Permablitz #213 – Belgrave Heights
It was a fine Spring day that saw almost thirty people arrive in Belgrave Heights to help Kate and Tina get their permaculture garden under way… The design was completed by Natalie and Sarah in close consultation with the hosts, and the game plan for the day was to finish assembling the four raised beds, fill them with soil and straw in a lasagne bed style, connect them to the water tank for some drip irrigation, clean up some weedy areas of the yard and finally dig some swales to plant a food forest. A tall order, but we finished all this and more!
Kate & Tina made a tree change from the city about four years ago for a more relaxed lifestyle and greater self-sufficiency. With Lennox’s arrival two years ago, they have even more reasons to pursue a more nature-based life. They want him to learn from an early age where food comes from and how to grow things.
Kate did a PDC (Permaculture Design Course) and learned heaps about sustainability, planning for easier maintenance and growing their garden. They slowly made a start, installing a water tank, a shed for tools, and established a small veggie patch in front of the house. With both women working and a young child to care for, there was insufficient time to do it all themselves. Being able to discuss their plans and dreams with their Permablitz designers helped them avoid some of the pitfalls they might have found by going it alone.
Well, we got to work, and play! It is a kid-friendly space and the kids pitched right in with the adults. They prepared cardboard for sheet mulching to keep the weeds down, helped with building the raised beds – using tools under supervision; they enjoyed the sunshine and the grassy expanse to run in. Several well-behaved pooches checked out the proceedings to make sure we were on the right track.
Teams got to work building the four raised garden beds and levelling out the area where they would be placed. Adrian is our resident irrigation expert, and showed the groups how to set up an irrigation system on a timer, so the watering would happen regularly. The piping was connected to a 5,000 litre water-tank located next to the house. Since the tank is higher than the highest point of the garden beds, this means there was no need for a pump and the water could be gravity fed. No unhappy, wilted lettuce in the future!
A second team started down the back slope to dig swales to help retain water in the orchard. Kate and Tina plan to put their trees in soon, and the soil has been well prepared for them.
A very heavy-duty job was removing a large area of agapanthus, one of the environmental weeds throughout the Dandenongs. It clings like crazy and took some heavy work with the mattocks and wheelbarrows to cart it off to the compost pile (or, perhaps the beginnings of compost).
When lunchtime arrived, the hard workers assembled on the decking to be greeted by some of the most amazing food you could imagine – and it didn’t take long for it to be devoured! Tina’s sister helped run the kitchen while Kate had prepared much of the food for the day herself. I have to say – it was really good!
It wouldn’t be a Permablitz without workshops, sharing with us new skills that we can take home and apply to our own gardens. Adrian did a drip irrigation session and Natalie explained swales on the sloped orchard. She also trialled an innovative method of in-bed composting. You’ll see in the photos that each bed has a black hole; each is an individual worm farm. Food is dropped in and a cover replaced; the worms do their thing and the liquid fertilizer oozes into the surrounding beds. When it gets too full of worm castings they can be scooped out and the worms replaced into an emptied bucket, to start all over again.
Tina and Kate were overwhelmingly happy with the achievements of the day. Kate said that she had forgotten how much fun a blitz was, and it was clear that the volunteers on the day had all enjoyed their day working in the sun.
Check out the time-lapse video below that Tina took. We really worked quickly and accomplished a lot!
Photos were taken by Tina, Helen Cameron, Natalie Kunst and Adrian O’Hagan. You can check out the full gallery of the day here!