Wednesday, December 28, 2016


Grouped by use:
  • beneficial insect attracting
  • pioneer
  • wet feet
  • clay break
  • pest insect repelling
  • medicinal
  • edible
  • ground cover
  • windbreak
  • fire retardant
  • local
  • weed competitor

Specific plants good for these roles in SW Vic:

  • beneficial insect attracting
    salvia, pelargonum, geranium, calendula, rosemary
  • bird attracting
    salvia, correa
  • pioneer
    salvia, pelargonium, rosemary
  • wet feet
    veitnamese mint, azola (duckweed fern)
  • clay break
  • pest repelling
    geranium, mint, feverfew
  • medicinal
    feverfew, mint, calendula, rosemary
  • edible:
    pigface, berries, oregano, thyme, perrenial basil
  • ground cover
    pigface, thyme
  • windbreak
  • shade tree
    Apricot, nectrarine
  • fire retardant
  • local
    pigface, correa, muntries
  • weed competitor
    mint, perennial basil, mustard greens

Plant list
  • pigface
    succulent. flowers. edible, ground cover, fire retardant
  • salvia,
    flowers of many colurs
  • pelargonium
    flowers of many colours
  • geranium
    flowers, insect repel
  • raspberry, young berry, native raspberry
  • correa
    bird attracting
  • calendula
    self seeding annual
  • feverfew
    medicinal, flower
  • rosemary
    flowers, edible, medicinal, ground cover, benificial insect attracting, tough, easy to take cuttings
  • potatoes
    edible claybreak
  • oregano
  • thyme. lemon, turkey, creeping, pizza
  • vietnamese mint
    wet feet, edible
  • mint
    edible, medicinal
  • apricot tree
  • nectrarine tree
  • olive tree
  • muntries
    edible, local, groundcover

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Big U

I have two more 20 foot (6m) containers. I set them as a big U shape at the ends of the 40'. All on top of the hill with the best views. The main building for the property with a lot of growth planned over time.

The 40' is kitchen stuff, table, desk, wargaming table and shelves, the soft room.
soft room

The 'shed' is garden storage, tools, gym, other storage.

The 'garage' is other stuff storage. aim is not to use as a room so can move things in from others when they get modified.

In the middle is the main space. Initially a greenhouse, but in time a workshop space and generally largest planned enclosed space. Can fit 20 people maybe.
The greenhouse feel and plants as part of the living environment is an important aspect of the area, even if it is based around the very non-organic containers.

North facing glass windows in the open part of the 'U'. So can act as a sunroom.
Making use of passive solar design, thermal mass just out of summer sunbeam reach but in winter sunbeams from the lower sun.
Flow through ventilation from west to east. along  length of the 40' main wind. Should flow often.

The 40' west face will possibly have the first insulation pallet modules. Pallets, stuffed with reclaimed styrofoam, covered with wood to be vermin proof and minimal light entry. Excellent insulation. Tiled on outside of containers where needed on the especially west facing sides that face the hottest sun.
Similar modules will be used on the roof of all the containers. With corro iron and guttering attached.
Actual roofing for the middle will almost certainly have to have some columns.
I'd like a nice solid roof to hang furniture from, hammocks etc

Friday, November 25, 2016

Rule of the chicken

The rule of the chicken just considers impact of use by all creatures who may interact. large, small, often or rare.

Cars leave trails and quite a deep impact on the environment.
So do the paths just left by a single person
Cows, rabbits even bees leave a trail

Garden is expanding out nicely and this is an important part of the progression.

mixed perennial gardens with big herb borders are getting chook strong enough. So can probably handle opening up to get chickens clear out annuals. For a few weeks at most twice a year.
light mesh fence with herbs growing through is fine.

Young gardens need anti chook fencing often per plant as well.

Chickens will have a big semi permanent, dragable by a few metres a year coop in middle of main vege garden area

Food forest in quarry is a little slow but moving along. A few plants I think too early. Needs establishment shelter trees. The strawberry guava, avocados and the hazelnut. Hope they make it through summer. If not they'll be replaced later.

