Category Archives: Blitz reports

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!



Report on Permablitz #26 – Earth Wall build near Karangahake

After a false start the Sunday before, Permablitz #26 took off with a great bunch of people and perfect weather.

This was the second time we have blitzed Beccy Dove’s hillside garden. The first time was in 2015 when we re-invigorated an old orchard and planted lots more fruit trees plus we prepared the framework for our earth wall. Luckily this framework of vertical bamboo was still sound and just needed a bit of reinforcing to make a firm foundation for our wall.

We were lucky that Rose Tuffery was available for this blitz as she is heading to Costa Rica shortly to further her experience with earth-building. Before we got into it Rose showed us how she prepared test pieces using the local clays available and various proportions of the clay/paper pulp/sand/cement mix. Any earth walling project with good hat (roof) and boots (footing) doesn’t require cement but because Beccy’s wall is fully exposed to the elements we had to use cement. We had also had a trial run several weeks earlier so we were confident the mix would be suitable. A local Waitawheta Quarry clay was chosen and a locally sourced mixed grade sand.

Rose showing us how she prepared clay sample tests

We spent some time cladding the bamboo structure of the wall with chicken mesh and wiring this into place to make a solid foundation. Bottles and stacked rocks were used in places to show how various material can be incorporated into the structure.

Others prepared the paper pulp and sieved the larger rocks out of the clay. Following morning tea, we got into the fun part (all the kids scrambled to have a go), of foot wedging the pulp into the clay.

This activated clay pulp mix was then mixed with the sand and cement with water. It was all hands-on deck applying the clay to the wall with everyone getting a chance to try all of the stages of preparation and application.

Ailie’s first bucket of mix

The afternoon was spent applying the mix to the walls and then adding decorative pieces such as shells, stones, moulded shapes. Christine Burne from Waikino rose to the challenge to create a feature at the start of the walling. We all watched as a taniwha took shape from a pile of rocks.

This was a family affair with mother, son, Tony and grand-daughter all helping.

A delicious shared morning tea and lunch was enjoyed on Beccy’s terrace.

We completed both walls with one bucket of mix to spare. A happy bunch at the end of a successful day with beautiful Karangahake Mountain in the background.





Update on Rachel & Kaine’s PB – 4 years on

Rachel & Kaine Smith from Katikati had two blitzes….check out the progress!

We recently visited Rachel & Kaines permaculture garden which was developed over two Permablitz’s, the first in September 2012 (permablitz #6) and the second September 2013 (permablitz #13). The site was a large town garden with a mature orange tree centred on the back lawn. The family are a busy couple with two young boys, Ollie and Finn, so Rachel & Kaine wanted a garden that would grow with their family’s needs.

The design included an enlarged deck off their kitchen with raised wicking beds close at hand.


An existing area of pebble was gathered up and reused in the bottom of the wicking beds.

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The children love to climb and play around the orange tree so an area of mulch was spread beneath and around the tree, to allow some productive under-planting.


Two existing raised vegetable gardens, much further away from the house, were also converted into wicking beds and filled with compost. The compost bin system was improved and many fruit trees were sited around the garden, including several espaliered pip fruit along the north facing fence.


The fruit tree area near the road was planted with Feijoas, a dwarf Peach, Lemonade and Mandarin. These were thoroughly mulched in the second blitz and inter-planted with other beneficial plants; several Gooseberries, Guava and wayward herbs such as Bergamot, Lemon Balm, Calendula, Marjoram & Nasturtium. A Lemon tree was planted opposite the front door so they can just pop out the door when they need a lemon.


On visiting recently, Rachel took great delight in showing me around her garden. Her enthusiasm was palpable and mirrored by her children who had been very involved in the blitzes right from the start.

The wicking beds near the house have been a great success, the far one now used for strawberries, the closer two connected with a plank off the deck for super- efficient harvesting. The only glitch has been with the nearest bed which was installed slightly off level, making the top end a lot drier than the bottom end. It has meant choosing hardier, drought tolerant plants for the dry end, so herbs have worked well here. They need watering once a week over summer which could have been reduced if they had been constructed a little deeper but overall the wicking beds have been very worthwhile.


