Over the past ten years, PSI has designed, constructed and now maintains 27 specific gardens at our PSI Farm and Bandusia country retreat. The gardens are based on permaculture principles and are all organic, using animal or fish fertilisers only and with no artificial fertilisers or “cides” of any sort. Plantings are mixed in a polyculture sense and contain both perennial and annual species. The gardens comprise home kitchen gardens, a commercial market garden, Aquaponics systems, an aquaculture garden, herb gardens, a bush tucker garden, bamboo pond gardens, two food forests and more. Most of the gardens are in zone 1 and 2 but we also manage the pecan nut paddocks in zone 3. We also have specific features within the gardens such as wicking pots and beds, a large walk on herb spiral, an anti-aviary berry and quail garden and others.
Bandusia Kitchen Garden – Zone One
Apart from the garden beds themselves, the zone one kitchen garden comprises many other elements such as compost systems, a pigeon house, a wood fired pizza oven, bird baths, a glass house, a shade house, aquaponics systems, wicking beds and pots and heaps more. It is intensively cultivated and stacked using lots of vertical space as well as the ground space. The zone one kitchen garden is immediately outside the kitchen and is the area where I do most work and spend much of my time. It is very calm with the sound of water trickling into the pond and it is also very beautiful. The plantings are mixed perennial and annuals for pest control. Apart from gardening, here many other activities occur. We eat and entertain, classes are held, we propagate our seedlings and sometimes just sit and relax. Elements in the garden are placed according to their needs and appropriateness to other elements. For example, the pigeon house is next to the compost bins, the bins are connected to the garden and the glasshouse and the propagation area and so on. This saves time and maintenance and makes it more efficient.
The zone one self-guided design
Aquaponics gardens – Zone One Kitchen Garden Bandusia
PSI has constructed three small aquaponics systems at Bandusia. The largest system is housed within a polytunnel and has two grow beds approximately 6 meters x 1.5 mts. It produces largely salad greens and quick pick vegetables that supply Bandusia’s kitchen. This aquaponics system also provides about 12 trout per year for the table. The other two smaller aquaponics systems grow silver perch for the table and fertilizer for the grow beds.
Water is a limiting factor here at Bandusia with limited rainfall and we wanted to have different types of food growing systems so that the function of food supply is provided in many ways. The system saves water and time and the maintenance required of watering garden-based systems. Being an enclosed, protected system gives us more control over production from the elements and climate. It produces faster than soil-based systems also. We do add compost into our system when transplanting seedlings to increase the life in the system. It has been a wonderful addition to our zone one kitchen garden.
The large aquaponics polytunnel and veggies
L to R: The medium sized aquaponics system, Rainbow trout harvested for the table.
The small pine kit aquaponics system
Bushtucker garden zone 2 – next to the kitchen garden.
A mature Lilli Pilli forms the canopy layer of this garden and native mint and warrigal greens form the ground cover. Midyam berries hedge the edge of the garden and salt bush, native plums, finger lime, native ginger and native currants are the understory. It also contains a Backhousia citriodora or lemon scented myrtle for tea and a Davidson plum.
The dry-stone walled herb gardens were the first gardens PSI constructed at Bandusia. A dry exposed site that can be viewed from the dining table and near the kitchen door made it perfect to grow herbs. The sandstone dry-stone walls were constructed at a PSI workshop and the raised no-dig garden behind it was planted at a kitchen garden workshop.
L to R: The herb garden, Penny and Chunto enjoying the herb garden, The herb garden from the dining room with a kangaroo looking on.
Mandala Garden – Market Garden on PSI Farm
The Mandala Garden on the PSI Farm is our commercial market garden. It comprises seven mandala gardens, each one roughly feed a family of four. A large herb spiral is in the centre of the garden. These gardens supply veggie boxes each week to locals and food to Bandusia.
The wwoofer’s garden – Zone 1 Caravan PSI Farm
The caravan kitchen garden is located in zone one of the wwooffer’s accommodation area. It comprises three large earth-rings. These grow some of the basic veg that wwooffer’s frequently use such as potatoes, leafy greens, beans, tomatoes, and the like. We used earth-rings here for ease of use and protection of the gardens by predators. The area also includes a kiwi vine for shade and cooling in summer and some common fruit trees such as citrus and mulberry.
