As Uncle Robot completes each garden bed, we’re filling them with rich soil, compost, manure and mulch. We have around 30 different fruit trees and vines including citrus, stone fruit, apples, berries, passionfruit, white and red seedless grapes and bananas. We’re giving quite a bit of thought as to what we put where and while we don’t have a lot of space, providing we plan it well, buy dwarf fruit trees where possible, factor in the benefits of deciduous versus evergreen and keep things pruned we should be able to fit even a few more than 30 fruits in our Permaculture garden. We’ll have to stay on top of aggressive pests like the fat green caterpillars that nearly killed our limes last Summer. They’ve looked shamefully naked all winter but I’m delighted to see that they are completely full of new deep red growth so things are already looking promising as hundreds of tiny buds spring to life.
As well as the Permaculture design principles we’re also using the Permaculture concept of Zone Planning. We’ve divided our property into 4 zones each with it’s own characteristics and requirements. We look at how frequently each zone needs to be visited, how much energy, water and nutrient resources it will need and how often it will need attention and maintenance.
I’ll walk you through the zones of our Permaculture garden…..
Our house is Zone 0 and is where we consume energy, water and materials and generate waste into the environment. As Permaculturists our aim is to reduce the ecological footprint of Zone 0 and we can do this by reducing our use of non-renewable resources. So we’ve incorporated a lot more sustainable options into our passive solar designed home such as solar hot water, re-using our greywater, using our slow combustion for all our heating, storing and re-using 10,000 litres of rainwater in our gardens, using low energy lights, using reduced flow shower heads and many more things as listed in ‘Providing some relief to the Planet’.
We also reduce our footprint in Zone 0 by better managing as much of our waste as possible and our urban Permaculture garden provides the perfect environment for on-site waste management. We’re re-using the greywater from our washing machine to water the food forest, we’re turning kitchen scraps into compost and worm castings, eggs and chook poo and we’re converting all our used paper into mulch and compost. We’re also reducing our consumption by growing and cooking most of our own food and there’s no green waste leaving the property as it’s all being mulched and returned to the garden.
Now we’ll move into Zone I. The main characteristics of Zone I include being no further than 50 metres from the house, so in most urban settings the whole yard meets this criteria. Zone I is also the area that is intensively used and cultivated, contains a diverse range of plants and is visited often and where we create habitats for wildlife and insect predators. So this is where we have our kitchen, herb garden and vegie beds: the areas where we grow as much quality, chemical free food as we can. It’s also where we have our chook nook, compost bins and worm farm, wood for our fire, ponds, workshop, plant nursery and closethesline.
The most regularly visited area of Zone I is right outside the kitchen. It’s where I grow and have easy and quick access to my cooking essentials such as herbs, kaffir, chillies, lemons and limes.
Directly below it is a small vegie terrace which is still reasonably close to the kitchen and directly opposite the nursery. It’s an area I like to grow things we eat a lot of such as sweet juicy tomatoes, lettuce and other leafy greens like spinach, rocket, bok choi and shallots.
The chook nook is also right near the house and has good access from our deck. Easy access is essential as chooks need fresh water and food every day and we’ll be able to collect fresh eggs without entering the coop or getting wet.
The lower garden beds are where we’ll grow a lot more vegies intermixed with dwarf fruit trees. While it’s still within the required distance from the house, it’s a little further than just simply walking out into the backyard. This whole section is connected by winding multi-purpose paths to ensure all the elements can be visited in one trip and will eventually be fed by an automatic drip irrigation system to ensure nothing is overlooked.
All the beds in this area are being built at hip height for easy access and to take up the slope of the land. Paths will be mulched with shredded eucalyptus leaves and twigs and edge planted with herbs where possible. There’ll be a pond in this area which will provide habitat for insect eating predators such as frogs and lizards and will be a place to relax and take in the delights of the garden. The beds in this section will also be rotated once we know what we’re doing and I’m already thinking of a way to build a small temporary chook house to place over the beds so they too can enjoy a taste of the garden while providing us with a free weeding and aeration service.
Zone II is our food forest and is where we have our intensively ‘stacked’ garden beds to utilise the vertical space including the boundary fence for espalier and vines. It’s on the eastern side of the property and it’s where we’ll grow a lot of our fruit trees that will provide much needed early morning shade and a wind break from the prevailing summer north-easterlies. There’ll be no root vegetables grown in this area as watering will be supplemented with greywater from our washing machine.
We don’t have a need for Zones III & IV as they’re primarily reserved for farming and grazing and Zone V is our natural bushland and conservation area at the bottom of the block which happens to run directly into a national park. How lucky are we!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this short virtual stroll through our Permaculture garden. Once things are more established we hope some of you will be interested to join us for a real life visit.