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permaculture and the city

 
Tyler Ludens
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I often run across folks dismissing permaculture because it won't work in the megacities.  What would you say to these people to convince them permaculture is worthwhile in a world in which most people live in cities?

 
Brenda Groth
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first they should read the part in Gaia's garden about urban permaculture..that would be helpful..

my SIL lives in Toledo area and she is always telling me..well i dont' have as much room to garden as you do..however..their city lot is probably as large as the AREA that we garden on our acerage..we may own acres..but we don't garden the entire thing..if you were to measure the area that we intensively garden here around our house..it is likely about 100 x 300 to 400 '..which is the size of a good size suburban lot..and i figured out a forest garden plan for her that she could put into an area 32 x 40' that would hold 49 trees plus shrubs and perennial fruits and veggies..and sent it to her.

most city gardens on a main floor can squeeze out a 32 x 40 spot..even a lot of roof gardens can do that much
 
                              
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Brenda Groth wrote:
first they should read the part in Gaia's garden about urban permaculture..that would be helpful..

my SIL lives in Toledo area and she is always telling me..well i dont' have as much room to garden as you do..however..their city lot is probably as large as the AREA that we garden on our acerage..we may own acres..but we don't garden the entire thing..if you were to measure the area that we intensively garden here around our house..it is likely about 100 x 300 to 400 '..which is the size of a good size suburban lot..and i figured out a forest garden plan for her that she could put into an area 32 x 40' that would hold 49 trees plus shrubs and perennial fruits and veggies..and sent it to her.

most city gardens on a main floor can squeeze out a 32 x 40 spot..even a lot of roof gardens can do that much


100 x 300 is pretty much the size of a football field.  Nobody I know has a city lot that big.  My lot is 1/5th acre which is pretty standard around where I live.  That's about 70' x 125'.

How the heck do you fit 49 trees in a 32' x 40' area?  Id love to see your plan because Im sure I could adapt a lot from it.  Im in the city and slowly turning the yard into food food food.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thank you for your ideas.  The problem seems to be, that people in the city don't have room to garden, because so many live in apartments.  What answers can we offer them, from a permacultural perspective?

 
Joel Hollingsworth
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There are lots of sources on this one.

Novella Carpenter chose an apartment next to a large vacant lot. The owner of the lot keeps expecting the economy to turn around enough to justify building condos on that spot, but until then she calls it Ghost Town Farm (the neighborhood has so many abandoned buildings and vacant lots, it earned the nickname Ghost Town).

Homegrown Evolution recently advocated gardening on the median, after reading this article.

In general, though, I agree there is not enough space to grow all food needed for the current population of the densest cities. That wouldn't mean a failure of permaculture, though.  Here's toby hemenway:

I often hear the assumption that without land, urbanites will starve. Nonsense. Farmers were feeding urban populations long before the oil age, and they will do so after it. New Jersey’s seemingly absurd license plate motto, “The Garden State,” refers to its thousands of vanished market gardens that fed New York City until the 1960s. Even urbanites in triplexes will be able to buy locally grown food.


He might also have mentioned pre-fossil-fuel Paris. As people make more-reasonable choices about food & geography, though, I do expect the densest cities to become far less dense.
 
Brenda Groth
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it was a plan i drew up (on paper) for my sister in law's property in toldeo ohio..but it is fairly simpl

if you buy dwarf fruit trees you can space them really close together..myself i suggested for her superdwarfs, but normal dwarfs grow very small..and can be spaced so that the branches just barely touch..

the plan i suggested for her was to place her trees in a U shape with the opening of the U facing south..if possible

plant the dwarfs along the back of the U (north) and on each side of the arm of the U (east and west)..if you own the property on the outside of the U you can also plant a hedge of brambles or blueberries along the OUTSIDE of the U orchard on the east and west sides.

