We’ve only just released into the wild a bunch of extremely talented permaculture graduates, all super keen and skilled to restore our landscapes and community. There is a staggering and growing number of folks who want to be real actors of change in their corner of the World. They want to collect water, reduce waste, grow food and create or foster habitats for the local biodiversity, altogether strengthening the ties that make a community resilient and harmoniously happy. They know that beyond a “want” it is a “need”.
These folks come from all walks of life… There are the accountants, newsreaders, IT experts, doctors, lawyers, activists, mums and dads, school teachers and even policemen! Not many of them are tree-hugging hippies!
What they all have in common is the factual realisation that our society cannot continue as it has been, business as usual, in a future of certain climate instability.
They understand what it takes to be a conscious human being, capable of healing the food systems that we rely on by consuming ethical and local, by saying no to biodiversity-destroying monocultures like palm oil, by genuinely reducing the waste we produce especially single-use plastics… They understand much more than what I can write in this short article.
I am humbled at having guided them into their permaculture journey and as I ‘rest’ until the next course, I will continue tending the farm and the family, raising food ethically, weaving more ties with you, my community, (find me at the next Dooralong Produce Swap, 10 December, together with the Carols by Candlelight) and to be grateful for this life I’ve been given.
Australian soils are notoriously deficient in calcium and magnesium. A simple soil test carried out by a soil testing lab will confirm if your soils are indeed inadequately balanced. I personally think it is worth the expense (somewhere between $50-$200 per test) if you’re serious about gardening ornamentals or edible plants, or growing healthy pasture.
You need to know what your soils are made of. Deficiencies in soils lead to stressed plant that will attract pests and diseases. These in turn will cause you lots of grief.
Calcium and magnesium are amongst the most needed nutrients for plants to uptake other nutrients. It has to do with their cation exchange capacities (their positive electrical charge) which, in short, binds to other nutrients.
Role of calcium in plants
Participates in metabolic processes of other nutrients uptake.
Promotes proper plant cell elongation.
Strengthen cell wall structure – calcium is an essential part of plant cell wall. It forms calcium pectate compounds which give stability to cell walls and bind cells together.
Participates in enzymatic and hormonal processes.
Helps in protecting the plant against heat stress – calcium improves stomata function and participates in induction of heat shock proteins.
Helps in protecting the plant against diseases – numerous fungi and bacteria secret enzymes which impair plant cell wall. Stronger Cell walls, induced by calcium, can avoid the invasion.
Affects fruit quality.
Has a role in the regulation of the stomata.
Role of magnesium in plants
Magnesium is an indispensable mineral for plant growth, for it plays a major role in the production of chlorophyll, on which photosynthesis depends. Without a ready source of magnesium the plant cannot grow.
Light-absorbing green pigment
Capture’s the energy of sunlight and turns it into chemical energy
Allows synthesis of organic compounds that are useful for plant growth and functioning (carbohydrates, lipids, proteins)
Synthesis of amino acids and cell proteins
Uptake and migration of phosphorus in plants
Vitamin A and C concentrations
Resistance to unfavourable factors (drought, cryptogamic disease)
So, it is good practice to sprinkle a handful of dolomite lime per square meter of soil prior to planting a new crop. Dolomite lime brings calcium as well as magnesium. Garden lime (cheaper) only brings calcium. Both types of lime help raise the pH. Soil pH are, in general, best around 6.5-7. Our veggie patch soils at the farm started at pH 4 (rather acidic) and now four years of soil improvement later, we’re at 6.5.
1 cup of raw cauliflower yields 22.0 mg Calcium and 15.0 mg of Magnesium
Magnesium for chlorophyll production
A spoon of Epsom Salts
Our meat rabbits, on pasture, fertilize the soil with a high dose of calcium and magnesium.
Green manuring for organic matter
Calcium strengthen cell wall structure
Another practice that I would recommend is to dilute Epsom salt (Magnesium sulphate) in a spray bottle (1/4 teaspoon for two cups of water) and apply as a foliar spray in the late afternoon, when the sun is no longer shining on plants, once a fortnight. This will give your plants an extra magnesium boost that helps with chlorophyll production. Strong chlorophyll metabolism lead to strong plants that pump a lot of energy and can grow big, healthy and resilient.
