Urban Permaculture transformation

by kaiconfusion

It’s done! We did it! All building projects are completed and the garden is growing uncontrollably! Check it out!



After picture taken on the 20th of June 2016! – (11month later)


Before picture taken end of July 2015


Between summer 2015 and summer 2016 I had the pleasure to re-design and re-build the urban 690m2 home of my brother’s family in Berlin. The focus of the design was everything surrounding the house, lifestyle and behaviour changes and reconsiderations of resource and energy uses.

After an initial consultancy including an interview, I spend several weeks analysing the property and doing a lot of basic work in preparation of 2016th design installations. The design and implementation plan I drew up over winter.

Between April and June we build an entrance ramp and replaced and old stairway, we build wodden and stone retaining walls, a large insect hotel and a little bat house, created soil, created gardens, planted nearly 100 different vegetables and herbs, dismantled dysfunctional elements, replaced and repositioned others. We suggested many changes such as subscribing to a CSA, a solar system which was installed in Oct 2015, to go dumpster diving, to use a worm farm and to recycle all compost waste through garden composting. We have turned more than 75% of the available area into productive organic gardens, created a lot of soil, build a shed for tools and another one for bicycles and beautified eyesores. We created spaces for the children to play and plenty of places for wildlife to thrive. We have cared for the earth, cared for people and we now can share some surplus !

Enjoy looking through the images and feel free to comment. I am happy to answer questions !



The project idea was born when my brother, Denis visited me in Western Australia in 2013. When I shared much of my experiences from living at the Permaculture Project Panya and about my experiences with Permaculture, we contemplated to design his home in Berlin.

In the summer of 2015 I spend a couple of month doing basic work around the garden in preparation for 2016 design implementation and spend intensive time with survey and analysis in preparation of making the design.

Over the winter Ligia and I found a house in Southern France to house sit where amongst other things I completed the design. We also combined this with about 2 month of traveling with our tiny house – car through central Europe.




690m2 property / 500m2 garden – Berlin suburb

Temperate cold climate (Köppen climate classification Cfb)

Family of 6 and 1 dog



  • Unsatisfied with use and look of the garden

  • Desire for better use of space, a garden that is estatically pleasing with many flowering plants, productive gardens, wildlife,

  • guidance for a more sustainable life-style, space for children, space to relax and to sit, more order and structure


Goal was to transform the urban property in to a beautiful and functional, partly self-suficient, comfortable, fun and most importantly ecological landscape, that would serve the needs of the parents and their children by providing some of there own food and using the space in a more effective and beautiful way. ……


In the cold temperate climate zone, due to the cold winter and the short growing season, is a good strategy to use the cold months for planning and preparation, and the warm months to put all the planning into practice.

The project was designed and conceptualized during our stay in France house sitting over the winter. I used permaculture design principles and ethics as the fundamental bases and guidance for the project.


The implementation of the project involved three main areas: building, gardening and working with the clients, my family.

The use of local and recyclable resources and materials, such as timber, old bricks and paving stones, pallets, cardboard, horse and donkey manure, grass cuttings, autumn leafs, sawdust, kitchen scraps among others was prioritized.

To do this the collaboration of Denis and Dagmar was required since many materials we gathered over a longish period.

My focus was building although I had my fingers in everything at least a little bit and managed and guided the project. Ligia took the over the bigger part of gardening.

Sometimes the whole family came together my mum and dad, my brother, his wife and the kids to build and turn compost, mulch the ground with old newspapers to plant potatoes, to break old stones into rubble, to chop up mountains of tree cuttings and much more.
We had a fun time together and I would never have imagined to do those kind of activities together! Simply amazing!



Nothing was thrown away, nothing left the property with the exception of some non recyclable chemicals that where appropriately disposed of.
All organic wastes and building materials found a new and better use. More so we imported a lot of the “waste” of others such as large amounts of leaf foliage from the street and neighbors, large amounts of grass clippings, old cardboard, coffee grains, horse manure, hay, more than 3 tonnes of building timber from demolishing site, over 40 pallets and other materials.




The list of things we build is long… an entrance ramp, wooden retaining walls, stone retaining walls, Gabion wall, insect hotel, wooden deck, bicycle shed, play field with play sand pit, pallet garden fence, shed for tools and utilities, raised gardens, Hugelkultur, compost bays, workbench, storage shelfs, upgrading of tree house, bat house, bird feeder and other little things…


Before picture early July 2015

Ramp entrance

The new rebuild and beautified entrance






Before - July 2015


Bicycle shed completed




House entrance .left side



URBAN GARDENING  -“Everything gardens” Bill Mollison

Our transformations included everything excluded nothing.

No stone remained unturned.

