200 square metre Urban Garden

The Brief

The following brief is a design process we set for our students and ourselves. It was part of a research project to see just how much of our daily dietary needs ( according to the Weston Price Foundation) a family could grow for themselves in an urban situation. We have finalised the design as below, and we have written a Koanga Booklet describing the design in far more detail. Included are lots of charts, diagrams and notes for you all to see. We have kept records of progress over time which are available here. The booklet is available now as both hardcopy and e-book.


Urban Garden design

200 sq m Urban Design Brief

An urban, low-income family in a large city near the ocean who are super resourceful. They have common sense and basic handy man (and woman) skills and are very keen to learn. This family would like a design for their 200sqm urban garden to produce as much as possible of the key elements of nutrition to keep healthy. They are a family of four: two adults and two children (aged four and six). They eat following the principles of the Weston Price Foundation, which are based on the principles of all indigenous peoples visited by Weston Price in the 1920’s/30’s. See below for details.

  • They are concerned that high quality food is not easy to buy and is not affordable. They expect this situation will rapidly become worse. In particular it is difficult to obtain high enough levels of Vitamin A, calcium and high quality traditional fats and oils in an industrial diet.

  • They have been given some money ($2,000), which they want to use to establish this garden and to enrich their lives in every way.

  • They live in a Mediterranean climate, cold in winter, maybe 20 frosts between 1-5 degrees Celsius below. It’s normally very hot and dry in the summer, with free draining sandy loam soils and a water table around 70cm below the surface. Rainfall annual average is 1600mm.

  • They have every weekend to work in their garden, and in the summer, evenings as well. They dream that this garden can be their fun, their work, their play, their connection with nature and their connection with their own ancestors. They also dream that the skills they use and the resources this garden might produce could enable and empower them to take the skills to their wider community.

Eating Like The Indigenous People

Weston A Price was a dentist who was at the height of his career as a dentist and dental researcher in the 1920’s and 30’s. He was passionate about following his observations from his dental practice that told him there had to be a connection between diet and health. He had noticed that the health of his clients was deteriorating down through the generations and understood, without evidence, there must be a connection to diet. He was totally committed to doing whatever it took to find out the link and an ‘ ideal diet’ for human health and maintenance.

As a result of his years of research within the USA he designed his own research project and visited many groups of indigenous people, who were at that point still eating their traditional diets. He studied their health and the food they were eating. He came to the conclusion that they were unbelievably healthy (as documented in Nutrition and Human Degeneration). They were eating 8 x the minerals western people in the USA had in their diets at that time, and 5 x the fat-soluble vitamins. He also discovered that all indigenous people followed the same principles in their diets, however they all had widely varying diets because their environments differed widely.

The principles they followed were:

Weston Price found that they all had around 12,000 IU of Fat soluble Vitamin A in their diets daily, and around 1500 mg of calcium in their diets on a daily basis. In our experience these are amongst the most difficult elements to get enough of in an industrial diet. If we can design our diets to include the levels of Vitamin A that the indigenous peoples had, then most other minerals and vitamins will be taken care if we also follow the principle above.

Some groups of people he studied ate no meat, but large quantities of fermented milk and cream. While others ate beans and grains they also included a lot of animal fat or butter. Some ate mostly meat, some mostly fat.

These are some of the biggest challenges for today’s industrial society:

  • Getting our fat soluble vitamins and minerals levels high enough

  • Getting our traditional fat levels high enough

  • Getting our carbohydrate levels low enough

  • Appropriately soaking, fermenting and sprouting foods

We gave this brief and information to our Permaculture Design Course students over 4 PDC’s and each time the urban design group came up with different and wonderful ideas. Some groups had guinea pigs for the Vitamin A and traditional fat, some had snail farms, and one group had a penned sheep or goat, (being fed from the wider area), for the calcium and vitamin A.

We then did a final design based on the best of all of them that we felt were practical, socially acceptable at this point in time, and possible now.


In this design we can provide fresh vegetables on a daily basis, fresh fruit on a daily basis and dried fruit out of season – within 3 years. We can provide olive oil and pickled olives for daily use, as well as nuts on a regular basis, after about 3 years.


The nuts, fruit and vegetables will go along way towards maintaining the health of this family however we still need Vitamin A and  more calcium than these items will provide. Living near the sea there could be some way that a regular fishing trip or fish buying/bartering can be arranged. It is possible in New Zealand at least to buy fish heads, fish frames and pig’s heads etc for quite a low cost (even in supermarkets), this could add to what we have in the 200sq m garden.