I noticed there is a few types of places

Leave alone. Often native revegetation observation
Gardens. Maintained until can look after itself. Probably fenced.
Chicken run. place where the chickens are meant to stay. eg near coop or in a tractored area.
Lawns. Grass area cut flat. Cutting taken to compost. Good can do initial chop and drop, it dries a bit, the chickens probably investigate and eat seeds and kick around. then rack the area up to compost.
Chop and drop. The chickens favourite areas. A thickening litter of mulch. Can be wilderness or a mature garden.
Compost heaps

Poly cultures are useful in a wilderness garden. in a mono culture bulk planting would want to harvest at same time. in a poly want as wide a window of something ready to harvest.

A lot of the impact of creatures is dealt with by the simple "Observe and Interact" principal. Watch the chickens as they feed in an area, if it looks they will be too rough, protect it. This may be a fence of the plant, feature or an entire area.
In the example of chickens in a garden, their kicking of the mulch around has its uses, but too much makes a mess. Does the chicken kicking ground have ways to catch the flying mulch? Sturdy stems or edging or rocks.

Human paths are a significant factor in the landscape. Even a single person on a large area leaves a trail that strongly effects the plants along it. I find it interesting observing school gardens with the herds of fast moving little humans putting wear on the grounds. Stepping stones, changing the plants, gravel.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Dealing with Soggy Soil

Sometimes you want water, sometimes it's too much.
Right now it's winter and a lot of people are talking about being waterlogged and muddy and standing puddles and worrying about root rot.
Yet in summer or drought years those same plants in the same soil want all the water they can get.

Nature has cycles. Yearly seasons and in Australia we have the fun of El Nino in unreliable ten or so year cycles being a major driver too, more so than any other continent.

For growing plants water is a good thing. Water infiltrating the soil is a good thing. There is no better place to store water.
Lots of things affect this. The type of soil, sand, clay, rocky etc. Slope and shape of the land. Plants root systems.

Sandy soil doesn't hold much water. It flows through quite quickly.

Compacted clay stops water. Most farm dams are just clay run over by a bulldozer to compact it.
Clay with stuff in it, such as rocks or tree roots will leak.

Organic matter in general acts like a sponge and stores water. Some better than others. Things such old wood, mulch, bio-char etc

Water flows down hill. Pretty obvious there,  but that also matters underneath the surface.
Fast flowing water over the surface can be quite destructive. Removing topsoil or even plants, especially shallow rooted annuals.
Water that doesn't move can become stagnant and lacking in oxygen.

Most plants don't like wet feet, the roots sitting in water, it can rot them. Especially most 'normal' plants we eat and deal with. Look at most nursery tags and they say 'well drained soil'
Not all plants are like this. Go visit a creek or wetlands and there is a profusion of plants.

Plants roots are designed to draw water up. They are surrounded by their own little micro-ecosystem of fungus and bacteria acting in symbiosis. They also modify their surrounding environment to make things work better for them.
They drive their roots down, breaking up clay so water flows down more freely. They bind together sandy soil so it holds water better.
This is part of why perennial plants are good, they keep growing deep, wider and complex root systems that modify the soil.

But plants are slow, generally taking years to make changes. They can't do everything themselves.

If you pick the right spots a lot of water harvesting and flood control can be automatic.
Observe where the weeds look happy and green. Where the soil looks washed away and abraded by floods. Where the soil has deep black organic matter mixed or is cracked and dry or solid clay.

But no matter what you probably want to modify the environment for your growing requirements to some level.

This can be large scale earthworks with bulldozers and diggers.
or small directed trenches with your trusty pick-axe and logs and rocks placed in the right spot.

The theory is the same and frankly the small scale is often more useful and practical.

Here are a few of the earthworks structures and how they help with collecting water in the dry and controlling water overflow in the wet.

Swales are one of the most commonly mentioned in a permaculture context. Contour channel or infiltration ditch.
These are a trench that run the width of a slope so water as it flows downhill, is caught in the swale and then sent under the ground.

