Growing Food Indoors

A Great Indoor Permaculture Adventure

Growing food indoors is easy, costs very little and gives us immediate health benefits. 

Like most things we do in Permaculture, there are multiple benefits to every action. Growing food indoors cuts our waste and supplies nutritious food. And indoor permaculture also provides opportunities for design practice, mindfulness, and self-reliance. And we can surround ourselves with naturally cleaned air.

Quick Design Tools For Indoor Food Production

Indoor food growing benefits from a these permaculture design principles:  Zoning, Stacking and Mindfulness through Observation.

Indoor Food Zones

When we design a Permaculture project, we set aside zones according to how often we will use something. Items that need a lot of care or provide us with lots of interaction and reward go into Zone 1. The items that don’t need much attention or prefer we ignore them go into the furthest recesses of our space.

Zone 1 – Your Nursery

Rooms with sunlight deserve to be decorated with young plants. The indoor garden ‘nursery’ houses your new seedlings and chitting off-cuts. Growing food indoors is easy if you simply buy plants. However, you can raise a lot of plants without expense by propagating from the foods you buy at the grocery store.

Zone 2 – Shrubbery

Smaller plants include Aloe Vera, spring onions, Peppermint, Ginger, Turmeric, KangKong, Thai Basil, tiny Tomatoes, Chives, Garlic chives (essential for savoury pancakes) and Sweet Potato. Medium size plants include Taro, Monstera Deliciosa and Sugarcane. The easiest plants to grow are those that thrive in muddy water. Sugarcane, Peppermint and spring onions will grow in water.

Position each plant according to how much sunlight it needs. As a general rule, the lighter the leaf of a plant then the more sunlight it needs. Those plants with dark-coloured leaves tolerate shade. 

Zone 3 – ‘Canopy’ Trees

There are some larger plants that thrive indoors. These include Fig, Coffee bushes, Lime tree, Mulberry, Curry Leaf, Banana and Bamboo. Banana plants are quick growing and the leaves are useful to wrap foods. Bamboo is a delightful tea rich in Silicone to make your hair shine. Zone 3 plants need to be back from the window, allowing the littler shrubbery and nursery sufficient access.

Big plants need big pots otherwise the tall plants fall over. However, big pots don’t have to be dragged into the home. Here’s a lighter trick you can use. Keep your larger potted plants in a snug bucket of water and drill a hole in the side of the bucket at the level of the bottom of the pot. There are varieties of wicking pots to try. Wicking pots are heavy because they hold water underneath the suspended potted plant. Additionally, closed wicking pots conserve water and because the water is not open to the air, they do not encourage mosquitos.

Sweet tiny banana grown in Mt Kembla
Sweet tiny banana

Zone 4 – Productive Dark Pockets

Areas in the home that are dark are ideal for ferments, sprouts and mushrooms. South Korea still has tunnels that were used during the war. Each soldier was issued with bean seeds to sprouts whilst they were underground. Luckily, sprouts are more nutritious than the seed by itself

Dark areas can also include an indoor worm farm. However, for good hygiene practices, keep food products such as the mushroom farm in a separate room from waste processing such as Bokashi or worm-farm.

Zone 5 – Keeping a Healthy Wilderness

Dust balls, insects and fungi will still reside in your home. You can still keep the home clean as well as keeping it green. The easiest way to remove bugs is by vacuuming. If you need to spray pests, use Methylated spirits. On the whole, there are fewer pests on indoor plants than outdoors plants. The key to good pest control is diversity. Have a wide variety of plants and avoid monocropping.

Stacking

Stacking your potted plants is a great way to save space and water. Simply put small pots on the surface of larger pots. The smaller pots can drain into the bigger pot, and provide some cooling mulch. The little pots will also enjoy the lift, getting closer to any natural light. If you only have a high window, you can hang pots. As the plant grows you slowly lower the pot. This is particularly useful for growing vines such as grapevine.

Stacking is a utilised in our indoor worm-farm. The upper level is a potted herb, the next level down contains the worm farm. At the bottom is a reservoir holding the fertilised water.

