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Posts tagged ‘food forests’

Grow Your Own Food: Okines #3

HANDS-ON LEARNING, EQUIPPING YOU WITH THE SKILLS TO GROW FOOD IN YOUR OWN HOME.

We’re partnering with Okines Community Garden in Dodges Ferry to bring you a special 6-part series of hands-on permaculture skills. This is workshop #3, Grow Your Own Food and it goes hand-in-hand with #2 Super Soil Skills. Join us to learn the foundations as we take you from soil to seeds, poop (manure!) to propagation and get you growing your own food at home – skills that you’ll have for the rest of your life.

If you live in the South East coastal region, you might be eligible for a phenomenal subsidy* to access these courses. To access this discount please type your postcode into the “coupon” field at checkout. If your postcode fall subsidised area, your ticket price will be reduced to $150 before you pay.

YOU’LL GET TO LEARN ALL ABOUT…

  •  Vegetable growing: We’ll introduce you to growing both annual and perennial vegetables so you can create diverse, edible gardens.
  • Planning your veggie patch: We introduce important considerations for planning and looking after a garden (design considerations, protection, crop rotation etc)
  • Garden troubleshooting: take a look at practical approaches to living with weeds and insects
  • Propagation: empower yourself to grow your own food from scratch – we’ll look at everything from making your own seed raising mix, sowing seeds, and growing plants from cuttings

 

WHO SHOULD COME TO THIS WORKSHOP?

We’ve designed this workshop as an introduction for folks wanting to get started in growing their own food and for people looking for some extra guidance in refining their soil skills. To round out your learning, we recommend you take the previous course too, Super Soil Skills – because great soil, helps you grow great food. 

STUDENTS RECEIVE

  • Fully catered  – it’s going to be delicious,
  • Some solid time in the Okines’s Community Garden where you’ll see strategies you can apply to your small or large garden,
  • Peter Cundall’s “The Practical Australian Gardener”
  • Extensive course notes on everything we cover over the weekend, and
  • Skills and knowledge, useful for the rest of your life!

CATERING

Our caterers will spoil you with food to fill your belly, warm your hearts and inspire you to grow your own. And, of course, we can accommodate any dietary requirements.

Nestled in the Southern Beaches community of Dodges Ferry, Okines Community Garden is an inspiring place to learn, share knowledge and contribute directly to the wellbeing of the land and the people it supports. The gardens consist of mature fruit trees, over 30 raised veggie beds, chickens, bees and an outdoor kitchen providing a hub for shared outdoor meals and a workshop space. ‘The Garden’ is connected to Okines Community House – which provides added space for learning and undercover workshop needs.

HOW DO I GET THERE?

You’ll be provided with clear directions on how to get there prior to the course.

YOUR TEACHERS

Nadia Danti brings years of market gardening experience and has travelled the world working with some of the best growers out there to learn the skills she needed. Nadia is passionate about soil health and understanding the ecosystem under our feet, as well as supporting people to connect to their local food system and empowering them to grow some of their own food in whatever sized space they have!

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James DaCosta has worked on a huge range of small farms across Tasmanian including running the Hobart City Farm for 6 years (since closed). Originally from NW Tasmania, he was reared on the rich red soils of that region where he grew large and strong like a Kennebec (potato). He is a gardener, bee keeper, and permaculture designer. A natural teacher, James has a knack for inspiring and equipping people with the skills they need to get growing!

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Firstly, thank you for a thoroughly enjoyable and educational course. As experienced growers, we were impressed that you covered so many areas so that inexperienced and experienced growers could walk away with something of value. Thank you so much everyone. You are great bunch!

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CANCELLATION POLICY

There is no refund available for this course. If you’re unable to make it we encourage you to pass your place onto friends or family – alternatively you’re welcome to put it towards one of our future courses.

Covid-19

Please note, this workshop will be run in accordance to Covid-19 guidelines recommended at the time. If you are unwell with flu-like symptoms we ask you to please not attend the workshop – contact us beforehand to discuss options.

Subsidies and Discounts

We have partnered with Okines to present this series of workshops for their region. Thanks to Okines, if you live in the Lower South East coast of Tasmania, you will qualify for a significant subsidy – each course will cost you just $150. We strongly encourage people living within the region to enrol, but these courses are also accessible to anyone that wants to join us! Areas that qualify for a subsidy extend from Sorell, to Swansea and down the coast to the whole peninsular, incorporating Dodges Ferry, Carlton, Primrose Sands and Dunalley.

