The admirable and energetic Nick and Kirsten from Milkwood asked us if we would design a roof garden for their new classroom space at 107 Projects in Redfern (Sydney) where they will be teaching permaculture and other courses.


The roof had been a roof garden in a previous life but this had all been cleared out and a new waterproof membrane installed. It was stark and empty but strong enough to support a new garden. Downstairs is the 107 Projects gallery in the midst of the increasingly hip Redfern shopping strip.

Nick and Kirsten wanted us to design a roof garden that could be used for teaching permaculture as well as being a breakout space for small and large groups and having enough space to host gallery events. All this with absolutely no fixings to the floor or the horribly unstable block walls.

So, how to design a roof garden that incorporates every possible permaculture technology but looks and works as a cohesive, fabulous looking design? You can see our design process documented in the Roof garden notebook. After several design sketches and discussion with Nick and Kirsten, we settled on the curvy, voluptuous version. We were working on a straight edge version but sometimes curves just work better.



Low gabion walls delineate the edges of the raised beds and provide casual seating for at least 50 people. All these casual looking curves are strategically designed to allow people to move efficiently through the space and provide many functions. More dreaming by our design team produced a mobile food forest, green walls, an aquaponics system and heaps of spaces to grow clean and healthy food in a small space. We thought hard about how to build on a shoestring budget and with low environmental impact.

We handed over our Roof garden design to the Milkwood team. They came up with even more construction refinements then organised crowd funding, construction of the wall, planting beds, tanks and irrigation, and the amazing 'Soil Up Top Day'. We loved playing a pivotal part in the project and seeing how it developed.

Finally the planting day arrived and we made a dash to Sydney to join the 20 enthusiastic volunteers plus the Milkwood team to plant out the garden. When we arrived we finally had a good look at the construction - beautifully made curvy gabion walls filled with old bricks and topped with recycled timber just as we had dreamed, heaps of planting beds and a shady willow grove (only time will tell!).


Here is the final version of the green gabion wall with the plants ready to plant into the top of the gabion.

And lots of water tanks along the shady wall.

Notice the round tanks wating for the soon-to-be-planted mobile food forest.

The aquaponics system proudly using a bathtub for the grow bed.

The Atlantis Gro Wall green wall system - we liked the look of this for small spaces.

The gabion walls in more detail.

The mobile food forest wicking beds again. A very nifty development by Milkwood to think of using a hand operated palette trolley to move them around.

 By the end of the day the garden was jam packed with edible plants. We wish everyone many hours of enjoyment, healthy eating and sharing of ideas in this wonderful space.