Seed-sprouting is a form of indoor gardening which is not to be despised. All kinds of
beans, peas and lentils, seeds such as sunflower and alfalfa, and grains such as wheat, can
be sprouted. As they develop from dry seeds into little plants, the food within them be-
comes more digestible (which effectively increases the quantity of food we can make use
of), and they acquire the vitamins and essential vitality which makes fresh vegetables so
much more nutritious than dried food.
Herbs have a high money value in relation to the space needed to grow them, as does
garlic. So these are obvious first choices for the gardener with little space who wants a
money saving from gardening. Sun loving herbs, such as thyme and rosemary, can be
grown on the south side of buildings, and shade tolerant ones, like the mints and lemon
balm, on the north side. The taste and health-giving properties of herbs are also much great-
er when they are taken fresh than when they are dried.
In some urban areas food production is limited by air pollution. Although permaculture
emphasises the many things that we can do as individuals or in small groups, this is one
area which can only be effectively dealt with on a political scale. In fact, lead pollution has
fallen to safe levels in most areas since the introduction of unleaded petrol, a political de-
A possible source of heavy metal pollution which remains is cadmium, which is in tyres
and gets deposited on roads as the tyres wear. Runoff from busy roads should not be used
to water food vegetables or fruit. Where there is any doubt about pollution levels both soil
and leaf analysis can be done. The local environmental health office should be able to give
information on this.
Fortunately, plants have some ability to restrict their uptake of heavy metals, so we are
less likely to be affected by eating city-grown vegetables than we are by breathing city air.
But these pollutants still do a lot of damage, including killing soil micro-organisms and
hence interfering with the soil fertility cycle.
The house itself is an important energy system, and in permaculture we are interested in
making it more of a collector of the Sun's energy than a consumer of fossil fuels. The best
way to do this is often by passive solar design. This means that the actual design of the
building is such that it obtains most of its heating needs direct from the Sun, without the
need for added gadgetry.
Building new houses of passive solar design is relatively easy. It costs about 5% more
than conventional housing, but the extra cost is recouped in lower heating bills in around
five years and after that it is pure profit for the lifetime of the building. Retrofitting an ex-
isting house is less straightforward, but there is much that can be done.
Draught-proofing, though unspectacular, gives the greatest saving in energy for the least
input. Insulation comes next; a passive solar approach is to put the insulation on the out-
side of the walls, then the walls themselves become massive heat stores. This approach has