LandUrban Projects

My Balcony

by Pietro Zucchetti



This is a design for a balcony in my flat. I was inspired by Bill Mollison in the Global gardener video series in the urban permaculture section. Although someone could argue that can be part of my zone zero design, actually it is physically outside my flat. It is an open air extension of zone zero and mostly it required a different approach in designing, as you can see if you compare the two designs.

It functions as a bridge linking my zone zero to my allotment, because I don’t have a garden.

I will use the S.A.D.I.M.E.T. approach for this design.

Click for larger view

My balcony was an opportunity to recycle used plastic containers and pots, to use waste water from the kitchen, after filtering with the straw trap, to save more money on food, to grow more salads and herbs in winter, to use as a nursery for perennials before planting them in the allotment, to utilise an empty space, to attract insects and birds as non-instrumental value, to show our neighbors that it is possible to use a such small space (all other balconies were always empty and depressing),to complement the solar passive concept in use in my zone zero design, to maximise the food growing areas, and to relax and to have a more pleasant environment.

Click for larger view

Click for larger view

After the input/output analysis and a random assembly we can notice the most useful systems to place in the design were: raised bed or planter, greenhouse effect or passive solar system, nursery, mycorrhiza, and trellises to use the abundant vertical space.





Runner beans yield 2009

Peas yield 2009

Evaluation – SWOC Analysis 19/11/09

it is close to kitchen small space to grow more food size
daily checks top floor to relax wind
I can plant surplus seedlings of the allotment sometimes too windy to receive friends only certain kind of food to be grown
increase the planting space available to me only salads,herbs and flowers worth it to grow decorative water when nobody home
catch and store sun energy for food production watering problems when we are in holiday educate children to grow food carry compost to top floor
nice place to be birds and insects watching
nice view to use surpluses
recycle grey water more recycling
it uses part of the kitchen waste catch and store energy

food production

more space to play for children

south facing-sun trap
walls releasing heat
children involved in maintenance
attract birds + insects

+ butterflies

diversity of yields
full space of the flat fully used
it brings nature inside the flat
bird watching

children safe when outside

My Balcony design Evaluation 23/11/09
Mixed salads 06/06/09 250g.

12/06/09 320g.

15/06/09 250g.

21/06/09 340g.

25/06/09 270g.

27/06/09 150g.

02/07/09 280g.

06/07/09 250g.Runner beans 14/07/09 60g.
21/07/09 100g.Tomatoes 07/09/09 500g.Grape 15/09/09 noneKiwi 15/09/09 noneChards19/11/09 350g.  Costs at 22/11/09Trellises £ 11.99
Wood for planter £ 25.10

Plant containers £ 35

Plants + seeds £ 60.10

Compost £ 18.98

Total amount £151.17

You’ll notice from the yield list of 2009 that it was good mostly for salads and chards. Next I will increase the perennials and herbs like Good King Henry, Salad brunet, Wild rocket, different kinds of Sorrel etc., to have a more stable yield with less failure. The Grape and the Kiwi plants will be in the allotment.

Balcony salad crop 2010



  1. soo awesome – well done! have you considered trapping some of the rainwater to use for your plants when you are away from the house for extended times? i shared this on my page so that everyone could see how easy and practical having a home garden can be! great job on all the pix and details =) very inspiring stuff!!!

  2. Thank you all for browsing my design!!

    The balcony is in England,U.K.-Europe exactly is in east Sussex (South East).
    To trap rainwater to water the plant is great idea I have to do something about that.


  3. Excellent methodology and it looks like you are getting lots of enjoyment from your garden as well.
    You could attach a shadecloth or something similar like a willow privacy screen to your balcony rail. This will reduce the wind problems considerably and should be selected to still allow enough light in.

    Where can read about more about the SADIMET methodology? Google isn’t helping me.

    Thanks, I’m inspired to redesign my balcony.

  4. “The architectural pattern SIX-FOOT BALCONY helps to illustrate connectivity (Alexander, Ishikawa et al., 1977). Many social patterns of family life, such as sitting around a table; eating a meal; children playing with toys on the floor; growing plants in large pots; outdoor cooking on a charcoal grill; etc., can occur on a balcony only if it is at least six feet (2m) deep. When a balcony is made too narrow so as to follow some arbitrary design canon or simply to be cheap (which satisfies internally consistent criteria), it fails to connect to the above social patterns. Connection here means accommodation and inclusion among patterns belonging to two different languages. Mathematical isolation, as in Figure 6, guarantees the physical isolation of the balcony from potential users.”



  5. Dear Oyvind,

    Thank you to bring to us this matter.
    Because most of the balconies in our cities are useless I have done this design inspired by Bill Mollison. To be able to trial for real, if there is any possibilities to make those spaces productive or at least useful. Of course this balcony is exposed to the south, this increase the productivity but it is also based in England where as you know summer sun and temperatures are more limited than in the mediterranean area or tropics.
    The two years trial as you can see from my design is positive on the aspect of yields and also on the social aspect. Even if very narrow, my children 6 and 10 years old often go to play in the planters or doing some gardening,my son is doing also birdwatching from the balcony. Some friends of mine smoke cigarettes on the balcony because they are not allow to smoke inside the flat,in the meanwhile they chat and socialise. I have even done a barbecue twice in the summer without any problem.
    All my neighbours now,use the balcony that before they never used,especially growing veg and flowers or reading books during spring/summer.
    For all these reasons even the smallest balcony in the world can be very useful,it is only our mind that can be matematically isolated. It is better realise ideas as for trials and errors
    and experience the effects, than only be based on other people research. Research needs trials and there is not scientific or other kind of research that can take in consideration all the variables.

  6. Excellent work.I met Bill Morrison somewhere in 1980s at Hyderabad,India.Later,experienced Permaculture at Zahirabad Farm.
    As an ecologist and Teacher in Biology,I want to be a trainer in Permaculture Urban Balcony Gardens as well as urban small gardens in the neighbourhood.Can you advise on forthcoming workshops? or else I work in a semi-arid peri-urban agricultural Jesuit college,can i act as a resource person along with a few and conduct a program?

  7. I’ve been learning about permaculture design from reading blogs and forums for the past few years, and this year I’m excited to put some of the principles into practice. Like you, our balcony is TINY! About 3m x 1m. And we have a fairly large bbq. I am going as vertical as possible with trellis and shelves. I’m grateful that you shared both your successes and failures, because it helps me be more realistic in which fruits/veg I will attempt. I hope my neighbours will be like yours, and will also be inspired to grow food on their little balconies!

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