PDC…..Week 6

This week’s PDC course focussed on preparing a design for a permaculture system on the property we had visited last week. This was to be our first serious attempt at design.

Our four groups settled themselves down in various parts of the house and with coloured pencils, rulers and rubbers (the latter, we discovered, a very important tool for beginners!), we set to work. The first thing to do was to draw a (reasonably) accurate scale plan of the property showing the location of the house and other important features. Our architect member, Paul (not in the sub-group I was in, unfortunately), had already produced a very professional computer-generated plan and had taken many photos on the day, so everyone was to-ing and fro-ing to his group to remind themselves of features they hadn’t taken note of. The forgetful ones, who had omitted to take proper measurements (or perhaps should I say, inspired ones—me included), had produced colour aerial shots of the property complete with measurements (thank you, Google Earth!).

After much discussion and many rough sketches we were ready to transfer our final design to the ‘best’ paper. I think our group did a pretty good job. We had ‘removed’ a huge evergreen tree in the back garden, which allowed more winter sun into the property. We kept another huge oak tree in the front garden because it was deciduous and let winter sun in anyway and also provided valuable oak leaves for composting and mulch. We’d established blueberries (which like an acid soil) under it, along with redcurrants, which will tolerate some shade. We’d put a grapevine over the patio and planted cut-and-come-again vegetable beds alongside the patio, so there was quick access to these from the nearby kitchen. As the overall garden area was small (large 2-storey house on an average-sized block), we made use of fences for fruiting vines and espaliered fruit trees.

We added a water tank in the back garden (the owners had just installed a 10,000 litre tank in the front garden) and covered it with a passionfruit vine. We built a greenhouse next to the tank and the run-off from its roof went into the tank.

Our ‘piece-de-resistance’ (so we thought) was the chookhouse and yard. We put this in a narrow section of garden between a covered side passageway and the side fence, such that the back of the nesting boxes opened onto the passageway, which was just outside the laundry door. So the owner could collect eggs from within the passageway, without going out into the weather. The chookyard run was extended right to the orchard in the front corner of the property, so that the chooks could forage under the fruit trees and fertilise them at the same time. Next to the chookhouse we placed the compost bin and worm farm, again accessible from under the cover of the walkway and close to the laundry door. After a slightly stressed period in which we thought we weren’t going to be ready in time, we finished our design and adjourned for another of Jessie’s super-tasty lunches.

After lunch, each group presented its design to the others. Cam (our teacher) made valuable comments and suggestions. All in all, I found it a very satisfying introduction to the ins and outs of permaculture design.

4 Responses to “PDC…..Week 6”

  1. simply.belinda Says:

    Sounds like a great introduction to design.

    You may not need it but if any of the properties you are designing for happen to be within Yarra Ranges the shire has really good maps that you can get at whatever scale you want. 1000:1 is really handy. The service is usually around $16 but for “school projects” you can often get it done for free.

    Kind Regards


  2. foodnstuff Says:

    Thanks Belinda, I’ll bear that in mind. I’m not likely to be designing professionally for quite some time, if at all; the process is so daunting!

    I’m learning heaps, so there’s definitely no regrets about taking the course.


  3. simply.belinda Says:


    I was meaning for your class assessment design. Some groups do their own property, others assign a group of properties that class members can choose from relevance really depends on how your class is structured.

    Believe me scale 1000:1 with 1m contour lines to be able to assess gradient and really see where water and stuff is likely to flow really takes quite a bit of guesswork out of the equation. Particularly if you are working on a site you can’t just walk out the back door to check some type of detail.

    Kind Regards


  4. foodnstuff Says:

    Oh, thanks Belinda, I get you now. I don’t know yet what we’ll be doing for the final assessment design, but yes, contours would be really useful for water flows and such.


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