Melbourne's first demonstration urban Permculture food forest, a working proof-of-concept, pesticide and herbicide free. A highly productive living ecosystem in a small urban backyard in the inner suburbs of Melbourne!
This garden was rebuilt as a demonstration project of what an urban Permaculture garden in an average sized block in an inner suburb of Melbourne, Australia could produce sustainably and organically. The intention was to not use any chemical fertilizers or pesticides, to rebuild the soil (which was leached and lifeless) and construct a self-supporting ecosystem.
The garden employs a range of organic and sustainable gardening techniques, such as no-dig, plant stacking, succession planting, composting, mulching, vertical gardening, companion planting as well as some modern design principles such as square foot gardening and backyard orchard design.
From the time the garden was first built, it has been meticulously documented – for everything that has been built, instructional articles have been written on how this was done. All produce coming out of the garden has been weighed, and all of this has been published on the website, Deep Green Permaculture (http://deepgreenpermaculture.com).
One of the biggest commitments to this research project is the detailed recording of yields for two and a half years so far (and still going) — concrete, solid facts and figures showing what a backyard Permaculture food forest can produce.
The garden is very water efficient. In Melbourne, Australia, residents had been forced to restrict water usage due to drought conditions. The harshest restriction level reached was designated Stage 3a – with watering only allowed twice a week in the late evening, and for one hour only. Watering with full compliance to these restrictions, plus with the rainwater harvested from a 30 square metre garage roof and stored in a homemade water tank system (1500L capacity at the time), the garden thrives splendidly.
The whole food forest employs a ‘no-dig’ design. Once the beds were set up, they were never dug ever again. The garden beds separate the garden areas from the paths, because the garden beds are strict ‘no-stepping’ areas! Stepping in the garden beds compacts the soil, and this reduces both water and air penetration through the soil structure, which adversely affects plant growth.
‘Chop and Drop’ is practised with unwanted plants. The simple practice to improve the soil is to never uproot plants. If a plant dies down or needs to be removed, the stem is cut off at soil level. As the plant’s roots decompose, it creates an extensive and intricate network of channels that can carry water deep into the soil.
Having a forest design creates favourable microclimates, and with extensive companion planting, it comes together to create a vibrant living ecosystem that finds its own balance, and naturally controls pests and ‘weeds’. So, this garden is pesticide free, and doesn’t really require weeding.
It’s all low maintenance, requiring about two hours a week to keep in order.
Here are some specifications for this backyard food forest:
•Total Size of back yard: 150 square metres
•Total size of garden (including paths): 85 square meters
•Total area of garden beds: 64 square metres (686 sq. feet)
•Fruit trees: 30+
•Berries: 16 different types
•Medicinal herbs: 70+ different types
By recording the productivity from year to year, it is possible to objectively determine how successful the garden design is, and to clearly see the increase in productivity as the food forest matures and establishes itself.
The yield statistics are measured in terms of yield/acre.
The garden, still in its infancy at two years of age, produced:
•202kg/64 square metres
Converting this to acres, the yield per acre is 12,773kg/acre
In its first 2 year this fledgling garden that is just getting started is producing the equivalent of 12,773 kg/acre, or in other words, close to 12.77 metric tonnes per acre!
That is a respectable figure for a young, water-wise, pest free garden where only 10 of the thirty fruit trees have actually started producing yet.
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