Permablitz on Gardening Australia!
Guest presenter Hannah Maloney takes us to the home of a young Tasmanian couple, and shows us that with great planning, great mates, great ideas and some hard yakka, a barren backyard can be transformed into the beginnings of a food forest, in just one weekend!
This is a permablitz – a volunteer fuelled working bee where complete strangers and old friends come together to work, plant, share, learn & have fun. The concept is simple – once you have chipped in at three permablitzes, you can offer to host one at your place, like Kat and Zac have done at their block. All the materials are paid for by the host (Kat and Zac on this occasion), but the labour, knowledge and skills are provided, for free, from the volunteers.
Check out the video below to see Hannah from Good Life Permaculture showing Australia what a permablitz is all about – we reckon she smashed it!
The garden is also designed by a volunteer permaculture designer, in this case Hannah, who has been working with Kat & Zac, to plan the productive garden of their dreams. They want it all – vegies, chooks, an orchard, lawn space, privacy on the eastern boundary & plenty of natives. And, with clever planning and an understanding of the block, the climate, the requirements of the property owner and observing limitations, Kat and Zac CAN have it all.
Permaculture gardens, like this one, are highly productive, and are designed to offer a huge volume and variety of edibles, including perennial and annual herbs, seasonal vegetables, fruiting trees and native edibles. The design includes plantings for shade, shelter, windbreaks, chook food and companion plantings, to attract pollinators, provide habitat and minimise the impact of garden pests.
Permaculture gardens can have up to four different “zones” within their design, depending on the size of the block. In Kat and Zac’s case, their block is only able to provide three zones – 1,2 and 4. The zones are:
- Zone 1 – Intensive annual food gardens which are closest to the house; a series of beds running across the contours of the slope and herbs and food along the back of the deck & fence line. It also includes infrastructure for seed raising, and a lawn for play.
- Zone 2 – Less intensive production, filled with fruiting trees and shrubs, perennials, chickens & native plantings. It also contains future elements, including a work shop & space for goats.
- Zone 3 – Bulk food production. As Kat and Zac have a small backyard, they’re never going to grow all their food here. Instead their zone 3 is their local farmer markers, where they can good food locally.
- Zone 4 – Spaces that are semi-wild and can include bushland, windbreaks, water catchments and grazing areas. For Kat and Zac their zone 4 is the creek line along the boundary which contains some weedy shrubs that happen to be perfect fodder for their future goats, as well as habitat.
To prepare the site, Hannah undertakes some mechanical excavation prior to the permablitz, but the rest of the process is people powered. Good quality soil is imported to the site and mounded to create raised growing rows and shovelled into the raised planters at the rear of the house. The team use non-waxed cardboard (sticky tape and staples removed) to act as a weed suppression on the defined pathways – this then has a thick layer of sustainable timber mulch laid over the top. This method will, over time, increase soil biota, retain moisture and improve the soil below.
The existing soil on the block is planted with a cover crop of green manure – essentially a mix of grasses, legumes, peas and beans that are allowed to grow until they begin to flower or set seed. At this time, they are slashed and turned back into the soil – this process acts to increase the volume of organic matter, improve the water holding capacity, drainage and nutrient content, of the soil. This is a ripper tip for refreshing depleted soils, and one that can be applied to literally any garden!
A selection of the many plants used in this permablitz include the Woolly Pink Tea-Tree (Leptospermum lanigerum cv.), Creeping Boobialla (Myoporum parvifolium) and the stunning Tasmanian Waratah (Telopea truncata), as well as a great selection of fruit trees, annual vegetables and herbs including Sage, Oregano, Lemon Verbena, Rosemary and Lemon Balm.
This article was originally published on Gardening Austalia.