Mindfulness and Mental Vigour

The act of caring for something (such as our favourite food plant) improves our mental well being. Seeing the progress of our seeds is a slow yet rewarding mindful exercise.

Best of all, an indoor plant is a gentle reminder of our own need for natural light and regular water. When the plant is happy, the conditions are better for us too.

Difference Between Organic Gardening and Permaculture

Design Matters

The 3 things that make Permaculture different:

  1. It has an ethical core. The test is: if it isn’t good for the earth and good for people in a fair share, then don’t use it.
  2. Imitate Natural Systems. Permaculture uses biological resources and natural energies and observes the clever ways nature responds and adapts. Nature cycles the energy resulting in now waste. Efficiency is Natural.
  3. Permaculture uses a set of Principles, Strategies and Techniques

Integration is Key

Permaculture uses organic gardening practices but it goes beyond. It integrates the garden and home to create a lifestyle that impacts less on the environment.

The Permaculture garden is more than an organic garden. Although organic food production often has many innovative elements, a Permaculture designed garden joins each of the elements into functional relationships.

Being Mindful

Permaculture design is mindful of our relationship with our environment.  We see we are living in a period of energy resource limits. And we acknowledge that emissions are contributing to the heating the planet. Many of us are feeling the changes and seeing our environments polluted.  Whilst a few wealthy people have the resources to ignore climate change, most of the world’s people cannot. Rich people can relocate, get air-conditioning,  and import truck-loads of water.  But even the wealthy cannot fix nitrous oxide build-up or save their beach homes from collapse.

Big, Little, and More

Permaculture thinking can be applied to many physical and social structures. It is energy-wise and collaborative to minimise the impact of a culture on the surrounding environment. A good permaculture design has great potential. It can connect neighbours. The biggest Permaculture site in the world, The Chikukwa Project, has helped the whole community.

Permaculture design has:

  • Focus on closing the nutrient and water loop by using waste, and reducing the dependence on inputs.
  • Creation of healthier soil and diversity of produce.Our Permaculture Design and Demonstration Site.
  • Responsibility for waste. There is an aim to eliminate waste. i.e. no excess nitrogen nor weed seed, released.
  • Variety keeps residents engaged and excited about growing their food.
  • Imitating nature by conserving the soil and water, and genetic capital. There is an intensive use of space. Plants are allowed to set seed and are inter-planted for pest control. You are unlikely to see food plants in rows. The permaculture site will look more like a food-forest with some open glades full of herbs and perennials.
  • Optimisation of natural energies, e.g. wind, dust, leaves, bird droppings.
  • Nutritious food and habitat for people AND native animals and birds.
  • experimental permaculture chickenDependence on observation. Permaculture design is a mixed technology.  Bill Mollison (co-founder of permaculture movement) said that permaculture, like a bicycle, it is adaptable and has great potential but is only as good as the user.
  • Minimal risk. If we fail at permaculture, nature simply takes over. The soil will continue to heal, the forests grow and someone else can step in to rebuild our efforts.

difference between organic gardening and Permaculture

What’s the difference between Organic Farming and Permaculture?

permaculture plans for farms

Closed and Open Nutrient Cycling

There is a significant difference between closed and open food-production systems. In a truly closed system (one in vacuum or in space) energy is not lost it is simply transferred from one being or element to another. In a permaculture system, (which can never be fully closed), energy is ideally used by one element effectively and passed on for the benefit of the next before it leaves the system.

Organic Farming promotes the use of natural fertilisers, making use of the natural carbon cycle so that waste from plants becomes the food (fertiliser) of another. In organic farming however, as with ALL farming, minerals are being lost from the farm every time a truck load of produce is carted to market.

The Ideal Permaculture ‘Farm’ brings production of food closer to consumers and the consumer’s wastes back into the cycle. It also reduces the energy wasted in transporting the foods by producing the foods where the people are. In permaculture, the people contribute in their daily life toward the production of their food and other needs.