Below the swale is often a mound. Plants, perhaps fruit trees, are then on the mound where they are higher but the roots have a chance to reach down into the moist soil.
The bottom of the swale may also have aquatic plants or rocks.
The aquatic plants can drive their roots down and help aerate the water.
The rocks don't stop the water, they help widen the infiltration and lower the watertable and can completely fill the channel so people don't trip or fall in. :)

In drier times the water flowing down hill is caught and sent somewhere useful.
Gardens are then placed downhill and make use of it.

Depending on slope there may be a series of swales and gardens making use of the captured water.

These structures also need to consider wetter times. If the ground is fully saturated with water it will just sit there. The root systems and improved soil structure may let the water infiltrate sufficiently, but it may not. The water may need to be directed away.

Water flows downhill.
That is the most important thing to consider.
You want enough to water the plants.
But if it gets over a certain level you then want it to flow somewhere else where it isn't being destructive.

The end of the swale can have a lip on it, the maximum height you want the water to get to, once passed it flows into another channel.
Unlike the swale which is all at one height and so full with even water that sinks into the soil, the drainage channel makes use of slope and gravity.
One end is deeper and so that is where the water goes.
This can be directed to a storm drain, to another swale or down hill, towards a creek or a dam or a bog or wetlands.
or perhaps a chain of those filling each one to its useful capacity and then overflowing to the next. Slowing and making use of the water.

A good garden scale example is a bog garden.
The overflow from a swale or maybe even just directly down channels is sent to a hole. It is deeper than the root systems of plants you want to avoid being waterlogged.
At its simplest is it just a hole that fills with water and gets it out of the way.
The trouble with just a hole is that the water will probably be stale and start to degrade the soil structure, so it may crack once it dries out.
But a better use is to make use of the various ways to make it infiltrate water into the soil safely. Add rocks to widen the surface. Add aquatic plants to use the water, especially ones that can cope with being dried out and then recover once water returns.
Plus it is a lovely garden feature and can be a home for frogs and turtles and water birds.

What structures do I have at The Wallaby's Rock Garden?
Before planting gardens or making any earthworks I observed for a year. The water flows was a major part of that.
The property is all on a slope. Starting at a ridge, then the main garden area, then another forested slope, then a plain, then the creek.
Very first there is shallow channels that direct water downhill towards gardens. Up top being dry is more concern than floods. These channels end in a T in swales above gardens. So they act to catch and infiltrate water into the gardens soil. The swales go the width of the garden. In case of flood the water merely flows around the gardens, continuing downhill without further direction.

The main gardens are placed downhill of water flow. Some have small swales to slow the flow downhill and send it into the soil before the garden. This helps keep them watered in summer and in winter this helps the gardens from become too boggy as the water is slowed before it gets there.
Most gardens are raised no-dig beds, not actually set into the raw soil, but the plants root systems would have sunk into there, the mix of trees, perennials and annuals at differing depths.
A lot of the water over winter is collected in the transient wetlands which acts as a gigantic swale, capturing that water before it flows underground to the primary beds.
The ground is uneven and has various mounds, mainly of rocks, to keep flood waters in place and channels to direct overflows around the edges of gardens and constructions and send water down hill through the forest.
Other garden areas in the forests have their own swales and raised mounds.
As the water reaches the plains below there are more swales and channels, slowing the water and infiltrating it again. Keeping it higher and in the soil for longer before it all finally flows down to the creek which in the end carries the water away to the river and the ocean.

Most of the channels used are not simple on-contour swales or drainage ditches but channels at appropriate angles, slopes and depths for what I want, but still using the same concepts.

So in short, a garden may be a series of infiltration trenches or swales, storing water for plants below them.
In flood the swales overflow into a drainage channel then sends the water to fill a bog garden, in the case that is overfilled the water is then finally directed to the storm drain.

Earthworks and water flow is a huge topic with many variations.

Especially for large scale acreage, keyline design is a good topic to look into, this deals more with larger flows of water than I'm particularly referring to here and controlling the destructive effects it can have on landscape. 

