When you live in an apartment block, gardening is a great way to connect with nature while living in the concrete jungle. And there are several tried and tested methods that will take you a long way towards mastering the art of apartment permaculture. This guide will help you set up a permaculture garden and keep your plants healthy all year long.
Starting permaculture gardens requires thorough planning, such as observing your land and designing your garden, and building key features such as irrigation systems. After creating your garden, you should plant perennials before annuals, then watch them grow!
Who doesn’t want to have a garden? Whether you live in the suburbs, the countryside, or right in the middle of the city, adding some plants and growing organic vegetables is no longer a privilege reserved for those of us with large amounts of land to use. But, not having access to land doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker.
- What Is A Permaculture Garden?
- Start Your Permaculture Garden In 10 Steps
- Growing A Permaculture Garden In An Apartment
What Is A Permaculture Garden?
A permaculture garden is a garden that uses sun, wind, water, and other aspects to let nature do the work for you in growing your garden. As opposed to conventional gardens, permaculture gardens are less uniform and are creatively assembled.
It is more of an art than a science, but it takes a lot of time and planning to master the art of designing, creating, and maintaining a permaculture garden.
A lot of emphasis is placed on building well-balanced soils, while there is a lot of room for flexibility to help you make an expansive garden in tight spaces.
The major advantage is that you won’t need a big garden to grow plants when designing a permaculture garden. A small yard, rooftop, apartment balcony, or even a collection of pots is enough to yield fresh, organic produce and add some much-needed vegetation to your living spaces.
Start Your Permaculture Garden In 10 Steps
If you’re just starting to get into permaculture, you may be wondering where to get started. Luckily, there are a few very simple steps that you can take that will get you right into the thick of things and, before you know it, you’ll be a master of the art of permaculture.
Decide Where Your Garden Will Go
The first thing you need to do is decide exactly where to put your permaculture garden. A big yard is an obvious choice to plant your permaculture garden. However, in an apartment, it may be more difficult.
If you don’t have access to any land, you will have to make a different plan. If you’re lucky, you have a sizeable balcony or terrace that you can create a beautiful vertical permaculture garden on, but you may not have any space at all. So what do you do?
A smart strategy would be to contact your landlord to request that they make space available on the roof for a community garden that you and your neighbors can all get involved in creating.
Alternatively, you may have neighbors next to your building that would be willing to share a part of their yard in exchange for some of your fresh produce.
Another option is to look for a public space to grow a community garden, such as a park, and use it as an opportunity to get involved with the people in your community.
But if you’re building an indoor garden, you have to find the places in your apartment that receive the most sunlight.
Observe Your Space
Before you start planting, you need to make some observations about the part of your apartment that you’re using.
There may be a few things that you haven’t noticed. For example, are there any slopes in the apartment? How will the area you’re creating your permaculture garden affect watering and drainage?
Is there anything nearby or outside the window that may be blocking out sunlight for your plants?
Are there any features that can be used to your advantage when designing your permaculture garden? Where does the sun shine at different times of the day and during different seasons?
These are all critical observations that need to be made before you start planning out your permaculture garden.
Design Your Garden
Designing and planning will be critical to your permaculture garden’s success and aesthetic features, and you must place extra emphasis on this step.
Your observations will have helped you determine which part of your permaculture garden will receive the most sun, shade, rainfall, etc.
You could use window ledge pots and vertical growing techniques to optimally use the very little amount of available space in an apartment.
Note that water sources are also very important when deciding on your garden’s design.
Tip: Raised garden beds are a great way to create a beautiful apartment permaculture garden and utilize limited space to contain more plants.
Growing A Permaculture Garden In An Apartment
The first thing you need to do when building a permaculture garden inside your apartment is to determine which part of your indoor environment gets the most amount of sun throughout the year.
Or, if you want to add indoor plants to your design for purely decorative purposes, many plants don’t require sunlight like English Ivy, Chinese Evergreen, and Philodendron.
However, sunlight is your first priority if you’re growing fruits and vegetables. Your next consideration should be construction. You will need pots that will work together and suit the motif of your preferred design.
You can buy pots in whichever shape or color you need. Placing your pots in wooden crates can also add a really nice, natural-looking touch. Then you should install shelves to place your containers on, where you’ve determined the best sunlit part of your apartment is.
