Summer 2014: Over lunch one day with a friend, I shared with him my latest gardening exploits. I started off nice and easy with talk about some of the things that avid gardeners do; like composting. Then I went on about how I am leaving my fruit trees in their containers so as to buy more time before planting them. I explained that I needed to further study the areas around the house in other to make a confident assessment of what type of micro climates existed. If that was not enough to bore him, I laid it on thick and talked about how I recently challenged myself to send off less green and brown waste to the landfill. To my surprise, my friend was not bored and was actually engaging the conversation. He wanted to know more about how I was collecting rain water and why I was sorting and saving the branches that had been pruned.

His question of why confused to me. Having known me all these years, he would already know that I dislike waste. Living in a desert; water that is not collected is wasted. Sticks that can be used to stake plants or start fires are wasted when they get sent off. Moreover, while the green and brown waste from one household requires a negligible amount of fuel to haul away, on the aggregate there can be a noticeable difference.

As it turns out, my friend (whose thumb is as brown as the color of his plants) knew more about what I was doing than I did. That was when he turned me onto permaculture. Yearning to learn more, I took to the internet and libraries.

Pecan wood
Straight branches are sorted and saved to be used as garden stakes or beanpoles.

With permaculture, I learned that it is a social design principle centered around a partnership with nature. In its attainment permaculture is the polar opposite of the Industrial Era mindset that the destiny of man is to conquer nature and make her do his bidding. The full exploitation of fossil fuels (predominately crude oil) has enabled man to erect cities with marginal to dense populations. It has also enabled man to live in these urban areas with an overwhelming amount of convenience. As the debate on the affects of fossil fuel usage heats up, it is important take into consideration that these conveniences often times are wrestled against nature’s will. We certainly cannot give them all up. Doing so will unravel the very elements that intertwine together to form the backbone of a modern city.

Hence, the irony is that in an urban setting, it is difficult for permaculture to achieve true-to-principle attainment. Often the case, there is simply not enough dirt to sustain the agricultural needs of one household; let alone other basic needs like water and waste management. Even if there was plenty of dirt to dole out, many urbanites simply do not have the time that it takes to maintain a fully self sustaining system. There is simply too much to accomplish when there is a 9 to 5 post to man. However much “Debbie Downer” that sounds, there is a silver lining. As stewards of the earth, we can have our cake and sort of eat it too. We can do- what we can do- with what we have to do it with. We can apply permaculture to our urban lifestyle and trade in some of the conveniences where and when we are able to. The best thing about that is that many of us probably already do without realizing it.

In my gardens, the goal is to reduce the reliance on external inputs and instead use permaculture design and practices to increase yield and address issues. Permaculture principles will be sought after to bring forth a lifestyle that blends urban conveniences with rural tranquility. Be sure to check back periodically to see how this is all coming along. As always, get your hands dirty and happy growing!