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Dated: January 25 2021
Inspired by one of our listings - a beautiful piece of land in Hollywood Florida - considering its position on the canal and access to all South Florida - I started imagining, what to build?
How could someone build a property that connects to the community, the water, and to nature as a whole? What kind of garden would be nice here? Could someone make an edible garden? What does it really mean to be “Green” in relation to climate change?
Instead of trying to solve this problem in my mind I reached out to Permaculture Design Expert Katie Stout to help answer these questions.
Katie builds sophisticated permaculture projects in Upstate New York and is interested in what you all think about this idea applied to South Florida.
Katie is available for a free consultation to discuss both your big and small projects.
Thank you, Katie for this contribution to The Move: Florida.
Edible Landscapes: Permaculture In the City
Edible landscapes can be created anywhere, by anyone, on any budget.
Permaculture = Abundance
With some courage to experiment, a little trial and error, and a solid vision of your own private paradise, you can feed yourself, your family, your neighbors, and your whole community. Scarcity is a thing of the past and permaculture is the abundance of the future. It starts with one seed. What are you waiting for?
Imagine waking up each morning, getting a cup of coffee, and stepping onto your patio to gather breakfast: a fruit salad with mangoes, bananas, and seagrapes, dressed with fresh-squeezed lime juice, a perfectly ripe avocado, and a side of tomatoes that remind you of all the colors of sunset. When you’re finished eating, you toss your peels and veggie scraps into a small compost bucket, which slowly turns into rich soil you feed back to your plants.
Maybe now you’re working from home, attempting to navigate the COVID-shaped world.
Being homebound is hard but being homebound without access to a nearby market to get fresh fruits and vegetables is even harder. This is what a lot of folks face who live in urban “food deserts,” where the only place to buy food anywhere nearby might be the minimart, replete with calorie dense but nutritionally void food options. Unfortunately, these food deserts inordinately affect poor minorities in urban environments.
Maybe you are simply worried about getting your grandma sick by going to the nearest farmers market.
The dream breakfast above might sound like an out-of-reach Eden, but it’s actually nature’s standard. Could you imagine waking up daily to such vital variety?
For the creative and bold around the world, nature’s standard is now their everyday reality.
With basic permaculture techniques, you can transform a concrete patio into a thriving container garden, a blazing hot balcony into a shady haven rich with nature’s candy (that’s fruit, if you’re wondering), and a lush food forest from even the tiniest yard.
When I used to think of farming, I imagined bent over, mostly broken farmers covered in dirt. My first thought was, “why would anyone want to be a farmer?”
That is until I learned of Permaculture Principles which are very different.
Permaculture Principle #1: Minimal Effort
Design is the magic that minimizes the work involved. In nature, plants grow without any help from us because they’ve developed relationships with each other over millions of years of coevolution.
They work together, and because of this, they thrive in great abundance. Many of these plants are perennials, which grow back on their own every year; or, they are plants that “self-sow readily,” which means they make and spread their own seeds that grow wherever the wind plants them.
Pretty much no work on the part of us humans is needed, and yet vast and complex ecosystems emerge.
Permaculture Principle #2: Stacking Functions
We can recreate these kinds of helpful neighborly relationships in our own backyard, or out on our balcony. Start by picking one or two fruits or vegetables you like to eat, then searching for “companion plants” or “guilds” to join your favorites. Then, you figure out how it would best work in your environment to meet other needs you might have, besides tasty treats. This is called “stacking functions.” (You can also hire a permaculture designer if you’re so inclined. Designing edible landscapes to meet your needs is what we do!)
Love to keep your windows open but hate baking in the sun every afternoon? Seagrapes make for an awesome hedge to block some of that light pouring through your windows and sweating you right out of your britches, and they can be grown in containers.
A quick internet search shows that seagrapes grow well with cape honeysuckle, a beautiful flowering shrub that attracts pollinators to ensure your seagrapes get pollinated and produce lots of fruit. Why not add in a cocoplum, another suggested companion plant, and make your snacks even more exciting! You can even eat the seeds of the cocoplums, toasted until tasty.
All these plants are perennials, which means you plant them once and they grow back year after year.
Again, it’s all about the design. Lots of folks try their green thumb by planting some containers of tomatoes on their balcony. Tomatoes can be trained to grow vertically so you can take full advantage of the space you have to grow food. Using vertical space is an excellent urban permaculture strategy to maximize yield with minimum effort.
Still not so sure you can pull it off? There is a great local resource right in the city of Fort Lauderdale to educate and inspire you. Check out Heal the Planet’s edible landscapes and tropical food forest in Snyder Park. They offer hands-on proof that food deserts cannot exist in our community when there are those willing to try out new ways of landscaping.
It’s not just a delicious breakfast you could create for yourself and your family—permaculture techniques can provide abundant fresh fruits and vegetables literally anywhere. I know of one urban organization that built soil on an abandoned parking lot and started a community garden for an impoverished neighborhood in New York.
Permaculture Principle #3: Catch and Store Energy
Do you love the smell of garbage? I didn’t think so. Instead of filling a landfill, compost your kitchen scraps to feed your garden. Contrary to popular belief, composting systems don’t smell if you follow some pretty simple instructions.
This is a permaculture design principle called “catch and store energy,” and it’s something nature does all on its own. We just have to follow her lead. See how we’re also still stacking functions? Here’s another example: catching and diverting rainwater from your roof or awning can decrease the damage from storm runoff, all while automatically watering your plants.
My passion for real estate began when I was a child, touring the luxury Parade of Homes in Plano and Dallas, Texas with my mom, Connie. We spent afternoons looking at houses, and picking up design ide....