Turn on the TV, you’ll see us.  Open your newspaper. There we are.  Get on an aeroplane and open the inflight magazine.  We’re going to be there too.  Pretty soon you’ll see us in your dreams.  Riding through space atop giant earth worms, smelling like Seasol and firing out organic rotten tomatoes from our futuristic cannons at the forces of the bland chemical food system. We’ve been putting ourselves at the mercy of the media quite a bit lately. This article from the Herald Sun’s Home mag today features VEG’s  Dan Palmer and Adam Grubb and a photo of a VEG bed in an article about the permablitz concept.  Plus, our top 10 reasons for growing your own food.  Read on…

Home Grown Makeover

A concept to transform back yards into vegie patches is growing on Melbourne residents

» Words Tony Fawcett
» Photography Chris Groenhout


permablitz design plan
In action

The permablitz plan
to transform Steven’s

Fancy a fabulous backyard vegie garden overflowing with fresh, wholesome, tasty produce that hasn’t suffered from chemical bombardment? Then maybe it’s time to be Permablitzed. In the past two-and-a-half years, about 66 Melbourne gardens have been blitzed in this fashion.

It’s basically a painless procedure in which a group of gardening experts and their helpers descend on your home and treat you to an earth-fnendly, thoroughly workable perrnaculture vegie garden. Now what could be better than that?

Of course, there’s no such thing as a free garden. Before your backyard can be blitzed, you’re expected to donate time in a similar fashion to help set up gardens for three or four others.

This self-help, non-profit scheme is called, appropriately, Permablitz, and was started by permaculture enthusiasts Adam Grubb and Dan Palmer [and many friends], who exhibited their concept at the Sustainable Living Festival in Melbourne earlier this year.

Since it started, in 2006. Permablitz teams have been working most weekends, somewhere around Melbourne.

And one of the latest gardens to be blitzed is that of Steven Harris.

backyard post blitz
Easy access

For convenience, vegie beds
are located between the house
and clothesline

In one day, a Permablitz team of about 30 transformed Steven’s garden from a non-productive expanse of grass and sandy soil into a thriving vegie garden complete with paths, raised beds, watering system, chicken coop and orchard.

It’s great, says Steven, surveying his blitzed garden featuring raised beds between the house and a central clothesline.

Permablitz organiser Adam says this design was chosen to simplify Steven’s work in the garden.

“We’re basically lazy gardeners,” Adam says, pointing out that this way Stevencan tend and harvest crops as part of his day-to-day routine.

“A lot of traditional Australian back yards would have had the vegie patch right up in the far corner but that’s just not practical.

“You have to be really committed to go up to the back corner, whereas here the most high-maintenance things are in between where Steven is going to collect his eggs Irom the chicken coop and the clothesline.

“He can come out here with his basket of washing, hang out the clothes, pick a few salad greens, put them in the empty clothes basket, get a few eggs and then walk back to the house.”

And while he’s resting, those chickens will be eliminating pests, as well as providing a plentiful supply of organic fertiliser.

VEG bed
High & mighty

A raised, corrugated iron vegie
bed minimises bending when
tending the patch (above)

In this set-up. a fence across the garden confines the chickens to the recently-planted orchard area. The reason. Adam says, is that chickens just aren’t compatible with vegie patches because they’ll make a meal of what’s being grown.

“But they’re very compatible with orchards because they scratch and eat fallen fruits and pests, fertilise your fruit trees and keep down the grass, yet they don’t harm the trees themselves,” he says.

Adam, a “recovering computer geek” and writer on global energy issues, predicts Steven’s garden will soon be flush with fruit and vegies and, best of all. “he will have made many new friends and had a lot of fun in the process”.

When a blitz is finished, participants inevitably get together for a party and last year, when the 50th blitz was completed, there was a huge celebration with much shared food and frivolity.

But behind it all. Adam says, is the serious aim of promoting permaculture, an organic and self-sustaining system of agriculture.

“It’s a simple and earth-friendly form of sustainable gardening.” he says “We tend to look for solutions to a problem rather than dwelling on it.”

“And Permablitz is a practical network based on reciprocity. It’s not a charity.”

“The idea is that you put something in to get something back. Everyone involved is a volunteer and the host needs to find the budget
for the materials”

For more details on Permablitz, see www.permablitz.net

Adam and Steve
Dynamic Duo

Steven Harris (right) in his garden
with Permablitz’s Adam Grubb

» Adam’s 10 reasons to grow your own

  1. Home-grown is considered healthier, with more nutrients.
  2. Tastes better and fresher and comes in more varieties.
  3. It’s good for the environment (organic gardening helps retain
    carbon in the soil.
  4. Home gardens are considered better able to conserve water than commercial ones.
  5. You’ll save money (for instance. a $3 pack of zucchini seed will supply about 100 zucchinis).
  6. You can grow an array of heritage vegies not available in shops.
  7. You’ll feel more connected lo nature and the seasons.
  8. It’s good physical exercise and aids mental health.
  9. You’ll have an aesthetically pleasing vegie garden to enjoy
  10. You’ll get to know friends and neighbours better through swapping vegies and experiences.

(Herald Sun Home supplement, 11 July 2009)


Click to check out the permaculture design consultancy or corrugated iron vegie bed options.