Jan. 7th, 2010

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[personal profile] dancinglights
I suppose this is a de-lurk post. Hello!


On [personal profile] rialian's advice, I requested my winter holiday gift pile contain a second edition of a book I already owned. Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home Scale Permaculture, Second Edition contains several new and expanded chapters on urban permaculture and working with much smaller suburban and city lots than the previous edition or any other permaculture book I've seen were willing to tackle. As the primary planner and gardener for a tiny rowhouse lot, the new content is extremely relevant to my needs. Skimming through the new content, I've been enthused to find most of Hemenway's observations matching up with my own experience of the past two years here, and to watch him take those observations and run with them.

Many of the book's new observations center around two main points of note in dealing with urban/small-suburban land. The first is the extremes of microclimate created by urban architecture and materials. The second is that the usual urban or crowded suburban property, for all practical purposes, has fewer zones.

My household's property, as I've come to think of it in practical terms, includes zone 1 ( kitchen window, deck, and front step gardens), zone 2 (vegetable garden and under-deck shade garden), and a very small portion of zone 3 (blueberry and raspberry bushes at the forest edge, which is also the edge of our property line). But beyond this property line, as Hemenway notes from his own experience moving into an urban environment, is more of zone 3 and all of zone 4. Neighbors in my rowhouse block and I share vegetables, and some of us even have agreements that one another can pick from our gardens when we are away on vacation and the fruits would be wasted. Raspberry bushes in protected parkland down the street provide fruit once a year for no effort in growing or tending. If any of us have a tree fall, there is the possibility of free mulch. The extended zones are still there; it just requires co-operation with neighbors and the park system to take advantage of them.

Hemenway also notes that urban zones contain different resources than one generally thinks of in permaculture, but they are resources nonetheless. Concrete and brick blocks (jokingly referred to as 'urbanite' rocks) are available; there is garden space in empty plots, and, most peculiarly to the crowded environment, there are often more complex building materials available. In a show of just this, this morning on my way to the office, I managed to flag down a neighbor who has been replacing the old, drafty windows in his home, and had someone doing work outside today. On my way home today, I shall pick up three household windows from which to build cold frames for my vegetable garden, extending my growing season for the cost of some cheap boards, and saving my neighbors a trip to the dump and the cost of wasting windows there. Hopefully, come Spring, I can give them some of the early greens made possible by their trash. Trash to lettuce, the power of community and urban permaculture.


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Permaculture: Food From Sustainable Landscapes

November 2012

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