Original Permaculture Design for Margaret's Garden

PERMACULTURE GARDEN - Adelaide South Australia.

Location: Corner block on narrow access lane in Inner metropolitan area, approx. 500 metres from River Torrens.
2 kms.from main P.O.

Total size of block: 17 metres x 12.35 metres plus and minus corners

Alignment and Aspects:Long sides N.E. and S.W. Short sides N.W. and S.E.(Front - N.E.)

Dwelling: 3 roomed S.A.Housing Trust cottage of a little under 5Osq.metres

Area under cultivation: approx. 130 square metres

Areas not cultivated: Area beneath rainwater tank, & area beneath clothes line.
75 sq.metres of concrete surrounding dwelling
Driveway running length of N.W. side of block.

Commenced cultivation: September 1989 - block as left by builders upon completion of dwelling.

Soil: Alluvial silt, partly covered by landfill. Tends to be alkaline. Poaches when sodden.

Drainage: Moderate.
Sub-soil constantly moist, because of regular irrigation to school oval approx. 8 metres S.E. Water drains back to river through sub-soil. River water used presumably also rich in nutrients.

Special conditions: Size of block restricts active implementation of design to Zones 0 & 1 only

Back garden incorporates N.W. side of block & surrounded by high corrugated iron fence. Also partially shaded by house.
Front garden has low corrugated iron fence, is sheltered/shaded on S.E. by two-storey dwellings, & on N.E. by single storey dwellings. Lit all night by adjacent street lamps.

Large eucalypts about 40 metres due West give broken shade late on summer afternoons - house many birds, giving them a good view of garden, which they search for food.

Placement of trees and alterations to dwelling & fences must be approved by S.A.Housing Trust. Tenant may be required to restore dwelling to original state upon leaving.

Initial treatment: Applied 50 kg. gypsum, then sheet mulched, mainly with untreated seagrass, but also with stuffing from numerous mattresses( springs were used for trellis) and leaves from street trees.

Basis of design:
No lawn. No compost heap
Wide variety of productive trees, vines, & shrubs.
Perennial understorey, and some self-seeding annuals.
Deep mulch all year round.
All fences covered with trellis to support productive plants.
Small water garden at back, placed to supply cool air to house on summer nights.
Driveway area enclosed & used for wood-sawing & storage, also general work area & collection of mulching materials.
Close interaction between dwelling & cultivated areas.

Basis of Maintenance

Reduces surface evaporation almost to nil while allowing ventilation. Interacts with soil surface to release nutrients.

Plants encouraged to put roots into moist rich subsoil unique to this area. Concrete surrounding dwelling angled to run off onto garden. Mulch ensures all rain enters soil - no runoff even after long dry spells. All waste water from house applied to garden - mostly to plants being established, to the bananas, and to annuals.

No artificial fertilizers used. Nutrients obtained from mulch; excreta & bodies of insects & birds; from sub- soil, using deep-rooted plants; and the occasional application of liquid manure, especially when sawdust or wood chips are added to the mulch.

Occasional incursions of Kikuyu grass on boundaries treated with ‘Zero’ - very carefully. Soursobs are mulched over. If they break through in deep mulch they can be pulled by hand & bulbs removed from mulch. Doubtful if they can be eradicated, but are tolerable if controlled. Are a useful plant. Grasses hand-pulled before seed forms, as are other weeds. Mulch reduces weeds dramatically, and makes them easy to remove in any weather. If removed before flowers form, can be left on top of mulch to dry. Good plant identification skills, & knowledge of the uses of plants ensures that very few plants are counted as genuine weeds.

Very few measures taken to control them - most are part of the cycle, and useful in some way. Attention paid to health of plants, & mixed plantings. Birds encouraged. Snails are edible and used as food, excess collected on damp days, squashed, and used as fertilizer. Furry caterpillars also collected & treated the same way, but only when numbers look threatening. I often think that I feel more threatened than the plants - have noticed that most pests prefer unhealthy or decaying plant matter. In time the system will stabilize & require little or no intervention.

Other pests
Cats I plan to use unstable wire mesh on top of high fences, already proven effective with possums. In the front yard, sprinkling urine where they are likely to sleep or crap works moderately well, but I use physical means of discouragement whenever I see a cat, like yelling, or throwing plastic bottles at them.

Mice So far I have not found these any bother - when they gnawed the stem of my passionfruit, I covered it with aluminium foil. If they get in the house I trap them, & add to the mulch.

Mosquitos Fish are kept in the pond, gutters regularly maintained, all drains & entrance to rainwater tank covered or screened. No saucers under pot plants. No watering of foliage, water does not collect on surface of mulch.

People Mainly just throw rubbish in the garden. I check mulch is kept moist underneath in hot dry weather, in case of cigarette butts. Visitors sometimes plough off into the garden without looking what they are stepping on, unless escorted - they seem to find the lack of lawn or paths an invitation to go where they please. This problem will lessen with time - as plants become established they will be less vulnerable to occasional damage. Neighbours sometimes spray on windy days, & burn rubbish.
Getting to know the neighbours, & subtly educating them is the best way to deal with this - often successful when accompanied by gifts of produce. If spray drifts into the garden in spite of this, I hose the plants thoroughly straight away. Burnt foliage is better than dead plants or major interruption of the cycles being established by the insects & their predators.

