What is Permaculture and Should Urban Farmers Consider It?

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what is permaculture

When it comes to most kinds of farming, permaculture is one hot topic. It’s easy to see why farmers of all backgrounds and experience levels are excited about permaculture.

As more and more consumers switch to a partly organic or fully organic diet, farmers are pushed to explore sustainable ways to produce organic produce and/or livestock.

Permaculture has many things going for it.

No tilling

You don’t have to manually or mechanically turn over topsoil to do permaculture. You just work with your soil or planting medium as it is. Instead of tilling, you layer mulch or amendments on top of each other.

This not only takes less work, but it also creates a biological eco-system within your soil itself that is self-sustaining. The bacteria and microbes within the soil do the heavy lifting of freeing up nutrients for your plants to use.

Less watering

Depending on what crops you’re cultivating, irrigation may play a big role in your production process (as well as your farm’s balance sheet). Thankfully, permaculture practices can reduce your water costs by quite a bit.

When you use a mulching system (wood chips, sawdust, or other organic cover) a lot of your soil’s moisture stays in the soil for a far longer time.

If you live in more arid parts of the country like the Southwest, permaculture creates a ‘blanket’ for your plant beds which absorb and hold in moisture for extended periods of time-until seasonal rains come.

Even if you run a purely enclosed system that uses irrigation systems, you can save quite a bit of money by enhancing your plant beds’ internal moisture management system through permaculture.

Less fertilizer and other inputs:

Make no mistake about it – your fertilizer input costs, whether organic or chemical-based, can make or break your urban farm’s profitability. Fertilizer, pesticide, and herbicide costs play a major role in the profitability of most urban farms. When you adopt a permaculture system, you can cut back on all these costs tremendously.

Since the covering of your plant beds are made of organic materials that break down over time, the mulch cover slowly releases nutrients to your plants gradually.

As an added bonus, since this cover is several inches thick, your plants have to compete with less weeds for nutrients. You don’t have to spend money on herbicides.

Whatever weeds manage to sprout up are very easy to spot and pull out. You don’t have to put in too much elbow grease into pulling out weeds either since these tend to have long thin roots and are usually very spindly because of the depth of your permaculture beds’ cover.


Finally, since proper permaculture covering ensures optimal nutrition and water content for your plants, you’re less likely to have distressed plants. Healthy plants tend to draw less insects and this enables you to save quite a bit of money on pesticides.

Keep the solid permaculture advantages above in mind when planning out your urban farm. While you should also factor in the reality of lower yields into your ROI projections, running a ‘purely organic’ urban farming operation might help you offset yield issues with higher produce prices.