What's the minimum size lot you can do PC on?

Demeter(z6 NJ)February 4, 2003

Hi, I just got Toby Hemenway's book. I have known for some years about things like the ancient Mayans' integrated forest management and the Aztecs' floating farms, but I hadn't known much about modern methods until now. What I'm wondering is, what is the smallest size lot it's practical to do permaculture on? I have a little tiny suburban lot (40 feet by 100 or so). The house and tumble-down garage take up a lot of it, and the neighbors' houses are right up against our property line on each side. The little tiny front yard gets sun, and the only somewhat larger back yard is heavily shaded by trees on neighbors' properties.

I have been thinking about putting a combined herb/vegetable garden in the front (which was a useless jungle last year until I ripped it down to bare earth), and salad garden around the side. What I would really really love to do is get rid of the #@$*%*#! Rose of Sharon (the largest weed I know) and ivy and day lilies that waste most of the space in the back yard and replace it with something productive.

Any ideas? TIA.

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polly_il(z5/6 IL)

Well, you COULD eat the day lillies....

And the Rose of Sharon attracts pollinators...

Any size area you have is good. You may not have all the zones that someone with a larger space would have; but you can do a lot just in zone 0 and 1. You can always go vertical to increase your usuable space. Pole beans, cukes, tomatoes; even mini canteloupe (Minnasota Midget) and the smaller icebox watermelons will grow vertically. I like the idea of the veggie and herb garden in the front yard - heck, put some strawberries in there too; and add fruit to your mix! Put a few flowers out by the street (gotta have those pollinators!) and the neighbors will never know the difference! How about a couple of espaliered fruit trees near the front of the house; or those new collonade ones like Stark Bros. has? Or grape vines if you've got a porch post or rail to train them along? I helped a friend design a very productive raised bed garden in a long, narrow area along side her garage - if you start early and use succession planting; you can really grow a lot of produce in a small space; especially if you are concentrating on fresh use produce.

You can also use containers; and move them to get the most out of the sun that you have. Lots of work; but could be worth it. Another thing to look for is productivity of the stuff you grow - I really like Juliet tomatoes; a 2" long plum tomato that is incredibly prolific - and tastes good too! Grow one of them up a trellis, next to a mid size cuke; and put some onions in around their feet - then, long about late June, enjoy a tomato/onion/cuke doused in Italian dressing salad -mmm mmm!

Is the book that you have "Gaia's Garden"? I really like their illustrations of keyhole gardens; and am planning a perennial flower/herb one for the area between the house and driveway. Have you read "The Self-Sufficient Surburban Gardener" by Jeff Ball? He's got lots of ideas for efficient use of space.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   February 4, 2003 at 6:49PM
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Demeter(z6 NJ)

Thanks for your answer; a lot of the stuff you suggested for the front was stuff I was already thinking about doing. The fence is ugly. I have a choice of removing and replacing it (expensive!) or just growing viney stuff all over it and mixed wildflowers in the foot or so of really good dirt between the fence and the walk. Then the vines and flowers would conceal part of the garden and provide a little shade along the southern edge. I asked in the fruit forum about the columnar apples; seems they don't produce well in my area, alas! Looks like I'll have to stick with berry bushes and strawberries. There is already a massive old grape vine in the back yard; it is climbing an oak tree, and seems to be simultaneously holding up a crumbling arbor and attempting to pull down the garage. I have no idea if it produces grapes or not. I know it needs pruning, as it apparently hasn't been tended to for years, but I don't know how far back to cut it.

The Rose of Sharon would be fine in small clumps, but what I have is a hedge tall enough to block the light from both sides of the yard, plus a peninsula stabbing out into the middle of the yard. They don't bloom very well, either. Not enough light. I figured I could cut down the ROS and make trellises out of it, so it wouldn't be a total waste.

The book I have is "Gaia's Garden" and I'm almost finished with it. I'll see if I can find the Ball book. Thanks again for your help.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2003 at 11:26PM
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seraphima(z4 AK)

If one has a lot of something, it may be useful to pot some up and swap it or give it as gifts to other gardeners. I get a lot of great plant material that way. Maybe there are some small rose of Sharon that you could pot up.

When you are thinking vertical, you might include windowboxes, and sometimes, roof boxes, if you have a house with an intermediate height roof with a window opening onto it. Weight of box and soil is a consideration.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2003 at 10:29PM
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Yes it can be done and here is a website to inspire you:


    Bookmark   February 6, 2003 at 11:45AM
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