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Apartment-scale permaculture  RSS feed

 
                            
Posts: 22
Location: Cholula, Mexico
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This is my first thread here, so I apologize in advance if its redundant. Also, hello to all! I live in a tiny, tiny second story apartment and I've been trying to permaculture into practice at this scale for some time now with variable results. So far my experiments have passed through vermicompost, container gardening and sprouting... My container garden sat in the collective wash area, in between 2 two-story buildings on an east-west axis, which meant tons of light half the day none the rest, as well as an ocassional battering from the neighbors' sheets; after a rather sad tomato harvest (2 cherry tomatoes), I figured it wasn't working very well and gave my seeds away to friends with actual garden space. Also, cost is a big problem for me as far as container gardening goes. Here, a large container + materials adds up to about $30 US, which is enough for me to live almost a week. Now I'm still composting in a couple tubs where my container garden was (I have more compost than I know what to do with!) and keeping a few herbs and medicinals on my tiny, tiny balcony (aloe, lavender, basil, etc.). I sprout once in a while, although finding good quality seeds can be difficult. Any tips or ideas on what I can do with this type of space? Thanks a bunch in advance!
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
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my suggestion is think vertical space.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 985
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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Have you seen the window farming site?  I don't know if it would work for you, but it might.... I plan to set up a window farm in our one south-facing window (in my daughter's room) even though we have an acre of land.  I want to experiment with aquaponics, using DD's 10-gallon fish tank as the bottom water reservoir.  In theory, if we had a larger fish tank (possible, given the space available) we could grow a few fish for consumption and use the water for hydroponically raising a few vegetables.  I'm under no delusions that we could feed ourselves from Dd's bedroom window, but it will make a good start on a system.  If it works, I can do a larger one outside.

Kathleen
 
                            
Posts: 22
Location: Cholula, Mexico
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Window farming sounds awesome  !!! Do you have a link? I'm a bit worried about cost but I can start saving up. More than anything it would be good to get something going within my own apartment since the common spaces aren't completely reliable (in terms of light and people or clotheslines not bugging the plants). I have a large (not south-facing but well-lit) window that just might work, as well as some vertical space on the balcony, although it's only about 50 cm. across...
 
Chelle Lewis
Posts: 424
Location: Hartbeespoort, South Africa
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Kathleen Sanderson wrote:Have you seen the window farming site? 

Kathleen is right... Might be just what you are looking for..... The thread is called farming in the concrete jungle....  There is a whole community that has developed around the idea and they are always tweaking the design to improve it. Cheap and easy to make too.

Welcome! Really neat all you are managing to do in an apartment! 

Chelle

Edit: Here's the link to the thread.....
 
                    
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ceiba wrote:
I'm a bit worried about cost but I can start saving up.


Improvise!  Fancy packaged solutions might look nice, but the basics of potted plants or hydroponics can be put together inexpensively. You need a container or two the width of the window, some stakes if the plants grow tall. For hydroponics, a simple pump and tube system using aquarium or pond equipment.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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grow things that don't really need a lot of light but love compost..like salad greens, lettuces, spinach, coles, etc..

dont feel the need to purchase expensive containers for your container gardens..just take anything left over and fill it with your compost and put in the seeds and water it..

if you have any area with sun, just use a pail or bucket full of the compost for those maters..even just a sunny  windowsill..you might have to use a qtip to polliate your blooms

you can hang things over the railing of your balcony if the rail is in solid shape..as well..wire your buckets right to the railing..put a few drainage holes in the bottom of the buckets.

compost is a wonderful thing..use it use it use it..cole crops and melons and squashes prefer pure compost to anything else to grow in
 
                                      
Posts: 172
Location: Amsterdam, the netherlands
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hi ceiba,

if you have some wallspace on your balcony you might consider something like this:



my girlfriend built it on her appartment balcony.
Its a raster with cloth behind it, the space between the cloth and the wall
(10-15 cm) you fill up with soil. plant seedlings in holes in the cloth. or put perrennial herb seeds in, pressed against the cloth when filling the structure with soil the first time, the seeds will sprout through (roughly woven) cloth

it grows into this:



it uses up almost no surface space but has quite a big volume for earth, more info at our website

Another thing you can consider is growing edible mushrooms.
It is loads of fun, healthy, saves money and uses not much space.
It can be done on a balcony or inside. there's this really nice book on it called 'mycelia running', forgot who wrote it.




you'll find a full photo report on the amsterdam (dutch) transition town website
(sorry if the photos apear super large at your screens, i didnt know how to shrink them since they are taken from websites.)
 
                    
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Joop Corbin - swomp wrote:
Another thing you can consider is growing edible mushrooms.
It is loads of fun, healthy, saves money and uses not much space.
It can be done on a balcony or inside. there's this really nice book on it called 'mycelia running', forgot who wrote it.



Mycelium Running is by paul stamets - very good book, but once you get that, you will want his other books that have actual growing techniques.