I also suggested nut trees that grow small or can be kept small, such as hazelnuts or dwarf halls hardy almonds.

for her garden i suggested that she buy 2 or 3 varieties of each of the fruit trees and nut trees that she likes to eat..and place those that grow the LARGEST of the dwarfs on the far north..that would probably be the hazelnuts and the dwarf pears and apples..and grow the shorter of the dwarfs on the east and west, which would be your plums, nectarines, peaches, apricots and cherries.

the hazelnuts can make a hedge, that way you can plant them very close together..also you can plant some taller full size canopy layer trees on the nw and ne corners of the U..if you want the larger trees as well ..with your dwarfs and supedwarfs as an understory.

you leave the center of the U more open to the sunshine..underlanting the trees just beyuond the drip edges with things like fruiting shrubs..just make sure you leave room to harvest under your darf trees, access paths down the center of the U brnaching off like a keyhole garden toward the fruit trees, say between them for access.leaves you sunny vegetable gardens in the very center, and even some room for some herbs and flowers.

if your gareden is 32 feet across the back you should be able to fit one dwarf tree at least every 10 to 12 feet and if you use superdwarfs every 8'..as her plan was to use the very small dwarfs she was planning on planting her fruit trees every 8' ..she was also planning on using pole apple trees, which only take 4' of space..so they can be planted every 4 feet..and there are about 8 varieties of pole apple trees ..

she was also polanning on using a few 5 in one trees, like fruit cocktail trees, 5 in one pear and 5 in one apple trees.. I have used these and they worked quite well in small areas..

so, on her property we were planting a hedge of  on a tight hedge of 9 hazelnuts across the north at 4' apart..then 6' south of that a row of 9 pol apple trees spaced a5 4' apart..that is 18 trees in the first 10' of the garden..she was planing on spacing the other fruit trees 8' apart along the east and west edges..in two rows 8' apart 4 trees each, both sides..so another 16 trees..so up to 32 trees at this point..
inside this she was planning on putting two rows of superdwarf no ladder cherry and peach trees, these can be spaced 4' apart and will grow well at the edges of the drip lines of the taller trees, the plan was for 7 on each side, but more could be put in, you wouild just have to be very autious about planning your pathways for access..she has access around the outside of her entire 32 x 40 area..so she will have a row of brambles on the west and a row of blueberries on the east under the  dripline edges of the fruit trees..she has also left room for some sunny vegetables on the south row edge of the garden and will be planting her salad crops in the shade under the fruit trees and herbs tucked in here and there with some lupines for nitrogen fixing, and lots of wildflowers along the brambles and blueberry eddges..

her hope was also to plant a full size tree at the nw and ne corners of the U..which would have been slightly outside of the U itself..and she would be planting shade loving plants on the north side of the hazelnut hedge.

anyway..the basic size of this garden is approx 32 x 40 but could be made larger if there is more room..she has a mown lawn on the outside edges and so that gives her a path around the entire garden..but she has ledging to keep the lawn from going into the beds.

of course this is a plan only, not sure if she'll use it or not..another plan would be just to have a keyhole garden gropuing alng each side of a main path through the U and planting fruit trees onjly on the back of the u and on each side, east and west..and using fewer trees, and planting more fruits and vegetables..

i have 49 trees in a 40 x 60 area and soem of the trees i have are full size..i'll describe mine below

 
Brenda Groth
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my 40 x 60 area starts out with on the north 3 walnut trees (black, carpathian and butternut) these are large trees so there is a space of 20' between them and the trees to the south..on the west ..south of the walnuts is a row of wild plum trees, and on the east next to these are 6 hazelnuts with 3 mulberries planted over them as a canopy.

along the west edge are 2 chestnuts, underplanted with a buffalo berry and a hazelnut, and those are planted between with a hedgerow of red, gold, black raspberry and black berries..

east of those are 3 dwarf apples under planted with herbs and fruits and vegetables..

east of these are 4 dwarf pears, 4 goumi, paw paws, mountain ash and some super dwarf cherry trees, these are all underplanted with fruits and vegetables..but there are also 2 arbors with grapes and climbing roses and some vines going up over those as well as 3 garden metal arches..there is anotehr hedge of blueberry bushes and service berry trees,form a canopy over those..

to the west of the entire mess is a hedgerow mixed with evergreens, and deciduous trees and shrubs that runs the entire length of the area and to the east of the entire area is a pond that is edged in trees and bushes as well as edlerberry bushes..and south of the is a small grove of white ash trees and wild raspberries..north of this just north of the nut trees is 5 acres of woods and mixed into the woods is a lot of fruit trees.. so this garden really isn't suite for an urban area..but you can cram a lot of darf trees into a small area..here it helps to have the dwarf trees as they are easier to care for, and harvest from, also you can use them more like a TALL PLANT in the beds rather than having a lot of shade..they don't cast the amount of shade that a full size tree does and you can pant right tight up to them.

all around my house i have additional dwarf cherry, pear, apple, including pole apples and 5 in one apples, and pears, and i also have halls hardy almond and a fruit coctail tree on either side of my front door..many of my dwarf fruit trees are in the "flower beds" that ar on all 4 sides of my house..the north has dwarf cherry trees as they prefer to have a little shade in early spring and late fall and winter..
 
