Posts Tagged ‘Linda Woodrow’

Our seven year old neighbour was tasked with preparing a school report on a backyard ecosystem, and chose to base it on ours.  I thought you might enjoy his work as much as we did!  I particularly like the worm close-up on the  bottom right…

Our garden is based on a plan from Linda Woodrow’s fabulous book, The Permaculture Home Garden.  Now that the infrastructure is well established, it’s really quite easy to maintain.  As Little D points out, the chooks and the worms do most of the work for us!

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It was time to move the chook dome.

The chickens had their initial rotation several months ago, before the beds were planted out.  At the time, we were growing legume crops to improve the soil.

Now, for the first time, the hens will be moving onto finished beds – to eat the leftover vegetation, rotorvate the soil, and to weed, de-slug and fertilise the patch in readiness for the next round of planting.  Bed number one was pretty much spent – at the back you can see lucerne, grown specifically for the chickens, as well as an old kale plant, a finished sunflower and a few straggly clumps of curly parsley.

The ladies couldn’t wait – they were clustered at the front of the dome, willing it to move forward!

Watching them on the new bed reminded me of the famous scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, when the visitors are so overwhelmed by the chocolate room that they don’t know what to eat first!

Clever Queenie and Bertie immediately began spuddling for worms, Francesca went straight for the sunflower seeds, Harriet and Maggie attacked the lucerne and Rosemary..well, as she does, she ran around the coop like a mad thing trying to get a little bit of everything before anyone else did. As always, it’s such a joy to watch their individual personalities shine through, and to see them so happy in their new patch!

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As regular readers will know, our backyard garden has been established following the permaculture principles taught in Linda Woodrow’s book, The Permaculture Home Garden.

One fundamental tenet of the plan is the need for a backyard pond to attract natural predators into the garden.  The pond didn’t need to be pretty (Linda points out that a lined tractor tire filled with water would suffice) but ours is, and it provides a constant source of joy to us and our garden visitors.

It’s been fascinating to observe the pest-predator balance adjust itself in our garden.  Despite the frustration of watching the fruit fly descend en masse on our defenseless tomato plants, we haven’t used any chemical deterrents. For a couple of weeks, most of the tomatoes in our yard were filled with crawling grubs, and good for nothing more than worm and chook food.

Then the plants and the predators fought back – the plants by suddenly producing more fruit than the pests could eat, and the predators by eating every grub in sight.  Despite the heavy losses, we were still able to harvest a more than reasonable crop of roma and cherry tomatoes.

The pond bridge, which we had built to Pete’s design, affords shelter to our Australian rainbow fish.  Please excuse the murky photo above, but we’re inordinately proud of our little fish, and I really wanted to show them to you (it’s very hard to autofocus under the water!).

We initially bought six fish for the pond.  On the first night, one leapt out of the bucket they were acclimatising in, and when we put the rest of them into the pond, a second one died instantly.  We were quite worried about the remaining four – and I was quite concerned about the large quantity of mosquito larvae wriggling in the water.

A few weeks later, all the mosquito larvae were gone.  A month after that, the pond was full of tiny fry, swimming in the shallows and hiding in the plant roots.  I have no idea if they’ll survive, or what they’re eating, but they’re clearly thriving in their little space!

Having water in the garden attracts a large number of damselflies and dragonflies to our backyard. (Edit: I’ve just found out that the two pictured here are damselflies rather than dragonflies. Apparently damsels hold their wings in when they perch, whereas dragons always have them out.)

We have small multi-coloured ones (above), beigey-green ones (below), large red ones and large orange ones (although I’m yet to successfully photograph the latter two). My camera doesn’t have a working macro setting, so these pics were all taken from a distance and cropped.

Paper wasps are quite prolific in our garden – we used to dislike having them in the backyard, until we realised what amazing predators they are!  We experienced our very own David Attenborough moment, as we watched a paper wasp land on a cabbage moth caterpillar, inject it with paralysing poison, then fly off with it to feed her young.

This little beauty is a hoverfly, and I think it alighted on the corn stalk simply to pose for a photo, because I’ve never seen one land before. Its larvae eat aphids and other small pests.

