources leave zone 0 and enter into the other zones (such as people, water, organic matter, heat, etc.).
What you do (or don’t do) with your Zone 0 resources will affect the rest of your Zones as well.


Nutrients are the part of foods that we must have for life and health.
Think of your body as your home!

  1. Proteins build the walls of our body (hair, skin, muscles, etc.), just like bricks build our home. Bricks are made of many ingredients and so are protein; they are made up of smaller parts called amino acids and there are 8 types we need. 
  2. Minerals are like mortar that is used to hold bricks together in a wall. Minerals in our body join together different parts of the body. There are 14 minerals. 
  3. Carbohydrates are what our body burns most often for fuel, much like firewood. Carbohydrates are used in the body to provide the first source of energy. 
  4. Fats are also burned for energy, but they give more fuel and are easy for our bodies to store for later use. This is much like paraffin in our homes; it is stored in a small jug and a little fuel goes a long way. There are 3 types we need. 
  5. Vitamins are like watchdogs which protect us from thieves while vitamins in our body protect us from diseases. There are at least 16 types of vitamins. 
  6. Water has many cleaning jobs in the body, like the way that we use water for cleaning in our homes.

It is important to remember that all the nutrients need each other to work properly.    



Better way and more safe way of cooking your food





Medicinal Plants


Clean wounds: cool boiled water with a bit of salt or use guava tea (see below how to make this tea)


Wound with any sign of infection: Pawpaw latex water (see below how to make this water)

Open clean fresh wounds with no pus:

  • Place a heap of sugar over the wound.  Use a simple bandage to keep the sugar in place.  Dress the wound three times a day.  Do not wash again, simply add sugar.
  • Place a soft slice of a nearly ripe papaya over the wound.


Infected wounds, open boils and old open wounds

  • Pawpaw sugar (see below how to make this sugar)
  • Unripe papaya (still hanging on tree) slice over the wound (make sure the fruit is washed with boiled water and you use a clean knife).  Leave it for 4 hours.  Administer three times a day.
  • Guava paste (see below how to make this paste)
  • Ripe pawpaw: mash the flesh of an almost ripe papaya and spread this paste over the wound.  Repeat morning, noon, evening.  The more infected the wound, the less ripe should the papaya be.
  • Aloe gel: For old open wounds that refuse to heal, fill the wound with aloe gel taken directly from a fresh leaf three times a day.
  • Garlic oil: Apply several times a day (see below how to make this oil)




Fresh burns:
Cool the wound with clean, cold water.  Main treatment is to prevent infection.

  • Aloe plants: wash a leaf without removing it.  Cut it off the plant.  Cut the exposed end again with a clean knife.  Cut through the middle to expose a large surface of gel from the inside of the leaf.  Rub the juicy side of the aloe leaf all over the burn.  Repeat several times per day.
  • Aloe works as a disinfectant and anti-inflammatory
  • Table salt: Dissolve one heaped table spoon of table salt in 1 liter of water.  Boil for 20 min in a covered pot and leave cool.  Pour this solution over the burn several times a day.
  • In an emergency if you have no salt available, boil and use the patient’s urine (contains salt!)
  • Guava tea three times a day

Infected burns

  • Pawpaw latex water with salt
  • Aloe gel
  • Abscesses (an infection that forms a small pocket of pus under the skin)
  • Closed abscesses
  • Garlic: -
    • cut slices of garlic and bandage them on
    •  pound the garlic and swab the affected area
    • use garlic oil

Or use onion in the same way as described above.  Onion is milder than garlic.  People with sensitive skin might suffer the side effect of the skin burning or becoming discoloured.


Open abscesses

  • pawpaw sugar
  • slices unripe pawpaw
  • guava leaf paste
  • Aloe gel
  • Garlic oil





Skin disorders of unknown origin


Drink a lot of herbal teas, especially hibiscus or artemesia to detoxify the body.  They help purify the blood.
When treating the skin, start with the gentlest treatments which nourish the skin.

  • Avocado (nourishes infected or dry skin).  Mix the flesh of a ripe avocado with some drops of lemon juice and cover the skin for 12 hours a day.  This dressing must always be used very soon after being prepared.
  • Vegetable oils such as palm kernel oil, sunflower oil, groundnut oil.  Mix one teaspoon of the oil with one teaspoon of water.  Rub on affected area.
  • Aloe gel
  • Cabbage: Make a bandage of a washed cabbage leaf and wrap around the affected area.
  • Ringworm bush: Make a paste with pounded leaves and oil.
  • Onion: as oil
  • Chilli: rub chilli oil over the affected area.  Chilli has disinfected properties and sometimes relieves itching.
  • Garlic oil 



Wash the infected area’s every day with soap and water.  Keep these area’s dry.  If possible, expose them to fresh air and sunlight. Wear clothes made from natural materials like cotton. Always continue the treatment for two weeks after the symptoms disappear.

