Thursday, May 16, 2013

Permaculture Day in Beautiful Stroud

Swales, comfrey, and food forests have become synonymous with Permaculture. In Stroud, a quaint little town of wooden cottages in the Hunter Valley, I visited a flourishing small farm that included all this and some wonderful creative ideas in the spirit of sustainable living. It was World Permaculture Day and Brett Cooper had opened his one acre property to showcase how a small plot of land can sustain his family and provide produce for the local community. 

A photo showcase of ideas for growing an edible land... 

Brett at home in the food forest explaining his planting method of using 'nurse' plants. Nurse plants are selected that benefit the growth and production of other plants and are planted closely with their 'host'. They can be removed as the host reaches full size to minimize crowding.

Dorper sheep are a self shedding variety well suited to Australian conditions. Brett keeps a small flock of three. Lambs that are produced will be processed on site by a mobile abattoir. In their paddock are a number of fruit trees protected by iron that withstands the sheeps eager attempts to eat the foliage. Under the trees are beds of sweet potatoe.

A fantastic pyramid of Celyon Spinach in flower.
The thick leaves withstand the heat of Summer,
making this a great plant to keep you in greens
over the warmer months of the year. The berries
can be used to make a beautiful purple food
colouring for icing. Seeds are available from Eden Seeds.

The kitchen garden is planted out in
rectangular mixed
specied beds. Weed
matting is used to on the paths.

The good old hills hoist put to a use as a trellis for a grape vine.

Gorgeous flowers of pink amaranth.
Use the leaves of this plant as a spinach
and eat the tiny seeds as a gluten free grain.

A native bee hive nestled into the bows
of a gnarled mulberry. Native bees are
stingless so they offer the allergenic
gardener a great alternative to keeping
European honey bees.

Brett is building a market garden.
Cardboard has been placed over the
lawn with compost and mulch on top.
The paths are laid with wool carpet.
Swales are cretaed by the beds to catch
water as it runs down the slope.

What is permaculture without poultry?
The chooks and ducks happily co-exist in
their own paddock and house.

A simple method of keeping white cabbage moths at bay. Loops of wire provide a frame for fly netting.

The green house offers perfect conditions for a winter crop of tomatoes and capsicum. The raised beds and overhead wtering system are a great design feature.

The edible pond also offers a contemplative
place to sit and take in the garden. Taro,
arrowroot, ginger, galangal, kang kong,
water parsley, water cress, native lillies
and more form a nice little ecosystem.

Water parsley

Hello chicken!

Permaculture design aims to mimic natural plant communities by grouping species that will benefit each other and that like similar conditions. Brett has grouped a herb garden on the upper slope of this garden with a comfrey border to prevent the grass invading. On the lower slope are plants that love moisture, such as bananas, arrowroot, tumeric, and galangal.

The back corner of the block slopes steeply. Swales catch the water and wool carpet (selected for it's low toxin levels) is employed to mulch the paths. Tyres provide a temporary border to the grass around some of the trees. Brett advises against growing root crops or vegetables in tyres as they leach chemicals into the soil which is absorbed by such plants. However fruit trees aren't affected.

A living mulch of pumpkins, alfalfa,
comfrey and pepinos (closely related
to the tomatoe, it tastes a bit like a
rockmelon), grow as an understorey
to bananas, citrus, stone fruits,
jaboticas and more. The mulch plants
can be cut to apply as a dry mulch
to fertilise the trees. Brett plants in
very close rows from a meter between
trees. Some of these are nurse trees
which will be pulled out as they grow
to allow more room for the main crops.

Tagasaste, a legume tree once popular
as an ornamental, grows between the
espaliared apple trees. Each time it is
pruned the roots release nitrogen into
the soil providing nutrients for the
apples. Tagasaste is relished by sheep,
cattle and horses and can provide a
valuauble source of vertical browse.

It can be difficult to propagate,
so it is best purchased in tree tubes.

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