The Perma Garden of Kærbakken (Kærbakkens Permahave)

 The project Kærbakkens Permahave is part of a bigger permaculture project on the island of Samsø. The garden shows the transformation from village garden to edible forest garden.



 Kærbakken 11, 8305 Samsø
Project leader: Birgit Rothmann
+45 30891983

Visitors: Groups of 20-30 people. We give guided tours and information signs and reading material are available. Room for 4 people staying overnight.

Facilities: Toilet/bath, parking lot, playground, workshop, atelier, greenhouses.

Project start: 2012

Area: 2000 m²

LAND-center accreditation: 5th of April 2014


Culture and education, health and well-being, garden, horticulture, forest garden, animals, self-sufficiency, waste minimization.

The Perma Garden of Kærbakken is part of a bigger project on Samsø, in which the promotion of permaculture is central. The project entails common events, courses and design of forest gardens. The permaculture group is organized under the association Organic Samsø (Økologisk Samsø). It is located in “Huset i Tranebjerg”, where there is also a store, a café and information. Furthermore, we collaborate with Energiakademiet.

Flerårige nytteplanterThe Perma Garden of Kærbakken is an example of how an ordinary, private garden can be transformed into a self-sufficient forest garden by the help of permaculture principles. The focus is on the design process, sustainable cultivation principles, soil processes, perennial vegetables, polyculture and forest gardens. We aim to have a garden full of inspiration and knowledge, which can give a thorough introduction to techniques, design and plants of the edible garden. Moreover, it puts forest gardens into perspective in relation to environmental issues and industrial agriculture.

We focus on cultivation of exotic plants, edible, perennial herbs and  – vegetables. What is central is the build-up of a better micro-climate and soil quality. Reuse of car tires, cultivation of winter crops in greenhouse/polytunnel, hügel culture, raised beds, espalier cultivation, self-feeding chicken yard, key hole beds, herb spirals and mushroom cultivation are represented.

Ethics and design

The main purpose  is to find inspiring and attractive examples on how we can say goodbye to fossil fuels and counteract climate change. The main principle in the garden is care for nature and biodiversity.  It is carried out by trying to understand nature and work with it in the design. The most important work is the improvement of the soil quality by the help of compost, animal manure, ground cover and use of seaweed and nitrogen-fixating plants. Moreover, we emphasize diverse animal life withUrtespiral predatory insects and self-feeding systems. The build-up of a good micro-climate in the garden is helped by the construction of various rooms in the garden by the help of plants, fences and sun pockets. Rain water is collected and the energy consumption is lowered, among other by help of the greenhouse along the wall and plants in front of and on the walls. All the garden waste is recycled in the compost and used in the hügel beds. “People care” is also central in the design. There are playgrounds for the children, bonfire site and many small areas to sit. The hospitality is visible.

Principles and methods

The garden is situated on a windy island in the Kattegat sea. The garden and house used to be part of a plant nursery but were for 12 years used as a summerhouse. That meant that all the ground was overgrown when purchased in 2006. Most of the garden consisted of greenhouse foundations and ruins – some of which is maintained in the design. The garden slopes to the east and is well-sheltered and warm. In addition to that you have the conditions of Samsø: the spring is dry and the fall warm because of the sea. This provides good opportunities for more exotic cultivation. The main part of Kærbakkens Permahave is forest garden. Here, many of the permaculture principles are visible within the structure, e.g.: use of perennial plants, ground cover, layering and great biodiversity. As far as it is possible in an already established garden, the zones are thought into the design. Closest to the house, are the herb spiral and the two greenhouses, which supply fresh produce to the kitchen all year around. Subsequently, you find the salad beds and the perennial vegetables. Furthest away are  the chicken coop and tall nut- and chestnut trees. We work continuously with improving the micro-climate by help of fences and sun pockets and we cultivate both horizontally and vertically.

Regeneration of natural resources

Soil: The soil has not been plowed. It is fertile, slightly moist and contains clay. Nitrogen-fixating plants, accumulators and cover ground are used. The heavy weed growth is kept down by help of cover of news papers, cardboard and plastic. After one year, the plastic is removed and the soil is ready for ground cover. When the garden is established, it will be able to maintain itself without addition of fertilization solely by the use of ground cover.

Water: There is an old well on the property, which is only used for the annual plants. Rain water is collected for use in the greenhouses. We have experienced summers with long, droughts but since the soil is clayey and the ground water high, there is no need for extra water. Once the garden is well-established, there will be even less desiccation. We make small ponds in the garden for insects and birds.

Air: The air is purified by all the trees in the garden and we expect a heightened storage of CO2. There is no air pollutant nearby. The property is close to the sea.

Energy: The plants obtain energy from the sun and store it, after which it can be used by humans, who eat the products of the garden. Energy is used for the garden shredder, the land mover and the well (which is used very little since we cultivate only few annual plants). The consumption of energy for heating the house consists of 800 liters of oil. Alternative heating of the house is introduced continuously as our economy allows it.

Social regeneration

Kærbakken kursusIn the future, the garden will be able to supply myself and others with food all year around. We focus on cultivation of plants that also give a yield in winter. The intention is to eat fresh produce all year around instead of conserving and freezing food for the winter. In case of surplus, the produce can be sold or traded on swap markets. The garden is cultivated intensively and is used to show that humans can live off a small piece of land. That demands transition to a different kind of lifestyle. It also requires new knowledge, to try out new ideas and to pass on the experience acquired. That is best in a community. The people of Samsø (samsinger) er known for community creation. Therefore, it is important that we always expand the group working on the garden to include other forest gardens, permaculture gardens and community gardens on the island while simultaneously maintaining the local distinctiveness.

The development of the project

Birgit’s personal role in the project is to teach and pass on the experience she has acquired with cultivation of edible/beneficial plants. The garden is therefore used for demonstration and teaching as long as she lives here. The formation of communities continues. Already today, the garden is a subject of interest and receives many visitors. Among other, former Ministor of the Environment, Ida Auken and the new minister, Kirsten Brobøll.


More info:

Article: “Food from the forest garden in Kærbakkens Permahave”

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