We chose rabbits as being the most suitable animals to keep for meat, fat and specifically vitamin A. The chickens are providers of high quality fat and Vitamin A too. It is the animals in indigenous people’s diets that provided the sacred food and the fat-soluble vitamins that they recognized they needed to maintain their health.



The key elements of this design are:

1. Sacred Food high in Vitamin A and minerals, and traditional fats and oils

* Vitamin A comes from those foods regarded as sacred amongst indigenous people’s eggs, butter, oils, and animals (for their fat, livers/ heads/ offal and roe mainly).

        • In this design Vitamin A will come from rabbit livers mainly but also from occasional chicken livers, and making bone broth using all of the animal parts – especially the heads.

        • In this design the family will be getting their calcium from rabbit bone broth, with more minor amounts from the chickens that have finished laying, eggs, small amounts from high brix fruit, vegetables, herbs, nuts and olive oil. As well as gaining significant calcium and other essential minerals and hormones from nettle tea and other weeds such as chickweed and cleavers.

        • Traditional fats will come mostly from eggs, olives and nuts. Olives, almonds and hazelnuts are a feature in this design to maximise oils and minerals. High brix vegetables contain high quality fats and oils especially Omega 3 and 6. Animal fat from small animals such as chickens and rabbits (who store their fat around internal organs rather than in the meat or under the skin).

2. Highly nutritious fruit and nuts all year round.

3. 40sq m of vegetable garden bed.

        • We chose heritage varieties of vegetables and fruit to maximize nutritional content.

        • The fruit trees we have chosen because they have a wide range of vitamins and minerals, with fruiting year round and many things that can be stored. We chose heritage fruit species that are known to contain high levels of nutrition e.g. Berries, apples, goji and Arguta are particularly nutritious.

        • Potential vege garden area maximized by keeping fruit trees vertical, and using all possible vertical and high horizontal spaces (whilst ensuring possible year round fruit and nuts).

        • Maximization of edges and vertical spaces with espaliered and cordoned trees (apples & pears) and vines (Grapes & Arguta). Cordons allow for maximum length of ripening time, and maximum varieties for different end uses.

        • We’ve chosen fruit trees and the almond on dwarfing rootstocks to ensure they will not outgrow their spaces

        • For the garden we chose to do a Biointensively managed beds because this is the most efficient and sustainable strategy for maximum production of nutrient dense food. If you are not familiar with Biointensive gardening or how to grow nutrient dense food I suggest you get a copy of our Beginner Gardener Booklet and our How To Grow Nutrient Dense Food Booklet, which will help a lot.

        • We have planned the garden so that we are growing heritage vegetables, because we know by the taste and from science that they contain far more nutrition than industrial vegetables.

        • We have chosen specific vegetables that contain high levels of nutrition eg. Dalmatian cabbage, aka Collards etc.

        • We have chosen vegetables that crop heavily per sq m (see Garden Planner Master Chart for expected harvest in kgs) if Beginner Gardener instructions are followed)

        • We have chosen a range of vegetables that will ensure there is something every day for our family to eat throughout the year, especially for making wholesome soups, stews, and stir fry’s and salads!

4. We include wicking beds, on our concreted area to maximise ways to increase food production and nutrition in this small area

        • Crops that produce well in these beds that we’ll try are potatoes, peppers and eggplants, and herbs.

5. We have chosen to include some box gardens to grow other crops that suit these beds, to help maximise production/nutrition

        • We will grow waterchestnuts in 1 box, kumara in 2 boxes

6. We include a solar drier to maximise use of all crops

        • We will dry our nuts after soaking them

        • We will dry any excess fruit on a daily basis

        • We will dry and excess green vegetables so that they can be powdered and added to soups and stews

        • We will have an ability to harvest and store any crops that may be in local parks, waste areas, road sides

7. The Garden Planner chart shows you which crops may or may not easily be saved for seed, as you will see a significant amount of seed could be saved from and for this garden


Expected Harvest During 1 Year

If you follow the instructions and do a great job of taking care of the soil (Beginner Gardener Booklet) you could expect to get the following harvest from your vege garden over 1 year, whilst improving/growing the soil! If your soil is very difficult initially it may take 1 or 2 years to get your production up to these levels.

These vegetables are worth $2,500 in todays supermarkets and they aren’t organic or nutrient dense there! The seed, tools and fertiliser to get this 40sq m garden going will be around $240 if you are buying everything!

