Urban Gardening – Session 9

Nature is the best thing we have“     this session – permaculture


“Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted & thoughtful observation rather than protracted & thoughtless labour; of looking at plants & animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single-product system.”
Bill Mollison



– Current system does not work long term

– Humans are increasingly encapsulated by nature

– Nature and the earth are exploited



– Think in holistic solutions

– Functioning systems of nature

– Not only reduce damage but eliminate it

– Observe the nature to be able to make changes

Permaculture Ethics

  1. Care of the Earth
    -careful handling of the earth
  2. Care of People
    -Take care of yourself and your surroundings
  3. Fair Share
    -Take only as much as you really need


The Permaculture Principles

Sepp Holzer

“Meine Universität ist die Natur”
(→ http://bit.ly/2rS2KF0 )

Urban Gardening – Session 7

Suparada Ströbel


Sunny afternoon; that’s a reason to go outside for work. Before we start, Botho gives us an input about watering.

Why do plants need water?
Water is necessary for plants, because plants require internal water pressure to strengthen the stems and leaves, and plants need water to create energy. Plants also needs water for photosynthesis.

How can you know when plants need water?
All plants are different. Some plants grow naturally without watering, but some require moisture or watering. It also depends on the type of plant, the soil, the weather, the time of year and many other variables. There are also many cases why plants get dry. It can be possible that the temperature is too high or too much watering. Botho mentioned that it’s easy to figure out what to do. You just need to check the soil. Is there enough moisture in soil? Even the soil surface seems to dry, but 5-10 centimeters below the soil surface moisture should be contained.

When is it time to water?
Water in the morning is effective. If you do get moisture on the leaves, this gives them time to dry out. Watering in the afternoon should be minded. You need to focus on the root zone, not the leaves. When the leaves get wet of water, it can promote the spread of disease. In the evening is more difficult for plant diseases to get a foothold when the leavers are dry. When you water your plant too much, they can habituated to it. One day, if you water them not enough they will dry quickly.

Plants love rain water, but it’s quite complicate for urban living to collect rain water for plants. Nevertheless you also can use water from a tap. Botho gave us tips – you need to know that water supply specs apply to making water that is safe for people, but not necessarily safe for plants. City water is treated to be alkaline to protect metal pipes from corroding, and can have a pH level upwards of 8.5. This pH range is too high for plants, because they love pH level of 7. You can collect water from a tap for a few days, after that you can use it for plant watering.

How to keep moisture in the soil?
Plants feel good in moist soil. You need to loosen the soil around plants and always remember that the soil needs some fresh air too. Moreover you can keep moisture in the soil by organic mulch, because mulch shields the soil surface from the sun, which prevents evaporation and thereby helps retain the soil moisture. By this tricks you can lower the watering needs while still maintaining moist, healthy soil.

What’s about self watering system plants when you’re gone?
There are many ways to water plants when you are in vacation.

  • Automatic Irrigation System
  • Bottled Water Irrigation System
  • Drip Irrigation Clay Pots
    P.S. You can use a waterstick. This stuff shows you a result about moisture in the soil. It’s easy and quickly to know when your plants need water.

Urban Gardening – Session 6

by Philip Junk

Today’s theoretical part of the session was all about creative commons and shared knowledge on the internet.

We learned, that there are different kinds of creative commons licences, the most common one being the CC-BY-SA. By using this creative common, you allow everyone to copy, edit, distribute and even use your work in a commercial context – as long as they credit you and guarantee the free use of their edited version under CC-BY-SA as well.

Creative commons allow people to gather knowledge and work on it independantly. Being granted access to an information infrastructure and easily accessible information, projects like Wikipedia were able to blossom. With shared knowledge, complex programs like the operating system Linux got built. Many programers edit and improve the system, and are able to compile their efforts simultaneously into a shared piece of software. Other platforms that use creative commons and the idea of sharing knowledge are:

But why share knowledge? What is it good for?

Continue reading →

Trip to Copenhagen

by Maria Anat’kay Bermudez Elsinger

Into the wild

We spent the first three days of our Denmark trip near Roskilde. Lucky as we are we found a nice cottage next to the sea. This place is normally used by scouts and thus a great and yet simple place featuring a dry closet, a cold outdoor shower and a couple of mattresses under the roof. It was exactly what we were looking for.

Continue reading →

Urban Gardening – Session 5

Julia Strobl, Carina Sabbagh

Soil Tests and Fertility

To start our session Ralph, Maria and Regina gave us a short heads up of the conference they visited the week before. It was about “animal-aided design”, a revolutionary city concept. The new approach considers the whole life cycle of animals- from birth to reproduction. Its goal is to integrate these solutions in the landscape architecture from the beginning. For instance, the face of a building could be designed for swifts or other bird species. However, caused by the climate change species extinction increases, also in our cities. Animal-aided design is a new approach how to find solutions, combined by Design and nature protection.