Finally, I also spray once a fortnight seaweed solution. I mix that solution with Epsom salts and spray once – that saves time. Plants get a real kick out of that and soils too.
Last but not least, organic matter. Add generous amounts of it, regularly, to feed the soil biota (aka soil life such as bacteria, fungi, arthropods, etc.).
Happy soils – happy plants – healthy gardener.
Come and talk to us gardeners at the Dooralong Produce Swap, 3rd Sunday of the Month, Dooralong Oval, 3pm!
Or sign up to our permaculture course to learn EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW about soils! How to analyze them, restore them, feed them, nurture them…
Join us to get you right on track in your permaculture journey – course starts this August.
#PDC #simpleliving #resilience #growyourownfood #centralcoastnsw #permacultureliving #permaculturefarming #permaculturegardening #permaculturedesign #retirementvillage
It’s the time of the year when I get super excited as I start planning for the logistics of our annual permaculture course.
Every year, people like you make the commitment to study how we can restore and regenerate our landscapes (both physical and social) and make our livelihoods more resilient in the face of climate -and social- uncertainties.
“Growing your own food, generating your own power, living simply but well, and being a role model that helps bind the community into a supportive entity… These are not utopian ideals. It’s all feasible. It’s been done many places. It can be done in your neighbourood too.”
Permaculture is rooted in agricultural landscape & social repair. However now, its principles are applied in many interconnected fields.
Family gardens and community gardens
Finance & investment
“I dream of a Permaculture Retirement Village system… imagine, old Permies, retiring gracefully, alongside new/young Permies who are learning from Elders, doing the work, working for food and education, happily ever after… Any takers to design such system? I’d love to lead you in that process…”
We’re enrolling now.
Come and join our part-time course.
It is packed with practical workshops, site visits and theory too. More info here
We opened our farm gate in May for International Permaculture Day and we did it again in June, this time as part of the inaugural Central Coast Harvest Festival. From 9am to noon, our farm gate opened for visitors to tour our gardens and have a feel for what permaculture gardening, farming and living look like. It was full house every time! Whoah, little did I expect that to happen. I am overjoyed.
So guess what… we’re doing it again in July! Check out details on our event page.
We’ve been here for over four years, restoring this landscape, nurturing our soils, planting seeds, sometimes failing, and always soldiering on, of embedding ourselves into our local community, of sharing and creating together, and of growing as a family in a context where healthy wholefood is a luxury and homesteading is something of the past.
There’s now productive veggie patches and herb gardens, food forest and orchards, community market garden, restored pastured, pastured animal systems, managed forest, protected creek and waterholes… all that over a wild rainforest backdrop.
A kind soul asked me recently how I called myself… “Are you a hippie Lexxie?” he said.
It’s true. It must be hard to understand why a young thing (hum! not so much anymore!) would prefer Red Backs over high heels and a hoe over an iPad… Why on Earth would someone trade an easy office job for one on a farm, growing food for the family, creating habitats for native birds, and be brought to tears at the sight of a blue banded bee?
“I am a peasant, a neo peasant” I replied. I care for my family. I care for my land. I care for my community. With thrifty means and tools. With honesty and integrity. With the knowledge that at the end of the day, all that unites us is food. That’s our common ground.
And yes, I have dirt forever embedded under my finger nails. So what?
Come and see me at the Dooralong Produce Swap (3rd Sunday of the month with Music in the Park, 2-4pm – swap starts at 3.30pm), or visit us on the farm!
Our gardens are pumping with the cooler temperatures and this much-needed rain. We’ve only lost a few crops to the sudden season change, mostly zucchinis and we’re now planting salad greens, celery, leek, cabbages, garlic and many more Winter goodies. I love Autumn!
