The concept of permaculture is hard to grasp for many, but it’s one of the most common sense ideas around. Permaculture encourages natural and eco-friendly design practices to create a complete, self-sustaining ecosystem. For permaculture to be most successful, wildlife, water features, native plants, and food plants such as vegetables, herbs, or fruit trees should be included in your design.
Urban environments can benefit from permaculture most — birds, butterflies, and other small animals can shelter and feed on the plants and water sources. People can grow and harvest organically grown food. And the concrete environment surrounding the garden is softened by the plants and flowers that grow. Here are other ways permaculture in an urban environment can benefit a community.
A Place to Relax
Gardens provide a place to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Permaculture creates a small, sustainable ecosystem that may add to its pleasing effect. The sound of running water from a water feature, watching butterflies and bees move about, and relaxing under the shade of a tree on a hot day all create a relaxing and stress-free experience.
Your location has been shown to have an effect on your mental health, and any improvement to your physical environment, like adding relaxing features to it, can help improve your wellbeing. Urban dwellers tend to be the most affected by overstimulating features like lights, traffic, and crowds. Permaculture can help curb the overstimulation.
Helps Children and Young Adults Learn About Food and Gardening
Many kids and young adults who live in a metropolitan area may not be exposed to agriculture. They may lack a good understanding of how food is grown or where it comes from (other than from a supermarket). Cities or neighbourhoods that provide small garden spaces where food is grown can provide an enriching opportunity to teach youth about organic gardening and sustainable practices.
Encouraging kids to grow their own herbs, fruits, or vegetables can encourage them to make better food choices when they eat. They may even enjoy gardening so much that they would pick it up as a hobby, building confidence as they learn how to set goals and use patience to successfully grow food.
The lessons they can learn about making natural choices and the environment can last them a lifetime. Urban permaculture gardens that allow access to kids not only provide a safe place where plants and wildlife can grow but so can the kids that visit can thrive as well.
Brings the Community Together
An urban garden set up in a small neglected patch of land can become a community centre. People may choose to walk to work to have a chance to walk through a garden. Their pace may slow as they take in the small natural oasis within their city.
As people visit the garden to view how it changes through the seasons or to spot wildlife such as hummingbirds, ladybugs, or butterflies, they may meet other neighbours or passerby. People who may have lived within one street from each other for years may finally strike up a conversation in a small city garden.
Permaculture and the Urban Environment
Although a natural, self-sustainable, living environment seems as if it would be an unlikely addition to a busy city street, there is nowhere that can use a natural permaculture garden more. The food desert is a concept that is discussed most often in regards to large cities in American, such as Detroit, Michigan, where the lack of jobs and housing has led to a congruous lack of fresh produce. But the food desert is not found only in America. Food deserts exist when a community must travel more than 1600 metres to the nearest grocery store, and in 2015, public health experts began mapping Australia’s food deserts.
How can permaculture help shrink the distance between grocers, thus doing away with food deserts? By putting the solution into the hands of the communities themselves. Permaculture community gardens can be designed with subsistence farming on a smaller scale in mind. These gardens can be planted on rooftops in larger urban areas where empty plots are scarce. Where undeveloped land is available, look to the example of large-scale “agrihood” projects such as the Michigan Urban Farming Institute to provide ideas. Permaculture gardens of any size, if properly maintained and resourced, are keys to alleviating food insecurity.
Even in urban environments that are not lacking in access to food, permaculture can have a great influence on how the community eats. Farm-to-table restaurants have proved that they are no longer just a passing fad. They are, as their cultivators intended, sustainable models that provide the freshest ingredients to customers. Yet how are the most urban of restaurants supposed to provide such ingredients when there is no space for farmland? Look up. An edible garden can be planted nearly anywhere there’s room for a little sweat equity. In Berlin, Cafe Botanico has planted its own garden in the middle of the metropolis and uses its constantly rotating harvest to build the menu.
Regardless of the size of the available land that can be developed into a sustainable garden, the concept is appreciated by many and works well. People and wildlife will gravitate towards a garden because even the largest concrete jungles have people and wildlife that need contact with nature. Using permaculture design in city parks and gardens can bring it all together.