Brenda Groth
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sorry this is so long..i also have some ornamental canadian scarlet cherry trees for leaf color and for pollination..and i did some research on plants that should grow well under the walnut trees (they are allopathic) and I have been plantings trees and shrubs that will grow as an understory under these (still baby walnut trees)..most of them are tiny seedlings at this point..but the plan is to plant heavily under the walnut trees outer driplines to block the allopathic juglone from reaching the apple tree guild ..

the hazelnuts, pears, hawthorns and mulberries are also planted to asborb Juglone.
 
                              
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Brenda.

Thank you very much.  Im trying to stuff as many trees in my front yard as possible.  One way of doing this is Im building a 10' Belgian fence espaliar out of 7 apples trees.  Ive got an espaliered pear i started this year as well.  I think Im going to espalier a fig along my west wall. 
 
                                      
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Hmmm,

yeah, well obviously living in the city wont keep anyone from 'doing' permaculture, or trying to produce as much food as possible around their house. Especially in cities permaculture design principles like the principle about multifunctionality for elements, and the principle of stacking in space and time are very helpfull in making optimal use of your balcony, backyard, rooftop or green wall.

check out this site on vertical gardening:
http://swompenglish.wordpress.com/vertical-gardens/
there is a link on a guide to build them here btw
www.swompenglish.wordpress.com

Another important question is if 'it will work'...
I am assuming that you're wondering if it is possible to grow enough food in the cities for the people who live there?

I think this first of all depends on the city. i would say downtown newyork has less chances than some other city's since glass skyscrapers have very little growing space...

but a lot is possible in the average city. when cuba got deprived from oil by boycots in the nineties they were forced to try for more self sufficient methods of food production then the conventional import export industrial agriculture (which is dependant on oil).

in no time everybody was growing their own food, on roofs, balconys, abandoned lots etc.

and 70% of the diet of people in the city came fom their own city.

total self sufficiency is a hard thing, and is not possible everywhere (out or inside the city) minig for steel etc for example. but building resilience through producing as much food as possible is always possible.

grtz
 
Brenda Groth
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even inside a glass skyscraper you can grow some trees in pots inside if you have enough light and high enough ceilings or space..space in apartments however is generally at a real premium..so that is less likely a true statement.

people have used conservatories for their oranges and other citrus for years.

a long narrow planter in front of a window can grow a lot of fruits and vegetables inside..

you might have to hand pollinate though

also you might find areas closeby that might be avail to grow things for your family..like median strips and overpass/underpass areas..where there is some soil..if you have access, or even vacant lots..pots out on your balcony..etc. there are a lot of books on container gardens..myself i probably would hate it..as i hate container plants..but it would work out well if that is all you have.
 
                              
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in the city you may not be able to grow massive amounts of vegetables but you can certainly practice permaculture.  the city is filled with resources that others throw out in the trash.  almost all the organic matter in my gardens are other peoples leaves that they have so thoughtfully bagged up and set on the side of the road for me.  the west facing wall of my house is covered by a trellis of hyacinth bean vine... this vine provides shade, more organic matter in the fall and food.  ive dug some swales into my yard now to help capture rainwater and keep it on site.  these swales also serve another purpose of keeping my walkways clean because there's no dirt and grass collecting on them anymore.  this in turn keeps the inside of my house cleaner as well because people arent tracking dirt in.... it goes on and on.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thank you for your insights, everyone. 
 
tel jetson
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I think it's important to remember that permaculture isn't just about growing food.  we have plenty of needs and wants beyond food that can be met within the practice of permaculture.

but more on food: a lot of cities have a lot of street trees and a fair number of those are ornamental varieties of fruit trees, particularly apples, cherries, and plums.  with a little topworking, those mature ornamental trees can become great producers of delicious fruit.  there are also plenty of fruit trees planted in cities just dropping their fruits on the ground.  more and more cities have programs to harvest that fruit and supply shelters and food banks.

