Report on Permablitz # 27 – Tauranga Suburban half-day Permablitz

Permablitz BOP is firing up again! On Saturday 9th December 2017 we held the first mini permablitz on Julia Sich’s 870 sm property on Chadwick Road in Greerton, Tauranga.

This mini-blitz was a small group of ten people coming together, bringing a shared lunch, for half a day.  We got tons done, met some lovely new people and learned about Christopher Alexander’s Pattern Language, double digging, grape pruning and wicking bed construction.

The design team of Cath Goodrick, Nicole Buhrs, Julia Sich, headed by Sharon Watt met late November to start the process of planning the blitz and scoping out the section.  During the week before the blitz Nicole and Cath had to pull out due to unexpected accidents.  Help!! A distress email for additional support drew in Catherine Dunton-McLeod, with her permaculture knowledge and superb organisational skills.

The day of the blitz dawned with blue sky and sunshine, thank goodness – organisers are always a bit nervous about the weather the day of a blitz.

Sharon welcomed everyone, Julia gave the history and an overview of the property, and Catherine Dunton-McLeod led a permaculture exercise in Pattern Language.

This began with her reading Julia’s statement of purpose for her piece of paradise as follows:

“Abundance, surprises and a wow factor pervade this garden of aliveness, harmony and colour, which is easy to care for, a haven for wildlife and an inspiration to others.”

A short encapsulation of the homeowner’s desire for the property like this is critical for a good permaculture design and a successful blitz, and is unfortunately a step that often gets skipped.  Catherine explained that this sentence would inform everything we did that day on the property.

Catherine then took the group out to the road, to the start of the longish driveway, to get a feel of the property from the beginning and to start to view it as a set of “rooms “. (This is straight out of Christopher Alexander’s books: A Pattern Language and A Timeless Way of Building.  Read them!!)  Just like in a house, a property can have “rooms” with specific functions. Standing at the start of the driveway we identified a “room” we called “entrance off the street.”  Julia’s entrance off the street is functional, but does not yet express her statement of purpose – There was little sense of abundance, surprise or aliveness in this room!   There was however a big brown concrete wall that we imagined could have a fantastic colourful mural painted on it bringing in those missing elements.  As we walked back up the drive, we experienced two more rooms we decided to call – “getting to Julia’s house” and  “arriving at Julia’s house.” We had a good time observing and feeling our way through these “rooms” and this showed up areas for future development.

Heading to the backyard, work got underway to dig over the four remaining garden beds that had been covered in carpet to kill the kikuyu. The garden beds were marked with lines and the paths and beds prepared.

Lora Scully led a workshop on how to double dig a garden bed. 

Edging was put around almost all the vegetable garden by the end of the day, leaving about a quarter for Julia to finish.

The greenhouse was erected.

Before lunch, Catherine led a workshop on how to set up a wicking bed.  Some variation of a wicking bed design is a fantastic solution to keep plants happy in a dry summer, especially if you are away for weeks at a time.  Google “wicking beds” to find out more design possibilities.  What we did was to use a 200 litre plastic barrel from the recycle container place in Greerton, cut in half.  The bottom of the barrel acts as a water reservoir and is filled with a Nova flow drainage pipe inserted in a muslin sleeve (to prevent the sand clogging the holes). This pipe was coiled in the bottom of the barrel and sand poured on top up to the level of the outlet pipe.  Another pipe is inserted into the Nova flow pipe to be able to fill the bottom with water. Then a layer of weed mat is placed over the sand and the barrel filled with compost ready to plant.  Catherine suggested that several wicking beds could be set up one under another for a cascade effect. 

The finished wicking barrel with a plant under the outflow. The reservoir in this wicking bed should hold about 30 litres of water and can keep it’s plants moist for weeks.

The combined food that people brought along made for a wonderful sustaining, nourishing lunch.  Relaxing over the break allowed the chance to chat amongst fellow blitzers and network.
Other tasks completed during the morning were grape pruning led by Julia.  Val took on the huge job of clearing fern, alstromeria and stones from around a concrete bordered bed near the worm farms. Shade was also erected for the worm farm area.

Two wooden posts were concreted in between the house and the hedge to form the basis of a fence and gate that would enclose the garden, act as a wind break, provide privacy, and to make it clear when arriving at the property which door visitors should go to.
In the following two days after the blitz ,John, Julia’s brother from Australia, along with Julia built the gate.

A huge thank you to all those who participated and to the design team, Sharon who took the photos, Catherine and Lora for leading workshops and the many hands that made light work!  Below a view of the garden after the blitz.  Woo Hoo!  Thank you Permablitz!  Let’s have another Blitz soon!!!

Compare this with the before shot of the same area. WOW!