Permaculture in Action

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Linda Woodrow style market garden

A comment from Rhonda at Down To Earth has motivated me to tell you a little about our market garden. Thank you Rhonda.
We started our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) 7 years Ago. We had an opportunity to lease a certified organic garden on a farm an hour from here. It was fairly well established and had a small customer list so we jumped at it.It was while living there that we developed many of our strategies for living simply. We were living in a 2 room converted dairy with an outside bathroom. Not much room for stuff and so we offloaded many of our possessions. We had previously decided to buy only 2nd hand if we could and maybe rethink buying at all if we couldn't.We were very happy there.

 It went quite well but it was mainly Mark doing all the gardening while I travelled an hour each way to my work as a teacher at a Steiner School. Teachers there started asking if they could get a box of food from us every week and over time we had more customers at the school than at the farm.In the meantime we rented out our farm here in Maitland. Our farm was 14 acres of horse paddocks mostly, with a basic permaculture design in place, but it was very close to our customers.

There were many things to think about. There was practically no soil at the farm- it was all clay and very boggy in places -in actual fact it was very marginal land. We didn't have a permanent water supply  and it was going to take some time before we would be producing anything -Luckily I still had my job at the school and I would be able to help full time for a little while as we moved while I was on school holidays.

Our 1st thoughts were to establish the new garden along the same lines as the previous one. That garden was designed along the lines of an Elliot Coleman garden. In this type of garden chickens are used inside an electric mesh fence to clear the beds for planting. But after they are finished and you move them on you have to reform the beds.

Mark and I had both previously read Linda Woodrow's book "The Permaculture Home Garden" but didn't even consider it for the farm as we were always going to do it in straight rows as we had done before until someone questioned us about it on a Permaculture Design Course that Mark was teaching, and we reread the book and thought that it would be just the thing for us. It still involved the use of chickens as before but the beds would be round and once the chooks were moved on you could plant straight into them No more forming up. But the benefits are so much more and involve so many interactions of the various elements of the garden that we are still discovering more, 5 yrs later.

Our design differs to Linda's but we would certainly like to acknowledge her ideas. The design is based on mandalas. A mandala being a circle.Each mandala contains 7 circles within it and we have 7 mandalas ie 49 circles. The six outside circles of each mandala are for food production and the centre one contains a pond to attract beneficials  such as frogs, lizards and birds for pest control.

Each mandala is also surrounded by a number of fruit trees. Deciduous trees to the north so that they don't shade the garden in the winter and citrus to the south around the ponds.

We have built up the soil by continuously adding organic matter, mainly paddock slashings and we now have  a lovely rich friable soil in the oldest of the beds. We are now feeding 20 families a week with only half the beds in full production. By spring I would like to see that double.

A little look at what Mark has been up to today.

Rhonda commented that there should be more farms like ours around. Indeed it is our intention to set ourselves up as a model for periurban food production and encourage more people with a an acre or so of land to grow food to distribute.We run Permaculture course and reskilling workshops here on our farm. We open up our farm for farm tours one day a month most months. We run workshops for a local council( not our own unfortunately) on backyard food production and natural pest control.We see that the availability of food will prove to be one of the biggest challenges we will face in the not to distant future and would like to help people in learning how to grow their own.

And every morning Mark makes sour dough bread. We use freshly ground wholewheat biodynamic flour.

"Sponge" warming on the fire

Flour added

mixing in flour

We wait for it to rise then pop it in the oven
Oops! I forgot to take a photo before we ate it for lunch.

1 comment:

  1. We have had a go at establishing mandalas a la Linda in NZ & Gembrook (Vic). At present on 2 acres at Willow Tree & just stated on the other day. They are an incredible idea.
    Pat & Wal