there's plenty of potential for food in cities.  shoot, the oak trees in Central Park in Manhattan drop huge amounts of food (acorns) every year that goes to the squirrels and birds because the human residents don't know how to use it.  it would be relatively easy to grow magnitudes more food there without changing the appearance dramatically.  and if folks started valuing wise use over Olmsted's aesthetic, that could be one hell of an urban forest garden and still be a great public park.  at over 800 acres, 100,000,000 pounds of food annually wouldn't be out of the question, and much more would likely be plausible.  with a population of around 1,629,000, that's not going to feed everybody, but throw in other parks, street trees, rooftops, and sunny windows and I bet you would come close.  narrow some of the multi-lane streets and use that space for more gardens and maybe all Manhattan's food could be grown within it's borders.

not likely to happen any time soon, but the possibility is there.
 
                              
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tel jetson wrote:
I think it's important to remember that permaculture isn't just about growing food.  we have plenty of needs and wants beyond food that can be met within the practice of permaculture.

but more on food: a lot of cities have a lot of street trees and a fair number of those are ornamental varieties of fruit trees, particularly apples, cherries, and plums.  with a little topworking, those mature ornamental trees can become great producers of delicious fruit.  there are also plenty of fruit trees planted in cities just dropping their fruits on the ground.  more and more cities have programs to harvest that fruit and supply shelters and food banks.

there's plenty of potential for food in cities.  shoot, the oak trees in Central Park in Manhattan drop huge amounts of food (acorns) every year that goes to the squirrels and birds because the human residents don't know how to use it.  it would be relatively easy to grow magnitudes more food there without changing the appearance dramatically.  and if folks started valuing wise use over Olmsted's aesthetic, that could be one hell of an urban forest garden and still be a great public park.  at over 800 acres, 100,000,000 pounds of food annually wouldn't be out of the question, and much more would likely be plausible.  with a population of around 1,629,000, that's not going to feed everybody, but throw in other parks, street trees, rooftops, and sunny windows and I bet you would come close.  narrow some of the multi-lane streets and use that space for more gardens and maybe all Manhattan's food could be grown within it's borders.

not likely to happen any time soon, but the possibility is there.


central park the food forest... wow, doesnt that make the imagination spin.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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There's a survey related to urban permaculture, that the bloggers over at Homegrown Evolution would like to direct people to:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/BB2N3VG

I enjoyed filling it out, and if the authors' previous work is any indication, the article (and perhaps, eventually, book) this survey informs will be a good one.
 
                                  
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Some of you might be interested in this blog:

http://permacultureforrenters.com/
 
Brenda Groth
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jade what a wonderful little blog i definately bookmarked that site for later reading
 
Emil Spoerri
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Permaculture could work in the cities if we tore up most of the roads.

Why is it that people think they have the right to have cities in the first place?

In my view cities are basically havens for pirates to wreak and ravage mother earth without having to witness the devastation and murder that takes place every day.

If a city grew all it's own food, it wouldn't need roads to truck things in with... like 1% of how many they contain at this point.

Who saw The Power Of Community? According to that flick, Havanah produces the least of it's own food of any cuban city, clocking in at 51%, not too shabby!

Places like NYC deserve to be washed into the ocean... what was once one of the most diverse and rich of environments in the country has become a blight, not only to the land it's on but to people and places all over the world.

One day, the fall of Rome must come.
 
                                        
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Ludi wrote:
Thank you for your ideas.  The problem seems to be, that people in the city don't have room to garden, because so many live in apartments.  What answers can we offer them, from a permacultural perspective?




In my opinion aquaponics is a legitimate answer to people in the cities like myself. In a area no bigger than 5x5 even 3x3 you can have a fish tank that pumps water into grow beds on top of it where dense plantings can take place. Some permies might discount the electricity used to pump the water or pvc piping used but I think its a step forward.
 
Tyler Ludens
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nbellizzi90 wrote:
In my opinion aquaponics is a legitimate answer to people in the cities like myself.


Are you practicing aquaponics yourself?

 
                            
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Vertical gardening's the right idea, and I intend to implement it in the place where I'll be renting in Chicago.

"Vertical Gardening: Design or Function"
http://www.pushinggreen.com/news/vertical-gardening-design-or-function--73

The idea that we have to grow on horizontal planes is old - vertical gardening makes total sense for people living in the cities these days.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Vertical gardening may be the wrong idea in semi-arid cities.

