Category Design

12-MONTH VISION – Designing your dream patch using observation and patience


An exciting flood of ideas and energy comes to you when you move into a new place. But, before jumping into building your new permaculture dream, there is wisdom to be found in slowing down in the first 12 months to observe and interact.

So you’ve moved into your new home, you’ve hung your tools up in the shed and wandered around your new garden identifying plants and pondering the ideas of the previous gardener. Or maybe you’ve moved to a bare patch of earth, a blank canvas for your future vision. Bursting with new ideas and plant lists, there’s a lot to be gained from exercising restraint and patience because sometimes if we rush a long- term vision, we can create mistakes and waste. Photo By Nat Mendham

LIVING PANTRY – Designing an edible ecosystem in your backyard


More than just an edible garden, designing a functional living pantry is to create a thriving ecosystem that nourishes itself and all those who visit it.

A living pantry is place of repose, a feast for the senses, a celebration of diversity that not only sustains people, but provides food, water and habitat for an abundance of other species. A garden that is beautiful, practical and productive.

It is a place where you can forage and it is the garden that dictates what’s on the menu. A garden for picking flowers, connecting with nature and drawing food from. Edible perennials, herbs and vegetables grow amongst grasses, flowering shrubs, indigenous plants and annual flowers; a garden that is biologically diverse.

NATIVES FOR NATIVES – Choosing native plants to attract native birds to your garden


Using native plants to attract birds not only brings life, colour and song to our gardens, it also helps keep our local ecosystems balanced because of the roles birds play in pollinating plants, dispersing seed, controlling insects and, in some cases, even keeping rodents in check.

Bird habitats throughout the country are continually being cleared or destroyed, threatening vulnerable species. We have an opportunity to counter some of the imbalances this causes, by satisfying some or all of our local birds’ needs in our own garden. Their needs are simple; food, water, shelter and a place to nest. Choosing the right native plants for our gardens is one of the best ways to attract and support our native bird species.

Before starting to plan your bird-friendly garden, you can start by finding out what birds live in your area. Like us, they all have their individual likes and dislikes. Some love nectar while others prefer seeds or fruit. There are all manner of insects that birds enjoy and some will nibble on foliage and even bark.

PLAN & PREPARE – Preparing your home for bushfire season

When we think about fire preparation, our first thoughts are usually about cleaning up around the house. But as we head towards what’s tipped to be a particularly hot summer, there’s plenty we can learn from people who have survived catastrophic bushfires.The unseasonably warm and dry spring Australia just experienced has followed a triple La Niña weather event. The increase in rainfall during the last three summers has contributed to thick forest undergrowth which, as temperatures increase, is drying out.There’s nothing we can do that will have any bearing on the extreme temperatures Australia is expecting this fire season, but there’s things we can do to prepare, and designs we can implement that can put you and your family on the front foot if the unthinkable happens in the future.

CHICKEN COOPS – Housing chooks


The arrival of spring’s warmer weather is a great time to introduce chooks into your patch. More than just protection from weather and predators, a chicken coop needs to be well considered to ensure your flock stays happy, healthy and laying.

Integrating a flock of chickens into your patch has so many more benefits than simply a regular supply of healthy eggs. They process kitchen waste, fight common garden pests and produce nitrogen-rich fertiliser. When it comes to supplying them a cosy home, they have some specific requirements that need to be considered. But a well thought-out design – both in terms of the structure itself and how it fits into your space – will ensure you’re getting the most from your flock, while they stay happy and healthy.

GAME, SET, PATCH – Converting a decades-old tennis court into a productive vegetable garden.


For Jaclyn Crupi and her partner Andrew Stewardson, transforming a disused tennis court into a productive vegie garden was about finding a design that balanced history, happiness and health.

In 2019, Jaclyn and Andrew acquired half an acre on the Mornington Peninsula, less than 100 kilometres southeast of Melbourne. On it stands a mid-century home that remains practically unchanged from what would have been regarded a quite forward-thinking build in its day, right down to the pantry’s cold cupboard next to the small original kitchen at the rear of the home.

Imagined by Andrew’s grandmother and designed by his grandfather in 1948, the home has been the Stewardson family’s holiday destination for as long as Andrew can remember. Filled with as much light as important memories, it’s not the building we’re here to see, but the impressive enclosed vegetable garden Jaclyn and Andrew have created on the property’s original tennis court.

NETWORKS IN ECOSYSTEMS – Mimicking natural ecosystems at your place with self-supporting designs


An ecosystem is a community of organisms interacting with each other and with their physical environment. It functions as a complex, self-sustaining natural system that meets its needs without waste.

‘The ecological imperative’ states that humans are part of ecosystems, and must acknowledge their interrelationship with and interdependence upon such systems. Permaculture follows this imperative, to integrate and transform human societies so they can live in sustainably designed and highly productive ecosystems. In such systems self-interest is aligned with the common good. For these reasons permaculture is often called ‘the cultivated ecology’.

Networks in ecosystems provide the relationships of reciprocity; the giving, taking and sharing that makes life possible. And it’s our ethical task to design ecosystems that optimise the number of productive species, use energy and matter effectively and move towards ecosystem stability and perpetuation.

When designing systems in our own lives, our ecological aims should be to preserve genetic diversity, respect the right to life of all species to contribute to ecosystem structure, allow ecosystems to evolve under changing conditions and to use species and habitats sustainably so the essential life- sustaining processes can continue intact. Because if we don’t have ecological design aims we run counter to basic, and often unknown, laws of nature with serious consequences – it’s like taking the bottom out of a pyramid, destructive effects multiply and affect other connected systems.

Indigenous Knowledge: Milpa Method


Drawing on the wisdom of Indigenous Americans, the Milpa method of gardening mimics a forest ecosystem to promote fertility and increase resilience.

Adapted from the forest ecosystem by Indigenous Americans over a period of thousands of years, Milpa gardens are an elegant response to the challenges every natural gardener faces; weather, weeds, fertility and pests. The method increases drought and inundation resilience, while promoting natural fertility by recreating the managed forest gardens, the natural habitat of humanity.

North American Indigenous gardener and environmental biologist Mel Landers was seduced by the gardening techniques he encountered following fieldwork with the Urarina people of the Peruvian Amazon in 1969, triggering a lifelong study of the Milpa system.

Implementing Permaculture: Mimicking Nature


Implementing permaculture design into the home garden doesn’t have to be a complex and drawn-out process, you just have to look at what nature is doing and follow her lead.

The aim of using permaculture design in the home garden is to imitate nature and allow your garden to maintain itself with minimal input from humans. In nature no element stands alone. Our natural ecosystems are made up of complex synergies where plants, animals, insects and the elements are all working together supporting and nourishing one another.

In healthy ecosystems all these parts are effortlessly working together, feeding and creating habitats for one another to survive. You too can create a garden where you can allow nature to do a lot of the work.

Vermifiltration: Worms At Work


Most of us already know how effective worms are at turning kitchen waste into rich garden goodness, but there are other ways they can help around the home.

Worm farms have become an increasingly common sight in productive backyards and urban gardens over the last few decades. And given their compact design, lack of odour and minimal labour investment, it’s easy to see why.

While worm farming (also known as vermicomposting) remains one of the best ways to convert organic waste into soil-improving compost, the system also has the potential to do some heavier lifting for us around the house. Recent studies have shown vermicomposting is also an excellent option for treating grey and black wastewaters, stabilising heavy metals in soils and even degrading persistent chemicals within our soils.