Report on Permablitz #31

Changing lawn to food in the ‘burbs
7 November 2020 by Tom and Laura Buhr

“Sitting at our back doorsteps, all we need to live a good life lies about us. Sun, wind, people, buildings, stones, sea, birds and plants surround us. Cooperation with all these things brings harmony, opposition to them brings disaster and chaos. Bill Mollison, Introduction to Permaculture

The post lockdown urban and rural land transformations continues with another urban permablitz situated in Otumoetai, Tauranga.

Tom and Laura Buhr were the hosts and lead designers of this blitz, and welcomed a small group of 12 people to transform a lawn area into an edible wonderland. The Buhrs’ were half way through redesigning their property, with functional terraced garden beds at the back, fruit trees and shrubs dotted around, to finally attacking the main garden area that’s been the playground for their dog Koru.

Tess, from Craftygatherer and Leo from Why Waste helped mentor the Buhr’s through their design and running of the day. 


Before everyone arrived, we had a decent amount of rainfall that helped everything look lush and full of life.

The clouds burned off, just as Leo grounded us with the whenua. Introductions by the beautiful people in our community with stretches to prepare us for the day.

The group split off into two main areas, the first group turfing out where the new garden beds will be and the second group marking out the fruit tree, guild area and new lawn space. The best grass was layered on top of the new lawn area to help define the space and to create a deeper layer of topsoil.

The team decided to create a flowing lawn edge to break up straight lines.

Koru’s sandpit was moved to create more space for larger trees to grow in the corner and a beautiful lookout from the kitchen window. The greenhouse was moved hard up against the fence to value the edges and create more growing space.

The garden and access ways were mapped out and all pathways were layered with cardboard to help suppress weeds and to retain moisture in the soil.

These beds were layered with locally sourced organic material – beautiful rich compost from revital, seaweed from the nearby estuary, sheep pallets, topsoil and crushed egg shells. Once everything was layered we mixed it together with garden forks.

Lunch was all about connection – connection to the food and being grateful of where it came from, and connecting with each other.

**** After lunch Tom did a mini workshop on rainwater harvesting for an urban environment. They wanted to have water for the garden and a backup supply of drinking water in case of emergency. Tom explained the theory behind a first flush system and the benefits of it.


Tess led the fruit tree and guild planting, planting white sage, comfrey and beneficial flowers that all support the healthy growth of the fruit trees.

Leo led the construction of a two bay pallet composting system.

The final push – establishing walkways and mulching all other areas.

Closing circle and celebrations

Tom and Laura are incredibly grateful for the hard mahi the community put in on the day. The energy was powerful and it felt great to connect after the year of 2020 being a year of worldwide disconnection. Thank you so much to the dream team who helped make this day a great success!