We did it!
All building projects are completed, and the garden is growing uncontrollably!
Check it out!
The Short Story
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 spent several weeks analysing the property and doing a lot of fundamental work in preparation for the 2016 design installations. The design and implementation plan I drew up over winter.
Between April and June we built an entrance ramp and replaced an old stairway, we built wooden and stone retaining walls, a large insect hotel, and a little bat house. We created soil, established gardens, planted nearly 100 different vegetables and herbs, dismantled dysfunctional elements, and replaced and repositioned others. We suggested many changes such as subscribing to a CSA, a solar system which was installed in October 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, built 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 Comprehensive Story
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 designing his home in Berlin.
In the summer of 2015, I spend a couple of months doing some necessary work around the garden in preparation for the 2016 design implementation. A significant portion of this time was spent surveying and analysing the site in anticipation 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 two months 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 six people and one dog
- Unsatisfied with use and look of the garden.
- The desire for a better use of space. A garden that is esthetically pleasing with many flowering plants, productive gardens, and wildlife.
- A garden that is esthetically pleasing with many flowering plants, productive gardens, and wildlife.
- Guidance for a more sustainable lifestyle.
- Space for children, space to relax and to sit, more order and structure.
- Space to relax and to sit.
- More order and structure.
The goal was to transform the urban property into a beautiful and functional, partly self-sufficient, comfortable, fun and most importantly ecological landscape, that would serve the needs of the parents and their children by providing some of their own food and using the space in a more efficient and beautiful way. ……
Designing and Planning
In the cold temperate climate zone, due to the cold winter and the short growing season, it 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 while house sitting over the winter. I used permaculture design principles and ethics as the fundamental basis 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 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 doing that kind of activities together would be so enjoyable! It was simply amazing!
We didn’t throw anything away. Nothing left the property, except some non-recyclable chemicals that were disposed of appropriately.
All organic wastes and building materials found a new and better use. More so we imported a lot of the “waste” of others. We were able to recycle other people’s waste including;
- Large amounts of leaf foliage from the street and neighbors.
- A significant amount of grass clippings
- Old cardboard
- Coffee grains
- Horse manure
- More than three tonnes of building timber from demolished sites
- Over 40 pallets
- And much more!
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 a sand pit, a pallet garden fence, a shed for tools and utilities, raised garden beds, Hugelkultur, compost bays, a workbench, storage shelfs, we upgraded the tree house, bat house, a bird feeder and other little things…
PALLET GARDEN FENCE
RETAINING WALL + INSECT HOTEL
PLAY FIELD AND SAND BOX
UPGRADING THE TREE HOUSE
“Everything gardens” – Bill Mollison
Our transformations included everything and excluded nothing.
No stone remained unturned.
We built compost bays and brought a worm farm. We made a potato bed, a brassicas bed, three sisters beds, plant and planted early stages of what will become the food forest. We built and planted a 3 X 1 meter raised garden bed. We built and planted 14m2 of kitchen gardens, created polycultures under fruit trees, made a kids garden, trimmed trees, planted countless herb pots. We created a bean tower and bean columns, planted a new lawn for the kids to play on, and mulched and fertilized everywhere.
We planted and now 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
The raised garden bed was built with reclaimed timber with the dimensions of 1m X 3m. It has been very productive even through winter with Spinaches.
The 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 dark 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.
The Food Forest is about 25m2 on a 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. In the next phase, we 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.
The kitchen garden is on a 14m2 raised garden bed which is close to the house and produces mostly herbs, lettuces and vegetables. We applied intense soil work and thick sheet mulching to these gardens. They 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.
The Three SISTERS BED – VERTICAL SPACE AND MICROCLIMATES
We followed the Maia´s tradition and planted corn, pumpkins, and beans together. The pumpkins cover the ground and keep the soil moist and weed free, the beans use the corn as support to grow and fix nitrogen in the soil.
The Brassicas garden is further away from the house as they take longer to produce and are harvested all at once. We planted red cabbages, kohlrabi, cauliflower, kale, savoy cabbage, and brussel sprouts. We also planted some remaining pumpkin seedlings to climb the fence.
To maintain a functional and productive lifestyle the gardens required functional and happy humans. Therefore, some behaviour changes in daily lives are important. By treating everything as a resource and an opportunity as there is no such thing as waste!
Minimizing the 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 water in gardens.
- Following a vegetarian diet.
- Using a bicycle more than a car.
BETTER USE OF RESOURCES
Urine is not a waste product. It is rich in nitrogen and minerals and is an ideal plant food. You can urinate into buckets rather than in a flush toilet then dilute it with ten part water to one part urine, and it can be used to water all plants. If you do use a toilet, since urine is not dirty, flushing once at the end of the day is enough!
Check out the article Biological Fertiliser – Human Urine for more details on using urine as a fertiliser in your garden.
Rainwater is a resource and can be collected for irrigation. We added rainwater tanks to all new and old structures, two underground cisterns already existed. More tanks are planned to be installed in the future. Rainwater is far better for plants and water from the mains is energy expensive and should be used wisely.
Garden cuttings and pruning
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 grass cuttings from neighbours, horse manure and used hay from a horse riding residence, 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.
EATING FROM THE GARDEN
Now in the middle of summer, the pumpkins have spread all over the property; the climbing beans are already producing after their gorgeous red flowers, the potatoes are getting ready to be harvested, the tomatoes are ripening, 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, and chives, etc.
PROPERTY (AND FAMILY!) TRANSFORMATION
We have combined multiple disciplines and sciences here such as landscape design, horticulture, and carpentry, just to name a few. We have done so with creativity and ecological consciousness to provide for our own basic needs without harming the planet. All the 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. It is a healthy and joyful and contributes to the continuation of our species.
There is no greater and lasting satisfaction than 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 us 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!
ABOUT Kai Lindenblatt
I am a passionate young permaculture designer and teacher. What drives me is my lovePortrait one for life and the earth and the belief that if we only knew what else is out there, the world could be a better place.
My task in life is to be the change I wish to see and to inspire others to do so too.
I consider myself as politically and philosophically engaged, driven by a deep urge to understand the world we live in. I am engaged in social and environmental change which are also the central motives for my work.
In 2007, I gave up permanent residence and became a nomad. Since 2012, I have become very interested in Permaculture. I see Permaculture as the main philosophy, and a means to ensure a future for human beings. Permaculture is the focus of my interests and work.
I want to be an active part of positive change in this world. It is my dream to build a Permaculture Education Centre to inspire and empower more people so that we can change the world for the better and inform people that the solutions are all there but unknown to the public or ignored.
I envision a past capitalist, localised though international, autonomous collective of communities, away from centralized power living, a sustainable life in cooperation with all beings…
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