Next step was to get a good overview of the different types of soil. There were three different kinds presented to us, which we had to touch, to smell or even to taste. One was pretty stony, one clayey and the third one rather dry and hard to identify.

Continue reading →

Urban Gardening – Session 4


by Leandra and Emily

We started this session with two videos about the importance of soil.  The first video “Let’s talk about soil” was based on facts and taught us, that soil is more than just the ground we walk on. Soil arises by rocks, that are broken by rain and sun. Afterwards it’s formed even more by sun, wind, animals and plants.

Forests and plants protect it from erosion. The soil gets naked and unprotected after harvesting and deforestation. Erosion is not only bad for nature, but also very expensive for men. Land is becoming more valuable and costs even more than before, since it’s getting rare. Because of land grabbing, million hectors of land change their owner each year.

The video also stated that half of the soil will be vanished until 2050. This will lead to hunger crises, since there won’t be enough soil for agriculture left. Following, it will have big consequences for everyday life, too, for example in the supermarket. We have to find ways to apply knowledge to not loose the plan under our feet.

Remeber: Soil is a sensitive living.

Continue reading →

Urban Gardening – Session 3


Since last time we talked about planting, today’s meeting was about the growing of plants.

So what does a plant need to grow? The three most important factors are warmth, light, and  nutrients. At the beginning of their little journey each seed provides enough nutrients for the plant to start growing. Botho called it the „starter pack“. Later the little plant will start using the nutrients supplied by its immediate environment.

The basic nutrients for plants are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Others are also essential, but in much smaller quantities.

In order for a plant to grow, a certain amount of every nutrient must be available. If one factor is just a little too small, the plant might grow less strong. You can compare it to a barrel. Is only one wooden strip a little too short, the water inside will flow off.

Based on the kind of plants which are growing it is possible to make a guess of the composition of the nutrients. Dandelion for example grows well, where the soil contains a lot of nitrogen. 

Continue reading →

Urban Gardening – Session 2

Guerilla Gardening

Botho started this session with a short introduction to Guerilla Gardening. He defined it as “gardening on spaces that aren´t yours”.

He described multiple motivations to do that:

  • Make use of unused public spaces
  • Make political statements and initiate debate about who should own public space and how it should be used.
  • A friendly way to get media attention.
  • A creative sort of protest

There are of course many other reasons as well – maybe one just wants fresh herbs in front of their house – so we should be aware not to oversimplify this term.

Botho also listed some of the “weapons” Guerilla gardeners use, such as “seed bombs”, which are basically lumps of earth, clay and seeds that can be thrown at places that are hard to reach and initiate growth there.

Propagation by seed

We also talked in length about how to grow plants from seeds and the challenges we might encounter on the way (for instance the seedlings of most plants look very similar in the early stages and are thus hard to distinguish).
All seedlings need three components: water, air and warmness. Beside that each plant has unique seed-starting requirements like light, darkness, heat or cold. If the specific requirements of a species are met, the seedling “knows”, when and how to sprout – the cell division starts and the seedling creates roots. The plant also has a sense of orientation and in which direction to grow (Phototropismus und Geotropismus).


You need nutrient-poor soil (normal soil or from a mole hill. Please not: Don’t use soil that contains turf! The exploitation of swamps for turfs leaves irreparable damage!

How to properly plant a sunflower




First ideas for Short Project 1

Today we talked about our first ideas for Short Project 1. Everybody came up with 3 ideas. Here are two examples:

Tobi cooked leaves to reveal and explore their supply system. He is going to investigate those structures further and find out what we as designers can learn from them.

Jessica did some research on the amazing techniques of birds building their nests. She wants to learn more about the structure and construction process of those nests. This is her first attempt to reconstruct a blackbird’s nest.

Urban Gardening – Session 1


Cars as we are used to see them all around cities nowadays are usually privatly owened, mobile things. They need a sealed surface to drive on, consume fuel and release emissions. Apart from that they increase temperature and noise additionally to being dangerous and stressfull for humans.
Surprisingly, a tree depictures the complete opposite. Though being an immobile creature, in urban surrounding it is usually accessible to all people. It doesn’t make any (unpleasant) noise by itself but even reduces it and cooles its surrounding. By filtering emissions mostly caused by cars in the cities it cleanes the air we breathe and even filters toxic gases from it.

Benefits of Urban Gardening

Urban gardening combines political activism, social benefits and practical use.
Continue reading →