Your next consideration should be your soil. The soil is critical for your plants’ growth and needs to be protected. Mulches and ground cover plants. Ensure that the soil isn’t too compact to receive air and water and never overwater. This all means that your pots require adequate drainage.
Because your garden is indoors, you don’t need to put too much consideration into elemental damage because your plants won’t be harmed by heavy rainfall or strong winds. However, keep in mind that your plants will not pollinate without wind or insects.
Add Water Systems & Infrastructure
The difference between a thriving or a dying permaculture garden often depends on whether it has been adequately watered.
In your design phase, you will have figured out which areas of the balcony (if you have one) will receive more water than other areas. You should consider this as you will be watering every day, possibly by hand. Ensure that you get an appropriately sized watering can to match your relatively small apartment permaculture garden.
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You can rest assured that your garden will thrive with consistent watering.
Other infrastructure to help with drainage may also help you build a sustainable permaculture garden and prevent your plants from being overwatered. The bigger the plant, the bigger the pot.
Consider using raised beds, where you can use wooden boxes and stack them on top of one another, making room for sunlight and, of course, so that you can see all of the beautiful plants you are growing.
Always ensure, with vertical gardens, that your potted plants are getting sufficient drainage – because the requirements will be different from those of flat garden beds
Build & Prepare Your Permaculture Beds
This is where permaculture can start to get a bit complicated. Conventional square foot gardening principles will not work, and you need to find the least destructive way of putting your plants together.
For example, the sheet mulching technique (also known as lasagna gardening) involves layering materials like leaves, straw, wood chips, compost, and cardboard in creating a larger plantable area.
It’s significantly easier than removing dead vegetation or tilling the soil. The materials used in the alternating layered sheets will decompose over time, adding various nutrients to the soil to help your plants grow to their full potential.
The first plants that you should be planting into your permaculture garden should be perennials because these are the plants that come back each year and will serve as ever-presents in your garden.
The best perennials are native or at least suitable to your climate. These plants will grow well and stick around for a long time, so make sure you pick plants that you like.
With only perennials growing, your garden may be looking quite bare. So, while your perennials are taking root, you should fill up the extra space with annuals that will spice things up and allow your permaculture garden to take on a new look every year.
Almost all of the most popular vegetables are annuals, and you’re bound to get excited about the tomatoes, peppers, peas, beans, and squash that you can grow, harvest, and eat.
What’s even better is that sometimes annuals, if planted in an area that receives wind, will yield seeds that you can replant to start the whole process over again after you’ve harvested.
Grow & Maintain
Now that most of the hard work is out of the way set up a watering routine and set some time aside to tend to everything, making sure your plants remain healthy and then simply enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of your labor.
There is a lot of joy to be found in observing the garden you’ve created. After growing your first crop of vegetables, the sense of accomplishment will give you immense satisfaction and make the exercise feel completely worth it.
But gardening is never a finished process. Pay special attention to the leaves on your plants, for example. If they turn brown and are wilting, your plants aren’t getting enough water. Learn how to diagnose diseases in your plants and learn how to heal them. Sometimes this can be even more exciting than growing a plant from a seed.
Add A Composter
Once you’ve grown your permaculture garden for a full season, a lot of your plants will either die or be harvested, leaving behind a lot of debris, such as leaves, stems, and flowers. You shouldn’t just throw all of this leftover plant matter away, though, and you can build a compost heap if you have a suitable place for one that you can throw this plant matter into.
Once your compost heap has been going for a while, you’ll have plenty of nutrient-rich soil that you can use next year! Not to mention, it makes your permaculture garden waste-free and sustainable.
However, if you want a composter and don’t have a space to put it, find a common spot that your entire block can use and place it somewhere where the smell of decay won’t reach you.
Work With Your Community
Permaculture gardens are remarkably popular, particularly in urban districts. As we mentioned, you can get involved with your neighbors and other community members who share your passion and add a social element to this awesome activity.
Not to mention there are plenty of lessons to be learned from other, more experienced gardeners that could take your permaculture garden to the next level next season!
Growing your own fresh fruit and vegetables in your apartment can be a very rewarding exercise. Do your research before deciding what to buy, build, and plant in your apartment permaculture garden.
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