  • Garlic oil: rub on infected area
  • Ringworm bush and palm(or other veg oil) / castor oil: Mix 10 spoons of fresh pounded leaves of ringworm with one spoon of oil. Apply three times a day. Make fresh every day. If you don’t have oil, pound fresh leaves and rub them on affected area 3x a day.
  • Ringworm bush and pawpaw:  pound a handful of young fresh ringworm bush leaves. Add ten drops of sap from an unripe papaya and a table spoon of castor oil or any other veg oil. Rub the affected area three times a day.



The most important thing is to replace the loss of water.


Always give ORS (Oral Rehydration Solution):
* Water 1 liter
* Sugar 2 heaped table spoons
* Salt half of a level of teaspoon


Dosage: 200 ml (one glass) for every kg bodyweight of your child
Adults: 3,5 liter per day (10 glasses)

Eat fresh garlic and/or a piece of papaya leaf about 5cm square every day to avoid having worms or amoeba infections.



Guava tea:
Gently boil one handful of fresh and washed guava leaves in at least 1 liter of water in a covered pot for 15 minutes. Allow to cool and filter. Immediately after filtering, bathe the wound with this tea. Make fresh tea every time it is needed.


Guava paste:
Pound one handful of fresh washed guava leaves. Boil them gently with a cup of water in a covered pot for 15 minutes. Cool this paste. Apply paste to the wound and secure this. Repeat morning and evening.



Put a cloth in boiled water and use it while it is still very hot to wash an unripe papaya fruit that is still hanging on a tree.

Fill a container with one liter cool boiled water. Add one table spoon of salt and stir to dissolve.

Make vertical cuts in the skin of the green papaya fruit, hold the container directly under the fruit and collect 3-5 drops of sap in the water.



Mix ten grams of sugar with ten drops of the sap of an unripe papaya.
Make this fresh every day. As soon as the mixture becomes damp, add more.



Place peeled minced garlic in a jar and add enough olive/vegetable oil to generously cover. Close the jar tightly and let it stand in a warm place for three days. Shake it a few times a day. Store in a cool place without filtering it. Use within three months.

Solar Dryers

Solar drying is a really fun and easy way to preserve food!   It doesn’t entail expensive equipment, great amounts of preparation, or cumbersome labour-intensive processing.  And, it works anywhere that has sun…like earth!

The benefits of solar drying are many. 

In times of surplus it can help to extend food security long into the times of the year when there might not be as much available.  This is great for areas that have a long dry-season, or areas that have cold-seasons where plants may be dormant. 
Solar dryers also help to improve the hygiene involved in food processing as they tend to be enclosed structures that keep flies and dirt from contaminating the food. 
And finally, we have read through various studies that, when done correctly, food that has been solar dried can retain from 50%-80% of its nutrients.

All solar driers basically work on the same principles.  Once you have learned these principles you can set your imagination free to come up with all sorts of creative or artistic designs. 

These principles are as follows:


1.) You will want some type of container with a lid or a covering that will keep insects, dirt, leaves, or other contaminants off of the food.  These ‘containers’ can be as small as a bucket or as large as a walk-in room.

2.) You will want some sort of transparency to the cover that you choose.  This is generally most easily accomplished through the use of clear plastic or glass.  This clear covering will help to create a ‘greenhouse’ effect in which the sun’s rays will enter the container and then be captured inside, helping to raise the temperature.  We have seen driers that have been made with the sheer netting as a cover, such as what one might find being used for mosquito nets or window screens.  This works fine for keeping things off the food, but you will be sacrificing the advantages of the ‘greenhouse’ temperatures.

3.) Another helpful method of helping to raise the temperature inside the container is to paint the inside black, or another dark colour.  Dark colours help to absorb the heat and hold it for longer.  We have experimented with different types of berries (mulberries & ‘climbing spinach’ seeds), but so far paint has still proven to be the best and the easiest that we have found.  Remember if you try to use something like charcoal or other items to make a dark colour that it may give off certain fumes that can taint the taste of the food that is being dried. 

4.) The whole point of solar drying is to raise the temperature inside of the container enough to draw the moisture out of the food.  This water, however, needs somewhere to go once it leaves the food.  On a good solar drier you will probably see water beginning to condense on the bottom of the lid after the food has been placed inside, but these driers should also contain vents to allow that moisture to blow out of the container.  If the water seems to be condensing and dripping back onto the food then your vents may not be big enough, and if you are trapping all the heat without allowing for some ventilation then you are beginning to use the principles of a solar ‘cooker’ instead of a drier.  Hot air rises, so you can place one vent on a low end of the container and another on the high end, this will allow cooler air to circulate in from the bottom, flow through the food, and vent the hot/moist air out the top. 

