Blitz 149 in West Brunswick
Hosting a permablitz is a wonderful thing. Ours was a long time in the making, originally because we wanted to spend time observing our new garden, but then after the first design was almost complete, we found very high lead levels in our soil, which meant a redesign was needed. Other things delayed us, until finally the day came.
I was the day facilitator as well as the host, which made for a very busy day. Luckily I was supported by excellent task facilitators, who we’d like to thank again: Emily, who also did the redesign, looked after the hugelkultur bed; Ben, who lead the design and construction of the hen house and straw yard (as well as giving a great presentation on the magic of lacto baccillus); Fei, from the Permablitz collective, who lead the wicking beds; and our next door neighbour Tom, who in spite of having a busy permaculture based business by bicycle still found time to come and help, guide, and lead a pruning workshop. Also thanks to Helen who worked hard helping Dale in the kitchen, Sam for documenting the day, Alex for being master of the timelapse, and all the volunteers who turned up and worked so hard on the day. Some even turned up early to help do early preparation work! Finally, we like to thank the Brunswick West Community Garden for their support, and give a shout out for the Brunswick Tool Library, who loaned many of the tools we used.
It is difficult to explain how wonderful it feels for all these people to come and help recreate our garden; there is real community in Permablitz.
We had ambitious plans, which weren’t all realised, but the hard work was all done on the day. Unfortunately the soil and mulch stockpiles were on exactly the spot where the chook straw yard construction was, which hampered progress, but there was no real way around that. At least it means we still have things to do in our new garden!
The initial design for this site was drawn up by the very competent team at Very Edible Gardens, but unfortunately a spanner was thrown in the works when later soil testing revealed astoundingly high lead levels. This ruled out plans for a rotating mandala system of garden beds and chickens, and meant going back the drawing board to find techniques for growing above the ground and building new soil. On the bright side, this was a great opportunity for novice permablitz designers to be initiated into blitz designing, working from a solid base in a design process that to evolve, even as the blitz progressed.
Thomas and Dale’s new ideas were to use raise wicking beds and to keep the chooks confined to a safe yard, free from lead contamination. The wicking beds are also a great way of getting through hot and dry summers, allowing less frequent watering and conserving water. They also keep the veggies out of the way of the new puppy addition to their household!
The hugelkultur raised garden beds were a way of dealing with multiple site challenges – an excess of wood once a few palms were removed and other trees were pruned back; the inability to plant directly into the ground; and the high summer sun exposure in Zone 1. Hugelkultur mimics natural ecological processes in woodlands, whereby fallen logs on the forest floor build soil fertility and retain moisture. So in the case of this design, they were used to turn the problem (excess wood) into the solution (a moisture holding, long-term soil building garden bed). With their location close by the back door of the house, the hugelkultur beds will be planted with herbs and salad greens, as well as grape vines that in the future will trellis above the kitchen window and provide much needed shade to the house in summer, without blocking winter light.
A number of sun tolerant fruit trees (including citrus and tropical fruits like bananas) will be planted along the eastern fence. During the chilly winter months, this area will still receive winter sun and will be provided with added warmth thanks to the thermal mass of the concreted areas. The contaminated soil in this area was removed, meaning that additional veggies can be planted below the fruit trees. On the western side of the block, where the ground can get quite soggy during winter, a mulched draining trench was added.
The overall design, including keeping an ample grassed area, can allow for multiple uses of the yard and ongoing evolution, with potential for more wicking beds to be added in the future, plenty of space for continuing bulk composting and soil creation, as well as see seedling raising bays to keep the garden beds well stocked.