Fruit fly It needs to be assumed that this area will be baited for fruit fly in most years by the DPI. Co-operation is the best plan, but it is necessary to know when the operative is going to call, so that baiting can be closely supervised. All fallen fruit should be picked up every morning, and what is not used treated either by immersion for three days with NO ACCESS to air - that means kerosene on top of the water, or a completely full container with an airtight lid - or by cooking, before being added to the mulch.

European wasps A few have been discovered in the area. Leaflets are available, though Poms like me soon recognize them. The garden is under constant observation, and I would observe attempts to nest and discourage them. However, with enclosed eaves, no ventilated bricks, hollow logs, patches of bare earth, or old trees, there are at present no nesting sites for either European wasps, wild bees, or possums in the garden.

Rats These are endemic, especially on the banks of the Torrens. Have had no problems so far, but at first sign would use traps or baits.

Possums Again, no sign so far, but they are indigenous to area, and as fruit trees mature may prove a problem, as they have for some of my neighbours. Unstable wire netting on high fences has proved effective, and branches need to be made inaccessible by keeping away from boundaries & telephone lines. However, I feel the need to develop a philosophical approach, as I do not wish to keep a dog or cat to keep them away. The front garden will be more vulnerable than the back. I just hope they don’t discover it.

In spite of the various pests of civilisation, I expect to be able to leave the garden to itself for long periods once it is fully established. This is always a long-term proposition with Permaculture, and will probably take at least another five years, as some plants still have to be put in & established.

Snails are considered a garden product - well-prepared they are delicious, & very high quality protein. Mushrooms & other edible fungi occasionally appear in season, but have not been sown.

Future possibilities:
If the cat menace can be brought under control, quail might be successfully run in the back garden, for eggs & meat, also as miniature tractors, some insect control, & manure. There would be room for a beehive & two supers when the fig tree has matured, & if the neighbours have no objections. Bringing in a load of mushroom compost to add to the mulch at the end of summer may increase mushroom production.
Another future possibility is a solar panel on N.E. roof, to reduce use of gas by hot water system.
Educational potential:
Although the garden is not on a main road, it has attracted considerable attention in the neighbourhood. It was featured in the local paper only six months after its commencement. For this reason I am reluctant to put a high fence at the front. I am happy to show very small groups of people the whole garden, and to talk to them about urban Permaculture design, if they first make an appointment.


Zones 0 & 1 - Dwelling & everything else within block boundary.

All biodegradable waste from both zones is reduced to mulch. (A proportion of this waste is imported from Zones 4 & 6, the remainder generated from within the system.) Faeces & urine are flushed down the toilet, using 1/2 flush only. Average 2 flushes per day. (Because they present a health hazard either in mulch or landfill, toilet paper & paper tissues are not used in zone 0.)

A 3,300 litre rainwater tank provides water for all purposes in Zone 0, & supplies the water garden. Tap water is used only for showers. All water is recycled onto Zone 1. Grey water quality is excellent - no soapless detergents, shampoos, conditioners commercial cleansers, disinfectants, deodorants, bleaches, toothpaste, chemical dyes or mordants, insecticides, borax, or other contaminants are used in Zone 0. Use of soap, vinegar or lemon juice, soda, bicarb., & ammonia are minimal, as is the use of oil & fat in cooking.
Winter overflow is directed to roots of pussy willow near boundary. The tank is set on porous pavers set on sand - no stand could be used because of low roof. Tank supports & is shaded by a banana passionfruit. Another tank may be installed on concrete surrounding house at a later date. Overflow could be directed to a swamp garden planned for front of Zone 1. The area under clothes line is not sealed, but covered with coconut fibre from an old mattress, to allow maximum absorption of rainfall. Concrete surrounding house angled to direct all rain onto garden.

House has white roof, insulation, & low ceilings, but poor eave design & large S.W. facing glass doors in kitchen reduce energy efficiency. Arundo provides some shade on summer afternoons, is cut back in winter. Other plantings will increase natural shade as they mature, but cane blinds outside glass considerably reduce heat & glare entering house in the meantime. Deciduous vines have been planted N.W. of work area & will shade this & N.W, wall when mature. Further insulation to lower wall provided by stacked firewood. Flowering vines & 7 year beans give privacy to porch, & prolific growth in summer shades N.E.wall & bedroom window. Climbing annuals may be used to shade remaining portion of N.W. wall.
In Zone 0, cooking (gas) & use of gas hot water system is minimised in summer, to reduce heat output, & save energy. Fluorescent lights are used where possible for same reason. The 140litre single-door refrigerator has an unsealed unit, and draws only 100w. It is placed in utility room, under the window with plenty of air space between wall & coil, This significantly reduces heat escaping into Zone 0 from cooling unit, & 'fridge runs more efficiently. There is also a noise reduction, & defrosting is less of a chore in a ‘wet’ area.
Unshaded concrete surrounding house is covered during summer, to prevent heat reflection & absorption during day, & re-radiation of heat at night into air close to Zone 0. Plants in containers placed on concrete under windows reduces temperature of air needed for ventilation.
At night, sliding doors in kitchen are opened, & cool air from the water garden is drawn into house by opening windows above waist level. Future plans may include windows opening at floor level to draw in cool air from front, & a louvred dormer window, facing S.E. to provide hot air escape & extra light in living room. Abundant indoor plants & an old-fashioned fire bucket instead of a fire-extinguisher,increase humidity.
In very hot weather, no clothes are worn, & an electric fan increases air movement. All these factors combine to make what was originally a hot-box into a comfortable summer living space, & no air conditioning is needed. Cooling at night is very rapid, & perfume from the flowering plants enters the house with the night air.