Soft Technology Tea - Tea doesn't have to cost the earth
Tea doesn’t have to cost the earth

When is Permaculture not Organic?

There will be times when a permaculture system is not strictly organic:

  • being adaptable as nature when we use local resources rather than imported certified organic resources
  • When we want to increase diversity by bringing in unusual plants/seeds from a non-organic plant supplier
  • Permaculture is capable of enhancing a supply and converting it to organic. for example: when we grow food-plants along polluted river or roadsides to filter out toxins and break them down to safer levels. We know we may not be able to eat these plants but we can keep them as our ‘catastrophe’ backup.

Essentially Permaculture is trying to close the energy loop by optimising what we have.

Fostering A Culture of Community Recycling

compost is pretty hot stuffThis is not usually due to an intentional use of pesticides, but often due to the use of a by-product that would otherwise be wasted. We could use old shoes as pots for plants, an old truck tyre/tire to hold the edges of a pond. Sometimes the choices are difficult and we have to do a quick cost/benefit analysis. For example: At Silk Farm we use recycled oil (to make fire starters) and the oil cans (for our simple worm-farm towers) from a non-certified organic restaurant who sometimes uses leaves and fruits from our garden. This ‘trade’ stimulates our local relationship and fosters a culture of resourcefulness.

Permaculture Can Actively Convert Resources

worm towersWe would need to weigh the benefit of a using a free local waste (ie. horse manure) versus supporting a good organic supplier who may be in another country. When we design well, the permaculture system can act as a cleanser or processing agent. Sometimes, we can transform then utilise a polluted waste (within what is realistic achievable).  In the case of the horse manure, we could ask the owner about their anti-worming medication, check that it can be broken down by high-temperature composting then go about re mediating it before using it.  Good permaculture design will aim to have a better output than input. Organic gardening may not have checks to reduce the system’s impact on the wider natural system.

Build you knowledge about permaculture by doing a permaculture design course with us.

And you can build your design skills with our Design-Think-Tank Sessions.

Great Green Business

lloyd-and-J

Hard Look At Very Personal Business

Permaculture strives to design a healthier environment and society. Regenerative farming has come along quickly but  social permaculture designs have been a bit slower to emerge.  Peaceful societies are less destructive to the environment. Good business models, valued workers and clean work environments are good for everyone.

New Models

One fundamental permaculture strategy is to make small changes where they are most effective.  Lets take a peek at an industry that could do with a little greening: the beauty industry.  The beauty industry touches everyone. It has been slow to move on social and environmental issues yet, these small changes can have a huge effect.  Freeing people of toxic chemicals, and poor work conditions has resounding benefits.

eco-hair studio business model

Ecological and Social Style

In salons around the world, customers pay a small fortune to look good. Unfortunately the average hair stylist is poorly paid, often earning less than the minimum wage. This glamorous carer rarely gets a meal break, is standing all day and exposed to horrendous chemicals including formaldehyde. The beauty industry is not famous for the way it treats the workers or the chemicals is pours into the environment. But change is in.

Lloyd KK Eco-Studio Stylist and owner Lloyd KK took the plunge and opened the first eco-hair studio in his region.  He “wanted to use chemicals that have a low environmental impact, that were plant-based and renewable. ” He noticed “the green chemistry colours also have a shinier, more natural feeling results…Previously, I used to have chemical reactions to other colours, ie itchy hands/skin, skin peeling and puffy itchy face. These colours do not cause any of these reactions”

How To Avoid ‘Environmental’ Smoke and Mirrors

retrofitting saves dollar and wasteFor the rare business owner who wants to improve their environmental credentials there are very few models to follow. On the other hand, there are a lot of ‘green’ imposters.

Firstly, Lloyd set about retrofitting old furniture, researched composting systems and trailed low-toxic products. Then he researched and assessed environmental costs of consumables and how to recycle them. He also chose green power and low-cost lighting. Finally he set up systems to minimise waste in the business.

In summary, the process of greening traditional businesses like the hair industry will become easier. As customers demand ecological responsibility and value healthy practice, the suppliers will adapt.

