Advice needed to begin an urban permaculture garden

Discussion in 'Designing, building, making and powering your life' started by katsparrow, Jan 14, 2012.

  1. katsparrow

    katsparrow Junior Member

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    Hi,

    I have recently moved to Melbourne and I am renting. I am after advice about how to be able to grow the most I can in a small space. So here is a brief description of my place so far. The house block is really small- I think it is around 500m2. The house is north facing with a small front yard and a larger backyard. Concrete runs down the east side of the house which gets some morning sun before it goes into shade. Bricks run down the west side of the house and that gets sun from about mid morning onwards. There is a long thin bed at the front of the property with some planting space available and there are thin beds that run around the three sides of the backyard- the follow the fence line. Unlike a lot of rental properties, the landlords have put some effort in and have planted some trees and plants in the beds. So I am working around existing plants.
    Before I left my last place I dug up seedlings, herbs, strawberries, blueberries and some citrus that are now in pots. I have planted the seedlings out and I am about to start a herb garden in the existing beds.
    So I am after advice about how to create more planting space. My thoughts so far is create/build some planting boxes and put them on top of the brick area on the west side of the house. I would love advice about what to use. I am wanting it to be a permaculture garden so I would like to be able to use some sort of recycled material and not go out and buy pots etc.
    I am also after advice about what to use to plant into. I am about to get a compost bin and worm farm from our council so it will be a while before I have enough compost to plant into. Any advice about what I could use in the short term?
    Thanks,
    Kathryn.
     
  2. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    Sounds like fun Kathryn (been a while since I set up a new garden). What's your experience of permaculture. I'd suggest getting hold of a copy of Linda Woodrow's book, and Rosemary Morrow's too. Both are full of good ideas and techniques for establishing permaculture gardens. It's also good to make a plan about what you are doing first, and even before that I would take some time to observe - where is the sun at different times of the year, where does water run when it rains, where are the winds coming from (hot and cold), what insects and animals live in or visit your yard etc. All those things will help you plan a garden that grows well.

    Start thinking about vertical space as well as horizontal. What are the existing trees and shrubs in the backyard? What are their heights, do they lose their leaves seasonally, when? etc.

    Do you have a sense of how long you will live there? What will you want to take with you when you leave?
     
  3. katsparrow

    katsparrow Junior Member

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    I have some experience of permaculture. I have successfully created a permaculture garden in a large country block (1550m2). I had a deep litter system with chooks, four rotational crop beds that I incorporated companion planting into, espaliered fruit trees that ran around the large garden and berries as well. I used both those books as references and also Jackie French's Backyard Self Sufficency' which also had good ideas. So I have experience with a large garden and I also had the freedom to set these systems up. It is a little different here.

    I have planted out my seedlings in all of the available beds to test the conditions like you discussed- light, rain, winds etc. So I am already learning a lot there. I have been thinking about using the horizontal space (the fence) to grow some grapes and passionfruits up to form the back of my beds. I am also going to look into varieties of vegetables that can grow horizontal e.g. pumpkins so that I can maximise the space I have.

    I guess what I am really interested in exploring is what are the ways to create growing spaces where there isn't any soil- my concrete strip that runs down the east side of the house and the west bricked side of the house. What growing space can I create? Should I consider building boxes? One idea I had for this is to get some secondhand timber and build long box like beds that sit on supports (to allow for drainage) and get some polystyrene boxes and fill them with soil/compost blend. Another idea would be to get a variety of plastic containers that are no longer wanted and turn them into growing containers by drilling holes in the bottom of them to allow for drainage. A friend has one of those plastic sandpit 'shells' that she no longer wants and I thought that it might make a good herb bed. I would love to know what you think of these ideas.

    The other question I guess I have is how to fill these containers. I don't want to go and buy potting mix as I don't think that is a sustainable solution. It will be a while before I enough compost to fill them. Should I think about buying some?

    Any ideas or suggestions would be great.
     
  4. matto

    matto Junior Member

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    Maybe a bathtub wicking beds could be possible... and if it was built on wheels you might be able to take them with you (if you know some burly removalist guys). I say wicking because you wont need as much soil and they will get mighty thirsty on the western side of the house in summer. Would be easy enough to cover if you get a scorcher. https://libertasgardens.com/bathtub-wicking-beds/ https://towardsustainabilitywiththr...1/10/using-old-bath-tubs-to-make-wicking.html

    A great option could be seeing if there is a community garden in your area and pitching in there.
     
  5. macey

    macey Junior Member

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    Contact/look up/check out: The plummery in Northcote (not too far from CERES).

    Kat Lavers among others are doing amazing stuff there!

    huge productivity from a 14th of an acre, including house!!! as I remember they have an electricity usage of 1 kw per day and provide an awful lot of their own food onsite.

    Apart from anything else they are all great inner city permaculture contacts.

    All the best
    Macey :)
     
  6. matto

    matto Junior Member

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  7. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    Nice one katsparrow, you seem to have it pretty sussed. Your ideas all sound good to me. Be careful with the sandpit shell, it might be too shallow for perennial herbs.

    Finding soil is always tricky. I'd look for local waste areas and see if there is good leaf mould under trees (taking small amounts). Also, you could get some bathtubs and get lots of worms going and bring in food for them to eat (ask neighbours etc for scraps). What about adapting Bill Mollison's idea of growing spuds in straw and that eventually becoming garden? I think Len here on the forum has some nice ideas with strawbales that you could adapt. Or layered gardening and bringing in lots of different materials from your surrounding area.

    Do you have a local recycle centre to look for containers?

    I'm not sure how dry Melbourne is... soil drying out is the biggest problem with container growing where I live.
     
  8. Terra

    Terra Moderator

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    You can build large pots / containers on hardwood pallets . A ring of recycled mesh lined with UV safe plastic tied to pallet with wire will provide a "pot" big enough to grow anything in , a lower version would work for shallow root requirements . Useing imagination maybe you could build a 6ft high pot for a vertical garden with plants growing out the sides .
     
  9. LibertasGardens

    LibertasGardens New Member

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    Wicking bath

    :y:Nice one Matto!:y:

    Katsparrow, give us a call or drop us an email if you want a hand or need some tips for a bathtub wicking bed, there are quite a few recycle yard around, it's never hard to find one. There's a few tricks to get the water level right, but it's not rocket science!

    Its more... Wild rocket science! (Diplotaxis tenuifolia)

    Good luck with your projects!


    www.libertasgardens.com
     

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