Water Tanks in the Urban Garden

Most people when siting their house want to take advantage of the available commanding views. So you commonly see people positioning their homes on the highest point on their land. But that’s not necessarily the best place to site your home if you are into Permaculture and your aim is to get something for nothing. Free energy.

In this case, the owners aim was to harness the energy of gravity to water all her productive crops for free. Without pumps or any extra energy to move water where it was needed most – her food forest and vegetable garden.

Geoff Lawton points out the roof line and the food forest

We came across a great example whilst filming the Urban Permaculture DVD where the home was sited half way down the slope of the block – an ideal location to build your house.

The slope was a larger sized urban block located next to a busy arterial road.

The water tank was positioned at the top of the slope but slightly under the roof-line of the house guttering. This allowed all the rainwater to be stored some distance away from the house in the owners galvanized water tank. The overflow from the water tank spilled out to a slotted cross pipe buried just a few feet from the tank that irrigated the garden below.

Between the house and the tank was a mini swale system (on contour) and a food forest of large fruit trees. Closer to the house a series of vegetable garden beds soaked up any excess water that seeped down the slope under the heavily mulched garden beds.

“We’ve got a matrix of food forest species and plants intermixed in the garden.” said Permaculture teacher Geoff Lawton. ‘Smelly geraniums distracting pests, lavender, citrus, pepper tree, feijoa, into a garden pond hidden next to the food forest.”
Pumpkins cover the floor of this Urban Food Forest garden under a weeping Mulberry and a Pecan tree. Food abounds everywhere.

“On we go through finer and finer gardens.” said Geoff Lawton. Until we arrive at the house.

espaliered apricot tree captures the thermal mass heat from the house

The brick face of the house faced west so it also collected most of the heat in winter. The radiated heat of the wall was also a perfect place to grow espaliered fruit trees.
In this case an espaliered apricot tree.

“The apricot tree does like the dry conditions,” says Geoff Lawton, “It gets a cool enough winter here, but the thermal mass of the brick wall gives it the dry conditions that imitates the more arid climates.”

If your home is built on a flat site you can still strategically build collection points for rainwater in your garden that can direct flow to desired points in your garden. Smaller barrels were used in this other urban garden to enable this principal to work as well.

These little features work well together to build a highly successful Permaculture Urban Garden with minimal energy needs.

“A good example of a sustainable system.” said Geoff Lawton.