Stage II of our Sydney ridgetop Permaculture challenge

Last year in November, with some help from Uncle Robot, we started the second stage of our Permaculture garden on the edge of  a cliff. Okay, it’s not quite a cliff but it is steep and definately not your average back yard.

Most people who visit our garden look at us in disbelief especially those who saw our backyard before we started. The last two years has been a magnificent and exciting journey as we’ve spent our spare time converting a totally unusable space we rarely visited into a functional and accessible terraced garden – a place we grow food and visit every single day.

But how did we get here? How does one go about changing a totally unfriendly space into something useful?

Perhaps my earliest inspiration came many decades ago when I travelled through  Europe and Indonesia. It was here that I first saw how terraced farming was used as a technique to grow crops in mountainous areas. Not only functional but beautiful as well. The concept was planted.

Then I visited Peru and I saw the ancient Inca terraces in the Sacred Valley and on the road to Machu Picchu. The location and size of these magnificent agricultural terraces defies belief but these ingeniously engineered structures created a sustainable form of agriculture. This clever design meant that gravity fed water could reach into all the terraces below and their north facing aspect would have helped retain heat through the night which would have been very important in this high altitude Andes region. These terraced farms were probably very productive and would have provided a significant amount of food for the growing Inca Empire.


A couple of years ago I saw how the Nepalese lived in the steepest valleys made possible through terracing with dry stone walls. Throughout Nepal terraces support homes, tea houses, shops, schools, markets and temples but they also provide large accessible areas for crops and animal grazing.


What I saw was on an extraordinary scale but it got me thinking how we could apply a similar idea to our small backyard and that dormant seed was finally germinated.

Our little terrace Permaculture garden in our backyard in urban Sydney is a tiny dot in comparison but like the ancient terrace farming systems throughout the world, it too has given us the ability to grow our own food in a space that was otherwise untenable.

Here’s some photos of stage II of our Permaculture garden.  All of the rock has come from our own backyard apart from the sandstone used in the making of the steps which we bought from a nearby quarry.

You can see that some of the images have been taken looking down from our deck above and show the outline of the garden including the little semi-circular beds purposely built for our heritage apples. Another important aspect of small space gardening is the use of vertical space and our apple trees will be trained to grow in a flat plane but I’ll go into the concept of espalier in more detail in another post.

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4 responses to “Stage II of our Sydney ridgetop Permaculture challenge

  1. Kath! Wow you have done an incredible job. We can’t believe the change even though we saw it get built. Luke is suggesting a video walk through of the garden? /we miss you guys all so much! But looks life you are keeping busy and having fun. Sending our love!

  2. Eileen Grudnoff

    just so interesting and beautifully illustrated. Unfortunately I have been having very poor results when printing out…….the text is very pale and the photographs all mlixed up with earlier posts. However, it is lovely to read and look at, you have done a wonderful presentation and should be an inspiration to anyone thinking of “giving it a go”

  3. hi i was wondering if you used mortar with your retaining walls of stone?
    or is it just dry stacked?
    I’m currently looking at doing a similar project and just doing some research.

    Thank you,

    • no, only on the top layer as I want to be able to walk on it without the stones dislodging. The rest of the wall is just stacked stone but each piece is chipped to fit the space which locks them in place.

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