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apartment scale permaculture in extreme shade

 
                      
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hello all, thanks for the great forum, i was happy to discover it. considering the dearth of specific information regarding extremely small scale permaculture, i'm hoping the folks here will provide some ideas on how i can begin to plan my "site", that is, a one bedroom apartment with a tiny balcony that is in total shade all day long.



i also have an option of having a few plants get some sun during the day if i add them to my neighbors container garden out by the sidewalk. the sidewalk gets about 4 to 6 hours of direct sunlight, extending to about a foot on either side of it, per day.



to give you an idea of just how dark it is in here with the lights off, this is my bedroom window at 12 noon, which i would also like to use as a grow space.



for some reason, all affordable apartments in the san antonio, tx area have only one window and one door which are both on the same wall. the shade is kind of a blessing because it is usually between 85 and 115 degrees for most of the year. ive seen many nascent container gardens fail because they got roasted by the intensely radioactive sunlight here, however i dont expect to get any big tomatoes or fruit without any direct sunlight. i also have a ton of space to grow things inside, provided that those things grow well in deep shade with a few hours of CFL light in the evening.

i suppose what i'm mostly looking for is suggestions on what life forms and plants i could grow in such shady and near dark conditions without too much extra effort or artificial light. i would love to involve some small scale aquaculture and terrariums. what ecosystems or microclimates could i look to for inspiration here? my main goals with this are air purification, decoration, food, and pest control. there is a slight problem with gnats here as well as the inevitable cockroach swarm which is constantly enc"roach"ing (lol) despite a spotless living space and repeated poisonous visits by a portly man with a pump sprayer.

any suggestions or directions to related resources would be greatly appreciated. thanks!
 
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I used to live in a similar situation. About the only things I could get to grow were leafy greens. No productive fruiting of any kind.

Depending on how long you are going to be there, you might also look into mushrooms.

Depending on your apartment management, you might be able to get away with some micro-livestock that could be fed on those leafy greens.
 
                      
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mushrooms are on the agenda already because of the extreme indoor darkness. microlivestock is pretty much out of the question at the moment, however a nice little fish in a tank with some taro might work well. i'm also planning on having some mesclun in a planter hanging over the railing. do you know of any other plants, edible or not, that grow well in shade? i've been googling this quite a bit and have not had much luck, so i was hoping some of the permies here would have some ideas.
 
Posts: 409
Location: Portlandish, Oregon
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static warp wrote:mushrooms are on the agenda already because of the extreme indoor darkness. microlivestock is pretty much out of the question at the moment, however a nice little fish in a tank with some taro might work well. i'm also planning on having some mesclun in a planter hanging over the railing. do you know of any other plants, edible or not, that grow well in shade? i've been googling this quite a bit and have not had much luck, so i was hoping some of the permies here would have some ideas.



Confirmed shade lovers

Ostrich fern (edible)
Gensing (edible)
Trillium (non edible, but medicinal)

Possible shade tolerators

Chives
Dandelion
Spinach
Lettuce
 
Posts: 112
Location: Mountain West of USA, Salt Lake City
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I would go down to your local plant nursery and look for something tropical. Plants that evolved on the floor of the rainforests grow with very little light.
 
pollinator
Posts: 169
Location: Emporia, KS
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Philodendron, spider plant, and hosta are decorative shade-loving plants, if you're just interested in having something green around. For food production you might google for aquarium-top aquaculture... put a fish tank under that window and grow greens on top of it.

A search I just did suggests that honeyberry and oregano, among other less gardeny plants, will grow in full shade.
 
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Location: Northern England
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Plants for a future (pfaf.org) has a database you can search by exposure etc. and also tells you what useful qualities the plants have.

I don't suppose you're allowed to grow on the roof/external walls?
 
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Miner's lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata).
 
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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look for long narrow deep planters..at home improvement stores they may sell window box liners which would work well, put them along the sides and the rail edge of the garden..and fill them with a really good soil..and plant them with mesclun or mixed lettuces or mixed salad greens, brassicas, and some onion starts..there you'll have salads..they may bolt in the hottest heat though so those would be fore the cooler seasons..check out things from bountiful gardens like malabar spinach, strawberry spinach, for more heat..

get a large pot and plant a seedless grape in it and run it along the balcony rail..maybe a couple kiwi vines or some other edible vine, that will give you some fruit..i have grapes here growing in shade and they do OK but need some extra care..water well, feed with like fish em or manure tea..

to get some extra light on that balcony see if you can find mirrors or some white painted something to reflect the light and reflect it onto the plants that need sun..like a pot of tomatoes or peppers..a prolific salad tomato in a hanging basket might glean a little sun if you put some reflective materials around it..and it should continue to bear and bear, make sure it is indeterminate..so it will continue.

strawberries will often do well in shade, maybe an everbearing type in a strawberry container would be helpful..

another thing you CAN do to give extra light would be to hang an outdoor fixture with some flourescent grow lights near some of the plants..to boost the light.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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just thought, a pot of peas, hanging would work well with the little room, google shade loving plants...Gaia's garden by Toby Hemenway would be a helpful read
 
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