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Rossmore, NSW, AU
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Rossmore, AU

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Research, research, research ... what is the perfect garden design?

Project: Family Sustainability

Posted by Fiona Plsek about 9 years ago

How we came about choosing a mandela as our garden design and why it works.

With soil and nutrients erroding down slope, the next challenge was to determine the best design that would suit the slope and the existing trees. 

Probably important to note at this point .... I HATE GRASS! Actually lawn to be precise. A naturally grassed area is important as a design element in most properties. I'm a firm believer in using an area to its full potential ... lawn in its true element is useless! It looks nice but requires preening, reduces biodiversity and requires too much maintenance ... especially water. Native grasses are awesome! Most of them have deep root systems to combat the effects of drought, prefer to be topped (mown) in summer and during the slower winter months don't need any effort. Kangaroo grass for example is oen of the best ... but I digress, I'm not going to turn this into a thread about some of the amazing grasses we have here in Australia (that's for another time)

In researching my next garden design, I had a number of principles to consider... 

* to be close to the house, so things could be easily picked

* to be amongst the fruit trees, so as to reduce effort in orchard maintenance

* to be easily watered, because I work 4 days a week

* to be fun for the kids as I wanted then to learn where their food came from

* to be large enough to feed us and provide plenty of greens for the chooks

* to have as few areas of grass exposed

* to cater for easy crop rotation

* site aspect (tree shading, slope, thermal radiation from the buildings, etc)

... just a couple of the more significant requirements.

Why so many requirements ... ? Because my background is in large scale IT system design, implementation and maintenance. With a complete set of requirements ... you are closer to a solution than you realise ... less ambiguous and more room for negotiation. 

Knowing what I needed and wanted (two very different things), I set about researching. Roughly 7 weeks passed of reading countess online articles, books and blogs about garden design ... until I got a copy of Bill Mollison's Permaculture: A Designer's Manual. All I can say is WOW! I loved the language used, the detailed drawings and the descriptions. It now stands proud in my bookshelf with multiple reference markers sticking out everywhere. 

While reading Permaculture: A Designer's Manual, the concept of a Mandala style garden looked promising. So I drew up a scale diagram of the existing orchard and discovered that keyhole gardens of 2.5m radius would work a treat amongst the existing fruit trees! So the designing began ...

Attached below is a schematic of what i ended up designing ... it took a week of nights to get the crops we liked organised in a way that would facilitate easy watering, easy picking, companion planting and crop rotation ... it was great fun! (not attached are the details for each "petal" of the mandela)

So in May 2011, each petal of the mandela was measured out and slowly populated ... lots of seedlings were raised from open-pollinated varieties (yet another journey in reasearch) and transplanted leading to a wonderful variety of Winter veges for us, our friends and our chooks. By July, the garden was establishing and producing some amazing vegies and flowers, the kids discovered the joys of hiding in the garden and I started a new reasearch and design project ... our Food Forest and Berry Patch.

How close did I stick to the design and rotation patter ...? Mostly. Some plants didn't do as well for different reasons wheras other plants flourished. The design was updated for Summer 2011 vegies and has progressed wonderfully ... below are a few pics from the result.

Mandela Mandela%20petal%201 Mandela%20petal%202 Mandela%20petal%203 Mandela%20petal%204 Mandela%20petal%205 Mandela%20petal%206

Comments (2)

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Jyoti Deshpande
Jyoti Deshpande : your garden is quite an inspiration to me :-) thank you for all the detailed info...this will definitely help me in boosting my morale to develop a food forest. U r doing awsome work..all the best!
Posted almost 9 years ago

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María Luz Cardozo
María Luz Cardozo : Really! awesome work! It's still working now? Could you give us a little update for this last 2 years? ;)
Posted over 8 years ago

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