Permaculture is a word that brings to mind beautiful and large swathes of property filled to the brim with fruit trees, perennial food forests, and natural water sources. While this is a dream that many of us have (myself included!), it can feel like a difficult reality on a small suburban lot. Surprisingly, it isn’t hard to make a mini permaculture paradise, no matter what size lot you live on or your experience level. These six easy backyard permaculture projects for beginners will help get you started!
The Suburban Micro Farm
Before I get into the backyard permaculture projects, I wanted to let you know about an awesome book that my friend Amy from Tenth Acre Farm wrote: The Suburban Micro Farm: Modern Solutions for Busy People.
This book is perfect if you are interested in permaculture and don’t know where to start. It explains the basics of permaculture gardening and has a ton of info on how to implement it into any size property.
This is a gorgeous book with full color photos and helpful diagrams throughout! I highly recommend it for anyone who is wanting to get started with backyard permaculture.
(Don’t know what permaculture is? Start here with Amy’s post on What is Permaculture?)
Build a Raised Planting Bed
Having a raised planting bed is the first step towards growing your own food. They don’t have to be expensive or hard to build, and can often be made with materials you might already have around.
Raised beds are helpful for controlling the elements, and they make planting, weeding, and harvesting easier. They can also be covered with a season extender like a hoop house or low tunnel during the spring and fall.
Grow Herbs and Flowers in Pots or in the Ground
Herbs and flowers are important plants to have in a permaculture garden. Their particular habits and needs are perfect for helping a beginner learn about plant growth. Beneficial insects and pollinators are also attracted to them.
Culinary herbs like thyme, rosemary, oregano, basil, mint, sage, chives, and parsley are easy to grow in pots on a porch or even in a sunny windowsill if that’s all you have access to. This makes for easy harvesting of these healthful plants.
Grow More Perennial Vegetables
Perennial plants are common in permaculture gardens because they require much less work than annuals. Perennials come back year after year and generally need less inputs once they are established. They are the building blocks of food forests and forest gardens!
Here are some common perennial vegetables and fruit that can be grown in most home gardens:
- walking onions
- berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries)
- fruit trees (if you have a larger yard)
Many herbs and flowers are perennial as well, such as rosemary, sage, thyme, chives, oregano, mint, lavender, yarrow, and echinacea.
Read this post for a bigger list of perennial vegetables to grow.
Remove Some or All of Your Lawn
This one may be hard for many people because it has become so ingrained in us to have grass growing in our yards! But removing part of your lawn and turning some of that area into a place to grow food or other beneficial plants is a great idea.
Instead of an expansive and water hogging lawn, grow native plants and perennials to reduce water usage. This will also eliminate the need for using any pesticides or herbicides.
If you don’t want to get rid of your lawn completely, you can simply make it smaller and plant the edges with native plants and perennials. A round design is nice and makes it easier to mow – no corners!
Provide a Water Source for Birds and Other Wildlife
Not only does a small pond or birdbath provide a nice visual touch in the garden, it is also a water source and habitat for birds, frogs and toads, butterflies, bees, and other pollinators.
This encourages a more natural landscape and makes your yard an inviting space. It is also a great teaching aid for children!
Set up a Rainwater Collection Barrel
Collecting rainwater from the roof of your house is not as hard as it sounds, and is a great way to obtain free water to use on plants. Rainwater contains minerals and is the best food for seedlings.
Building your own rainwater collection barrel is actually pretty simple to do and doesn’t require a whole lot of equipment other than the barrel itself. This project will teach you simple plumbing skills, and the finished rain barrel will help you understand gravity flow, water levels and pressure.
The rain barrel itself can be used as a thermal mass to help regulate surrounding temperature. You can also connect the rain barrels to a rain garden which can help with any overflow.
These easy permaculture projects, along with Amy’s book The Suburban Micro Farm, will get you well on your way to having your very own permaculture garden right in your backyard!