Permaculture is the idea of creating clusters of nature or small ecosystems within a purposely confined area. Even if not familiar with the word, many have seen permaculture when noticing grass on roof tops, vegetable gardens in recycled plastic containers, or even (on a smaller degree) herbs and flowers growing in pots on a windowsill. This idea is embraced by designers and ecologists alike. Small, innovative pockets of plant life are certainly beautiful to behold. However, they can also combat or reverse troubles such as food scarcity and environmental waste by creating edible plants in areas they weren't before. This article offers a series of ideas on how to create those small ecosystems in your own yard.
1. Edible Balconies
Like most DIYers, I love a good home improvement show. How many times have we seen on these shows awkward outside spaces—particularly balconies—with no real purpose at all? Such spaces are great for edible gardens. Given the infrastructure of the area and their potential availability to large amounts of sunlight and water, containers of all shapes and sizes can be arranged to support vegetable and fruit growth. Beans, squash, tomatoes, and even eggplants and potatoes all work well in this environment, so get creative and see what you can grow!
2. Windowsill Medicine Garden
A modern medicine garden is, by definition, a living garden with a twist. Instead of edible plants and greenery usually used to fill dinner plates, the life in this type of garden only consists of plants to support the medicinal healing of the body. Say, however, that one is living in the city where there isn’t a lot of spare room at all, let alone open space to have a medicine garden. This is where the notion of the sill-supported idea begins.
Create or purchase a box that fits along a windowsill that receives a lot of sunlight. In this box, sprinkle a few inches of soil and begin to strategically place plants of your choice. For this project, I would plant chamomile for healing and relaxation, lemon balm for immune health, and peppermint for digestion.
3. Water Harvesting
In most eco positive farms and gardens, rain water is collected and used to water plants in times of less rain. But instead of letting collected water drain into a barrel, how about allowing it to flow through a tray of water-loving plants? For example, watercress (a green, leafy cousin of cabbage and arugula) grows best in a very specific and wet environment—in nature it's found around streams and other flowing water. Why not harness the natural power of your already collected water and allow it to work toward your garden’s advantage?
4. Shoe Hanger
For garden lovers in a true space pinch, my final idea allows nature to flourish on a vertical wall. Have you ever seen a canvas shoe hanger? It's a long piece of material that gets hung from a ceiling or high point of a wall, with strategically placed pockets in which one would put paired shoes for storage. Believe it or not, such pockets create a wonderful place to grow small and edible plants.
To begin, poke holes toward the bottom of each pocket for drainage and fill the pockets with soil. Then, simply place seed or previously started plants in each space and water as usual. I would recommend putting this garden outside, as the drained water would likely cause a great mess. Since this idea takes up so little room, even the smallest of outside locations can support the swell of natural plants and edible food sure to come with its implementation.