We believe that the urban garden is one of the solutions in the face of rising cost of living. By applying permaculture principles in the design and lifestyle, we seek to maximize onsite resources to meet most of our needs with minimal impact on the land.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Collecting Gold - Part 1

We went to an Organic dairy farm to collect some lovely cow pats for our compost on Sunday evening. We had never done this before and had no idea what to expect but an imagination of happy growing plants in our garden.

So Matt and I each armed with a pair of gum boots, gloves, a spade, containers and sacks zoomed off to the farm 20 minutes away. Oh and not to mention the overalls as armor from the dung.

At the farm, we soon found that fresh dung is pretty wet and not very pretty to behold and touch. We quickly filled up our containers with the fresh dung. We then went in search for dried dung in the paddock to fill the sacks.

I went off down the side of the fence in search of dung, while Matt went out into the middle of the paddock. He figured out pretty quickly that the best place to find dried cow pats is around where the cows shelter from the sun or are herded as they get nervous and start dropping oodles of the stuff right there! The dried cow pats are surprising odourless and easy to handle. 3 quarter of an hour later, we had 2 containers and 5 sacks of GOLD for the garden.

I'll continue in another post why all the hassle with cow pats...

Broad Beans

The dwarf broadbeans from Kings Seeds planted in May were harvested last weekend. They had stopped flowering and were starting to get rust. I harvested about 7 kgs of broad beans from a round garden bed over a period of one and half months. The bean pods were large and beautiful but it didn't have that many beans in them. There were a lot more irregular beans than the normal broadbean planted the year before.

A few points worth noting:
1) They definitely had less seed pods but the beans were sweeter than the standard variety.
2) It's an early variety so the veg bed is available for other seasonal vegs on the first week of Nov. before the weather gets too hot and rust becomes a serious problem.

I shelled the pods and freeze the beans for later.

I've planted a row of Rua potatoes in the same vege bed along side some self- sown parsnip. The mulched down broadbean plants will be used as mulch for the growing potato plants.

Friday, 9 November 2007

Permaculture Paradise or not?


Permaculture paradise

The Tribune, Sunday, 4 November 2007

Urban Permies are creating sustainable human environments, reports Ruth Vlaming.

Think sustainable and what springs to mind? Probably renewable energy, organics, recycling, but what about permaculture?

Permaculture, as defined its co- founder Bill Mollison, is a system for creating sustainable human environments. And in Palmerston North the Urban Permies are putting permaculture principles to work in the backyard.

Founder of the group, Esther Teoh, and husband Matthew Hook, have gradually converted their 640m2 property into a permaculture paradise, since acquiring it four years ago.

The quietly clucking chooks and flourishing veggies, interspersed with fruit trees and flowering plants, testify to their efforts to put theory into practice.

Ms Teoh says permaculture is about systems and relationships. For example, chooks scratch over the soil, helping prepare it for planting by removing pests and seeds and manuring it. They also provide fresh eggs. The chooks are moved around the property in a homemade portable chicken tractor.

Since things work together there is often less need for pest control, ground cultivation and weeding than conventional gardening methods - an important aspect with the couple working full-time, and doing house improvements. Ms Teoh finds the aesthetics of mixed planting pleasing too.

It wasn't difficult to find the information with plenty on the internet and in books and magazines.

Wikipedia says the word permaculture, coined by Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren during the 1970s, is a portmanteau of permanent agriculture and permanent culture.

Through a series of publications, Mollison, Holmgren and their associates documented an approach to designing human settlements, in particular the development of perennial agricultural systems that mimic the structure and interrelationship found in natural ecologies.

Ms Teoh and Mr Hook have enjoyed the harvest of the past year with highlights 10kg of tomatoes from one plant last summer, and buckets of peas through winter. A stroll around the garden reveals blossoming apple, pear and quince trees, and immature fruit on the almond and currants. Newly planted beds of brassicas, leeks and celery are mounded with compost.

The wind break doubles as a trellis for vines, and also provides shade for smaller plants.

The very functional garden has not sacrificed attractiveness for production, however. A pretty variegated mint spills on to the path and rainbow silverbeet brighten the garden under the kitchen window. Calendulas provide splashes of colour throughout, and two manukas in full flower contrast with impressive globe artichoke heads.

All this is quite an achievement for someone who seven years ago didn't know anything about gardening.

"I killed cacti," Ms Teoh laughs.

A period of ill-health stimulated an interest in herbal remedies. Her first garden consisted of pots on a balcony. There herbs thrived and tomato plants flourished, enthusing her with rewarding harvests.

Ms Teoh dismisses the suggestion Palmerston North's climate is problematic for growing one's own food. It simply doesn't suit some plants, such as the banana plant she tried. And wind protection is vital, but possible with planning and design to achieve shelter and smooth wind flows. Observation is also important - noting what thrives where.

She says permaculture involves gradually working out solutions and always learning.

Total self-sufficiency is not the aim - the couple still buy basics such as rice, sugar and flour, but grow most of the vegetables they need and increasingly more fruit.

To share her passion for permaculture, Ms Teoh started Urban Permies earlier this year. The group meets on the first Saturday of every month to discuss permaculture principles and share tips, ideas and even produce.

"It's a place for interaction with like- minded people, you learn by sharing," Ms Teoh says.

New members are welcome and membership is free. For details email urbanpermies@orcon.net.nz or visit www.urbanpermaculture.org.nz.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

LeEkS take forever....

to germinate and grow. So sow seeds now for planting in January and eating in winter...no kidding.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Square Foot Gardening

Imagine growing Zuccinni and squash like a tomato vine up a stake? Apparently you can. A friend sent us this link.

The thought of growing zuccinni on a stake gives me the giggles and I'm looking forward to staking my zuccinni and possibly some squash.

Urban Permies Monthly Meeting

We meet on the first Sat of each month at 2:30pm. Venue changes depending on what we do. I usually send out an email on the Monday with details of the meeting.

Sunday, 4 November 2007


Judith, my gardening buddy, found this in her garden yesterday. It is a larval stage of a moth and yes it cuts down your seedlings in the dead of night. So, if found, feed it to your chookies or kill it.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Lightweight, Energy independent, Odourless Tractor....no such thing?

Just before you dismiss it as a crazy idealistic notion, it does exist. It's the CHOOK TRACTOR.
The chook tractor is an integrated part of our food production system in our evolving Mandala's garden. It is placed on grounds where grass or weeds or expired veg beds need to be cleared. The chookies will happily help themselves to the gourmet feast of slugs, snails, worms and a variety unwanted of greens. This reduces effort on weeding and moving the vegs to the compost heap.

Within 2 weeks, all the greens will be demolished and ground cleared of weeds and seeds, and the ground manured. If you place some pea straw or straws of any kind in the tractor after they've cleared the ground, they will happily eat all the seeds and hidden creatures and spread the straws nicely for you, and even add nitrogen to it as well. By the time we move the chook tractor to the next destination, the ground is well mulched and ready for planting.

If you want an extended area to be cleared but it doesn't fit the tractor, don't worry. Use chicken wire to create an enclosure and peg it down with standards (those use by farmers for electric fencing). If you want to keep the chookies in, use bird netting over the chicken wire. The chookies get to free range but only in the areas you like them to clear (and not your planted veg beds).