Permablitz Revisited: Keilor – 2 years later
As I approach the front door, Brett steps out to meet me. Immediately, Brett & Mel’s little blonde whirlwind, Emma, whips into tour guide mode. First she wants to show me the chickens (we’ll wait until we get to the back yard). In the front there are strawberries, some herbs, perpetual spinach, and other edibles mixed right in with the geraniums, lavender and other ornamentals, very much as planned. She quickly picked flowers and a tiny eggplant for me to take home. In the back, pumpkins and tomatoes are prolific, mostly appearing out of the compost!
I liked the way they use found items (hard rubbish is terrific!) – barbecues and basins used for herb gardens – one is even a double-tiered, self-watering spot for herbs with water-loving mint on the bottom tier.
Speaking with Mel and Brett (and Emma – Oliver doesn’t have a lot to say yet), I hear that the original plan has worked very well, with only a few changes. They wanted new ideas and their designers had plenty of good ones. They wanted edibles in front, yet a nice-looking front yard and that’s what happened.
Brett was writing to his Permablitz team from 2 years ago when we connected. I’ll let him tell you about it in his own words:
We got chooks (& we got eggs)
It took us a while. Our coop & run plans grew slightly. We ended up utilising the old shed slab in the back corner as a base for a 3m x 3m steel mesh dog run & sitting the flat-pack coop we bought inside it on a salvaged outdoor table setting. This plan required emptying one of the 3m corrugated wicking beds, turning it 90 degrees and refilling it, but it was worth it in the long run. In October 2017 we bought 3 chooks at point of lay (Australorp x New Hampshire), who now have safe, full time access to 9 sq m to scratch around in, and daytime access to the chicken tunnel/bench seat area the blitzers helped to build. We (usually) get 3 delicious eggs every day. We are contemplating adding another 2 or 3 chooks, but will probably wait until these 3 slow down in the egg department.
Unfortunately, the chook dome/tractor made on blitz day didn’t survive in strong winds and has been re-purposed as bird netting over our berry bed. But there are plans afoot for chicken tractor mark 2… and possibly even mark 3.
The mulch pit was a big success
The 3 dwarf trees (apricot, peach, nectarine), absolutely took off. The first year we got a handful of peaches and a couple of apricots. This year we had a surplus of nectarines and peaches, but no apricots. The nectarine & peach varieties we got ripen about a month and a half apart, so that was well planned.
I attended a pruning workshop run by Craig Castree who is involved with the heritage fruit orchard at Werribee Park. That was very useful to learn how to manage the tree growth & fruiting through correct pruning.
One of the 2 banana pups has excelled. it is over 2m and has pups of its own. No fruit yet but we are hopeful… One day…
The berry patch
We have had modest harvests of loganberries & youngberries this year. With a good prune at the end of autumn, we should get things happening for next summer.
We snuck in some snowpeas next to the berries last winter, and they were very successful.
The pear trees have been slow to establish, but are getting there. One of our dogs decided the nice, long branches we had initially tied to the bottom wire were just not quite right, so chewed them off at the trunk. Metal guards were up against the trunks shortly after.
The food forest
The understory & ground covers are doing great. There’s a moving, evolving carpet of yarrow, thyme, oregano, nasturtiums, calendulas, borage, alpine strawberries & chives. The kids tend to go out there with an empty bucket, spend about half an hour picking strawberries and somehow still manage to come back with an empty bucket… and yet I swear there were strawberries out there when they started… The nitrogen fixing plants have also established very well – we have an abundance of comfrey, which the chooks seem to appreciate, & the silver berries have done very well. The avocados either don’t like the soil or don’t like the position. Both are still alive, but barely. We may need to replace them with something else. The asparagus is going well, but we are letting it establish before we start raiding it.
The fruit trees are getting there, slowly. We had a couple of apples off each tree this year. Maybe we are impatient!
The rest of the veg patch
Our wicking beds and other raised beds have continued to give us a good range of veg. In summer we get tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, eggplants, capsicums, beans, pumpkins, greens, and in winter it’s more greens, brassicas, peas. Some staples seem to elude us no matter what we try- namely carrots & celery. We are also currently trying containers of sweet potatoes and jerusalem artichokes. By no means are we self-sufficient, but each day we have at least one or two things on our plate which we grew ourselves, which is nice.
At the entrance, Brett has re-purposed screen doors as trellises. The grapevines are starting to grow up and will provide shade from the hot summer sun and grapes for eating.
Every blitz that I revisit is different but there are common threads:
- Kids are comfortable with their food – they pick and eat on the go, eating vegetables that many others wouldn’t try
- The original work has been maintained and usually tweaked and expanded on
- Permaculture works for us – provides plenty of food, enjoyment in the garden, yet not so much work that it interferes with other aspects of life, often increasing our interest in gardening
Brett and Mel’s continuing enjoyment of and pride in their ‘blitzed’ garden is testament to that.