Thank You, Fiona Ludbrook for sharing this enriching blog with us. Fiona is a permaculture designer and director of Pets and Plants.
Fiona Ludbrook, with apple harvest
Permaculture is officially accredited as having been started by Australia’s Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the 1970s. Essentially, it is a system of permanent agriculture, devised to ensure living as sustainably as possible, by providing for at least some of your food needs, minimising water use by capturing it and holding it on site and planning your garden and buildings to receive the maximum benefits of orientation and siting for the climate.
Sadly, this description makes permaculture sound cold, clinical, complex, highly scientific and something hippies did on large tracts of land around Daylesford and Nimbin. To me, permaculture is a way of life that begins in my garden where I grow as much of my own food as possible and capture some rainwater in tanks.
Figs ripening on my tree
I also love ornamental plants, including roses and the further I progress into plant research and botanical knowledge, the more I discover so many of the plants I love, are edible and medicinal, or both. Did you know you can make rose petal jam and tea of rosehips? Did you realise if camellias thrive in your garden then you can probably produce some of your tea?
I live in Ballarat, where it is sufficiently cold that citrus trees struggle. However, by creating a warmer microclimate, using pavers, or walls to capture the heat of the sun shelter plantings to cut icy winds and knowing that frost will collect at the lowest points of my garden, I have a thriving row of glorious citrus, including a Tahitian lime.
Many permaculture devotees keep chickens in the suburbs. But if you lack the space, council approval or enthusiasm for keeping chickens, this can be easily compensated by ensuring you include plants that will attract local wildlife, including birds and beneficial insects into your garden.
Chardonay and Semillion. Two of my backyard chickens
If you hate mowing lawns, have you considered keeping some rabbits or guinea pigs in mobile enclosures? They will not only keep your lawn short but fertilise it with their manure?
Permaculture is very much about recycle and reuse, so if you are on a tight budget you can rest assured you are not only saving money but helping to save the planet.
If you really are serious about growing some of your own food and making the most of your garden’s site and aspects, many local Permaculture Guilds and some excellent private providers offer basic Permaculture Design Certificate Courses. Not only will you come out with a certificate and an increased knowledge base to serve you well in the garden, but also, more than likely make a few new friends!
Ballarat Permaculture Guild Introduction to Permaculture Weekend, garden visit.
Permaculture nurtures community as much as it does individuals who love gardening and food!
Should you decide to undertake a Permaculture Design Certificate, you will learn about setting up zones to suit your site and make life as practical and easy as possible, virtually “from paddock to plate”. Zone 1 is the area closest to the house. For pure convenience, this is where you site your vegetables and herbs. Easy access to the kitchen and regular close attention to plants on a daily basis is virtually guaranteed. Water is generally easiest to supply here. If you have shady spots, this is where berries will thrive, whilst herbs and most vegetables like full sun.
Wicking bed containing vegetables, Ballarat Permaculture Guild, Begonia Festival Display
Zone 2, is where you can locate your orchard with fruits and nuts, possibly some chickens and ornamental plants that you love.
Some of us with large gardens or acreage may even find we can fit a zone 3, where we can grow some wood for our fires, keep animals like pigs, goats, cows and sheep. Personally, I count a local park as my own Zone 3. This is where I collect wood for my barbecue and can involve myself in liaising with the local council and the community, to ensure habitat for local wild species of birds, frogs, beneficial insects and children’s play spaces.
Local Permaculture groups often offer one-off workshops in everything from soap making to food preserving and plant grafting. A simple internet search is likely to yield a harvest on the personal level and help grow your own knowledge and expertise in creating and maintaining a wonderful and sustaining garden.
Mel’s fabulous permaculture garden!