NEWS, ADVICE AND REGENERATIVE THINKING FROM EARTH CIRCLE DESIGNS
Many people are looking for a green alternative to gardening and with the majority of us living in small terraced houses it's not like we can set up intensive growing systems... Or can we? Here's 10 tips to get you started on growing abundance on a small scale using micro permaculture.
1. Re-think your canopy layers
If you practice permaculture gardening in a temperature climate like I do in Dartmoor, UK, then you will know the value of a spacious canopy layer. Using less trees or trees with less/smaller leaves will provide the rest of your eco-system with optimal light. In a small space such as an suburban terraced garden, it may help you to top your trees or shape them in accordance with the suns direction. Try using suncalc to work out the direction of the sun on your property. You can also use the findmyshadow app to create objects, adjusting their height, width and length to demonstrate how structures in your surroundings effect the light in your small garden.
2. Use vertical walls
More often than not you will have a few vertical walls you can use in your garden. If you are in a dense urban environment vertical gardens may be your biggest asset. Think about using ladders to take advantage of the heights and fixing containers to the wall. Climbers are an obvious choice as this is their natural state and you can use hooks and wire to keep them steady. If you have the investment, I've seen some wonderful permaculture gardens using steel rodded structures that cover the whole wall for the soil base to plant established/young vegetables and herbs.
Heres some useful links to ideas on vertical wall gardens:
3. Edible flowers
Why not swap your ornamentals for edible plants/flowers? And if you think theres only a few that you can grow in England, heres a small list of edible flowers:
Just to name a few...Heres some helpful further reading on the edbile flowers front.
4. Utilise walk ways
If you have small walk ways, whether they are slabbed, stoned or even concrete you can make them productive. Think about growing edible, medicinal or plants that support the eco-system. I'm always walking past edible plants in walk ways like dandelions that are even nitrogen fixers. My favourite idea is edible creeping thyme in between the slab!
Think about using plants that have strong roots which hold soil structure and that are drought resistant. Here a few plants that will do exactly that:
Here's a much more in-depth article on ground cover plants http://tcpermaculture.com/site/category/forest-gardening/groundcover-layer/
5. Re-think a lawn
Lawns are great but are defiantly not as productive as a small food forest or raised beds system... And you never know, you may be able to teach your children about growing their own food and becoming self-reliant. If you are worried about all the extra work and buying compost etc, then use permaculture methods to lower the cost and effort. For example, use cardboard and woodchip or large leaves as a no-dig mulching strategy. Start small and work with what you've got.
Check out Charles Dowding for a no-dig gardening approach and much more - https://charlesdowding.co.uk
6. Building micro-climates
Small gardens have the niches! I recently completed a permaculture design for a client who lives in a terraced house in Crowborough, near east grinstead (Near London for people living outside the UK) which has high hedges and sun all year round. The client explained it has a Mediterranean feel! Think about using hedges for wind breaks or using the stacking principle to optimise diversity in plants and their functions.
Checkout this section on micro-climates if you're a beginner:
7. The power of climbers (and vines)
You can get all sorts of climbers, ones that produce foods, nitrogen fix, nutrition accumulators and much more... They are perfect for utilising space and are handy for reaching the suns gaze in temperate climates. Heres a few of my favourite climbers for small spaces:
8. Indoor growing
Growing indoors when space is tight in the garden can seem daunting to a modern day human. It's messy and unhygienic, right? Well I don't just mean putting a plant in a pot and leaving it on the windowsill. Why not create spaces where plants become part of your life and fit with your style. Go mad and create a book room that looks like a well structured jungle.
For the record, plants can give you cleaner air to breathe and if well organised create no mess at all. They don't act like dogs and dig up the soil. On the contrary, their aim is to keep the soil safe and and structure to it, holding it in place. Many other studies have been done to prove the existence of beneficial connections between plants and humans...Which most of us already knew, it's science that is catching up. I've linked a few articles for further understanding:
9. Container growing
This has become an art in itself and I especially like Vera Greutink's book "Edible Paradise" , which delves into much more details for container growing. This is a great opportunity to get some growing experience and playing time to experiment with companion planting. Think about how deep your container will need to be for the roots of the desired plants and get some compost on the go!
Here's some useful reading on this topic:
10. Trade with neighbours
Lastly, community is so important and in our ever expanding world of become more connected online, we are disconnecting from our immediate community. These days I see lots of people who don't know their neighbours or sadly, despise them altogether. The forest knows that working together as a community is much stronger than being alone out in the field. All around the world communities have the potential to be self-sufficient without the need for super-markets. We have products that come from farmers a mile away from us that have travelled more than 100 miles to get to our front door... Crazy hey?
Starting small, we can trade what we have grown for things we have not grown with out immediate neighbours. That includes trading tools, compost and other materials as well. Why not? Growing a tight network is important for community resilience and is the only way to regain real safety. Because a supermarket will ask for money first, a bank will charge you for having nothing and the repossessors will take your home even if you go to church. But a friend will help you willingly, sharing with you what they can, asking for nothing in return. We are always stronger together.
Hopefully this gave you some inspiration to get growing even if you're in a small space. Earth Circle Designs specialise in micro permaculture designing productive urban and suburban gardens. If you would like an online consultation or design then click here to request a consultation.