Urban permaculture may sound like the name of the latest hot band or a clothing brand, but it’s actually an increasingly popular movement started by city dwellers who want to lessen their impact on the environment while also having more control over where their food comes from.
Short for permanent agriculture, permaculture is basically the idea that by observing and following nature, we’re able to create an unending food supply. It’s something that originated in Australia using design principles that can transform a patio, balcony, rooftop or garden into a sustainable food-producing area. For example, one permaculture approach is to build a forest garden. This type of garden aims to recreate the way a forest grows, by being planted in a series of four different layers, replicating the natural processes in a forest. It starts with a canopy layer which is created by planting trees, particularly trees that bear nuts or fruits, followed by shrubs like blackberry or other fruit-bearing bushes that thrive in shade. The next layer is created by plants that climb, like vines which stretch toward the sun.
Urban permaculture is a relatively new idea, but it’s most definitely not new in practice. Anyone who has ever grown a tomato plant or a small herb garden on their patio or in their kitchen has practiced urban permaculture. But the movement is a lot more than simply growing plants. Another goal of urban permaculture is to limit waste through composting rather than just throwing trash out. Many different things, from egg shells to vegetable scraps, can be kept out of our landfills by composting. And, they can also be used to help plants thrive, whether as mulch or fertilizer. Urban permaculture aims to transform cities, by making them greener and more sustainable, by giving residents the option to join a more holistic way of living, even in big cities. It helps to create a continuous cycle where everything is used to its fullest potential, and nothing is wasted.
While most people picture rural scenes like farms, orchards or forests when it comes to food production, it’s time to change all of that. The majority of humans live in urban settings today, but there are many techniques that allow people to grow food the permaculture way, in urban and suburban areas.
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Any garden designed with permaculture principles, that is, it emulates patterns in nature, by definition, is a permaculture garden. What you need to decide at the outset is the degree of incorporation of permaculture principles in garden design. Your first step is to figure out an appropriate space. If you live in the city, your space is probably at a premium, which means you need to consider all methods of maximizing productive space in in order to grow as much food as possible. Fortunately, there are many different options:
Many edibles have trailing growth habits that allow them to cascade over the edge of containers. This type of garden is great for balconies and porches. While strawberries, tomatoes, radishes and hot peppers thrive in containers but don’t be afraid to try other fruit and veggies as well. Aim to vary the textures, tastes, and colors when considering groupings. Patios and balconies are ideal for container gardening.
A vertical garden allows you to utilize wall space for growing. A large vertical tray system is outstanding for growing herbs, and you can purchase specially designed trays that allow for thick food planting. Just remember that if you do go big with your garden, be sure your wall and fasteners are strong enough to support the weight of all that material.
Window gardens can be created by strategically placing window boxes on various sides of your home to grow both shade- and sun-tolerant plants. They’re also fabulous for herb gardens. If you use a kitchen window, you’ll have easy access to some of your favorites, like rosemary, cilantro or basil, when you’re cooking.
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