  • Tomatoes – 40kgs

  • Basil – Enough to pick daily for 3 months with enough  to store pesto and dry basil for many meals

  • Cucumber – 30kgs

  • Red Kuri pumpkin – 40kgs ( 20 x 2kg pumpkins)

  • Delicata Pumpkin – 20kgs ( 60 pumpkins)

  • Courgettes – 7kgs

  • Lettuce – 100 small hearting plus another 100 in a second planting – (200 total)

  • Welsh Bunching onions  – Enough to pick some every day for raw or cooking

  • Sweet Corn – 240 cobs

  • Carrots – 80 kgs

  • Beetroot – 80kgs

  • Daikon – 90kgs Excellent for raw, cooked or fermented dishes edible leaves as well

  • Peas – 1.5kgs

  • Broadbeans (Shellout) – 6 kgs

  • Silverbeet – 20kgs

  • Collards 20kgs

  • Leeks – 50 kgs

  • Broccoli – 20kgs, includes eating stems and leaves

We’ll use the following strategies and techniques to achieve production of our animals, fruits and vegetables in a regenerative way

  1. We have multiple systems in place to produce chicken & rabbit feed, composting worms under rabbits, black solider fly larvae and garden compost heap in the chicken scratch yard.

  • High quality chicken and rabbit food is grown on all paths and under trees, everywhere possible; in the form of a herbal ley consisting of Alfalfa, Phacellia, Buckwheat, Parsnip, Red Sensation Clover, Subterranean Clover, Huia White Clover, Blue Borage and Giant Chioggia Chicory.

  • Dynamic accumulators: Comfrey, French Sorrel, Yarrow are planted everywhere. These make excellent chicken, rabbit and compost food.

  • Tree pruning’s from legumes and all fruiting trees for rabbit forage and compost, in particular tagasaste, which is a complete food for rabbits. We would also guerrilla plant this around our neighbourhood for foraging from! We will harvest neighbourhood sources of tree pruning’s for the rabbits especially willow.

  • Seeds from nitrogen fixing trees for chickens etc.

  • Chicken scratch yard will be where the compost is made for the garden as a whole and all kitchen waste will go in there for the chickens to turn over. Attention will need to be paid to adding sufficient carbon so it remains aerobic and the chickens can actually turn the heap. The idea is that the chickens can actually live and pay well entirely by eating the decomposers in the compost plus green material like comfrey.

  • We’ll harvest seaweed as it comes in during storms for the compost in the chicken scratch yard

* We will invest with our neighbours in a wood chipper so that we can harvest carbon from urban trees and parks to maintain the mulch for fruit trees and berries. Wood chips can compost carbon for the chickens and also create extra feed for the rabbits.

  • We will checkout our parks and vacant places around our area and see what possibilities there are for guerrilla planting to the advantage of those on the area especially things like large nut trees, comfrey, fruit that could be shared by groups of people. We could plant trees and plants that produce biomass for compost making, feeding rabbits and potentially other animals. There may be specific trees that produce seeds that are good food for fattening pigeons for example.

  1. Remineralisation for soil, plant, animal and human health!

For the whole design to work we need to re-mineralise the soil. So as well as designing in mineral accumulators (as above), there will need to be a focus on finding local sources of minerals, recycling all nutrients, and buying in what is missing will be critical. A soil test will be done in the beginning and we will buy a refractometer. It will be critical for the family to understand that if they have low brix vegetables, then feeding low brix vegetables to their rabbits and will simply recycle the deficiencies. Their goal must be to produce high brix plant material to feed themselves and their animals, so those minerals can be recycled through them!

  • Recycle all bones through bone ash in the compost

  • Recycle all brown cardboard and clean white paper we can find through the compost or worm farms

  • Collect all leaves we can in autumn from wider area, as well as neighbours hedge pruning’s, which may also be great for feeding rabbits

  • Install a simple composting toilet that can be used to recycle the nutrient flow back into the Forest Garden

  • Create a neighbourhood project to keep council pruning’s within the community and either use as wood chips, and or make biochar. A group could get the council contract to do the local area tree maintenance

  • We will ensure we harvest seaweed and salt water at any possible time (ideally monthly) to ensure the health of our soil, animals and family

  • We’ll either catch fish or barter for fish to increase our calcium, vitamin A and traditional fats and oils intake, and to have more bones to burn to return to the compost

  • Forest garden – 5-6 layers. A major part of the design to re-mineralise the soil and maintain soil fertility lies in designing the garden to have multiple layers like in a forest garden. E.g. deep rooting herbs, ground cover, legumes, herbaceous woody perennials, low growing shrubs, legumes to 3 metres, canopy fruit trees in full sun, and well as many mineral accumulators

  1.  The family will need choose good genetics for animals, trees, ground covers and vegetables, so heritage lines are very important.

For more information about the early progress of the Urban Garden please see our blog below.