Brogo Permaculture Gardens:
In the Summer of 2012 I had the privilege of working with John Champagne, Aaron Sorenson and Todd Cleary at Brogo Permaculture Gardens hosting a Food Forest Workshop. I was very excited for this project as Todd is a permaculture earthmover and we were going to be building some swales and benches in a gully formally covered in blackberry and turn it into a productive edible landscape.
With the help of John’s knowledge of the site after developing it as a permaculture site for 15yrs I developed a zone and sector map of the site. Brogo is on the south coast of Australia but inland by about 40kms. It gets frosts in winter and the soils are decomposing granite meaning that water and nutrients don’t stay in the soil for long. An interesting aspect of the Forest Garden site is that one slope faces North East and the otehr South West. The North East slope gets lots of sun in the summer making it a dry land type of habitat while the other slope is in shade in the morning and doesn’t get much direct sun meaning it holds more water. This slope is subtropical and had volunteer tamarilos popping up.
After John worked to clear the blackberry over December and January the course was ready to begin. John´s plan is to obtain a yield to sell at the thriving South Coast Producers Markets and to Restaurants in the area using the fantastic south east food website
Todd and Aaron arrived from Wollongong and we started surveying the site in detail. Finding the keypoints of the gully to incorporate into the swale and bench design so as to catch and store water during the dry summers and also to harvest water from the driveway using the culverts and lastly to develop a contour access track from the shade house to the site to avoid having to walk up and down the slope.
With the site surveyed Todd started on the top swale and also gave us all a lesson in the importance of raking and leveling the swale mound as you go. I learned heaps about working with machinery operators during these six days thanks to Todd’s expertise
The students arrived the following day and were treated to a great mix of Food Forest info. There was heaps of knowledge in the room between John’s experience at Brogo and Aaron’s excellent work in school and community gardens in Wollongong and my work at Milkwood.
After a brief on Food Forest theory we went out for some observation and design work. By the end of the first day the students were helping to form the top swale and survey the site as well as plant bamboo and vetiver grass on the disturbed soil to catch the nutrients and prevent erosion.
In the second day of the course the students were treated to site tours of Brogo permaculture gardens and of another former student of John’s who had started a forest garden. That afternoon Todd completed the first of two benches below the swale. These were on contour and 3m wide to enable access to harvest the fruits of the forest.
This forest garden was to have a relay planting pattern, first pioneer herbs and trees would go in to hold the soil, catch nutrients and grow a micro-climate. Afterwards the productive trees and shrubs would go in to produce a yeild. Avocados were to be the cash crop in the sub-tropical section and carob in the dryland patch.
By the end of the third day we had the main-frame of the site in place and students were sowing a mix of pioneer herbs by seed and also planting divisions of comfrey, vetiver, yarrow and other dynamic accumulators around the site.
Now I’m itching to get back to brogo to check out how the site is going. After the course we had heaps of rain and everything took off. Looking forward to the next course at Brogo Permaculture Gardens.