Urban Permaculture Noordhoek

Love Green Permaculture Noordhoek is a classic urban permaculture system that focuses on providing solutions to the unsustainable nature of current urban living. The property was purchased in 2010 and has since undergone a complete transformation from an energy consuming, archetypal suburban home into a beautiful, completely off-grid ecosystemic urban production oasis. The site functions as a training venue for courses in regenerative urban living and hosts a Permaculture Design Course run by Kent Tahir Cooper, Larissa Green and Alex Kruger twice a year.

The house is completely solar powered, with the sun providing electricity, hot water and water pumping…

Learning about soils and how to test them…

Students on the PDC implementing a food forest at a site in the city.

The property is 1000 sq meters and is a standard, no frills, urban property that through intelligent application of permaculture design principles has become a small space efficient multi-functional area that illustrates the principle that buildings and small properties can be highly productive in food, water harvesting, soil mineral restoration, energy generation and more. All processes on the site are closed loop with all waste been recycled back into the system via a series of interconnected closed loop patterns.

Water Harvesting

The site is completely self-reliant for all its water needs via the following systems.

  • All roof surfaces harvest rain water into tanks. These tanks overflow into earthworks in the garden where the surplus water is stored in a soil sponge. There is 16 000 liters of storage in plastic tanks which is pumped into the house via a 12 volt pressure pump.
  • The site has a large 50 000 liter swimming pool. The shallow end of the swimming pool was divided off with the wall and continues to function as a pool, while the remaining 40 000 liters was covered in a sealed wooden deck and turned into a large water storage tank. This deck serves as a multifunctional space and is our classroom, yoga, relax and play space. Most of the roof surface of the house harvests water into this tank. This tank is linked to the plastic tanks via a solar powered pump to top them up over summer. This ensures that the house functions completely on rain water throughout the year for all its domestic needs.
  • The mains water grid functions as a back-up should it be required.
  • The gardens are irrigated from a borehole via a solar pump that transfers water from the borehole into a 5000 liter header tank on a 3 meter stand. This then irrigates the garden via gravity fed micro-jet sprinklers.
  • All household waste water irrigates the garden via grey water systems.

Energy

The site is completely self-reliant for all its electricity and water heating needs. The grid and gas functions as back-up if required.

  • The household electricity requirements are generated by solar power, which provides more than enough electricity for all its needs through the year. The solar panels (1800 watts worth) charge a 12 volt monoblock battery bank, which is then inverted into 220volts into the house. Two plug points, one in the house and one outside, remain connected to the grid to be used for power tools when required. This ensures that a smaller solar system is appropriate and seldom used power tools do not push the requirements for a bigger solar rig into a unreasonable pricing range. The house has a change-over switch so that the grid can be turned on if needed.
  • Water is heated via two vacumme tube low pressure solar geysers. These provide abundant hot water for most of the year, excepting over long rainy periods in winter. When this happens the system can be switched over to efficient gas water heating as the back-up. Electricity bills are tiny in this house and there is never a power outage.
  • The solar pressure pump and the 2 solar submersable pumps on the property run off their own stand alone solar power systems. This ensures that there is no cost attached to water usage.

Food

Most of the site is covered in food forest which is now 4 years old, with a small vegetable garden that provides supplementary vegetables, herbs, berries and fruit to the site custodian. Species have been selected for climate and soil appropriateness…

  • Because this is primarily a education and model system to be used towards inspiring transformation of urban spaces, and is not our family’s primary home, the production of high maintenance annual plants has been kept to a minimum. There are niche spaces in the system kept open for seasonal vegetables and a small kitchen garden that is focused towards producing culinary herbs and fresh greens.
  • Most of the garden has been established under a highly diverse Mediterranean climate appropriate food forest that produces a wide diversity of fruit, perennial vegetables, herbs, berries and medicinal plants. Most of the trees are just starting to produce fruit with some longer term species such as Avocado Pear, Pecan Nut, Mango, Olive, Persimmon, Macadamia Nut, Naartije, Grape Fruit still to bear. Presently we are starting to harvest, Fig, Mulberry, Almond, Guava, Feijoa, Banana, Granadilla,  Pomegranate, Loquat, Medlar, Orange, Lemon, Grape, Blueberry, etc
  • All the mulch the garden needs is produced by the system itself, garden waste is chipped and mulched or composted into pit beds or compost heaps. Worm farms re-purpose kitchen waste, and a compost toilet human waste.
  • Oudeberg Permaculture Farm is a source of cow manure for composting so all soil fertility needs come from within our system.
  • We have occupied our road verge and established a Olive Agroforestry system between our boundary and road, which is protected from the harsh North Westerly Winter Wind by a Indigenous Windbreak

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The large swimming pool was walled off into 2 pools, one a small plunge pool and the larger has a deck constructed over it that seals the water in as a large storage tank.

Roof run-off water is collected in the pool and the deck is used as a classroom, chill area, family space as needed in a classic stacking of functions.

The temperate climate food forest is made up of climate specific trees, shrubs, herbs, perennial vegetables, ground covers, runners and roots that are suited to the conditions of the site. Some of the trees are now in their 5th year of growth while others are new, replacing species that did not make it. Tagasate (Tree Lucerne) is proving to be a very effective chop and drop legume in the highly acidic soils and it tolerates the saline water well… The structure of the food forest resembles a shrub thicket as this is the nature of local forest systems and Citrus, Figs, Feijoa, Apple, Pear, Apricot, Blue Berry and others occupy the western side of the house.

To the south of the house the larger tree species are located so as not to shade out the solar capture systems and the lower tree structures to the north. Here species such as Pecan Nut, Avocado Pear, Macadamia Nut, Mango, Custard Apple and more are established.

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