Permaculture demonstration garden
Since 2014 Macquarie University Sustainability has been working on creating an onsite sustainable garden that incorporates permaculture gardening design principles based on the natural/organic gardening concepts by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren. You can access the Bill Mollison Permaculture Lecture Series for free online.
Permaculture is essentially an amalgamation of the words “Permanent Agriculture”. It combines landscape architecture with sustainable agriculture and ecological principles. Permaculture designs incorporate natural elements such as sun, landscape, wind, rainfall, and climate, with the aim of maximising benefits to people and planet. This involves strategic placement of beds and plants to maximise taste, nutrients and yield whilst minimising effort, inputs and disease. Living in this way also benefits the local environment by enhancing habitat and biodiversity, and minimising water and energy consumption.
What we’re doing here at Macquarie Sustainability is promoting sustainable use of space by using small-scale permaculture gardening principles. We use the space for hosting permaculture workshops, working bees, and harvesting the literal fruits of our labour!
- Mandala Garden
- Herb spiral
- Espalier fence section
- Green wall garden
- Water tank
- Compost & Worm farm
More elements are planned to be implemented in the future.
Did you know the term “Mandala” actually means circle, which has its origin in Sanskrit? The mandala circle design is a concentric geometric structure that symbolises unity and peace. The circle can be formed of various shapes such as hexagons, triangles and squares etc.
The benefits of the mandala design is that the gardener can get easy access to the produce without tramping on the garden bed, plus all of the plants are within easy reach by hand.
Crop rotation is utilised in the Mandala garden. There are five hexagonal shaped garden beds available for planting. A rotational system benefits both the plant and the soil. The plant benefits from better pest and disease protection, and the soil is well nourished with nutrients from the varied planting seasons. See our detailed planting and growing schedule here.
The herb spiral is basically a type of vertical garden that can save space while offering many varied growing conditions. The circle shape offers both sun and shaded positions, whilst the gravity drainage from top to bottom creates perfect conditions for dry plants on top and moisture-loving plants (and even a pond) at the bottom.
Wicking beds water plants from below rather than above. They are garden beds with a built-in water reservoir at the base, similar to the self-watering pots available on the market. This is ideal for use year round and especially during the hot summer seasons where the rate of water evaporation and transpiration is high.
Our wicking bed is made up of up-cycled wooden frames (treated to prevent rotting). The interior consists of pond liner and a layer of pebbles (as the water reservoir), separated by a layer of landscaping cloth, with soil and compost layer on top. This provides a perfect condition for growing an edible food garden, as the underground water encourages deep root growth below ground, and therefore large foliage above ground.
Vertical gardens maximise space usage. By growing plants on the external wall spaces of the building, microclimates are created for the local organisms and plants.
We have 36 x garden wall trays for the planting of seedlings. They are ideal for small plants and plants that require good water drainage (since the structure is off the ground!)
An 1180 Litre slimline water tank was installed onsite to promote the harvesting and use of natural rainwater as the preferred irrigation source for the Permaculture Demonstration Garden.
Compost and worm farms
All food scraps and coffee grounds from the Sustainability Cottage go into our compost bin or one of the two worm farms. Once per week, the compost and worm farms are watered, and the compost is turned with a corkscrew tool. Mature composts and worm farms generate humus (dark decayed organic material), which provides healthy ecology and structure back into to the soil. Additionally, worm farms produce liquid castings or “worm juice”, a complete plant food rich in nitrogen fixing bacteria, liquid minerals and trace elements. We dilute the “worm juice” with water at a ratio of about 1:10 until it looks like a weak tea, and water the garden with this solution about once per month.