Yarrow is easy to grow and adaptable to a wide range of conditions in climates from alpine to subtropical. In the tropics it can be grown as a shorter-lived plant. It likes sun, but tolerates semi-shade. It copes well with poorer soils and dry periods, although it prefers rich, moist soils. While it can be grown from seed, it is most easily propagated by division of the whole plant.
Dogs are a very popular pet, being the most common pet in Australia. They can provide various services in a permaculture system, however they need good training, space to run and a sustainable source of food, so serious planning is required before deciding to add a dog to your system.
Where do I start in planning my permaculture garden on my bare 2 acre block that I’ve just built a house on? (Anna, Candelo NSW) Start at your door. Create a small kitchen garden while you get to know your whole site in-depth and make your plans. Go walkabout regularly. Look at what’s happening beyond your boundary too. Slow down and get a feel for each space. Perhaps even have picnics in various places around your block. Make a copy of your property plan or print out a Google Earth image (A3 is a good size). Carry it around with you and jot down observations like microclimates, wind and solar access, how you could source, sink and spread water, soil types and quality, and local vegetation and abundances.
In the words of Kevin Costner, ‘If you build it, [they] will come’. Worms live in soils with high humus content. Humus is the product of decaying organic matter. The best way to produce humus is adding consistent volumes of compost and mulch...
Cattle (cows, bulls, oxen, heifers, steers, bullocks or calves) are valued for their ability to provide large amounts of milk or meat. They can also be used for labour and when well-managed, in maintaining grasslands. Yet cattle are very large animals, expensive to purchase and they eat a lot of feed. Cattle bring many benefits, but be sure they’re right for you and your system before you commit.
Silver perch are useful, hardy native fish suitable for farm dams, aquaponics and other aquaculture systems. They are easy to feed and as they’re native to a wide swath of the Murray-Darling river system, they’re adaptable to a range of conditions.
What plants can I grow underneath my fruit trees to create a guild that will support them? [Jack, Cooma, NSW] I would start with plants that assist in pollination, perform the role of pest control and don’t compete with the tree. Perennials that flower just prior to and during each fruit tree flowering time will invite bees, pollinating the fruit and providing you with a harvest. Plants with daisy or umbel-shaped flowers are favoured by common predatory insects, so a handful of them in your guild during fruiting season can minimise damage.
Goats are entertaining, intelligent and productive animals and can offer a lot of inputs into a permaculture system. Due to their varied palate, they can be very useful in managing woody and weedy vegetation, as well as blackberries. In fact, much of their feed can come from excess growth around the garden.
Chickens don’t tend to eat used coffee grounds. They hold little nutritional value for them and caffeine is not good for chickens. The chickens will however scratch around in the coffee grounds and may make a dust bath in it. Their scratching will help you spread the coffee around the garden. In the chook run, the mix of coffee grounds, manure, hay and food scraps makes a great base for compost; I rake this all up and put it directly into my compost bays. I love things getting pre-prepared like this as it makes composting easier. Composted coffee grounds give more direct benefit to your garden.
The vast majority of gardening books, and nurseries, will tell you to buy grafted fruit and nut trees. Although grafted trees play an important role in permaculture systems, in many cases seedling trees may be a better option. Fruit and nut trees grown from seed are tough, need minimal water and are resistant to many diseases. And they’re free.
Pumpkins need plenty of water and have a high nutrient requirement. Otherwise they are very low maintenance and easy to grow. They can be planted into a pocket of compost, or mulched heavily. Watering is best done direct to the soil as wet leaves can make plants vulnerable to fungal diseases.
A non-woody herb with large, hairy leaves growing from a central rosette, pale purple flowers and thick roots. In good conditions the leaf mass grows up to fifty centimetres, with flower stems emerging above the leaves.
Undertaking a permaculture course is a very rewarding experience. Not only will you gain skills and knowledge, but you may end up viewing the world in a new way. You will also interact with a group which is interested in similar things as you, and learn from practitioners with plenty of experience.
Description: an attractive evergreen shrub with edible fruit; the rounded leaves are green on top and cream below; flowers are pink with prominent red stamens; fruit is oval and green.
When I talk about my lifestyle, people always seem to be fascinated by the fact that I kill and butcher meat at home – I presume because it is so far removed from most people’s experience (and because it is an unpleasant process). They seem even more bemused if they know that I love animals.
Description: a fast growing, deep rooted, evergreen leguminous shrub or small tree with prolific white flowers in late winter and early spring.
This year is International Year of the Family Farm, and two recent reports, from United Nations and European constituencies, make the case for a return of support for smallholder farmers.