Growing mushrooms inside has some real risks. They give off a lot of spores that can cause allergies, asthma, and a flu-like syndrome. I would not advise growing them inside a house or apartment. I know some people who did, and it caused problems.
 
                                      
Posts: 172
Location: Amsterdam, the netherlands
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Hey jonathan,

good to know that it might cause problems, i myself, and a lot of people i know grow/grew mushrooms inside (small apartments) without problems. I do mainly grow natives, and dont have any problems with that, or heard of them, maybe the type of mushrooms makes a difference?

The only type of mushroom i know of creating a health hazard is a funghus that eats away hardwood beams in building structures. (also they destroy your house).

I wouldnt be discouraged by others problems unless you know to be allergic, or astmatic previously. I do think that its good to be aware of the fact that others experienced those problems, so that you recognize it immediatly when it actually has effect on you.

anyway,
cheers
 
                            
Posts: 22
Location: Cholula, Mexico
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Wow! Thanks for all this information!!! The cloth idea is amazing!!! I don't have any wall space on my mini-balcony (it's a tiny, tiny spot at the end of the stairs), but I might be able to fit it wall in one of the shared spaces in the building. Thank you so much!!!

I had read about mushroom cultivation and have some information on growing them indoors, although I hadn't heard about the drawbacks. I'm also not sure where to find decent spores for edibles. Does anyone know how to obtain spores directly from mushrooms? There are tons of edibles around volcanoes during the rainy season, and a trip to market in summer could bring some interesting stuff...
 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 985
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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You'd probably be safest, with the mushrooms, to buy a starter kit from one of the seed/nursery catalogs.  A lot of them carry mushroom kits of various kinds.  I've never bought one, so can't make any recommendations.

Kathleen
 
Rob Sigg
Posts: 715
Location: PA-Zone 6
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If you like watercress it will do rather well in just a container of shallow water, it doesn't even need full sun. If I knew more about your situation like the actual layout, sun pattern etc, I might be able to give you more ideas.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
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Jonathan_Byron wrote:
Improvise!  Fancy packaged solutions might look nice, but the basics of potted plants or hydroponics can be put together inexpensively. You need a container or two the width of the window, some stakes if the plants grow tall. For hydroponics, a simple pump and tube system using aquarium or pond equipment.


You might also borrow some ideas from here:

Energy Bulletin on vertical planters from plastic bottles
 
Aljaz Plankl
Posts: 386
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I'm not sure how  your building looks like, but have you considered using the roof?
 
                            
Posts: 22
Location: Cholula, Mexico
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The roof is slanted, so it's a bit hard to grow anything there. There are another 15 or so people living here, among them several very playful kids, so I don't really have any guarantees as far as anything outside my apartment/stairwell-balcony (the kids loved playing with the tomato plants and ended up uprooting a couple of them...) basically the space I have is quite limited although there are a couple large windows and plenty of light. As far as the mushroom kits go, I can't really afford them with shipping and don't know if they'll even make it through customs, although I'll look into it or see if any friends coming by can (carefully) bring one over from the states or Europe. The whole aquaculture trip seems amazing and quite feasible, so I'll start saving up as soon as I can 

One idea I tried for awhile was growing wheat grass from a kit, but it was quite expensive. Does anyone know if usable wheat grass can be grown in trays with plain old compost? The kits ha some exotic sterilized stuff imported from Canada, which seemed a bit byzantine to me. Would regular, unsterilized (or sterilized) compost pose any potential health risks? Thanks to everyone for your kind replies!
 
Daniel Zimmermann
Posts: 122
Location: Sacramento
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  Now I'm still composting in a couple tubs where my container garden was (I have more compost than I know what to do with!)


Now that you have extra compost, are any of your neighbors interested in gardening?
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
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Another bit of advice, is to network. There are likely fruit trees in the neighborhood going un-picked, and lots of other local resources going un-used. An apartment doesn't really come with a zone 2 or 3, but you can probably negotiate some limited privileges there.

There might also be opportunities to guerilla garden.
 
Aly Sanchez
Posts: 25
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I just picked up a book that seems to be just what you're looking for. It's titles Fresh Foods from Small Spaces by R.J. Ruppenthal. It definitely comes from a sustainibility/permie mindset. Here's a link on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Fresh-Food-Small-Spaces-Square-Inch/dp/160358028X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1270491094&sr=8-1. ; He really maximizes space in ways that haven't occurred to me. Main topics are strategy, vegetable cultivation, using vertical space and reflected light, growing fruit and berries in small spaces, growing sprouts, making fermented foods (kefir, yogurt, ginger beer), cultivating mushrooms, raising chickens and bees, composting and vermiculture, survival during resource shortages, and building a sustainable future. I haven't gotten very far in but so far it's pretty good.
 
We've gotta get close enough to that helmet to pull the choke on it's engine and flood his mind! Or, we could just read this tiny ad:
paul's patreon stuff
https://permies.com/t/60329/paul-patreon-stuff
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