This has been a pretty soggy winter but really not all that extreme and you Need to plan for extremes. Dry weather where you capture all the water you can for your poor thirsty plants. Floods where the water is directed somewhere non destructive.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Whoops finished. Review, assess, redesign, continue

My gardens are fairly done.
Main one around container, water garden, kitchen gardens. So main zone 1 gardens.
It has been a little odd thinking I have no where to put plants.

So I've been thinking about what is next
The main thing is finish current stuff. Do edges, weeding. Make it look nice, fill in the spaces in the gardens.
I want more trees, such as nuts, citrus and avocados.
I need more food production. bulk spuds, tomatos. Leafies are ok but I should have more and they can self seed and good permanent food ground plants.
I've been cutting back a lot of blackberry for fire safety, aesthetics, running around barefoot without getting thorns in feet and new beds.
Cleaning South West side of the main residence as that is main fire risk side and will make succulent fire break garden there.
I'll make a new wind break food forest in the quarry, where blackberry were, to put citrus, nuts, olive, elder, avocado(?).  This also breaks up view from quarry. makes garden seem bigger
At the ground level I'll add food gardens in new quarry food forest. mulch pile. mark with logs
Thin out roses in quarry
Continue building the bulk herb bed in grotto in the faerie plain
Keep improving swales and ditches
And I want to try rice in flood plain, or floating vege beds. A big potentially useful space I don't do enough with.

Most stuff is going well with autumn cooler. Various salvia that have been collected are establishing themselves. Will probably plant out the baby ones soon. A few more shades of red, purple, dark blues. Daffodil and lilies popping up from where they've slept underground all summer. Same with companion garlic left buried.
Quite pleased the flower plan seems to be working as well as vege plan. Had flowers pretty consistently spring through summer and now autumn and new flowers starting up, hopefully for all winter, eg the correa.
Veges and herbs have self seeded well and mainly just need to be cut back so who I want wins the competition for space.
Thinking about a few more raised beds in main garden now chickens have moved to their new run.

Overall what is the Gardens?
A home for me, chicken flocks, dog, wildlife.
It's mainly a home. Am I happy in it? That's what matters.

I like the way it is broken up into small areas. That somewhat expand out in gradual transitions of shelter from bed, office, covered veranda, kitchen, bathroom. Surrounded by gardens that make the space light, open, fresh and protect and direct animals, chickens, dogs, insects.

I need to manage stress.
Others can use the space. teachers, green groups

A few infrastructure projects.
New chook run is progressing. The chickens have moved. A hawk got two before I put the net up. :( They're not fans of the shelter so I need to improve that for them. Starting putting pots around and thinking about the chooky plants.
Should get moving on big greenhouse soon.
I also think I'll do the new and improved bulk solar drier. The single box works fine but going to make multiple stacks and better airflow and remove the direct sun on the food.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Seasons and Infrastructure for comfort

I left the Gardens alone for 2 weeks over the christmas period. I didn't have anyone looking after it partly as an experiment on how it'd cope in hottest and driest time of the year.

Australian native and Mediterranean plants coped best. Of course.
So Mediterranean for initial setup and pioneer species. Then can get english cooler weather plants growing once have shelter.

I'm thinking South East facing walls could be an important landscape feature. Things still grow but don't get the hottest sun of summer or the hottest summer winds. But then summer sun is mainly overhead.
North east facing with a cover directly over, like a tree. sounds like I've just rediscovered food forest principals.

summer. laze around. swim. eat berries, tomatoes, harvest garlic. work 8-11 6-9
Autumn. Grow stuff! Enjoy flowers. eat apples
Winter. infrastructure. sleep, read. listen to rain. work 9-5
spring. Grow stuff! Enjoy flowers.

Some things to consider:
Summer is hot
Winter can flood

insect plagues
flies, mozzies, crickets

green house
extends growing season over potentially winter

shade house
protect from the aussie sky furnace.

wind shelter

indoor and outdoor combined. transitional
not just sealed boxes. i have shipping containers for that, but veranda, sheltering walls, hedges, trees overhead. rabbit fences, insect screen