A permaculture garden excursion

Over winter,  our local sustainability group offers members and guests the opportunity to visit gardens of interest, in place of the usual food swaps  held once a month over the warmer months. Today I was lucky enough to have a walk through a local permaculture garden that I have been fascinated with for some time. You may recognise the garden from it's appearances in Earth Garden magazine #149 (Spring 2009) and #138 (Summer 06-07).

The system starts off with a cylindrical chook pen, that is reminiscent of an aircraft's fusilege. Cleverly put together with sections of galvanised corrugated water tanks, spaced with heavy duty chicken wire, the pen contains the chooks who's task it is to turn over the compost. All raw matter enters the top of the pen and due to the slope of the land, it gradually makes it way down hill being turned and manured along the way by the hens, until being scooped out at the bottom and placed into large apple bins to complete the composting cycle.

The compost workers enjoying a bowl of warm soy porridge.
The food section of the garden is entirely netted and comprises three sections: a mandala vegetable garden that utilises chooks in the preparation of garden beds, a second mandala area containing fruit trees and berries, and finally a free range chook area, that also is home to more fruit trees. Below is a look at the mandala vegetable garden...

Six circles surround a central pond area that is a habitat for local frogs. A large water tank cut down in height is used for portable chook housing, and spends two weeks with chooks in it on each bed, for cultivating and fertilizing. The chooks are then returned to the main 'fuselege' pen and new birds are selected for the next rotation. The center pond  boasts a fascinating crane set up, that moves the circular chook house when it's time comes for moving to the next bed. This section of the garden uses solar power for both the pond pump and lights at night for attracting insects for the frogs....

Central mandala pond and crane, the boom of which also serves as an irrigation arm
A little further along, is the second mandala area, with berries forming the edges of the circles and blueberries used for central plantings. This area includes: autumn raspberries, summer raspberries, red currants, thornless blackberry, table grapes and black currants.

The last section is home to the free range ducks and Araukana hens.

There are so many clever systems and features in this garden, it is difficult to try and name them all, but one that really strikes a chord with me is the use of 'manure bags'. Old feed bags are filled with animal manure and allowed to soak in a barrel of water. After soaking, the bag is 'innoculated' with worms and the bags are placed around the bases of the fruit trees. As it rains, the nutritious worm 'juice' runs out through the bag and into the root zone of the tree, thus fertlizing it in the most natural way. The soaking water from the bags becomes a manure tea and is used for feeding and watering the trees as well. To top it off, when the bag of manure and worms is flipped over from time to time, an enormous feast of additional worms and bugs are exposed for the chooks and ducks to feed on!

Manure & worm bags - a chooks delight!
Another clever idea that I hope to introduce into my garden soon, (on a much smaller scale, mind you), is this fodder bed for the hens. Again, a section of water tank is put to use to act as a cage to grow greens for the chooks to feed on. The mesh top allows picking/pecking access but prevents the birds from scratching up the roots and destroying the plants. Every now and then this bed can be moved and a new 'green bed' started elsewhere while the chooks go to town cleaning up the exposed greenery....

chook fodder bed enclosure
The hens in this area all roost in a selection of raised houses that feature fox proof ladders:

The view of the entire netted garden, from the top of the vegetable mandala, looking down hill to the orchard and beyond, the free range poultry area (facing north).

This is just a brief look at what is a fascintating, cleverly designed garden. And being the middle of winter  and feeling flat on the garden front, I've come away with some great ideas and plenty of inspiration to kick start me back into gear for the spring growing season, which is just around the corner!


  1. wow. tons of great ideas. and GENIUS re: the chicken greens (they can nibble but not scratch)! And the composting tube? Totally inspired. I am in awe of some folks' brains! Thanks for sharing.

  2. That's so interesting, thanks for sharing this, the creativity and intelligence in the design is extraordinary. My garden is nothing compared to this working powerhouse of a place with its connecting mandalas. Wow! The nearest I get is noting a little wagtail hopping over the dogs poo catching the flies that arrived and thinking that bird comes at the same time each morning and realising the connection, and seeing blackbirds drinking from the water held in the big cabbage leaves, but nothing designed by me...

  3. Hi Christine, I haven't stopped by here for a while and wow! Thanks for sharing the info about this garden , it really makes me marvel at what is possible : ) love the dress, hat and beret in the last post too! and now I stumble across the naan bread recipe that I was wondering about on Friday : )

  4. Hi - really, really interesting stuff. I think I'll be bookmarking this.

    We're currently rebuilding our property to permaculture, and some of the ideas there are really useful ones, particularly sing slope in an advantageous way, as some parts of our property are really quite steep.

    Thanks for posting, and especially thanks for the photos.

  5. That was really fascinating. Thank you.

  6. What an interesting garden. So wonderfully designed.
    I can only hope that one day I will be able to have even a fraction of that.
    Costa (from SBS) was at our community garden yesterday talking about permaculture water saving ideas. Missed it unfortunately, as would have loved to have been enthused by him.

  7. I was only just reading some old copies of Earth Garden and was fascinated by this property. How lucky of you to visit!

  8. The greens bed is great, Bio. I would like to make something similar out of some old dog bed frames I picked up from the tip...

    Haha, Joanna, that's funny! But good! You are looking for connections in your own backyard. And isn't it fun when you find them! :)

    You're welcome Tammy. The dress was enjoyable to make..but I still have a heap of fabric left over - what to do, what to do...? :)

    It is really interesting stuff, daharja. I love the way you can come away from a place like this full of inspiration to adjust and tweak set-ups in our own garden... :)

    You're welcome, frogdancer :)

    Oh, I love Costa, Brydie! I am lost without him on Thursday nights atm. My girls like the way he looks....me, I just like the stuff he gets up to!

    What a funny coincedence, Kimberly! Earth Gardens are one of the few magazines I (buy and)like to keep for re-reading. Always something new to learn. :)

  9. You can't help but be enthusiastic after watching him can you...He does look a bit like Grug though :-)

  10. What a wonderful post! Thanks so much for taking all the photos and writing this up, Christine. Lots of really good ideas there, and I love that they're also using the chooks to fertilise and rotorvate the beds - we're trying to do that too, so it's encouraging to know it all works!

  11. Always enthusiastic, Brydie!

    It's fascinating, isn't it Celia. I am really interested in your chook beds..circle measurements, dome materials, plantings, problems...THE details! :)


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Hi there, so nice of you to stop by! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I love hearing what you are up to. Christine x

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