For businesses wanting to lead the change and reduce environmental costs we recommend international Quality Environmental Systems [EMS]. You can achieve self-assessment or simply use the system as a guide.

Ultimately, being prepared to up-cycle, retrofit and adapt equipment will reduce environmental costs, build a better culture and save your business money.

Save

‘Drama-Greens’: Infinite Play

Introducing A Resilient Culture

Permaculture goes beyond garden design. It is holistic cultural systems design. Drama is a key channel for building resilience.

Cultures build resilience through drama by:

    • having an ethical core of caring
    • recognising, expressing and responding to the signs of change
    • using non-renewable resources with careBe surprised
    • making great use of biological and recycled resources eg. Outdoor theatres with living plants as the wings and back-drop.
    • keeping stores for bad times. Set ticket prices at a fair level to be able to serve the wider community yet save for a rainy season.
    • being current – dramatise current events, people and ideas. Revitalise historical content to make it relevant to the modern audience.
    • sharing fairly.  Make sure the profits support the creators, the workers and the venue to ensure long-term viability
    • valuing the holistic nature of community (the wider community and the artistic community). Collaborate with other organisations to ensure optimum use of your site and staff.
    • acknowledging resource limits. Don’t try take on too many issues – keep the message clear and the goals achievable
    • valuing creative adaptations (like promoting barter, volunteer helpers or regional economics)
    • listening to elders. Involve elders in creative processes
    • seeking traditional know-how. Rediscover traditional processes, story-telling, music and costuming
    • communicating and sharing feelings, knowledge and resources.

Theatre – a vital part of culture

rooster-crowFor thousands of years, drama has been a valuable tool for a community to communicate and share knowledge. Theatres bring people together. For many tribal communities, Theatrical drama has been one of the most successful tools for consulting one-another and passing information.

Another useful feature of theatre is the promotion co-operation rather than competition. Seeking co-operation is a fundamental permaculture principle. When we work in co-operation with one another we can find peaceful resolutions. Peace offers stability. Stability offers sustainability.

In the Chikukwa project they use role play drama to teach one another how to create a permaculture garden.

Encore!

How can we get more play-acting, drama and theatre in our culture?

Support live performances

This does require an effort to get up off the couch, dress up and go to a live venue. In some towns, there is very little live drama or music left. TV, radio and the internet have replaced live performances. People work long hours and live too far from the hub of society.  But the trends can be reversed. We can make a special effort to get to the theatre and value the spontaneity, talent and energy required to make live theatre magical.

Make Your Own Performances Spaces

Theatrical spaces can be low tech. They can be outdoor theatre spaces. Try your own living space for entertaining others. Ask you favourite artists to do a home-concert or play. If you are a performer – a great way to earn extra support is to offer exclusive concerts for small audiences.

chicken-with-pearl-earingDramatise  Your World

Reading aloud, acting out, role-play, story telling, puppetry and games can enrich your time with others, especially  children. Let them lead your creativity.

Celebrate the beauty of nature and relationships with photographs, blogs, play and song. Each moment we spend engaging in drama or creative play is richer than time wandering aimlessly as a consumer.

Engage In ‘Dream-time’

Explore the world of your own imagination. Write, make music, dance, speak and sing. Seek others to enjoy your active entertainment.

Design An Amazing Outdoor Theatre

In permaculture we aim have multi-functional elements in a site design. We can create multifunctional spaces. A sloped site can be used for outdoor performances, lectures, workshops. It can be designed to harvest water, provide fertile growing space and evenly distributed solar access.

Low, intensive garden beds can be created along the contour of the slope. These beds can catch and store water. Seating can be positioned on the stage side. Paths function as seating area for patrons as well as the water.

Storm water can be harvested in a pond at the base of the sloped seating. The pond will also serve to bounce sound and reflect light. A flat area at the bottom of the garden can serve as a stage or teaching space.  In traditional roman-style theatres the stage is at the bottom of the incline. This style offers good acoustics and views.

Permaculture design for community garden