Category 10

Your Guide To Growing Brassicas


Despite their strange sounding name, brassicas are easily recognisable vegetables from the mustard family of plants, otherwise known as Brassicaceae. Vegies that belong to this family are broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, radish, turnips, and even rocket.

A common attribute among brassicas are the seed pods they produce once they have flowered. Another is that they are cold and frost hardy, making them natural winter crops.

Brassicas were also dominant in European cuisine before the introduction of vegetables from the new world. I have highlighted three types of brassicas that are delicious in wintry meals—even more so when freshly picked from your own garden.

Growing Food In Small Spaces


The Plummery’s vegie patch is the productive heart of our urban permaculture system. Measuring a modest 30 m2 (including paths), it has been managed through just a couple of hours a week. We swap our persimmons for pumpkins and buy a sack of potatoes, but year-round almost all of our vegies come from this little patch. Our records show that it produced more than 170 kg in 2016!

So what’s the secret? Do we use biochar, rock dust, mycorrhizal fungi? Is it biointensive? What about wicking beds, or vertical gardens? There are no magic bullets. The key to great yields is not sexy or even that difficult. But it does require a thoughtful design, attention at the right time and a healthy dose of commitment.

If you’re blessed with ample space, a wild self-seeding vegie patch and laissez-faire attitude might be all you need. Perhaps you grow produce for other reasons—to connect children with their food, or to enjoy screen-free time outdoors.

David Holmgren


David Holmgren is a thinker. David not only questions the status quo, but redesigns it and creates an alternative. In the 70s, faced with a world that he questioned, he came up with the permaculture concept, along with his mentor Bill Mollison.

Bill immediately took the concept and travelled the world, teaching it to thousands of people worldwide, making himself and permaculture a household name. David however felt that the permaculture design principles needed testing. He turned his focus to building his skills, and testing and implementing the principles they’d created.

The result is David’s home, Melliodora, an inspiring and beautiful working example of permaculture on 1 hectare of intensively farmed land. There you’ll find a passive solar mud-brick home and office, a team of willing workers and a well-integrated selection of trees, animals, vegetables, fungi and bees. Along with his partner Su Dennett [who was profiled in Pip issue 5] and their son Oliver, David has developed Melliodora into one of Australia’s best-known permaculture demonstration sites, hosting tours and workshops for hundreds of people every year. Although it’s affected by frost and at risk of bushfires, Melliodora is at the core of David’s determination to demonstrate that permaculture works, even in tough conditions.

International Permaculture Convergence, India


International permaculture convergences (IPCs) are an opportunity for people from all over the world to get together and share their passion for permaculture. With 1200 participants from over 60 countries at the latest IPC held in India last November and December, there was a wide representation from across the globe.

Bill Mollison and Robyn Francis came to India 30 years ago and taught the first PDC (permaculture design course). One of their first students on that course was Narsanna Koppula, who went on to create Aranya Farm. He has transformed a semi-arid wasteland into a productive and thriving demonstration farm, where he teaches and spreads the word of permaculture.

Narsanna has been instrumental in establishing permaculture in India, and from what I could see, there is a thriving permaculture movement there (so important when you have companies like Monsanto coming in and taking over). Narsanna and his wife Padma were responsible for this conference and convergence, and what an amazing job they did. In a country where things don’t always go to plan or run on time, they assembled an amazing program with the help of a team of hard working volunteers.

Book Reviews


The latest offering by The Little Veggie Patch Co is like a good urban garden—colourful, full of diversity, well-planned and organised. Grow Food Anywhere covers the basics of small-space productive gardening in a fun and informative fashion.

Divided into three sections, the first, ‘What plants need’ covers the nutritional and growing requirements for specific plants as well as general soil fertility . ‘Fruit and veg to grow’ has an emphasis on plant suitability for small-scale growing, consolidated into a clever rating scale as well as all the basic planting info for specific plants. ‘Pests and diseases to know’ also has a rating scale for common garden pests (in which the human child rates the maximum 5 out of 5!).