We build compost bays, bought a worm farm, made a potato bed, a brassicas bed, three sisters beds, plant and planted early stages of what will become the food forest, build and planted a 3 X 1m raised bed, build and planted 14m2 of kitchen gardens, created polycultures under fruit trees, build a kids garden, trimmed trees, planted countless herb pots, created a bean tower and bean columns, planted a new lawn for the kids to play, mulched and fertilized everywhere…

We grow close to 100 different varieties of edible plants including annual vegetables, lettuces and greens, annual and perennial herbs, berry bushes and wild flowers.


RAISED BED AND HUGELKULTUR (click Link for more pictures)

The raised bed was built with reclaimed timber with the dimensions of 1m X 3m is has been very productive even trough winter with Spinaches.

Hugelkultur is a raised garden mount filled with tree trunks and branches at the bottom and finer mixed organic materials at the top and covered with topsoil and compost. Everything will very slowly decompose and turn into a deep rich soil full of life. The rotten wood holds water and attracts fungi. The nutrients are slowly released, the air pockets, slope etc. offer habitat for various plants and animals. Hugelkultures are space efficient and offer a great way to deal with excess carbon materials.






Permaculture gardens in summer growth



About 25m2 of slope under a 25m Douglas fir.
I started out with intensive soil work and the planting of green manure flowers and some vegetables such as pumpkins. Next phase will be cutting the fir and a couple more turns of green manure and nitrogen fixing plants before planting fruit trees, berry shrubs and other perennial edible plants such as Jerusalem artichokes, perennial herbs and others.




Pumpkin jungle


Like a small jungle – and that’s just the beginning of establishing a forest garden



14m2 raised bed, close to the house, produces mostly herbs, lettuces and vegetables. We applied intense soil work and thick sheet mulching. Gardens are no dig gardens, spaced so that everywhere can be reached easily without having to step on the soil. We introduced Terra Preta producing charcoal and associated effective microorganisms (EM) and minerals.


Raised bed in the making


Kitchen garden – 3 months later


House right side from behind


We followed the Maia´s tradition and planted corn, pumpkins and beans together. The pumpkins covers the ground and keep the soil moist and weed free, the beans use the corn as support to grow and fixe nitrogen in the soil.


Is further away from the house as they take longer to get ready and is harvested at once. We planted red cabbages, kohlrabi, cauliflower, kale, savoy cabbage, brussel sprouts. We also planted some remaining pumpkins seedlings to climb the fence.


Maintaining functional and productive life-style and gardens requires functional and happy humans, therefore some behaviour changes in daily lives are important.

Treating everything as resources and opportunities – There is no such thing as waste!

Minimizing impact on the environment by:

  • growing some of your own food
  • buying more food from a CSA and organic stores
  • going dumpster diving – rescuing wasted food
  • composting all organic waste
  • reducing water and energy, and heating use/ choosing green energy suppliers
  • using less of and more organic and biodegradable products
  • reusing some water in gardens
  • following a vegetarian diet
  • using more the bicycle than the car





Pee/ Urine

Urine is not waste, rich in nitrogen and minerals it is ideal plant food. Pee in buckets rather than in a flush toilet. Diluted with 10 part of water to 1 part pee and it can be used to water all plants. Pee in a bucket with a carbon rich material that can be decomposed. If you do use a toilet, since urine is not dirty, flushing once at the end of the day is enough!

IMG_7800.JPGRain water

Rain water is resource and collected for irrigation. We added rainwater tanks to all new and old structures, 2 underground cisterns already existed. More tanks are planned to be installed. Rain water is far better for plants and water from the mains, is energy expensive and should be used wisely.


Garden cuttings and pruning
Are used for compost either directly or after sending it through the wood chipper.
Some of it is used as mulch directly to protect and feed soils and plants.
We continue to take wood chippings and crass cuttings from neighbours, horse manure and used hay from a horse riding place, and wood shavings from a local builder.



Organic kitchen waste
non-acidic kitchen scraps feed the worms in the worm farm. All other organic waste including brown paper is composted for soil production.



Now at the climax of summer, the pumpkins spread all over the property, the climbing beans are already producing after have given gorgeous red flowers, the potatoes are getting ready to be harvested, the tomatoes getting ripe and the lettuces are lush and beautiful. We have already harvested and eaten lots of spinach, radish, fava beans, rocket, lettuces, zucchinis, peas and herbs such as mint, coriander, parsley, basil, chives, etc…








Combing multiple disciplines/ sciences such as landscape design, horticulture, carpentry, and others with creativity and ecological consciousness to provide for our own basic needs without harming the planet while improving the local ecosystem and sharing our experiences with others and hence improving the local environment using permaculture principles give meaning to our existence, is healthy and joyful and contributes to the continuation of our species.

There is no greater and lasting satisfaction then imagining something and then realising it on the ground! It stimulates the mind, the body and of course our creativity.
It is meaningful and gives hope because it has shown me, that you can change a lot even when you live in the city. I hope our little project can be an inspiration to you!

Live the change!


4 Responses to “Urban Permaculture transformation”

  1. Oh my, it is truly magnificent. Excellent job!

  2. REALLY EXCELLENT. Love the insect hotel in the wall–what a clever idea!


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