Growing vegetables in raised beds using permaculture principles

Community garden MetroFarm and community garden and urban farm MetroPole, belongs under Spolek pro udržitelný rozvoj, z.s.


Growing vegetables in raised beds using permaculture principles


The community garden started to operate in a temporary place in the city centre. The land had a low nutrients soil with bad structure, no water source and high soil pollution. The gardeners aimed to grow mainly vegetables. They created extensive raised beds using biowaste from the city park management, city stables and kitchen biowaste to enrich the soil and improve the soil structure and the water retention of the planting beds.

1. Organisation hosting the activity


Community garden MetroFarm and community garden and urban farm MetroPole, belongs under Spolek pro udržitelný rozvoj, z.s.

Legal status

Registered association

Year of establishment

2019 (MetroFarm no. 1), Spolek pro udržitelný rozvoj, z.s. (2016)


Prague, Císařský ostrov

Behind the project stands a great person, Štěpán Říha, coordinator and community gardener on 3 community gardens and a community field. Štěpán is a founder of the registered association and a driving force of all mentioned projects. Štěpán educates himself continuously before he started MetroFarm no. 1 he spend a year on a bee farm, and this year he joined a Farm School. 

In 2019 Štěpán formed the first MetroFarm community garden, as a part of a wider project providing outdoor as well as indoor space for entertainment, art, recreational, environmental, educational and sports activities (Volnočasové centrum Holešovice project). The whole project was determined by a contract with a development company waiting for the planning permission to build a new city quarter on almost 13 ha. Due to the internal changes in the development company the project has been finished sooner, after 2 years after its establishment. The community garden MetroFarm grew up during these two years from 1 gardener, Štěpán, living in the garden in a wooden caravan with 5 hens saved from a high-density poultry farm and a few square metres of the first raised planting beds to 100 garden members with 70 happy hens, a heard of sheep and goats and tens of square meters allocated for planting. 

The project of the community garden MetroFarm was then in 2020 supported by the Prague municipality agreed with moving to an empty plot on the island in between the Vltava river and its channel. The next step was the establishment of an urban farm MetroPole that grew up in 2022 on agricultural land that is a part of a municipality project supporting environmental friendly farming.

2. Activity detailed description

The first community garden MetroFarm was established on temporary unused land waiting for a new city quarter to be built on. The plot used to be a brownfield (former railway structures, later on, a golf course), and the soil conditions were not suitable for growing crops straight in the soil. The topsoil was sandy and poor and just a few centimetres deep. The only source of water was rainwater collected from roofs (caravan, different shelters and cotes extended by tilt).

As CG MetroFarm No.1 was a part of an alternative space for cultural, community and sports activities, the community round CG connected people from different social and cultural groups, incl. foreigners (around 100 gardeners). MetroFarm is supported by Prague´s municipality (the land) and cooperates with other similar projects (Kultivárium, reKáva, úl, Kokoza). The coordinators combine different financial sources (CG membership, market sales, garden sales, grants, etc.). Behind the project stands Štěpán, an enthusiast and gardener amateur, beekeeper, breeder, networker and organiser. 

The gardeners decided to build extensive raised beds to improve the soil conditions (esp. add nutrients, and improve soil structure and water infiltration).

They agreed on picking biowaste from different subjects: 

  • City park maintenance (public park Stromovka)
  • city greenery keepers (mainly grass)
  • kitchen biowaste from the public
  • biowaste from the 13ha areal maintenance (branches, hay, grass, manure)
  • city stables (manure)

The same process was applied in the second place where the soil conditions are better (thicker top soil layer, more nutritious, better structure). Access to the water is much easier due to the river. The second CG MetroFarm operates on 9.000m2 and the newest place MetroPole on 2ha. 

The integral part of the activities is joint work and volunteering. CG organises regular workshops to disseminate basic knowledge about growing crops and vegetables, building raised beds and learning good practise in composting. Workshops are open to CG members as well as to the public. Around 500+ people join the workshops per year. CG organises several big events for the public per year (e.g. harvest festival), is open to the public on a daily base, joins the Day of the open gates, etc. CG is open to school visits.

Implementation steps

The layers and the construction of the raised beds are inspired by permaculture principles. The innovation is in cooperation with the subjects that deal with bio waste, and manage city parks or city greenery. The plant rests are used before it even becomes bio waste. 

The raised beds are constructed straight on the surface without digging, by covering the soil with: 

  • cardboard, 
  • grass turf,
  • wooden chips,
  • manure, hay or straw, leaves, grass
  • and compost in thick layers. 

The layers can but do not need to be mixed. The raised bed works for at least 2 to 3 years and then it needs to be reconditioned.

4. Conclusions

When there are rich resources of sufficient amounts of plant rest, the raised beds are a great solution how to improve soil conditions and grow vegetables without strong water source. Using plant rests and manure from the stables without transport on longer distances is a way to sustainable farming (both from the environmental and economical view). 

Community and volunteers can partially compensate mechanisation works on smaller CG, on larger CG and community fields or on urban farms the mechanisation is needed.

Watch out: using cardboard can increase the population of slugs.