The zone one wwoofers site and the raised earth-ring garden beds
The Aquaculture Bamboo Garden Bandusia Zone 2
This area consists of a bamboo walkway, arbour and bridge that crosses over aquaculture ponds. The ponds contain species such as Vietnamese mint, water cress, water chestnuts, Kang Kong, and water loving plants.
Right: The bamboo walk and aquaculture ponds
The Food Forest Bandusia Zone 2
The food forest covers an area of 600sq meters. It is an integrated system of plants, animals, bees, poultry and other elements. The system has approximately 70 productive plants as well as numerous herb and support species. It is designed as a forest system using the seven layers of a forest system such as root foods, ground covers, herbs, shrubs, understory trees, canopy trees and climbers. As well as plants, animals such as bees, chickens, guinea fowl and ducks are part of this system. The food forest is an ideal environment for them providing food, habitat, protection, nesting places and material and a large stimulating environment. The forest meets many of the requirements of the poultry and the poultry the needs of the forest by providing pollination, pest control, soil building, fertilisation and more. The food forest was constructed on a north facing slope. Three swales and a terrace were constructed on the slope where the trees are planted. The swales provide an access walkway through the forest as well as a watering system holding water and nutrients on site. The chook and the duck bath are located at the top of the slope so nutrients can flow through the swales and the system. There is so much more to the food forest but like nature it is a dynamic system requiring minimal or no inputs once established, (depending on its design intention) and is a place of beauty and abundance. The specific plant and animal species will be covered in other posts.
An Aerial view of the food forest – Zone two.
A side view of the food forest and a sunny part of the forest for those trees that need lots of sunshine.
A look deep inside the food forest along a swale line and a very happen hen with plenty of food, freedom and entertainment.
Our Pecan nut trees – Zone 3
With over 70 Pecan nut trees to harvest PSI is kept fairly busy each March and April. The trees near our riverbank were planted in the late 1970’s and produce beautiful organic nuts each year. They stand tall and majestically in the paddocks making a spectacle each year and providing shade. It’s always a race with the cockatoos but usually plenty to go around and sell to food co-ops and other buyers.
L to R: The Pecan nut trees at the entrance to Bandusia, The Pecan nuts ready for harvest.
Specific garden features and systems at PSI Farm and Bandusia
The herb spiral
PSI’s herb spiral is a beautiful garden feature in the centre of the mandala garden on the PSI Farm. It is a classic permaculture garden feature with the vertical height providing a variety of microclimates and providing niches to plants with specific needs. It saves space and watering and produces a diverse range of herbs in a small area. It provides habitat to frogs and lizards that live amongst the plants and poles and provide pest control.
L to R: The herb spiral before planting, The herb spiral after planting.
The wicking beds
PSI has installed two wicking bed systems at Bandusia. The first is in two small tubs that were an initially installed many years ago. We have since then installed a larger raised sandstone wicking bed in a hot north facing microclimate where things struggled to grow. The wicking bed has reduced the water and maintenance of watering especially in summer and plants now thrive there. The garden has three keyholes giving it an attractive appearance and a feature in the garden.
The raised sandstone wicking beds in zone one kitchen garden.
The wicking pot system
The wicking pot system is a fabulous element in our zone one kitchen garden. With the wick self-watering the plants it is low maintenance and productive. By using vertical space, it provides additional growing area, increased production and plant protection by free-range poultry. Being an enclosed system, with the water inside the pipe, mosquitos can’t enter and evaporation is greatly reduced saving a considerable amount of water over the year. The system has become a garden feature with many visitors appreciating the artwork and beauty it provides to the garden.
The wicking pot system in zone one kitchen garden.
Berry garden and quail anti-aviary
The integrated berry and quail anti-aviary garden houses both quails and berries. Blackberry grows in the drum and hangs down for easy harvesting. It is in the cage so it won’t spread to the bush and so birds can’t eat the berries. Other berries are also planted in the aviary. The quail fertilise the berries and the berries offer habitat to the quails and some food.
The berry and quail garden and anti-aviary.