*To get the discount, please enter your postcode in the “COUPON” section – if you are in a qualifying area, and it will automatically make your course $150.00.

**WANT TO LEARN EVERYTHING? Whether you are full-fee-paying or on the subsidised rate, if you purchase all 6 courses (see the full list below), you can get an extra 15% off the second series! To do this, buy the first three, then email us at admin@goodlifepermaculture.com.au and we will give you the special code. Huzzah for accessible learning!

Sign up to the Okines Series and get skills!

Series A: Available to book now

  1. Introduction to Permaculture
  2. Super Soil Skills (take this with #3 to become a gun gardener)
  3. Grow Your Own Food (perfect followup to #2)

Series B: Coming soon – 15% off Series 2 if you purchase all 6 courses**

  1. Beekeeping for Beginners
  2. Eat your Harvest: Ferments and cheese making
  3. Homemade Herbal Remedies and soap

Looking for something else? We run lots of workshops – register your interest here and we’ll let you know what’s coming up.

 

 

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How To Landscape A Steep Slope

In mid 2016 we bought the neighbouring patch of weedy/bush land we’d been drooling over for 4 years; and at the beginning of 2017, we started shaping it to include a driveway and more garden/animal space. We’d been drooling over this steep landscape as up until early 2017 the only way into our property was by walking up a very steep, 100m rocky staircase from the road. We had always wanted to buy the neighbouring land to improve access – it just took 4 years to get it done.

When we started earthworks, the view from our house overlooking the new land looked like this.

As our land is very steep, we knew straight away that we wanted to terrace it, inline with what we had already done in our existing garden. So the whole site was cleared, with the green waste taken to the local tip site where the Hobart Council composts it in large hot piles and sells it back to the community.

While we would have LOVED more flat ground, we couldn’t afford to build retaining walls everywhere. Instead, we designed large earth banks with an angle of approximately 30 degrees. Like our current garden, we planned on using these as edible forest gardens and the flat terraces for annuals crops and animals.

After the machine had shaped these terraces, we used hardwood timber from a local sawmill sight to help define and stabilise the edges…

…And a hell-of-a-lot of heat treated pallets to stabilise the earth banks. This techniques has been a real game changer for us in steep slope gardening, as the pallets provide lots of ledges to plant into, making it easier for plants to get established. It’s also easier to irrigate and passively harvest rain, as water is slowed down (a little bit), instead of quickly rushing down each bank.

Around this time, Anton’s day (Gote) sailed his boat down from NSW, parked in the local bay and would come up every day to build a rock wall, dig holes and just be his marvellous, eccentric Swedish self. All the rock came from onsite and was simply rearranged to build our one and only retaining wall :-).

Gote on the far right reclining on his rock wall. 

We then very quickly broadcast a mix of green manure seeds directly on the banks in late Autumn to get things growing. This included red clover, mustard, lupins and rye grass.

Early winter with green manure crops thriving

A couple of times throughout Winter, we’d slash the green manures down – delaying them going to flower/seed so we could get more root growth and more benefits for the soil.

In early Spring, we let the banks go to flower for which the bees thanked us (they loooooved it in there) and covered the future annual beds in non-toxic, UV stablised black plastic to break down the green manure crops without having to dig *at all*.

The black plastic was left on there for around 6 weeks in which time all the green growth died back and the soil biology ate it up.

Today (Oct 31 2017), the view from our window onto our new patch of land looks like the photo below…..

There are thousands of annual veggie plants on the flat terrace you can see and another above this (out of shot).

We have two toggenburg goats, Gerty and Jilly Love Face who moved in just over 2 weeks ago. Gerty provides 1.5L – 2L of milk every morning and Jilly Love Face (who’s 3 weeks old) provides enormous entertainment.

The chook house has been moved to be with the goat run and we’ve planted 20 hazelnuts and 10 mixed trees into the earth banks. Currently the earth banks still have remnants of Winter’s green manure crops. We’ve started cutting and dropping them in place as mulch and will be planting floral and edible shrubs, plus perennial herbaceous layers into the bank over the next year to form an edible forest garden.

Baby hazelnut trees popping up amongst the green manures. 

In between each nut and fruit tree, we transplanted tagasaste (tree lucerne) seedlings that self-seed in the local bush/weedy land behind our property. These nitrogen-fixing small trees are quick growers and will provide benefits to the soil and fodder for our chooks and goats. Eventually they’ll be chopped down once the nut and fruit trees mature and need more space.