The two older beds in the far corner are a lot more productive now also with a reliable water supply from the wicking system which hardly ever needs filling. They are used for longer term vegetables that don’t need regular tending.


The area adjacent is used to store materials such as horse, cow and chicken manure, seaweed, mulch, sawdust, grass clippings, (green waste for nitrogen and browns for carbon). These are added in layers to build a compost in the wicking beds when the soil is replaced once a year.

The area beneath the Orange tree is still used a lot by the boys so any planting here will have to wait. It proved too shady for Pumpkins but we have recommended trying Native Spinach as this should thrive in the dry semi-shade.


Of the espaliered fruit trees on a north facing fence the Apples have been really productive already but the Pear has yet to flower. Rachel plans to interplant with a Nashi Pear as well.


Rachel said “I knew nothing about gardening when we bought this property and I learnt largely by trial and error until getting involved in the Permablitz’s. I have learnt so much”.

Kaine said “The Permablitz’s were a positive experience. Being a kindergarten teacher the importance of our children seeing and being involved in the whole thing taking shape has been really important”.

If the sheer enthusiasm of this family is anything to go by the Permablitz programme has been very worthwhile for them. They have enriched their living environment by not only providing healthy organic food for the family but also by creating a depth of experience for their children within their property that is educational and fulfilling, and full of discoveries.


Written by Trish Waugh, June 2016


Report on Permablitz # 25

Permablitz 25 kicked off at Tarariki Pottery on Old Reservoir Road, Paeroa, home of Mike O’Donnell and Trish Waugh.
A large group of 26 keen blitzers, plus the design team of Trish, Sharon, blue hat (Blitz organiser), Lia, Ailie, Katherine gathered around a fire pit to be warmly welcomed by Mike and Trish. Mike gave a karakia and described the history of the property, sharing how it has evolved and movingly expressed how we are part of their tribe that will carry the seeds of regenerating nature forward.
Introductions included our name, where we were from and an exercise everyone could do as a warm up, literally!
Trish, Mike and the design teams’ concept plan for the day included creating a fence around the vegetable garden to keep the chickens off; sheet mulched beds around fruit trees; larger sheet mulched areas for planting smaller fruiting plants like guava and Chilean guava, vegetables e.g. silver beet and fennel as well as herbs, e.g. lavender, yarrow, calendula and Cassia ‘John Ball’ and tagastaste shrubs that fix nitrogen. This planting would create a forest garden incorporating the chooks to control small native manuka beetles that breed in the ground over winter and cause damage by eating a lot of leaves in
spring. They are distinctive in dropping to the ground when disturbed.
Everyone got stuck in clearing the overgrowth along the fence lines, and along the roadfront to ‘chicken proof’ them, the fence holes were dug and areas prepped for sheet mulching.
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Distinct edges were created around the beds for weed control. Ailie and Lia ran a workshop on sheet mulching explaining the layers, firstly the soil is limed, then cardboard laid with sellotape removed and soaked, followed by seaweed, horse manure, sawdust, comfrey, wood mulch and finally covered in rotted silage, filling our nostrils with a sweet, pungent/fermented smell, signature of farm life. Trish said comfrey tea would be poured over the mulch to kick start the composting process.
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Lia led a workshop giving us insights into the amazing life of earthworms, inviting each of us to read a pertinent fact she’d gleaned from the book ‘Organic Growing with Worms, a handbook for a better environment’ by David Murphy. I didn’t know for example that worms
swallow soil to move through it and the tunnels created are coated in nitrate rich mucous for ease of movement. These tunnels open the soil for water and oxygen. They also excrete harmless bacteria and antibiotics are found in their poo which is oxygen rich. Bad bacteria like an anaerobic environment. Lia is passionate about worms and says that worms are perfect examples of permaculture at work.
Lunch was really delicious, beautifully prepared by Shai. There was pumpkin and coconut soup, green and rice salads, guacamole, humus, breads, a cashew chicken dish and freshly harvested mussels. Mike gave a blessing for the meal which began with him playing his flute.
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Just at the end of lunch Trish gave a mini workshop on why she created a food forest. She has modeled it on the work of Robert Hart in Shropshire who is the father of forest gardens for temperate climates. The mulched beds created are an in-between stage from orchard to forest garden. As the trees grow and the canopy closes there will be more shade and what grows will change and there will be more layers in the mix of vegetation.
After lunch activities involved planting into the sheet mulch, more work on the fence and creation of a Taranaki gate (i.e. a wire gate), and a workshop on chickens and how to clip their wings. Only the first flight feathers on one wing are cut to cause imbalance and this is enough to stop chickens flying over fences. The newly built chicken house was moved into the prepared orchard setting. It was built by Mike as a small transportable unit, light and of minimal construction.
We completed preparation of the vegetable bed for garlic. This involved cutting down the lupins, lightly digging them in, and then covering the bed with seaweed and silage. Mike and Trish plant their garlic later than most so that it ripens and can be dug in January when the weather is dry.
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Group photo below with completed section of fence. There is more of the fence for Mike to finish.
This was a most productive day with lots of Mike’s words of wisdom and passion to inspire us. To quote from Mike at the end of the day when he shared the healing garden with us, “ In my experience of life I believe it is all good shit. Essentially all that matters is how we are given to reply. That which comes to pass is a master teacher to us all, the past is there to find composure and to embrace, not deny, nor judge nor blame, but to turn it over as a gardener would in the making of compost, aerobically, to breathe life into it. Such does the healer embrace the disposition and the artist find the poem the song. It is within us all to creatively reply. This is a time of great challenge, when the earth is appealing to us all. To sing in the face of adversity I believe is the key to our honouring that challenge, and to realise our work is our song.”
Written by Julia Sich.

