Julie Firth has created a permaculture oasis near Geraldton, Western Australia. Although not a true desert, the area clearly has a dryland climate, with annual rainfall as low as 200 mm during drought years, summer temperatures reaching well over 40 °C and relentless wind gusts of up to thirty kilometres per hour. It has taken careful design and thoughtful placement of features to allow things to grow there.
Julie is originally from New Zealand, and was working in the mining industry in WA when she bought her three hectare property of degraded land about ten kilometres north of Geraldton. Not long after buying the land she undertook her PDC with Bill Mollison and Jude Fanton in New South Wales, and immediately started to transform her property with renewed vision. So began her inspired development of the Drylands Permaculture Farm, and its associated Yilgarn Seeds and the Drylands Permacuture Nursery.
The property is designed in zones: intensive gardens close to the house, through to revegetation projects, and with dryland plants towards the outer boundaries. Shade is crucial, and there are sheltered walkways in all directions. Various structures or plants are used to delineate one zone from another, including archways, lippia herb lawns, strawbale seats, sculptures and fences. Other innovative structures used include: clay floors, sandbag garden edging, bottles and cans to fill gaps in walls, and recycled building materials.