In that case, boring a few narrow holes in the pavement would IMHO be better than tearing it up completely...concrete is better mulch than plastic, any day.
 
                                      
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vertical gardening is just increasing the surface used to grow, i think in a city always a good idea.

how to go about it (many ways) depends.

boring a few narrow holes in the pavement would IMHO be better than tearing it up completely...concrete is better mulch than plastic, any day.


imoo i think organic matter always makes the best mulch.

also in arid cities concrete is preventing (the little) water (that does fall) from penetrating/infiltrating the soil. it just brushes of the sidewalk, into the gutter, into the sewage: wasted.
especially in arid regions tearing up the concrete would make sense.

(in wet climates as wel btw)
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Joop Corbin - swomp wrote:
vertical gardening is just increasing the surface used to grow, i think in a city always a good idea.

how to go about it (many ways) depends.
imoo i think organic matter always makes the best mulch.

also in arid cities concrete is preventing (the little) water (that does fall) from penetrating/infiltrating the soil. it just brushes of the sidewalk, into the gutter, into the sewage: wasted.
especially in arid regions tearing up the concrete would make sense.

(in wet climates as wel btw)


The limiting factor is not necessarily growing area, but leaf area and the water reserves to support the concomitant transpiration.

Organic mulch does allow some evaporation, and some growth of plants through it. It also allows slugs and rodents more habitat. Management of these issues not only requires effort, it exacerbates evaporation.

Notice I didn't advocate leaving pavement completely intact, but modifying it into a water reserve. I entirely agree that runoff to the storm sewer is wasteful, but I think evaporation is also wasteful, and both birds can be killed with the same piece of masonry.

I have had success bringing plants through a 6 month dry season with no irrigation, by allowing storm water to percolate under a large concrete slab over the previous wet season and then planting so that roots can reach under it. I do maintain a permanent organic mulch over all un-paved soil, but a drastically reduced area of this makes pest management much, much easier. It also makes sourcing, hauling, and applying organic mulch a lot easier.

Perhaps this is sour grapes on my part, since my landlord would frown on me removing the patio...but I like to think of it as recognizing a problem as a solution.
 
                                      
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by allowing storm water to percolate under a large concrete slab over the previous wet season and then planting so that roots can reach under it.


oh cool so you kinda created an artificial aquafier?

but does the water percolate trough the concrete? or do you think it also accumulates under through ground persiperation, i mean the surrounding soil isnt concrete is it?

Did you make a cavity under the concrete?
and what does the ground look like, what keeps the water in its place under the concrete? how big is the quantity of water under it in the beginning of the dry period you think?

A way of gardening over here in the (medium sized) city i live in is facade gardens. the sidewalk pavements here are made by 30x30cm (1x1ft?) slabs, some people take out a row of slabs along their facade, dig 40cm deep and replace the sand with earth and compost. this is a very narrow strip, and with the wall behind it, using that vertical space to its optimum is a nice challenge, wether it be by using grapes and passion or plant combinations, or by making a construction that holds a growing medium in a vertical fashion.

but its not the holy grail of urban permaculture, i think the urban permaculturist can make more difference in closing the gap between the growers around the city and the consumers in the city (box schemes, CSA, farmers markets, food-co-ops etc), getting your main foods from local recources in stead of supermarket-chains makes a much bigger difference than growing some grapes on the balcony.

also there are so many, parks, green strips and derelict lands to transform...

to get back on topic: lots can be done in a city.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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The urban lot I live on is covered about 60% with buildings, 15% with a front yard, and almost all of the rest is covered in concrete patio and a small, two-storey wooden deck.

Right near the deck, and surrounded by patio on 3 sides, is a 2' x 10' non-raised garden plot, which is the only non-container growing space I have. A lot of storm water seeps under the edges from this open section. Wood between sections of patio has also rotted mostly away, allowing some penetration of water, but I don't believe this is a big factor.

When I began, the soil was heavy clay at the same level as the bottom of the patio slab. Most of the changes I've made were to improve drainage. I added gypsum and a little compost at first, and have worked to increase the OM content through deep mulch and a constant succession of deep-rooted plants. I'm putting in a lot more favas this autumn, and hopefully some quinoa.

On rare occasions when I lift the organic mulch, I see rich, dark soil with good tilth and drainage. I've never seen under the slab, but I have every reason to expect that similar changes have taken place there. Perhaps soil is even better under the slab, what with zero disturbance, active roots during the warmest part of the year, and abundant (yet slow) access to lime.