A very efficient ‘pot belly’ stove provides heating, cooking, & hot water in cold weather. The small amount of wood required is scavenged from Zone 4 & hand-sawn in work area, providing excercise, & sawdust & scraps for mulch. The wood ash is leached for potash lye, & some sifted very finely for scouring powder. Residue goes into mulch. Gates on driveway were moved forward in line with front of house, & re-hung to open outwards, maximising work area & privacy, & reducing noise from lane. In winter the concrete surround is uncovered, & with the unshaded walls, absorbs heat during clear weather, re-radiating it into Zone I at night, minimising frost risk. Plants in containers placed against N.E. & N.W. walls really appreciate this warmth.

Zones 4 & X to & from Zones 0 & I.

zone X is my designation for the local community. It includes neighbours, friends, community centres & activities, & L.E.T.S.
Zone 4 comprises surrounding streets, gardens & parks within walking (carrying) distance, & overlaps substantially with Zone X.

Local bees cross-pollinate the almonds & peaches after visiting neighbouring trees.
Birds droppings. Horse manure
Cuttings & seeds.
Mulching materials, mainly fallen leaves from street trees, & grass & clover clippings from local parks & ovals.
Irrigation water from neighbouring properties, as it flows back to the river through the sub-soil.
Miscellaneous discarded items for re-use - stone, bricks, broken paving, bottles & jars, large tins with handles, wire, wire netting, washing machine tubs, old mattresses (for mulch, coconut fibre, & trellis), cardboard cartons, old newspapers.
In season - Carob, almonds, crabapples, linden blossom, olives, plums, peaches, pears, pomegranates, grapefruit, lemons, feijoas, cherry guavas, cuaquata, grapes, a variety of edible fungi, & edible weeds.
Pest species, like pigeons, sparrows & starlings could be caught & used for meat.

Excess produce to ‘Share the Harvest’ scheme, for barter, gifts, & fund- raising.
Distribution of seeds & cuttings.
Time spent regularly cleaning up a local section of Torrens river & keeping an eye on new tree plantings.
Raising community awareness of L.E.T.S. & environmental issues, also knowledge of Permaculture , by example, by displaying publicity material locally.
Education: running groups & workshops; also writing & distributing pamphlets.
Neighbourhood Watch - local Police; Graffiti & Vandal Watch - local Council.

Zone 6 to and from Zones 0 & 1.
Zone 6 is my designation for commercial & financial trans- actions not connected directly with ZoneV666. It includes small business, employment by small business, essential services & Credit Unions. It requires further refinement, & is, I admit, bard to dissect completely from Zone 666

Water - rain and mains

Mail services
Public transport
Credit Union services
Goods from mainly local small businesses (includes some plants & seeds)
unavoidable packaging.
Wherever possible I supply my own recycled packaging for purchases, and I refuse wrapping when unnecessary. The rest is either recycled or mulched. I rtry to select clothing & household linen made from natural fibres so they can be shredded into mulch when discarded.

Cash in exchange for above services & goods

Zone 666
Big corporations, most financial institutions, & the whole concept of economic rationalism.

Contact with this zone is avoided wherever possible by strict purchasing policy.

1. Use Credit Union or Building Society, not Bank
2. Buy locally made or produced goods
3. Use L.E.T.S. & barter systems
4. Buy secondhand where possible
5. Buy from & use small business
6. Buy from Community Aid Abroad, Oxfam, & Global Education Centre.

Active subversion is practised & promulgated.
See Australian Non-buyer’s Guide

L.E.T.S. (Local Employment Trading Scheme or Local Exchange Trading System) is designed to facilitate the exchange & provision of goods & services within a community using Units instead of money.

Design update 1995 .......Garden Description

Welcome!....... Re-earthing the Cities....... The Story of the RainbowWeb....... Sustainable Solutions
You Can Save the Earth!.......Deep Ecology and Re-earthing....... Further Reading
Rough Guide to Site.......Site Map

Australia - This is an Australian website - Contact Margaret RainbowWeb

URL - http://www.users.on.net/~arachne/pcdesign.html