Do the Permablitz!

Posted on: November 14, 2008

Trav_Earth, originally uploaded by srhall.
Last weekend I participated in my very first Permablitz. If you don’t know what a Permablitz is, they describe it as:

Permablitz: An informal gathering involving a day on which a group of at least two people come together to achieve the following:

  • create or add to edible gardens where someone lives
  • share skills related to permaculture and sustainable living
  • build community networks
  • have fun

It’s all volunteer run and part of a longer process where permaculture designers work with someone who wants to Permablitz their yard, to come up with a design. And then there is a call for volunteers on a particular day and everyone pitches in to make it happen!

I first read about it last year in The Age and always meant to find out more, but forgot about it til I met some people at the Open Veggie Garden Day a couple of weeks back. I thought – if I don’t do it now I never will so I hopped on line and put my name down to volunteer for the next one. When I first read the article I had to read it twice – it really did sound too good to be true. Volunteers teaching you about Permaculture and blitzing your yard for free? That’s insane! And I’ll take that over a dodgy ‘Backyard Blitz’ with the world’s ugliest water feature that they’re gonna make me cry on camera for, any day of the week!

The photo below is not the one I went to, but a random photo of a Permablitz I found on Flickr. I love those striking raised beds they have made there. Very smart! I brought my camera but realised I left the batteries at home, and besides I was far too busy to be standing around snapping photos.

overview, originally uploaded by belloinsella.

The one I attended was in Rosanna, and we blitzed a small north facing backyard that is about the size of my living room. About 15+ of us turned up throughout the day – I was there from 10am til about 5pm. There were all sorts of people there. Some with so much knowledge and experience, some of us with a bit of experience, and some total newbies who were interested in starting to garden but didn’t know where to start on their own yards so came to learn some skills before attacking their own place. It was a lot of hard work but a lot of fun and I learnt a lot. And sometimes it’s really great to do these things to also reinforce and realise you do actually know a bit afterall!

So basically this is what we did. By the way, it wasn’t exactly what was originally loosely planned to happen but that made it all the more exciting. There were some rather major changes in plan made on the day which resulted in much better and more productive outcome in my opinion.


– FRONT YARD – build a few raised beds in a large, south facing, sloping front yard with 3 massive eucalypt trees +

– BACK YARD – rip up come couch grass against the house and extend an existing garden bed, and create another


In the end we concentrated our efforts on the backyard. The front yard doesn’t receive nearly as much sunlight as the back, plus I had no idea that having three massive eucalypts dries out the yard so much – those roots just suck out any moisture. You could see that from the patches of the little grass in the yard. There was an existing raised veggie bed though that had done pretty well considering though.

Instead of creating just a couple of veggie beds in the backyard and removing just some of the couch grass it was decided that it would be far more effective to rip up as much of couch grass as we could (ie all of it) and turn the entire thing into one big patch with paths in it to get to the washing line and around. To do this we:

  • removed all couch grass (my god this was a task and a half. I can not believe the runners on some of those things! You have to try and remove the runners as much as possible or they just sprout back up again – and they probably still will in truth but at least this way it will be a lot more manageable. I have since dubbed the stuff ‘bastard grass’ though I must remember Scott’s advice that it can be useful – just turn it into weed tea!)
  • marked out the path using a packet of flour (great idea!)
  • dug up soil from paths and used to help us build up the garden beds
  • levelled the garden beds, but also created a small ‘rim’ towards the edges to stop the water from just flowing over onto the paths
  • sprinkled blood & bone and potash all over
  • put layer of soaked newspapers to sheet mulch the yard and paths (about 6 sheets deep at least, overlapping each other, no shiny paper)
  • layer of soaked peastraw biscuits over garden beds
  • another sprinkled layer of blood & bone and potash on garden beds
  • another layer of soaked peastraw on gardenbeds
  • another layer of cow manure on garden beds
  • another layer of soaked peastraw on gardenbeds
  • another layer of mushroom compost on garden beds
  • final thin layer of soaked peastraw on garden bed

The paths were mulched with dry peastraw and the owners of the house were going to finish them off properly themselves later. Adam, one of the organisers, said at his place they made paths using an outside edge of brick and filled in the middle with woodmulch – perhaps PROPER eucamulch would be good. The good stuff though.

By the end of the day I was covered in pea straw and poo but we had turned the entire small yard into a giant productive veggie patch! SO MUCH BETTER THAN A SCRAPPY LAWN! And we managed to achieve it such a short amount of time. If that couple had sat down to try and remove the couch themselves they probably would have been there for a few weekends, with 10 of us on the ground we got it out in a few hours. That young family will now be able to grow so much edible produce in a small space, it got a wonderful amount of northern sun when we were there.

If you live in Melbourne and are interested in coming along to a Permablitz check out the website:

I just saw one that was only about 30 mins from my place and dropped them a line. Presto! If you can only give an hour or so of your time you can still drop by for what you can. By the way, all the volunteers were well looked after on the day and we were given a delicious lunch and snacks and our hosts were very appreciative and gracious.

The group also run Permaculture talks and workshops. There is a FREE one coming up in Footscray next week:

Home Food Growing for Beginners
November 20, 2008 (6:45 pm)

Paul, Adam and Nathan from Permablitz are inviting all to this free 2-hour seminar on how and why to successfully grow your own veges and fruit.

Where: Town Hall Room – Maribyrnong Council Offices at the corner of Napier and Hyde Streets in Footscray – less than 500m walk from Footscray Train Station.

Arrive at 6:45 for a cuppa before the 7pm start.

No RSVP required. For more information email


3 Responses to "Do the Permablitz!"

Hi Moo. That looks like something I could get into. Well done for giving it a go. I am trying the same thing, but in a smaller local way at first with neighbours.

The free Permaculture class sounds very worthwhile as well.


Hiya Moo
Fantastic post on the Rosanna Blitz -good on you. It was my first as well – I think there will be many to come!
Good on you Gav- I like to do it with my neighbours and friends and locally wherever possible too – it’s highly addictive.
Cheers Rachel 🙂
Remember- Permies do it with a sense of HUMUS!

That’s so amazing, I did something similar when I’ve worked for a green organisation in the States.

I thought you’d be interested to know that Nov. 23rd – 29th is Zero Footprint Week, an umbrella community awareness week that encourages Australians to take simple steps to measure and reduce their impact on the environment and help to halt climate change. We also set up a new blog to collect and share tips how to reduce our ecological footprint. If you are interested, just visit our website and find out more.

Thanks and send me an email if you have any further questions.

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