5.) You want to make sure that the air can ‘flow’ through and around the food that you place in the container and this can be done by making some sort of mesh or screened tray.  We usually use black plastic window screening because this is easy to wash off and prevents rusting, but we have also seen people use loosely woven bamboo trays, reed mats, or any other surface that is porous enough to allow for the airflow.

That’s about it!  Now you can start to experiment with various types of foods. 
Drying times will vary and they depend on a couple of factors. 
The more water content that a food has the longer it will take to pull that water out of the food.  Items such as mangoes, bananas, tomatoes, or apples may take 2-3 days, depending also on how hot your sun is or how overcast the sky may be. 
Other items such as onions, papayas, or spices may only take a day or two. 
Green vegetables tend to be very quick and if they are not over-loaded on the drying tray, they can sometimes be done in just a matter of a few hours.  (We often put a load of vegetable leaves in the drier in the morning and by noon on a sunny day they are ready for storage). 
Mushrooms are great for drying as they have very little water in them and they will last for well over a year when dried properly.

It is often best to slice the food before putting it on the tray. 
Something like a tomato may need to be sliced fairly thickly since once the water comes out there is not very much left. 
Mangoes are good to get just as they are turning from green to mature; a bit firm and not overly ripe.  If they are too ripe the sugars have a tendency to ‘burn’ causing the fruit to turn black. 
Bananas, apples, and other foods that naturally turn brown when exposed to air can be kept white by giving them a ‘dip’ in any type of citrus juice (i.e. lemon, orange, grapefruit, etc.) 
Carrots, onions, and spices can all be cut into smaller pieces before drying and then combined to make great ‘instant’ soup mixes,
camping provision, or ready-mix spice packets.


For storing dried foods generally a sealed container that is kept in a cool, dry place is the best.  Reused glass jars, plastic containers, zip-locks, or old bread bags all work well, just watch a bit and make sure that you don’t see any moisture forming on the glass or plastic after the food has been dried, as this is an indication that it may need to stay in the drier a bit longer.  For dried vegetables, teas, or spices even paper bags or other ‘breathable’ containers are fine. 

Fruit Selection:

  • Fruits which are overripe, attacked by mould, spoiled by insects, or physically damaged in any way should be separated. If this is not done, healthy fruit from the harvest will easily become contaminated and will also spoil.
  •  All fruit must be thoroughly washed with clean water before peeling. Freshly harvested fruits may carry a lot of dust and microorganisms on the outer surface, causing diarrhoea or stomach pains when not removed before processing. 

Peeling and Cutting:

  • Peeled fruit can be sliced or cut into pieces, but the diameter should not exceed the thickness of two fingers (about 4cm). 
  • This width varies from fruit to fruit: mangos, papayas, and guavas dry best when cut into finger-thick slices/pieces (about 1-2 cm) while banana slices can have diameters of up to 4 cm. 
  • Fruits like pineapples, mangoes and papayas can be pre-treated with a sugar solution to soften them and to help them keep their colour and flavour. 

To make the sugar solution,
mix 3 kg of sugar in 10 litres of clean water and dip the sliced fruit into the solution for 5-10 minutes. • Fruits like bananas, avocados and apples should be dipped into a mixture of 2 litres of lemon juice to 10 litres of clean water. The fruit slices or pieces should remain in the solution for no less than 15 minutes.



  • After the pre-treatment, the fruit slices can now be placed on the trays. There has to be a small distance between the slices. Never heap them, as that will lead to improper drying. 
  • The trays should then be placed into the dyer. 
  • The produce needs to be checked for its readiness after 6-8 hours depending on the fruit that is processed, the thickness of the slices, the weather conditions and the expected end product. The thicker the slices, the longer the drying process. The less sunshine, the longer the drying process. 
  • In case you want to grind your dry fruit (e.g. banana, avocado), it will require about two additional days to dry the fruit. Some fruits might require 6 hours, while others need to dried for another day. The best idea is to check the fruit in the dryer frequently, when you dry them for the first time. 

Note: The fruit should not be sticky after having been dried! If this is the case, they need further drying.


Storing Dried Fruit:

  • Most dried fruits tend to absorb moisture from the environment. To avoid this, it is necessary to pack the produce into airtight packaging material immediately after drying. This includes plastic bags that are sealed, airtight jars, or boxes. 
  • The dried fruit can be kept in a clean, cool, dark storage area for at least six months. 

Enjoy your dried fruit!

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Re-use of old/damaged tires to make E&B entrance more attractive to guests