How to Set up an Urban Permaculture Garden

The Permaculture Zone
Friday, 27th February 2015

The Permaculture Neighbourhood Centre in California feeds the community whilst teaching people how to turn urban lots into edible oases.

The garden is just 1/3 of an acre and is filled with edibles and plants beneficial to wildlife. It has been consciously designed to address issues of food security, environmental degradation, water scarcity and more! What used to be an asphalt car park, three years later is now an edible garden for everyone.

Erik Ohlsen explains how through a wide range of permaculture techniques, they have created an abundant and educational garden.

Erik's main focus is how benefical the set up of their rainwater harvesting system has been. They harvest run-off from buildings and have added swales and different sized ditches for different water needs. The garden is on a slope and the swales at the top soak in water for the surrounding plants and fruit trees. Further down the slope, ditches have been formed to catch any run-off water, keeping as much on the site as possible.

The garden also works heavily on stacking functions - the fence prevents children from getting on to the road, whilst food can also be grown up it. By using the fence, the surface area of growth increases without the plant taking up a huge space in the garden.

To fill the space with as many edibles as possible, fences and structures are built from living trees. One example shown is the pleaching peach trees. This is where branches are interwoven to create a hedge. The branches grow so closely together that they join (like grafting).

This is a garden packed with permaculture and food but also education. The community can share the work and the harvests but also learn from the various techniques for growing polycultures.

For more information about the centre visit

Further resources

How to make vertical raised beds for urban green spaces

Harvesting rainwater in the urban environment

Edible Cities: Urban Permaculture for Gardens, Yards, Balconies, Rooftops and Beyond for just £11.20

The Permaculture City for just £16.19

The Urban Farmer


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