04. Spring Growth

It’s December 2008, Spring is truly here, and everything is growing!

Having completed my Certificate in Permaculture Design, I’m now formally able to teach this stuff! So I’ll be putting heaps of educational material on this site from basic horticulture all the way through to permaculture design and everything else I think might be useful for people who want to build sustainable organic gardens.

This is a run down of what’s been happening in the garden this month:

1. A bumper crop of Kipfler potatoes, this lot came out of one third of my 2 square metre potato patch in the ground. It provided almost 1.4kg of spuds. Two weeks later I dug up the other two thirds of the potato patch, which yielded another 4kg and a bit. That’s almost 5.5kg of spuds, which I figured is not bad for my first potato effort.


2. My hydroponic tomatoes are doing well here, fruiting very early in the season. The variety here is the “Burke’s Back Yard” tomato, an heirloom Italian variety apparently chosen for its superb taste. The rest of the tomatoes in the garden are another heirloom variety, the Australian Red, some hydroponic, some organic, curious to see if there’s a difference in taste…


3. Sultana grapes fruiting nicely!


4. The Apricot tree is heavily laden with ripening fruit, looks promising…


5. The dwarf nectarine, under two feet high, and transplanted in winter earlier this year after two years in a pot, heavily laden with nectarines for such a small tree.


6. Strawberries are started to ripen, and Roman Chamomile seedlings are starting to grow.


7. A productive under-story below the roses… Cos Verdi Lettuce, several varieties of strawberries, and Violas for a bit of colour and companionship.


8. Echinacea plants are starting to flower. The dried flower heheads will provide fresh echinacea tea for winter to help fight off those winter chills!


9. Blackberries are fruiting, almost ripe!


10. Garden view, facing west.


11. Garden view, facing east.


12. Fig tree is starting to fruit, summer is definitely here!


13. Edible chrysanthemums add a splash of summer colour and joy to the garden, and taste good too incidentally.


14. The passionfruit bears its first fruits after being planted earlier in winter.


15. Mandarins are here too, even after a heavy pruning a season earlier.


16. An experiment in shading a west wall, grow cucurbits vertically! Butternut pumpkins and Chinese cucumbers for starters, will see how well they grow hydroponically, namely because it’s all concrete, and because I have spare pots!


17. Brackets fastened to brickwork under eaves, over three metres above ground, and 2.4 metres wide with a wire and turnbuckle across the top to form the vertical support. Plastic coated wire mesh is fastened from top wire to matching brackets at ground level to create several square metres of vertical space, for cucurbits to climb. The brackets hold the mesh half a foot from the wall, to prevent the heat radiated from the bricks after being heated by the west evening sun burning the plant foliage.


18. The mesh can be more clearly seen from an angle.


19. Another hydroponics experiment, tall Balinese corn this time, the organic seedlings have taken off, three per 10” pot, now standing close to a metre tall, wondering how productive this will be. Should get two corn cobs per plant if all goes well.


20. The old converted wheelie bin rain water catching system has been replaced by a series of five 220 litre recycled plastic drums cascaded together, taking up my water storage from 220 litres to 1,100 litres. If it rains all day, I can capture enough rain to fill the lot from the 30 square metre garage roof, and it is enough for a thorough watering of 80 square metres of garden.


21. Exotic fruit! Dragon Fruit in flower, if all goes well and the weather behaves, we might see fruit. Incidentally, this is growing in a 12” pot and covers about 4 square metres of fence.


22. A fruitful grafting experiment… two very large peaches growing from an experimental graft (a 4cm long broken peach branch tip grafted onto a dwarfing plum rootstock). The plant is about 50cm high and thinner than a pen, in an 8” pot!


23. First raspberries appear, this is promising, as I’ve created two 3 metre long beds with about twenty plants, which came from a single raspberry plant in a 45cm pot the year before. I divided it up and planted the plants in winter.


24. Pomegranate flowers turn to fruit, and lush green foliage reflects the work done on improving the soil with lots of organic matter.


25. Fiery red seed pods of a castor bean add a splash of eye catching summer colour.


26. Roses in bloom, and fragrant too! Nothing like catching the scent as you pass the walkway to check out the fruit and vegies.


27. Roman chamomile flourishing, accompanied by violas, and climbing beans – all in the same pot. There is a trellis on the fence, behind the pot, for the beans to climb.


28. More figs, this one is growing in a 60 litre pot, is about 50cm high and seems to be fruiting well. Figs are one of those trees that grow well in pots, they don’t mind being root-bound.


29. Little apples on a little apple tree. This “Pink Lady” apple tree was purchased and planted in the winter, and it’s one of the few of the new young trees to bear fruit after it was planted and pruned. It’s tiny at only 60cm height, yet there are two apples well on the way. It will be ultimately pruned to a height of slightly over two metres, as part of a mini backyard orchard. Its companion is a granny smith apple tree, which serves as a pollinator, planted only five feet away. This will restrict the size of both trees, and with pruning during the growth season, on top of regular pruning, they will stay a manageable size just over head height and arms reach.


30. Something tropical, hydroponic pepino, looks like a little melon, and tastes like one, but a member of the tomato family. I marvel at the nightshade family of plants, the Solanaceae, one of the largest and most diverse plant families, with lots of food plants such as the tomato, potato, eggplant, chilli peppers, capsicum, as well as other plants such as tobacco, and petunia. The diversity is immense; this family includes many well-known ornamentals – annuals, perennials, shrubs, trees or climbers.


So far, it’s all looking very promising, the garden is yielding on average 10kg of produce a month from 80 square metres of garden bed. Keeping in mind, that it was all planted a few months ago in winter, many plants came out of pots they were in for two years, and nearly all of the fruit trees are very immature still.

Another important point is that it’s not an intensive food garden, design, as medicinal herbs get equal emphasis. On last count there were 95 herbs and plants with medicinal properties growing in this garden, along with all the ornamentals which I was required to retain as part of the design, and frankly, I suspect that there are an equal number of ornamental species, most likely more. And, if I count the ornamentals in pots, well, then there’s definitely hundreds of species, and that’s no exaggeration.

If I were aiming for pure food production, I would have designed the garden differently, but, not being my property, I had to incorporate a different set of needs into the design, and such is the result. This is a big experiment to see how well such a garden grows!

I’m hoping to see how the heavy plant stacking design copes with the summer heat to come, and how the plants go growing and competing for nutrients and water, and how they will cope with pests, being a completely organic, companion planted, stacked Permaculture design.

Next Page – 05. A Hot Harsh Summer



  1. this is the best blog I have seen of this theme!! THANKS!!! Do you know a good permaculture course in Costa Rica?


    1. I have a small dedicated space for root crops where I grow my potatoes and yacon. Since you need to dig up root crops, you don’t want to be digging around fruit tree roots, hence their separate space.


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