Permablitz #219 – Coburg
It’s a cool overcast Sunday in November, and we are at James’ house in Coburg for Permablitz #219. People trickle in from 9:30, labelling tools and putting on name tags. While we wait to get started there are cuppas, conversation and removal of tape from the huge quantity of cardboard boxes that James has collected (ready for use as sheet mulch).
Once everyone has arrived, James (Host) runs through the program for the day, Inger and Prue (Designers) explain the structures and plantings that are planned and Terry (Facilitator) gives a safety briefing and runs through a warm up routine.
James and his brother have been living in the house, a Californian bungalow with a weatherboard rear extension, for the past four years. James has an interest in permaculture and has already planted out one corner of the garden. His urban food forest contains almond, macadamia, nectarine and lime trees, as well as an understory of flowers and strawberries. The garden also has an annual vegetable bed and a shed, but the remaining half of the backyard is grass.
The plan for the day was to expand on the great start that James has made, with a complete permaculture makeover of the backyard including:
Deep mulched paths
Using rescued tiles as edging, a path was weaved through the garden to provide easy access to the compost heaps, garden beds and shed. The path used free garden mulch, available from the local council. The mulch is mostly woody (high carbon) material that is favoured by fungi, that will break it down over time, providing nutrients to the soil. Fungal dominated soil is great for trees, mimicking a natural forest environment.
Food forest expansion
The couch grass in the backyard was sheet mulched over with cardboard. New soil was mixed with sheep manure and a thick layer of straw was laid over the top. Pomegranate, guava and mulberry trees were planted into these new garden beds, with understory plantings as well. Space was left ready for future additions to be planted into.
Annual vegetable bed
This was moved to make room for the new compost bays and surrounded with beautiful blue stone cobbles that came with the house. The bed had sheep manure added and was covered in straw before planting out with tomatoes and basil.
Climbing vine shade
On the Western side of the house, a frame of concrete reinforcement mesh was installed and two passionfruit vines were planted to create an evergreen shelter for the side of the house.
Espalier fruit trees
Two pears and a grapefruit were planted on the southern fence in full sun, on a 3-metre-wide wire frame. Espaliered trees can be planted closely, with space left for two more trees on the frame.
Three large compost bays
Three compost bays were constructed from reclaimed pallets, providing plenty of space for all the household food and garden waste, as well as extras from neighbour’s who have connected with James through the ShareWaste website.
The bulk of the digging tasks were completed early in the day, before the sun came out. This allowed for less sweaty activities and a number of workshops to be run. James ran us through his composting system and how he intends to use his new setup. Inger and Prue presented on the seven different plant layers that can be integrated to create a food forest. Terry gave two demonstrations, one on planting fruit trees and another on building a frame for the espalier trees. These provided a great opportunity to share knowledge between the group.
James’ housemates worked hard to keep everyone well fed throughout the day. For morning tea, we had fresh fruit salad (with mango!) and spinach pastry rolls. Lunch was soup, bread and cannelloni. As we finished up, there were cold beers to celebrate the day.
A team of 25 willing helpers completed the full makeover in 6 hours. The equivalent of four weeks (full time!) of hard work for James was done in just one day. Excellent company, good tunes, perfect weather and the satisfaction of a job well done made for a fun day for everyone involved. We can’t wait to see how the new garden takes off.