Baby tagasaste seedling

And the goats are truly glorious. You can see them below on one of their daily walks and amongst the many daily cuddles we have. Obviously there’s still a long way to go with our property, and more time required before we see mature trees, but today (or this morning at least) I’m just pausing and reflecting on the past 10 months and *really* enjoying the change of view from our window.

 

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Our Maturing Edible Forest Garden

Around three and half years ago, we excavated our hillside – shaping the very steep slope into a series of terraces.  We knew we couldn’t afford to build retaining walls to stabilise each terrace, so our solution was one that many people have used before us – use plants to stabilise the earth berms. The berms are angled at around 45 degrees (the legal steepness is 60 degrees where we live), are a hell-of-a-lot cheaper and turns out more productive and beautiful than retaining walls.

The earth berm below (circled in yellow) was our largest, most problematic slope to stabilise – our solution? Plant it out as a small edible forest garden (EFG). You can see the full process we went through to establish this patch here.

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558615_639447366089512_23328198_nDirectly after the earth works, we quickly covered the steep earth berms with jute mesh to help stablise the soil and hold the clover seeds we broadcast (in hindsight, jute mat would have been better). We then put in some basic timber shelves, back filled them with good soil and planted them out densely.

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While we still think of this little patch as our young EFG – it’s starting to produce food, provide habitat and food to small insects and critters, plus it’s beautiful. We now sit in our seat (below), have a beer or a cuppa while fresh mint and nasturtiums drape over our shoulders. It’s transformed and we love it.

IMG_6002Photo from April 2016

Contrary to most design approaches for EFGs, we’ve arranged our key plants in rows in order to help stabilise the steep bank and to create easier access in a relatively small space. Below you can see these lines reasonably well with currants at the bottom left, feijoa trees in the middle, a strip of comfrey and then myrtus ugni berries at the very top. There’s also rambling clover, mint, nasturtiums and many herbs in between all this as well.

IMG_6006 Photo from April 2016

As an ever-evolving space it’s always changing from season to season. We’ve made some changes here and there, like replacing the tamarillo tree with a fig, but only because we like figs more and due to limited space had to make a choice.

While I was out there this morning cutting and slashing the comfrey, using it as mulch around the fig and feijoa trees, I had a happy moment – realising that we never have to bring in mulch for this patch any more. It produces *so much* bio mass, plenty to cycle back into its own system, plus feed the chooks.

20161025_103400The baby fig tree *flanked* by a serious wall of flowering comfrey and a cape gooseberry.

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Being a perennial system, the maintenance is *significantly* lower than our annual garden beds. While we’re currently busy weeding our spring veggie beds and keeping them under control – our EFG only needs only occasional attention. Our main jobs are pruning and harvesting to keep this tight space productive. For example, two or three times a year I’ll go through and “clear-fell” patches mint to dry for tea, plus give the neighbouring plants a break from being swamped by it. Below you can see a freshly harvest patch which will bounce back with fresh mint in no time.

20161025_103806A clear patch where the mint has just been harvested for tea. Image form October 2016

We’re approaching a very big summer/autumn of change for our property – expanding our gardens into the neighbouring block we’ve just purchased (with the bank). While there’s still a whole stack of details to finalise, we’re 100% clear on one thing – and that’s having more perennial, instead of annual gardens. The high productivity, improved soil health and lower inputs required make it a no-brainer!

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‘Urban’ and ‘forest’ are two words (and realities) that don’t generally go together, so when we talk about having urban edible forest gardens (aka known as food forests), people scratch their heads and ask how? Which is why I’m sharing our experience in establishing our own forest garden in urban Hobart and how it saved us money, stabilised our soils and will eventually provide a permanent food system.

But first, lets touch on what they are and why you’d want to have one. There are so many answers to this questions, but overall they are one of the more quintessential examples of permaculture in action. Mimicking a forest’s structure and patterns to form a functional, edible, resilient and perennial food system. Developed by Robert Hart in the UK, a forest garden has seven layers of functional plants, maximising space by ‘stacking’ crops (above and below the ground) which do not compete for the same space or resources (minerals and nutrients).

food_forest_layersA clear diagram of the seven layers of an edible forest garden, photo credit: mystery internet source

For our own place, the forest garden was a MAJOR design solution to a significant problem. As we’re on a steep block we had to do some drastic terracing to create growing spaces, slow and catch water/nutrients and enable us to be able to casually walk across the site without feeling like we might fall off. Originally we thought that we’d shape our terraces with hard wood sleepers, however we quickly dropped this plan when we did the sums and went well over $20,000 for materials.

