Permablitz Revisited: Pascoe Vale – 4 years later
Fuchsia’s blitz story is as much about her own journey as it is about the garden growth. Eight years ago she moved in to a house with a very ordinary suburban yard, complete with prickly pear forest, a large expanse of lawn and a few badly placed rose bushes. She spent the first few years starting slowly, but four years ago, her Permablitz kicked it into overdrive.
Fuchsia’s goal was to use the space comprehensively and she has gone about it with vigour. An enthusiastic researcher, Fuchsia read everything she could find about growing food, attracting birds, bees and butterflies, and has recently qualified as a permaculture designer and as a horticulturalist. The next step is to complete a landscape design qualification. Along the way she has invented imaginative solutions to problems.
Carefully selected trees, mostly natives, in the front yard screen the house from the busy street and school across the road, and shelter from the hot north wind. A serendipitous apricot tree on the side fence shades in summer and allows the sun in winter. Entertainment is provided by two tiny birds frolicking in the grevillea by the lounge room window. In the narrow side space that in many houses is simply lost space, a small stand of clumping bamboo in an old bathtub and a buddleia (butterfly bush) screen kitchen and laundry windows.
Rain water is collected in a several large pots, one with a slightly dripping tap. Why fix the tap when you can grow peppermint in the puddle!
The “three sisters” concept is great, with her added extra: sunflowers. The sunflowers and corn make natural stakes for the companion beans & cucurbits.
Some of the no dig gardens were in place before the blitz but much of the yard was kikuyu grass which all had to be dug up or sheet mulched. The resulting huge piles of soil (several tons) created a post-blitz problem; unsightly and difficult to move anywhere on her own. In hindsight, much of it could have been turned through the soil of the no-dig beds. On the positive side, the sheet mulching with cardboard worked really well.
Further back is a small pond with mint, water iris and other wet-loving plants, and five circular rotation planting beds she is experimenting with. Right at the back in the Zone 3 there is a lovely black wattle tree and a silky oak that with some other trees & shrubs form a much-needed wind-break, but could someday be cut down and milled into lumber for some future purpose. There are two compost bins, 2 worm farms, 3 hot composting bays and a compost tumbler, as well as the chooks – all hard at work.
Fuchsia’s designers Jo and Dylan nailed the brief with the proposed layout. It works beautifully. The pathways as swales are trapping water and directing it to the plants exactly as needed. Access is easy to all parts of the garden & it looks beautiful, with plenty of space for mulching and storing windfalls such as piles of woodchips until they’re needed. One of her best buys, Fuchsia told me, was a second-hand mulcher. It helps her re-use every bit of garden waste.
There were some issues with the blitz and some remain unresolved.
The chicken coop was designed with insufficient weather protection for the birds; Fuschia was able to get more roofing on & some shade & shelter plants nearby eventually but in retrospect the coop design could have been improved. Fuchsia is not handy with tools herself, so this is one thing that was a challenge.
On the day itself, her kitchen helpers let her down, so Fuchsia spent most of the morning inside, rather than being available to answer the inevitable queries about what to do with this or that, which resulted in the previously mentioned piles of soil, among other things.
In spite of these, Fuchsia says the blitz was an overwhelming success. It gave a kick-start to a massive job, and a career, and she now has a fully functioning garden that yields much of her fruit and vegetables as well as eggs from the chooks which gives pleasure to herself and her little cat Bella, who supervised my garden visit. Fuchsia now has a lot of knowledge to pass on to others and perhaps some of her enthusiasm will rub off as well.