Ladybirds are a welcome visitor to our garden (unlike in parts of the UK, where they’ve reached plague proportions), but I never knew they metamorphed from the most scary looking larvae..

In the garden are a couple of spent broccoli plants, now covered with white fly and other pests.  We’ve enjoyed several meals from these plants, but  they’re now in their final stages – flowering, stalky and unappealing.

I asked Pete why we hadn’t fed them to the chickens before now.  He said that if we left them in the garden, they would attract bees and also help to build up predator numbers, by providing them with plenty of food, at no cost to us.  It does seem to be working, as there were at least half a dozen different species buzzing and crawling around the plants, feasting on the pests.

Look at all the aphids on the broccoli leaf!  The ladybirds can’t reproduce fast enough…

Permaculture in action – we’re finally starting to understand how all the pieces fit together!


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Gardening on this scale will provide your family with a really healthy gourmet diet even if both your money and your time are tightly budgeted.  It will provide a true sense of security: whatever else happens you will always eat, and eat well.  It will provide an area of creativity in a sometimes treadmill existence, and an area of serenity in a sometimes madcap world.

Linda Woodrow, The Permaculture Home Garden
(photos below are of the fruits and vegetables harvested
from our backyard garden in December)

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It’s late Spring here in Sydney, and our garden is glowing green.

Two large clumps of curly parsley are thriving in the first bed, and I’m hoping to make a batch of parsley soup this week.  It’s hard to believe that I was lamenting about how hard this was to buy in June.

We’ve just started harvesting our first Lebanese cucumbers…

Our second bed of corn has been planted, replacing the peas that are now finished…

The first bed of corn is growing at an incredible rate – the plants are noticeably taller every morning, often by several inches.  Pete tells me that corn is a grass, and grows accordingly…

Some of the corn is already flowering – as these plants are wind pollinated, they need to be planted within proximity of each other, rather than scattered throughout the beds..

The garden is full of wee visitors, including dragonflies, bees, paper wasps and these tiny ladybeetles…

Our broccoli, from which we’d harvested a large head several weeks ago, continues to provide small delicious offshoots for our dinners..

This is a single cherry tomato plant.  And now we know to only ever plant one cherry tom in the backyard. The added bonus is that they grow so quickly that almost nothing eats them.

Our basil plants scent the entire garden, and seem to really enjoy their spot beside the tomatoes…

Our other tomatoes are standard romas – they’ve fruited heavily, but none have ripened as yet…

We’ve planted celery in every bed, but the ones in the first bed are now going to seed.  I wonder if we can harvest the seeds for use in our coleslaw?

My favourite vegetable in the garden this season – Tuscan kale, also known as cavolo nero. I use it in place of spinach, and it’s been producing for months now…

And finally, great excitement as our first eggplants are ready for picking! The capsicums are growing well too, but they’re still very green and not nearly ready for harvest.

I’m a little gobsmacked at how well Linda Woodrow’s permaculture principles are working in our suburban backyard. Her plan is clever, well laid out, and ensures that there is always something in the garden for dinner. And we’re all marveling at how fast the process has been – getting ready took a bit of time, but we only really started planting out a few months ago.  Our little patch is now providing eggs for ourselves and my parents, as well as all the carrots, cucumbers, beetroots, cabbages, celery, beans, leeks and herbs that we need.  Hopefully, we’ll soon have enough tomatoes to be able to process our own passata and tomato ketchup, and our potatoes will be ready for harvesting before Christmas.

We’ve been blessed with lots of rain lately, which has helped the garden no end, and we haven’t sprayed anything other than diluted worm pee on the plants. We don’t buy any fertiliser (apart from one initial bag of dynamic lifter), and we don’t worry too much about the insects. As Linda taught us, we don’t have bugs and weeds, we have chicken feed.

Almost all the hard slog is done by our lovely hens, who till and fertilise the soil, eating all the weeds and slugs in the process.  We repay them for their tireless labour with kitchen scraps and garden waste, like this spent broccoli plant.   I’d like to think they’re as happy with us as we are with them!

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