I only have indirect measures of the field capacity. Last summer, I let the tomatoes get out of control, until they were a thick carpet sprawling over much of the patio. The bell peppers planted alongside them were completely shaded out, and only set fruit a year later. Pruning them back for the winter, the tomato vines and leaves piled up to about half a cubic yard. They had not had irrigation or precipitation for at least 4 months, and last summer was hotter than this one.
 
Daniel Zimmermann
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Permaculture could work in the cities if we tore up most of the roads. 


Here is a blog about life in semi-rural Detroit:

http://www.sweet-juniper.com/
 
Tyler Ludens
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I really love your signature, Antibubba. 
 
                                      
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I think it's important to remember that permaculture isn't just about growing food.  we have plenty of needs and wants beyond food that can be met within the practice of permaculture.


agreed
as is explained by lots of permaculture writers, the meaning of the word permaculture for many started to cover more than permanent agriculture, and now is seen as an attempt to create a permanent culture.

Some things we urban permaculturists are busy with here:

- renewable energy, preferably 'of the grid'
- lowering energy use in the house, good isolation etc
- taking on your input and outputs, what waste do we create, can we nót create that waste, or is that waste something that can be used again. What recources do we have, can any waste product become a recource (like humanure for example).
- CSA like projects
- food-coops. apart from growing some ourselves we try to increase the availability of local grown (organic) food. There is a new group in our transition initiative that is approaching (organic) farmers around the city and convincing them to grow for the local market in stead of for export or wholesales companies. By taking away some parts of the chain, fresh, local, healthy produce becomes cheaper and easier to get.
- community gardens, municipal green can sometimes be taken on by the community to be used as allotment or to create a little forest garden.
- Also the public park in this neighborhood now has a neighborhood committee that is taking care of part of it. It is being made more edible and ecologically sound (this means the city can save money). we consider it to be our permaculture zone 4 and 5. to collect wild edibles.
- Then there is the newest group, called 'citywood', no tree leaves the city! They are a group of woodworkers and other craftsmanship businesses that made a deal with the municipality that all cut down trees will be dropped in the park (in stead of shredded and considered waste, our city doesnt do any composting), then cut and dried by the woodworkers who process it into furniture and stuff. The smaller branches and cutting are used by the people that work in the park for fences, walls of branches, inoculated with shrooms, or just left to rot.
- composting schemes, the group of people using our kitchen scrap bin is growing, and our compost is rotting very fast, when it is composted people with allotments, facade gardens, or community gardens, pick this up and,
- the produce surplus (to many pumpkins all at once, more lettuce you can eat etc) can be traded through LETS systems.

All of these are ofcorse not permaculture in itself, but taken on as a whole, trying to connect them, and create as many mutual relations, every part, or element serving more functions, focus on organic recources, recycling energy on the spot as much as possible, using efficient energy planning, and placing things in relative locations ís permaculture.

In short the permaculture design principles can be used for so much more than just gardens.

through the transition network websites and blog, you can find thousands of examples of permaculture being applied in cities. In england especially city dwellers have been discovering permaculture

PS
off-topic, it is funny by the way how people being introduced to permaculture in urban environments have declared to me that they 'loved the concept but didnt believe it was possible to apply it in a bigger scale in agricultural purposes. At the same time i've met people knowing permaculture from bigger scale projects who cant see it happening in the city.
 
Lisa Paulson
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I rented a home in  a section of the city and I loved to walk through the neighbourhood of plain jane homes nestled on tiny urban lots on the way home from the rapid transit station.  What made it wonderous was that most of the families were older first generation immigrants to Vancouver, Canada.  And their gardens reflected their ethnic origins and it was utterly an education and the older people were an absolute wealth of education plus they were very proud and some of the men were positively competitive about their gardening prowness.  Permaculture was alive and well in the urban environment, they were raising chickens, pidgeons, rabbits in their backyard food gardens and a few utilized every inch of side yards and front yard.  Most of these people would not be exposed to know how to use a computer and english was sometimes a struggle but wow, what an inspiration.  I had to smile when the City of Vancouver  passed a bylaw allowing urban chicken raising because people have been doing that in the city for decades.  I hope it was not completely lost on the younger generations. Permaculture use of arbours for food and shade were in abundance and had I truly studied the gardens composting and water utilization I might have learned even more.  Urban foraging was alive and well too, every rainy cool day the Portuguese community was out harvesting snails in a nearby vacant lot. 
They only knew it as gardening, not permaculture , but the traditional gardening knowledge that immigrant famillies brought with them was amazing. I feel blessed to have the privilege of this inspiration. 

