Permablitz Revisited: Northcote 3 years later
Four years ago this family’s house was newly built and the yard was, as expected, a ‘construction site’. Three years ago, Permablitz #151 took place. Today, Michelle and Chris have a thriving garden; Callum and Olive toss water balloons in the lush grass, and Padme the pooch gets to run around and explore the garden’s nooks and crannies.
Michelle and Chris share a duplex with Michelle’s parents, and the two back yards provide food and room for play for all six people.
The front yard is made up of easy-care native plants, and there was some thought of ‘permaculturing’ it or the nature strip someday too, but not yet.
About 25 people showed up on the day of the blitz, building a wicking bed, developing the chook run and preparing ground for the planting. YouTube provided the info for the wicking beds and the blitzers dived right in with gusto! The weather on the day was somewhat inclement, but today all four wicking beds are in place and providing lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and all the other veggies the family want in their gardens. With the herbs beds, there is generally enough seasonal produce for the family, so they only need to buy what they don’t grow or out of season veggies (e.g. tomatoes in winter).
There are numerous fruit trees including cherries, figs, apricots, lemons, and Tahitian limes, and the strawberries provide good variety for snacks and sharing. Michelle’s parents share their apples, nectarines and rhubarb.
Partly screening off the wicking beds is a large herb bed, containing a good selection of kitchen herbs, plus feverfew, a kaffir lime tree and curry tree, as well as a tall succulent with pink flowers.
Between the garden beds is a simple ground cover, which keeps it green and easy to walk in and maintain.
The chook run is completely fox-proof – and they don’t even need to lock them into their coop at night! The chooks thrive on the weeds and vegetable trimmings, and just love the strawberry hulls! The four ‘girls’ are getting on now but in their youth provided plenty of eggs. Chris has found (on eBay) an amazing self-feeder; the chickens just stand on the step and the lid opens to reveal their food. Great for keeping vermin out!
Hidden inside the house is a small, peaceful courtyard with a goldfish pond, aquatic plants, and a small stand of bamboo. The stalks make great garden stakes.
Luckily Michelle and Chris have no major possum problem in their area, but they do have lots of happy worms munching unwanted garden and kitchen trimmings into fertiliser! There are also two compost areas for what the worms and chooks don’t break down – a closed bin and two open ones.
Every part of the plan seems to have worked but Michelle did have some tips about wicking beds. “Use pond liner rather than builders plastic”, she says, “And roll it over the edge rather than staple it inside the base. Pool liner is stronger, less likely to get damaged and turning it over the edge prevents it from scrunching down lower than the water level.”
Collective Tip: If you do use builder’s plastic, make sure you get the heavy duty stuff – you can find it at the big green boxy place… You can also get some food grade heavy plastic from the VEG crew here as well…
Another hot tip from Michelle: Batter and deep fry comfrey leaves, just like you do with fish – it’s delicious!
Michelle also likes to ‘borrow’ from friends’ gardens. Getting cuttings helps increase the variety in her yard – and theirs, as she reciprocates – and is part of friendship anyway. She really enjoys the garden, and in particular finds it nice to come outside and garden with mom.