Most people in the world today live in an urban environment. Although this comes with advantages such as closeness to facilities, community, markets etc., it also comes with challenges for those who would like to live more sustainably and are keen to become more self reliant and grow some of their own food.
Practising permaculture, or even just gardening in an urban setting is challenging for a number of reasons like space limitations, rules and regulations, micro climates and contamination, to name just a few. And yet, permaculture can be practised very successfully in urban environments, as seen in Cuba for example. There are of course examples of urban houses that have all the latest technology to make it “sustainable”, but this costs a lot of money (and let’s not even go into the discussion about what some of these technologies cost the environment…). Most people however, do not have the funds or the resources to refit their house. So, what to do if you are on a budget but still want to do something about growing some (healthy) food at home in your small apartment, unit, townhouse or other urban dwelling?
Indoor, bench top and container gardening can be an excellent way to start and doesn’t break the bank. Everyday items can be recycled to be made into plant pots and watering cans, and sprouting can be a very cheap and easy way to start on the bench top. Running some netting on an indoor wall and hanging some homemade plant pots from it (eg recycled milk containers) is a visually interesting way to have a herb and lettuce garden. Don’t use your bath much? Fill it with soil and grow some food in it! Or fill it with water and create an indoor pond, with some fish and other water plants and animals (edible of course!). Have a small indoor worm farm. Have some rabbits or guinea pigs, catch their manure and make it part of your compost system (you can eat the animals too, should you be so inclined…)
Other challenges encountered are for example portability in a rental environment, so you can take everything with you should you move. Permanent changes can also (usually) not be made in a rental environment. Making your own compost and propagating is also an art that may seem daunting to some. Watering methods and re-use of water is another issue to think about. And then, which plants grow well in containers and which don’t?
Anne Gibson, founder of greenjourney.com.au and the themicrogardener.com will share her experiences, knowledge and ideas with us in our Urban Permaculture course. She will help students on their way to creating some form of urban garden for themselves, and perhaps to inspire others to do so too!
This course will focus on implementing Permaculture principles in a variety of urban contexts including balcony and high rise gardens; courtyards and compact suburban blocks; community and allotment gardens; rental properties; and nature strip verge gardens. It covers the many challenges of growing in these urban spaces and practical solutions to design high yield, low cost/low energy/minimal maintenance edible landscapes.
Participants will learn about a variety of ways to grow food both inside the home and outdoors to take advantage of different micro climates; container gardening including portable options; solutions for those with special needs; vertical structures to maximise space including herb spirals; sprouting and seed raising; designing out problems; plant and seed selection; container challenged crops; recycling nutrients indoors and out; watering, fertilising and maintenance; sourcing local materials economically; potting and seed raising mixes; small scale propagation techniques; mini compost systems; how to plant for a continual harvest; intensive growing methods; growing fruit trees in small spaces; self-reliance, reusing materials and making your own supplies.
The course includes practical hands-on learning activities and an urban garden tour of local properties. The content is ideal for people seeking to maximise food production and become more self-reliant; those involved in community gardens and shared residential spaces; people wanting to develop a consultancy business in urban Permaculture; and government, community groups or organisations seeking to implement low cost urban food solutions.