Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

What's urban permaculture?

Permaculture or permanent agriculture, which originated in Australia, is a sustainable approach to agriculture, whether on a large scale or in a smaller urban garden. Anyone using permaculture design principles can transform their garden, roof top, patio or balcony into a sustainable food-producing garden.

For example, a forest garden, which aims to recreate the way a forest grows, is a typical permaculture approach. By planting your garden area in a series of four layers, you imitate the natural processes of a forest. First, you have a canopy layer, created by planting trees, especially fruit or nut-bearing trees. Then you plant shrubs, like blackberry or other fruit bushes that thrive in the shade. The third layer is created by climbers, like vines that can climb up the trees toward the light. The fourth layer is a ground layer of leafy greens, like lettuce or strawberries.

People and the community are very much included as part of permaculture design. In fact, permaculturists want to help people be part of their community and be involved in caring for their environment. One of the aims of urban permaculture is to transform the cityscape by making it greener and more sustainable, offering people a more holistic way of living, even in the big city. With ideas like gray-water reclamation systems, use of solar and wind power, permaculturists aim to create a way of living that increases efficiency and minimizes waste.

The permaculture movement runs a variety of courses teaching permaculture design principles, which can be applied to any setting. Each permaculture design is site-specific so you can, using permaculture principles, transform your lawn, balcony or patio into a food-producing permaculture garden.