While mulling over options, I casually flicked through the Permaculture Designer’s Manual for inspiration and looked more closely at the earthworks section. Here I revisited how farmers in the tropics grow on mountain sides using terraces with sloping banks in between each flat level. Bulls-eye. It’s true when Bill Mollison says “the solutions remain embarrassingly simple” – so, so true.

So this is what we did – we made banks, one in particular. In Tasmania you can legally make a bank at 60 degrees, any steeper (and over one metre) and you need an engineer, infrastructure and a big bank balance.  We worked closely with the excavator driver to shape our bank to be 2.5m high and exactly 60 degrees.

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 You can see me here reflecting on the very raw earth works and staring at ‘the bank’ soon to be a forest garden.

But before we planted our forest garden, we quickly smothered all our steep banks with jute mesh and planted mixed green manure seeds everywhere to help get roots in the ground quick smart so we could stabilise the slope and prevent it from sliding away through weather exposure and gravity.

Forest garden bank

While you’re waiting for seeds to grow it can help to do some rough sketches of what will be – like this one below. This helped us clarify the planting patterns and to also feel better about the very naked soil scape in our back yard.

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We then scrounged as much hardwood timber as possible and pegged them into the bank to form shelves on contour which were back-filled with soil, mulched and planted out with fruit trees, herbs and more mixed green manure seeds. These shelves have been critical in catching and holding water and nutrients on the slope.

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The very early stages of the young forest garden, not overly impressive but having roots IN the ground and baby green leaves GROWING helped us sleep better at nights. That funny looking stick-tree in the foreground is a tamarillo our neighbour gave us – it dropped all its’ leaves in fright of being moved, but is coming good, just looks funny.

EFG home.3

These days (around one year later), our young forest garden looks like this. It’s already paying off and providing some food, fodder and medicinal plants for us and our animals, not to mention completely stablising our slope.

Another key design feature is that we planted most crops on contour strips to help them function as vegetational shelving to catch and store water/nutrient as it naturally flows down the slope. In particular we planted comfrey very thickly (each plant around 10-20cm apart) towards the top of the slope to do this role. Once grown, this will form a continuous hedge, currently it’s being covered in pumpkin vines and yarrow, but the yellow line below shows it’s pattern.

comfrey band

EFG with labels

But what plants did we choose to put in our forest garden, I hear you ask? Ones that could handle a tough love situation, i.e. a hot, dry slope – above is a snapshot them. In there are a few volunteers – dandelion, plantain and dock, all of which indicate having compacted soils, totally spot on in this place. These valuable ‘weeds’ are doing a great job in helping to fix this with their long tap roots, they’re also doing the ‘mineral mining’ role of drawing up minerals through their roots from deeper layers of soil and making them more available to surrounding plants. So useful, so clever.

You might notice that we have a pumpkin in there – an annual and ‘technically’ not allowed in a forest garden. Alas, a young forest garden has an enormous amount of sun and space at this stage of its’ life, a perfect time to make the most of this by planting crops which like these two things – annuals. Even in established forest gardens, annual crops can have a place, usually on the edge of pathways or boundaries so they can access sunlight.

Update: You can see our food forest evolution in 2016 HERE.

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Margaret in her wild and free forest garden

And then there’s Margaret’s, 25 year old, wild and free forest garden in urban West Hobart. This garden is untamed and relatively unplanned in how it’s turned out. Over the years Margaret has had to remove some fruit trees as she’s realised she planted them too closely or because she simply can’t walk through her garden easily enough. But crikey is it productive. As you walk around you can eat berries, apples, stone fruit and hazelnuts, not to mention the flourishing greens, herbs and rogue tomato plants popping up around the edges of the pathways.

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 Dandelion, tomatoes and berries all living in harmony side by side

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Some incredibly scrumptious boysenberries from Margaret’s forest garden

It’s refreshing and heartening to be able to visit established forest gardens and be reminded that one day, you too, will be feasting and enjoying the fruits of your labour. When I look at our own forest garden, it’s small and incredibly unassuming, however it’s also one of my favourite bits on our property as it really encapsulates good design thinking in action (that and some of our water harvesting methods). Turning a problem (for us this was working with a steep slope) into an opportunity is deeply satisfying and really affirms that having a strong design approach produces robust results appropriate for the site you’re working with.

In summary, I love permaculture and all who helped inform it.

Click here to learn more about forest gardens.

Some fab resources for you to explore