Take a look at the Katikati Motel Permablitz – 3.5 years later

This is the first in a series of reports on previous Permablitzes in the Bay of Plenty.
The Permaculture Design Guild, who make up a proportion of the designers involved in the Permablitz programme, feel it is important to return to see how the owners are enjoying their gardens and to find out what has worked and what hasn’t worked .
Our first visit was to Katikati Motel which was Permablitz # 3 & 4 carried out in spring 2012.
The area we blitzed was originally a swimming pool, which had been backfilled with subsoil. We designed a series of raised wicking beds to enable addition of good growing medium and to keep maintenance to a minimum for a busy couple, Kate and Kent Pfennig, with a young
family and a motel to run.
We recently visited Kate and Kent at Katikati Motel to see how their garden is going. This was a unique situation as Kate and Kent wanted this area to be developed for guests at the Motel to also be able to use the fruit and vegetables from the garden.
This was the first Blitz where we built Wicking beds and these have proved very successful for this busy couple. Kate says “I would do the wicking beds again, that was a definite good thing. They only need filling two to three times a year; at the end of spring, around January, and if very dry, again a month later. They have been great time and water savers when it comes to irrigating the vegetables.
kk motel
The beds are replenished with fresh compost at the end of each growing season. “The Pfennigs wanted to incorporate chickens into the area so that they could also provide guests with fresh eggs. The  rotational chicken tractor system hasn’t been continued with mainly because it was in the public eye and the area, especially after rain, wasn’t visually appealing for the guests.
However the chickens are now housed elsewhere and when there were nine laying they not only provided ample eggs for the guests but also were fed food waste from the units thus closing the recycle loop. There have been crops of potatoes, corn, beans, herbs, and fruit. Raspberries, Grapes, Citrus, and Jerusalem Artichokes are currently ripe. The Pfennigs have since planted other fruit throughout the motel site. There are Olives as shade trees, more Raspberries against a hot wall,Citrus and Green Tea Camellias.
Since completion there have been visits to this garden by the Tauranga Ooooby Group, a Tauranga Garden Club and Katikati BA5. It has generated a lot of interest and provided a good example of Permaculture in action.
By Trish Waugh, Permablitz guild designer

Report on Permablitz # 24

An energetic group of 22 people came together on Saturday 10th October to blitz a suburban backyard in Brookfield, Tauranga.

