Permaculture in Action

Monday, July 28, 2014

Fresh Food Gardens in Arid Australia.

A couple of weeks back, Mark was sent out to an indigenous community near Alice Springs. He left me in  charge of the farm for two weeks and set off on his adventure. Following is his account of the project.

I was privileged to be asked by Slow Foods Hunter Valley to look at fresh food in Central Australia. I spent two weeks near Kings Canyon on a community project for a food garden. The project for me centered around a market garden set up in the Wanmara community by a group keen to get food available in the Kings Canyon area. The well (over) resourced enterprise was way too much for the members of the community and it was important that we provide a manageable food growing opportunity for the community that could be expanded into the future if that was what they wanted.
We needed to reduce the need for labour if possible and make the garden a place where the community would be interested in and keen to attend on a regular (daily) basis. The conventional market garden was seen as uninspiring.
In consultation with the key people in the community, Peter, Christine and Elma, we designed a garden along the lines of a mandala garden with the idea that chickens in purpose built domes could do the bulk of the work  in cultivating, fertilizing, insect control and bed clean up and weed control. 

We added to this a meandering garden where some of the bush tucker of the area could be grown.
The mandala incorporates the existing propagation house and a small citrus orchard in a position close to the houses with room for expansion  as interest grows. The introduction of chickens will need to wait till they can be provided with electric mesh fencing to keep out dingos and the construction of the appropriate housing.
We constructed compost piles using local pest “Buffel” grass and camel and donkey manure from Kings Creek Station nearby. 

Mulga sticks used to build the compost enclosure

We also propagated a range of seasonal vegetables for planting in the mandala garden and some bush tucker plants as well.

 We arranged stones to outline the beds and paths 

and constructed a couple of ponds to invite the wildlife to be part of the solution to the arid environment and invite biological pest controllers to the garden. 

 All mandalas were fitted with drip irrigation from the previous garden.

The bush foods garden is an ongoing, evolving project with the plan a start to making it happen.

Though we have made a great start there remains plenty to do to ensure we have a workable, interesting and productive fresh food garden for the communities inhabitants, and perhaps the wider community in the arid centre of Australia.

There was plenty of hard work during the two weeks in the center of Australia but l also took some time for trekking in the beautiful country. We saw some special places that the ordinary tourist does not get to see. The marvelous generosity of the people at Wanmara and at Lilla will be something I remember for a long time.


  1. Wow, what an amazing experience!!!!

  2. Such amazing, wonderful and very important work. Well done Mark! It's been quite a few years since I have been out at Kings Canyon but I still remember that red dust:)

  3. I've been dying to hear about this trip! It sounds great Mark!! It must feel great to be involved in a project like this. And the photos are incredible too. The scenery reflected in the water....

  4. And might I add, I don't know anyone else who has made camel dung compost!

  5. Great work, Mark. Very illustrative pictures add to the words. I love the red dirt and the other beautiful views.

  6. Great job Mark i am sure your design will be much more workable for the community. Those photos are beautiful. Hopefully we will get to the outback one day.

  7. Really excellent work. Good to see some of us greening our own desert.