After two months of studying and practical work at Xavier’s Permaculture Children’s House I am glad to successfully complete the free Permaculture Design Course (PDC) with my own project design for a backyard community garden in my hometown Berlin. I am very grateful to Xavier and his wife Natalie for their hospitality and the great opportunity to do the PDC for free. I am also very grateful to the local staff and the many other volunteers on the farm – especially Lian & Harold – for their support, knowledge, high spirits and humour, resulting in a wonderful experience during my time there!
Project Vision & Outline
The project’s main focus is to convert the backyard of our living place in Berlin Weißensee into a productive permaculture garden, with a strong emphasis of building up a community among the tenants of the building, who are currently living quite anonymously next to each other. The project should offer all tenants the possibility to participate in it, thus creating the opportunity for cross-generational interactions, community belonging, escape of isolation, creativity, exchange of knowledge and skills, learning, meaningful leisure activities, and – of cause – healthy and nutrient-dense local food supply. It should also raise awareness about the problems of industrial agricultural systems and it’s alternatives, especially the principles of permaculture – earth care, people care & fair share (return of surplus), as well as the 7 R’s (Rethink, Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle, Rot) – and to spread this awareness beyond the boundaries of the house.
We are living for rent in a large apartment building in the suburbs of Berlin. The building has a backyard of 51×10 = 510 m² which would serve as a the main site for the permaculture project. The building has a height of about 22 meters, 5 stories, 45 flats and approximately 90 inhabitants of all age and social background. Accordingly, the realization of the project faces many obstacles and it’s final design might differ greatly from this first draft because many people might influence it substantially. Therefore, the function of this first design draft is to draw a vision of what might be possible, of the potential benefits and preconditions, in order to gain the consent, support, and commitment of the landlord and the tenants. Apart from that, this design draft should also show that I understand the principles of permaculture and can apply them to real world projects.
Right now, the backyard serves mainly as a recreational retreat for the tenants. It is used mainly by children to play during daytime and by adults for barbecue in the afternoon or evening. It is quite obvious, that these recreational functions must be sustained or enhanced to gain consent of all inhabitants. Furthermore, the use of animals is quite restricted, because people might have concerns about hygiene, smell and noise (esp. shift workers), and because proper treatment of the animals must be ensured.
The PDF files below provide the full details of my design, which includes the conversion of an old existing chimney into a water tower for irrigation, a pond, a greenhouse, tree guilds, herb spirals, composts & worm farms, window planting boxes, lawns and rabbits – just to name some of the major elements…
The overwhelming feedback of Xavier and the many volunteers motivates me to seek the realization of this project after my travels, although there are several obstacles. I hope my design might also serve as an inspiration for similar projects as there is a huge potential in urban permaculture and backyard gardening!