Host Sharon created the design for her PDC with Plenty Permaculture and this was implementation day!


The main task of the day was to create a series of small-scale infiltration swales on contour with vegetable beds in between. This will take advantage of the gentle slope of the property to harvest rainwater runoff.


The swales were lined with tree branches, mulch and sawdust, which will act like a sponge during heavy rain, then will slowly release moisture to the vegetable beds. The swales also function as pathways between the beds.

The vegetable beds were prepared by double-digging and adding amendments such as inoculated biochar, vermicast, Nature’s Garden and compost.

The vegetable growing area will be divided into two parts: a perennial vegetable polyculture, which will be self-sustaining once established; and annual vegetable beds which will be managed using biointensive methods.


Three interactive workshops were run to give everyone some fun, hands-on learning opportunities. Leo did a compost making workshop which resulted in a magnificent compost heap; Brad demonstrated double-digging and had his group powering through the vegetable beds; and Christine led a willow weaving workshop which resulted in a cute and rustic raised bed border (to be finished by host Sharon later).



The lunch of chickpea and pumpkin tagine, arabesque lentils, salads, roasted chicken, lemon and coconut balls, chocolate chip slice and fruit cake was lovingly assembled by our generous hosts.


As we were munching dessert, Gisella gave us a fabulous introduction to biodynamic gardening. We learned that biodynamic gardening always starts with applying a preparation called 500. It’s an involved process to make it, using cow horns packed with cow manure and buried in the ground. However you can purchase it through the NZ Biodynamic Association at a very low cost per acre. A few of the group decided to try it, so we put in our order with Gisella and will meet up in a couple of weeks when the moon is in the right phase to have a strong arm stirring party (500 needs to be stirred for an hour to activate it).

Facilitators Trish and Leo kept things running smoothly and it was a fun and productive day with amazing results!




Report on Permablitz # 23 – Turangi town house

Upwards of 25 people came to Turangi last sunday on what was a hot dry, and windy spring day. The site they came to work on was the front lawn of a typical hydro-house. This was one of many houses in the town moved on site for the Tongariro Power scheme in the 1960’s-70’s.


The concept design for the site included the front lawn as a perennial food forest system – a great sustainable solution for a busy professional couple with little spare time. However, Turangi is renowned for poor and extremely free draining pumice soil and a cold climate. It snow occasionally in winter as the town is 340m above sea level.  However this north facing sloped front lawn is a ideal suntrap, the house gives it excellent shelter from the cold southerly winds.


To alleviate water loss in the highly free draining soil, teams helped establish a combined Hugelkultur swale system. Stormwater from roof runoff was tapped into and piped to swales dug on contour above new berms. The berms were made from turf dug out of the swales and from trenches dug for wood which was buried under them. This waste wood was sourced locally from the fisherman’s track by the Tongariro river. There wayward gardeners had dumped pruning’s so these were put to good use.


As the buried wood eventually rots, it will act like a sponge to absorb winter rains to sustain the fruit trees and food forest plants through the summer drought. Much of the food forest is planted with deciduous fruit to ensure the hosue isn’t shaded and particular care was taken in the design to ensure morning sun would still enter the main living space window.


All involved had a great day with many young people new to permablitz having attended the day. The was a large international contingent of volunteers from Awhi farm and also staff from the Hillary Outdoor education center. It is hoped this event and local interest in the site will lead to further development of edible gardens at a Turangi Marae.

We are hoping to hold a massive multi-day permablitz someday to give back to the Turangi community, many of whom are the descendants of the visionary people that gifted NZ it’s first National Park. (Tongariro NP) Watch this space!