Monday, May 4, 2015

Open Garden: Our Permaculture Backyard

Three years ago we scratched up a plan for a permaculture garden that would provide a family of 2 - 4 an abundance of food, medicine, & craft supplies, plus room for the horse. Last month we had the pleasure of sharing our garden at it's first public opening. It's not complete, but what garden is!

Open Permaculture garden Hunter Organic Growers Society

Having a productive garden is a joy to watch it grow, learn about the plants that provide for us, and eat fresh nutritious produce. Inviting others into our little paradise is such an absolute pleasure, the buzz of people as they are excited by ideas for their own garden, I don't think a garden is complete until it's shared. We learned more about our plants. The large grey green grasses in our cottage garden which I'd found growing along a bush track, assuming they were 'native', I thought I'd extend the native habitat. Maree discovered that they are in fact from the paspalum family and a notifiable weed! So I've already purchased some suitable native replacements that also aren't spreading, of the same lovely colour.

the cottage styled native and herb garden 
paths of crushed ryolite a byproduct of quarrying


Our garden was designed to maximise growing space by careful layout of growing beds, minimising paths whilst allowing access for harvest to everything. We found a key hole design (typical of permaculture) in our vegie and cottage garden achieved this. Our orchard is very compact of dwarfing deciduous varities (apricot, peaches, quince, cherry, pear, apples), placed on the west side of our vegie garden shading it from the harsh western sun in summer. The tropical fruits (bananas, curry tree, mango, sapote, ice-cream bean) are located on the south of the orchard, with a duck pond to their north to create a warm humid microclimate. Space saving ideas include espaliered trees on the vegie fence, running poultry in the orchard, and growing pumpkins over a net above the vegie garden for shade during summer. We use vertical space (vertical gardens on the backyard fence, shade trelises of choko).

Permaculture is about sustainable design methods for production inspired by nature. For example our mandala vegetable patch is made up of eight pie shaped yards which our rotating chicken house (a recycled timber house mounted on an old hills hoist) lets our chickens access each yard as part of a 3 - 4 month crop rotation, fertilising and hoeing the bed for the next crop. All our beds are planted as a 2 week mixed supply of food, not in single species beds (this confuses the pests!). Visit the full article on our vegie plot design: Mandala Chook Clock Garden

Over 200 plant varieties (maybe 300!) grace our garden (and counting). Yacon, coconut geranium, qld arrowroot, citronella grass, elder, yam, wild oregano, marshmallow, brahmi...... Each is selected specifically to do at least two jobs, therefore maximising the yield of our land. For example mulberries offer human, stock and poultry food, placed so each animal can self harvest. Additionally the leaves are a natural stock wormer, the berries produce a wonderful food dye, and it shades our vegetable patch from the western sun. We also use many of our gardens plants as natural dyes: apples, elder, madder, lady's bedsraw, eucalyptus, comfrey, rhubarb etc... And our herbs offer medicine: wild oregano, rosemary, marshmallow, brahmi, penny wort, etc....

We love our garden, it provides for us in so many ways, but best of all is that it's ever changing, evolving and nourishing us.

home bred japense bantam x araucana

home made labels from aluminium cans embossed with a pen
vertical garden: pot plants hung in shoe fabric holders

chokos growing on a trellis made from the arms of an old hills hoist

poultry proof pond (up high beyond reach) in the stainless steel lining from a commercial oven

pots given new height in old chimney flues

raised bed for garlic in an off cut from a ventilation shaft, a road side find

shade for the new art studio from a grape vine

one way of remedying excess water run off, turn it into a feature. our 'dry' creek bed that channels rain into the duck pond for a self cleaning system

a peek at some of the results of dying fabrics with plants from our garden

Come along to a field day:
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