Permablitz #197 – Meadow Heights
Noura and Barry are a young couple in a new suburban house on about 1300 m2. Half of the property is a northwest sloping backyard with a bit of couch and oxalis, and an old shed but not much else. A blank canvas ready for some serious plantings! The backyard was the part of the property that would be the focus of the day.
The design team tried to balance the need for space to run around and play with the dog, while producing vegetables, fruits and combating erosion on the steep slope. The solution was to put vegetables and herbs in raised beds just outside the backdoor where the backyard is fairly flat. This area was called zone 1 and would also get three citrus trees and one apricot, the couple’s favourite fruits.
A ditch was put in just where the slope started taking off with the intention to capture runoff water from the hard surfaces around the house and to prevent erosion of the slope. This ditch differentiated the space between zone 1 and an open area (a.k.a. the diversity lawn) and a brick path provided a clear boundary for where to stop the grass from intruding, as well as giving the hosts a mud-free walk to the future chicken coop. Using the ditch, water will be diverted from a valley to a dry ridge where it is allowed to spill over and run down the much gentler slope in the ‘fertility area’.
The fertility area was named after the total lack of fertility there…no not really. Although it was pretty barren, the reason for the name was that since water was being diverted to it and any runoff from the area would fall towards the food forest, the space would be devoted to increasing the fertility of the whole property. This would be achieved with a whole range of plants combined with using ‘chop-and-drop’ and/or chooks. The area would then be harvested and nutrients would trickle down or carried by hand and used as mulch in the food forest or additions to the compost.
The middle of the property was designated to play and was kept open and heavily seeded with different grasses, legumes, dichondra, and comfrey among other plants.
The last area was a food forest that ran all along the boundary fence on the north side of the property. During the workshop on food forests we discussed the specific circumstances to be aware of in Melbourne. Being mostly developed in the tropics with abundant rainfall, food forests are often said to contain seven, eight or even nine layers of vegetation. With moisture being the limiting resource, we decided to limit the layers and establish the tree canopy with an herbaceous understory. More the Melbourne-kind-of-forest?
The ground on the property was very compacted and it was the aim to let the broadfork gently lift and aerate the soil throughout. This was of course a massive task given the 600 m2 that would have to be covered. No tractor with a Yeoman’s plow was in sight, so we had to give good ol’ manpower a go.
After a long day the job was done. The food forest was planted along the bottom fence, the off contour ditch was in place and seeded with clover, and the open space between the ditch and the food forest had been heavily seeded with all kinds of plants that can handle foot-traffic while preventing erosion.
The design team would like to thank the 30 volunteers that showed up on the day, taking an important first step towards a beautiful permaculture garden in Noura and Barry’s backyard. You worked incredibly hard and we hope you enjoyed the workshops we held! Thanks to the hosts who made incredible food and received all of us in your home! There are still plenty of things to do to put the whole design in place, and maybe there is scope for a second stage blitz in the future.
To see more pics from this blitz, check out the full gallery here!