MOO I MADE IT!

Permablitz-A-Trois (part 1)

Posted on: September 6, 2009

{image from my flickr]

Well I did say I was going to throw myself back into things come Spring…

I have been to three Permablitzes in just under a month! And all in the inner West. Yay, didn’t even have to cross the river, well not the Yarra River at least.

[Blitzin’ Part 1] MOONEE PONDS
This was a fantastic Permablitz to attend to reinvigorate my enthusiasm for permaculture, community and gardening!

The hosts wisely limited numbers to 15 to make sure everyone would get something out of the day. I haven’t attended any ‘blitzes that have had too many people yet but I have heard about some experiences from other volunteers. There seems to be a bit of a balance required in getting a good amount of people so that there’s enough labour that everyone can contribute without being completely worn into the ground vs having too many people standing around a little uncomfortable, not sure what to do without enough tools, space and jobs to get stuck into.

We really got SO much done this day, it was really exciting. And furthermore I really appreciated getting an email from the host Anne-Louise this weekend, with before and after shots of the garden. Immensely satisfying to know I was apart of that!

Anne-Louise had recently completed a Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course at Forest Edge. There were a few other recent graduates there on the day as well. And Cam and Jessie from Forest Edge were leading the Permablitz, with Cam teaching us plenty on the day.

This is basically what we did:
– Anne Louise has a beautiful home and large garden (in my dreams!) in Moonee Ponds. It had a really large lawn, shed, water tank, huge big pepper tree in the corner with a cubbie under it.
– the permaculture design was to set up a ‘food forest’ – the design was rather ingenius:

– a hose was used to create a beautifully curved section for the food forest. You do get a really beautiful line when you use a hose to mark out the area.
– we ripped up all the grass from that area. This was being done already by the time I arrived, I think someone wanted the grass so it was kind of cut up and lifted and rolled so someone could take it away. Nice reuse of the lawn.

– then it was explained that the overflow from the watertank was going to run into a series of ‘swales’ ie even levelled trenches in which the water would sit and seep into the ground. We used a simple homemade spirit level and learnt how to use it ourselves to ensure the trenches were dug evenly so the water would sit and not run off.

– in the garden beds, inbetween the swales, a number of barerooted fruit trees were be planted, where they will be able to seep up the water from the swales.


– Cam planted 2 apple trees side by side, an alternative to having 2 types of apple grafted onto the one tree (apples need to be in pairs in order to pollinate and produce fruit). The 2 trees were in a sense grown as one tree.

– Cam had a really interesting method of planting trees, or anything with roots really.

  • PLANTING A BAREROOTED TREE (AKA ‘SLURRY METHOD’ OF PLANTING)
    (but also a method useful for planting trees. shrubs anything you need to dig a decent size hole for generally)
    Firstly Cam doesn’t advocate digging a hole, putting a heap of compost in the bottom of it and planting the tree on top – as this won’t encourage the tree’s roots to seek out nutrient and therefore develop a stronger root structure.
  • Instead he positioned the trees, laid out the roots nicely to encourage them to spread out – digging little ‘fingers’ to lay them into if necessary, and made sure the tree would be at right level in the ground by laying a spade handle/ anything straight over the top to check the level (there’s a smart idea! I am always terrible at estimating the right height).
  • He also took into account a laying of compost ON TOP and spread around (so the tree is still getting compost – but it was spread out instead.
  • Then instead of pouring in the soil and watering it once full he showed us how to gently wash the water in, essentially making a slurry of water that got thicker and thicker in texture as you add more soil and it gets muddier and muddier. You gently wash the soil and water to stabilise the roots until it stands on its own!
  • This method makes so much more sense to me. It’s just a bit of a two person job but considering it’s a tree you’re planting that will be there for years and years – WELL WORTH THE EFFORT I say!

– the garden beds were mulched with thick layers of wet newspaper and cardboard (the kiddies splashy pool was very handy for that) to stop the grass growing back. And then topped with compost.

– then the swales were filled in with a really deep layer of mulch – which came free from the council and smelt just divine because it had plenty of eucalypt leaves in it!

– this must have been my favourite part of the day – as we got to jump up and down to compress the mulch paths!

– at the end of the swale section a wetland area and a pond was created

– now here is a useful tip I learnt on the day. The guys dug the hole for the pond and positioned these massive rocks to figure out where to place them before putting in the thick rubber lining for the pond. I was wondering how they were going to get the rubber lining under the rocks.

– well they had to roll them back out of the way, position the rubber lining and then reposition the rocks. But… how to remember which way they go?

– Have someone like Moo standing by taking photos of the rocks so you know which way they go! Or perhaps use some chalk to number and mark which way is up! A rubber hose will be connected from the rainwater tank, to fill the pond.

– then we set about planting out some perennial herbs (warrigal greens, yarrow, comfrey) and red currants in the garden beds.

  • TIPS FOR PLANTING SEEDINGS:
  • Another handy tip – mulch the garden bed FIRST (rather than having to delicate mulch around your little seedlings after getting them in the ground).
  • The key is to gently move away the top laver of mulch, quite wide from where you are going to plant into.
  • Then use your trowel to cut through the wet newspaper/ cardboard if you have used that as extra mulch (just enough to plant into).
  • Dig your hole into the compost, but try and much as possible to avoid dumpling that soil on top of the mulch you just parted – because if weed seeds come along they will start growing in it!
  • Plant your seedling in using a small watering can and the ‘slurry’ method described above
  • Move back your mulch. Presto!
  • NB we did plant some shallow rooted seedings in without breaking the cardboard/ newspaper (to minimise the chance of the grass that we removed growing back. We did this for a weeping form of camomile that we planted near the edge of the beds to spill over into the mulched path.

– ALL DONE! It was pretty funny that at the end of the day, after everything had been planted and mulched, you couldn’t even see any signs of the massive trenches we had spent most of the day digging and levelling! But the family will be reaping the rewards of our efforts for years to come. YAY!

More photos at my Flickr set here.

JUST ADDED! NEW ‘AFTER’ SHOTS FROM ANNE-LOUISE’S PERMABLITZ

CLICK TO SEE HERE

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