Now the urban planner in me would be absolutely for the planned use of permaculture in urban communities and greenhouse production engineered on new commercial and insustrial developments alongside wind and solar harvesting .  I would be the bane of developers  : )

 
Tyler Ludens
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Thank you everyone for these insights. 
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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I just read Toolbox for Sustainable City Living, by Kellogg and Pettigrew.

It's an excellent source on the particularly urban aspects of permaculture. I haven't done the math, but it seems like quite a few people could subsist on a city's worth of the aquaponics system they outline.
 
rose macaskie
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  bill molison does talk about how false every bit of green in the city is. Lawns that look like carpets and are often merely the fore courts for banks, not used for sitting on or playing sports on, that actually turn into false lawns, made of plastic, there is a false lawn roundabout in a smal town out in the country tha I pass, so even in the country you get false grass. Bill Molison  plants fruit stones in the bare lawns i dont imagine they survive the passes of a lawn mower. I am always seeing the leaves of date palms coming up in the square. If you plant a date stone it does come up often and then you recognize the two green leave that come up in the flower beds here.  I suppose it is the fault of the Moroccan population, in Islam the date palm is highly respected if I remember right Mohamed order them to respect it. 
    There is an apple tree growing here in one corner of the big central square colon and i reckon it has grown from some spot in the concrete from seed, it is so unusual to see a fruit tree in the city. Sometimes you see trees growing up out of the gutters.

      The nice thing about nature is that it is so  unlike a carpet. Also the country is a natural gymnasium, you can swing on a branch, climb a wall, go off to wet your feet in a stream and in a city there are always people watching you.  Hanging off branches to undignified for a fifty six year old, which  is a bit sad, not to speak of not being able to take your tea out to enjoy it in the sun.

      Ecologically, green house gas wise, cities are full of wall space that could be catching carbon instead of overheating in the sun and as this is a crisis, look at all the floods that we have had in the world this year, our mind set should be, stuff the old or new  building with their attractiveness, till we are out of this every building should be covered in plants.
      They could start with plants on all government offices.
    Global warming is going to cause so much poverty if what happened in Pakistan Rumania or was it  Hungry, China, all over the place happens every year and floods are what the scientist predicted for global warming. We are right in the crisis already loosing your home is terrible, we should be getting into first gear to stop the climate change. agri rose macaskie.
 
Mekka Pakanohida
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Location: Zone 9 - Coastal Oregon
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Ludi wrote:
Thank you for your ideas.  The problem seems to be, that people in the city don't have room to garden, because so many live in apartments.  What answers can we offer them, from a permacultural perspective?




Bill Mollensin showed guerrila farmers in NYC in the 1970's.  People raising food & chickens in the heart of the Big Apple.  There are places people can grow, legally and illegally.  Roof tops, the little squares that line up the trees ever so proper, hanging planters on window sills, and in allies.  Hell, if more NYC allies had bright walls, plants, and lights on a 18/6 light cycle I bet it would stem off a lot more crime. 

That or there would be seed thugs!  Oh wait, we already got Monsanto. 
 
Mekka Pakanohida
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stalk_of_fennel wrote:
central park the food forest... wow, doesnt that make the imagination spin.


I'm sure it used to be prior to European settlement. 
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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I'd like to partly retract an earlier statement on vertical gardening.

The more I think about it, the more convinced I become that human settlement is inherently water-intensive. Even a deliberately limited amount of greywater per person is enough to maintain a square yard or so of wetland.

Vines crawling over a structure also make a lot of sense. The weight of planter beds can be pushed to the strongest part of the structure (typically, the corners), or plants can even root directly in the ground. The savings on climate control alone are enough to justify their presence.

But I think distinguishing between intensive systems (i.e., permaculture zone 1) vs. extensive ones (zone 3) is important. Virginia Creeper plus chickens strikes me as a particularly good extensive, vertical system: walls could be managed as rotationally-grazed paddocks, using a movable scaffolding to give the birds access to fruit and leaves.
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