Full of tongue-in-cheek humour, colourful photos, psychedelic illustrations and handy tips, this book could be a coffee table read or the number one go-to gardening guide for beginner to more experienced growers alike.

Better Baking Habits: Changing The Way You Bake


In our household it’s all about the golden jars of drippy honey, blocks of creamy butter, big bags of wholemeal spelt flour lining the floor, and tiny bottles of homemade vanilla extract. This is the simple basis for most of our family baking.

It hasn’t always been like this though. While in the last 15 years my baking has generally been on the healthier side of things, I wasn’t a stranger to sugar in the cupfuls, rainbows of food dyes and fluffy white flour.

Over the years, and with a variety of questionable ovens, my baking has evolved. Babies were born, tastebuds matured and knowledge was built on. Slowly I worked out what food was best to fuel both myself and those I loved. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t the recipes that had two cups of sugar listed in the ingredients.

Top 10 Productive Plants To Grow In Small Spaces


If you want something tiny, nutritious and delicious, try micro greens. Long revered by chefs for their subtle flavours and delicate textures, they are very easy to grow and will add some extra street cred to any kitchen. Because plants are not grown to full maturity, we don’t have to worry about a lot of common challenges like spacing, light, pests and disease. Instead, growing is an all-out sprint with a high-density of seeds placed in a tray and watered daily. Only a little bit of light is necessary, which makes these a popular option for people who want to grow indoors.


Lettuce is the Golden Retriever of the vegetable world: simple, loyal and easy to satisfy. Throw any season at a lettuce and you’re bound to get some produce in return. It seems to thrive best in early autumn and spring conditions, but like your Retriever, will be happy with most seasons. Lettuces are not especially hungry for nutrients, but do require a steady supply of nitrogen.

Shamba La Jamii: Garden For The Community In Kenya


The Green Garden Group (GGG) of Iviani Primary School in the Eastern Province of Ukumbani, Kenya, started in 2013. Back then it had around 60 teachers, students and community members who were eager to learn about and practise permaculture. I facilitated the start of GGG because I felt that food security and prevailing droughts can only be addressed with changed behaviour, hence the introduction of permaculture.

The students attend school from 7am until 5pm and there was little or no food available throughout the day. While there was a government feeding program of maize and beans, these initiatives come and go fast in Kenya, so the GGG took action. We implemented a kitchen garden, and planted a food forest and Moringa forest. We also established a tree nursery from seeds collected from their environment, planting over 4000 trees on the school land and throughout the community.

Purple Pear Farm: Growing Food And Community


As urban centres expand and suburbs sprawl, farmers sometimes find their rural idyll hemmed in by the reach of the city. When they found they were losing their quiet country surrounds, Kate Beveridge and her partner Mark Brown of Purple Pear Farm faced the choice to sell up and move further out, or stay put and feed the community that had come to them.

Kate and her family first moved to their small acreage in 1995. Driven by a passion for growing food, Kate and Mark soon saw the potential of the land and its location. Nestled in the crook of the Hunter River, on the outskirts of Maitland in NSW, it seemed a perfect place to provide local food for the town.

Make Your Own Worm Tower


A worm tower provides an easy way to have selffertilising stations throughout the garden. They’re a good option for people not wanting to get ‘down and dirty’ with their worms. Traditional worm farms require checking of temperatures, moisture, food uptake, etc., but with a worm tower, after it’s placed in the garden, you simply need to put some food in every few days, keep it moist and covered, and the worms do the rest.

Worm towers can are much smaller than traditional worm farms. They’re cheap, especially if you use recycled materials, and you can make one in under an hour! The traditional worm tower is a vertical pipe with holes drilled around the bottom half that gets dug into the garden. It becomes the house and feeding station for the compost worms. Your job is to feed the worms periodically with organic matter and the worms will transform it into worm castings and worm juice. This then leaches into the soil around the tower, increasing overall fertility and helping retain moisture.