Guest Post Written by Zoe Morrisson @ morningchores.com
The permaculture movement seems to be coming into its own. It’s easy to see why. In a world of climate change and destruction of nature, the tenants of permaculture, involving community sharing, earth care, and people care, are more important than ever. It may seem intimidating, but many of permaculture proponents recommend starting slow and building up your skills over time. It doesn’t have to be a huge worldview shift. There are steps even the most dedicated urbanites can take to start a sustainable permaculture project in their own area.
- Edible Balconies
For condo-dwelling city farmers, a great place to start is your balcony. Potted fruit trees, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants are relatively easy to grow in pots and a good place to start when it comes to growing your own produce.
Cucumbers, greens, and beans are similar beginner plants that will grow quickly even in smaller spaces. If you have access, a rooftop garden also provides lots of area to grow an edible garden. Use companion planting, pairing vegetables in the same family to enrich the soil, as well as make the most use of your lot. Planting pesticide herbs or vegetables like garlic and onions along with your vegetables cuts down on the need for pest control.
- Create a Kitchen Herb Garden
Herbs/spices and medicinal plants are often more fast-growing plant types that can flourish in a variety of conditions. Nothing beats fresh herbs for cooking, and all that glass in modern architecture is perfect for catching sunlight to keep even an indoor garden growing strong.
- Raise Backyard Chickens
Chickens take surprisingly little space. If you have room for them, they provide a powerhouse of nutrients for your backyard or rooftop gardens, farm-fresh eggs, and totally organic meat.
Check out your city zoning laws and start a backyard flock. They make great pets, and they have plenty to offer a city-dwellers homestead and community. And chickens eat almost everything in the garden. Raising free-range chickens also provides great pest control and can even help you weed the garden!
Create a rotational chicken run around the garden, so your backyard chickens can pick from a smorgasbord of pests, weeds, and chicken-friendly foods. It also makes composting chicken manure that much easier.
- Curbside Planting
Even if it feels like everyone lives on top of everyone else, urban areas have a surprising amount of unused areas. Consider the “hell strip.” That space between your walkway and the curb that is usually nothing but crabgrass or turf. Check with your city, and your neighbors, about planting a garden in this space.
Choose perennials, rather than annuals. They’re hardier, and you’ll need to work the soil less. Stay away from fruits and veg for a roadside garden. Those plants will be exposed to road salt, gasoline, and other toxins. Instead, keep the edible plants on the sidewalk side, where it tends to be gentler.
Check with your city ordinances before planting any trees that will grow more than 18 inches in height. Be mindful of lines of sight. The last thing you want is to distract drivers and cause problems. Finally, try to keep the soil level at least 2 inches below the curb, to allow rainwater to collect there.
- Start A Community Garden
You want to start a permaculture garden but have no free space. Think about your neighborhood. Is there a community garden you can take advantage of, or could you start one?
You may find a community garden available to you, and claim a plot, or volunteer to help with existing plots. Or you can go through the steps to create a community garden. There are many organizations which provide fresh produce for vulnerable members of the community, in exchange for work in the If your area doesn’t provide such a program, talk to your municipality leaders about how to start one.
Not only will you be creating a sustainable organic garden, but you’ll also be providing a needed resource to vulnerable community members and building a stronger and more connected neighborhood.
- Invite The Local Wildlife
A major aspect of permaculture is to create a self-sustaining system that can replenish itself. With that in mind, however you create your garden, either a rooftop space, edible balcony, or community sharing experience, remember to invite the local wildlife. Stick to natural pesticides, like lemongrass and citrus sprays. Plant flowers, fruits, and vegetables that will encourage pollinators like butterflies and bees.
- Catch and Store Energy
To conserve energy, you don’t need to install expensive solar panels or wind turbines. With a swale, you can make use of your land’s natural structure to irrigate in a way that saves you time and energy, and allows you to conserve water.
By digging a series of trenches that you can use as gravel paths, you can save yourself the use of rain barrels, or worse, wasting water with a hose. There is plenty of how-to info available online.
Permaculture is less about a huge world shift than making small changes to your environment to make it more earth-friendly. Along with improving the environment, it’s important to create urban spots that encourage community, sustainability, and growth.
While projects listed here can help you make a difference in your life, and your environment, there are other considerations to keep in mind. Knowing your land is an important part of creating a permaculture garden. As you’re starting out, lower your input costs with natural soil amendments like composting and chicken manure from your own flock. The goal is to create spaces that closest imitate natural patterns and encourage the biodiversity that allows natural spaces to thrive. This is more essential than ever in urban environments, where space and human needs have cut deeply into our natural resources. Creating permaculture spaces in our cities come with challenges but doesn’t have to be impossible.