Basil has been coming out of our ears this summer and it is still showing signs of growth. We’ve bottled well over a year’s supply of pesto. I don’t use pine nuts in my pesto (which mostly comes from China), but instead I use Australian grown organic sunflower seeds or (even better) Australian pesticide-free almonds which I toast lightly and blend with salt, pepper, a bit of garlic and of course, basil and olive oil. Bottle in clean jars and sterilize for one hour. Tadaa!
Our local restaurant Osteria A Mano made a superb traditional pesto with our basil and I get quite a hit when I see our farm produce listed on their menu! It won’t be long until our biodynamic market garden is able to supply a steady flow of goodies, to restaurants and the community.
Last but not least, The Dooralong Produce Swap is rocking! Last month we traded cucumbers, eggplants, capsicums, chillies, spring onions, seasonal herbs, kale, kefir lime, Kombucha, cake, plants and seeds. See you next month!
Chooks, ducks, rabbits and dogs (and certainly others) don’t sweat to cool their body temperature… they pant. When they don’t succeed at cooling down, well, they die of heat exhaustion. It’s very quick and mostly irreversible.
We love all our critters here and we care for them. None of our animals are confined in temperature-controlled cages though. None (oh well, apart from our new pets, two Pigmy Bearded Dragons that, frankly, don’t much care about heat wave for they live in 35°-40°C temperature every day!). All our animals are on pasture.
In nature, these animals will find shelter in burrows or in the cool shade of a forest. Being permies, we have to mimic this ecosystem as well as we can knowing that Mr. Fox, Mrs. Wild Dogs and Mr. Goanna are always watching… so we’ve got to keep our animals safe away from their reach… tricky!
Below are pictures that shows our setup when Summer heat arrives.
Wanna learn how to incorporate animals in a resilient permaculture system? See you at our next Part-time Permaculture Course held on our farm in Jilliby (NSW Central Coast) – 5 August to 11 November 2017
90% shade cloth for our pastured chooks
Kiddies pool for the dog
Poultry, and also dog, guinea pig, and rabbits can replenish moisture efficiently with watermelon
Plant deciduous shade
Ice blocks inside enclosures
Watermelon in dog bowl
Ice blocks inside enclosures as well as water troughs
It took me six years of gardening to come to the conclusion that my garden watering schedule was detrimental to my soils.
I saw “watering” the garden as a mean to “provide moisture to the plants”. I forgot that the soil micro organisms need a drink too.”
A large number of the plants survived on irregular watering, done on ad hoc basis when once a finger dipped into the soil indicated that they were probably already thirsty. Watering was mostly done by hand, with a watering can, with a spray-trigger attached to a gardening hose, or with a DIY sprinkler system, and often at the wrong time of the day when the sun was already quite high in the sky.
Watering with a watering can is ok for small gardens or if the garden is designed using passive water harvesting techniques such as beds carved on contour, and if your soils are already moisture retentive with a large clay content.
But my soils are sandy-loam. They drain fast. They become water repellent. The compost that I lay on top, and the mulch are good ways to delay the desiccation process, but they are not effective enough. Life in the soil finds it hard to sustain these irregular watering schedule and slowly, they die. A stressed soil leads to a stressed plant. A stressed plant invites pests. A sudden input of large amount of water invites fungal attack and nutrient leaching. And the degenerative cycle goes on.
A sustainable and bountiful harvest depends on a resilient soil where soil biota flourishes by feeding, digesting, defecating, procreating, dying.
These microorganisms are the ones responsible for your plant health – not the nutrient you add to your soils. Through their life processes, they make those nutrient available to plants. And the moisture in the soil makes them soluble, suck-able by plant roots. Like a smoothy is easily suck-able through a straw as opposed to trying to suck the raw ingredients.
So a change had to be made. I bit the bullet and installed drip irrigation systems which sits on top of the soil, under a layer of compost and mulch. The soil biota feeds of the compost and the plants bounce up straight, alive, full of moisture and nutrients.
So drip irrigation is indeed, not a method to irrigate your plants, but one of keeping your soils alive and well.