Homepage » Forums » Urban and Suburban Permaculture » How do you use permaculture techniques to garden on a small patio?

This topic contains 3 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Nathan Storm 4 years, 1 month ago.

Viewing 4 posts - 1 through 4 (of 4 total)
  • Author
  • #51081

    Dan Armitage

    Hey everyone,

    Quick question, I live in an apartment with a small patio…I would like to be able to garden on my patio and so I was wondering if any of you have any ideas on how I can do this in the best way possible. I live in Las Vegas, NV and so our temperature has some pretty crazy extremes…example, last summer we had 117 degree days and last winter we dropped below freezing. Thanks in advance for the help.


    Dan Armitage

    p.s. originally from Hawai’i 😉



    I don’t know how “permaculturally correct” this might be – but I think wicking containers on a small patio is the way to go. Easily moved inside for protection from freezing or to a shaded spot in the heat – easily rearranged, low maintenance, easy to make, inexpensive and if you move you can take them with you. I have fruit trees in them and they seem to be doing great, as well as collards and salad stuff. You can grow quite a bit in them – and you can find seed especially suited for containers. If your patio is large enough you can even build a 4 x 4 foot bed ala Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening – you can grow enough food in those 16 square feet to keep you in salads pretty much constantly. You might also want to check out Larry Hall and his rain gutter system (look on Pinterest for a ton of his videos). Google is your friend 🙂




    I live in Jeddah Saudi Arabia where the weather is constantly in the high 30s to 40s during summer and goes down below 20s in the winter. I have a small bright balcony that does not get direct sun. I have two 15 gallon fish tank with aquaponics growbed. I am growing bitter gourd, turmeric, basil, tomatoes, pepper, lufa, taro and sweet potato. I also did wicking pots out of repurposed water bottles. Everything is working well, you just have to try different methods and see what works best for your unique situation


    Nathan Storm

    I grow on a 3′ x 4′ 5″ deep tray filled with perlite (manufactured from volcanic glass.) The perlite is filled with water to 1-2″ below the top of the perlite.
    With fabric pots and a soil mix containing 40% perlite, the soil stays evenly moist.
    Evenly moist soil allows for a LIVING SOIL and no-till gardening without added fertilizer is now possible.
    Obviously, all soil will eventually become depleted, but if you start out with a VERY GOOD soil mix it can last for years – with regular amendments to the soil, decades.
    I am slightly over 1 year into a proven soil mixture marketed as the ‘Clackamas Coot’ mix from build a soil – so I can’t personally testify the durability over time, but the initial results are beautiful. ZERO fertilizer applied last year, just 1/2″-1″ of worm compost after harvest time. So far this year, even better growth.

    How permaculture is this?

    The soil is imported and mixed (40% perlite, 30% Sphagnum Peat Moss, 30% Best possible local Compost, PLUS a nutrient mix, cc-mix from build-a-soil ) – but ANY soil on your balcony will be imported soil, why not mix the best soil possible.

    No-till. I leave the roots in the soil for plants like tomato. I plant next to them.

    Living Soil. MINIMUM pot size is 7-gallons to keep the mycorrhizal and fungal networks healthy. My tray holds six 10-gallon fabric pots. Leaving as many roots as possible intact helps maintain the community as well as retain the nutrients in the soil. The perlite wicking bed UNDER the pots keeps a steady moisture that helps maintain the health of the soil food web.

    Mixed crops. When ever I get spare room in a pot (after harvest or when a plant grows tall enough) I add new seeds. I started out with whte clover and other mulches, but have switched to only the annual crops I want, plus perennial seeds destined for the backyard garden.

    Worm Castings. I feed my worm bin good kitchen scraps, basalt rock dust, natural colored paper(mostly packing paper) and discarded plant leaves (in moderation.) Everything the worms and their community digest goes into the soil.

    Pest management. This has been a real non-issue so far, BUT I have neem oil that I use as a foliar spray about 6 times per growing season.

    Soil Teas. I have done some sprouted popcorn teas during seed germination and seedling growth that I add from the top of pots, but not enough to runoff. I also did several compost teas during the first couple of months to help build up the soil food web.

    Supplemental light. Last winter, I brought the setup indoors and there was not enough light to keep the soil active. Outdoors nature gets a rest, but I was worried about losing the soil food web I had nurtured, without plants to keep them busy. I used a four tube Compact Flourescent grow light over the pots and was able to germinate and raise garden herbs.

    Perlite watering tray. For me, watering from below was the key to maintaining loose and slightly moist soil. Seeds germinate well. Seedlings grow well (squirrels are a nuisance here, but that’s outdoor life.) These are the happiest plants I have ever grown. I usually water the tray daily, but once a week is adequate. Lava rock is a good substitute for the West coast of the united states, Greece and other places where lava rock is available. I live in New England, so perlite was the only affordable option.

Viewing 4 posts - 1 through 4 (of 4 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.