The permaculture (permanent agriculture) philosophy of establishing self-sustaining gardens works in nearly any area, even if your space is very limited. Regardless of the size of your garden, research and examine your yard and surrounding area in depth to get an idea of what plants and wildlife occur naturally. Once you've come up with a plan for your permaculture garden, grab a sketchbook and brainstorm design ideas.
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Divide Your Garden Into Zones
Not all plants need the same level of care, and your permaculture design should reflect that. Even if your garden is small, divide it into rough zones based on which plants will need the most attention. Place vegetables and flowers you plan to pick every day in the zone closest to the house. If you plan to keep chickens, ducks, rabbits or other small animals in your garden, design an area for them in this zone as well. Place plants that require less care further back in the garden. Always include at least a small area of natural growth in the back of your permaculture garden to help welcome birds and other wildlife into your yard.
Ground space isn't the only place you have to put plants. If the square footage of your garden is limited, simply create vertical surfaces where your plants can grow. Use trellises, hanging baskets, window boxes, fences and raised garden beds to maximise the space you do have. Just make sure none of your additions block the sunlight from other plants.
Keep Multiple Functions in Mind
In small spaces, it's important to make sure nothing goes to waste. Take advantage of every crack and crevice of the area you do have, and you might be surprised by just how much you can fit into your garden. Insist that everything in your permaculture garden serves multiple functions. For example, a cherry tree can produce fruit, attract birds and help protect wind-sensitive plants. Many vegetables can be quite attractive landscape additions, so use them for both produce and visual appeal. Throw a few chickens in your garden and they'll help control insects, fertilise the soil and lay eggs.
Take Advantage of Undesirable Features
If your space is limited by undesirable landscape features, look for ways to incorporate them into your permaculture garden. For example, low-lying soggy areas are the perfect spot for a pond or water garden. If your yard is mainly made up of rocks or pavement, use those areas to grow warm-weather plants. (The rock will absorb heat during the day and release it throughout the night.) Before you know it, the space you thought was unusable will be booming with flowers, fruits, vegetables, insects and wildlife.
Build keyhole gardens. These gardens consist of concentric, circular or horseshoe-shaped raised beds, with each section getting higher toward the centre. Each section of the garden should be narrow enough that the centre bed can be easily reached. This design eliminates the need for walking space within the garden by making everything accessible from one angle.
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