Urban Permaculture DVD

Filming various homes in Sydney for the Urban Permaculture DVD with Geoff Lawton reveals just what a wealth of Permaculture innovation there truly is.

We really need to praise Penny Pyett from Permaculture North for organizing some very special show gardens for us to visit this week.

Penny generously organized  a variety of Permaculture gardens from small strata title townhouses with limited space and poor aspect to larger gardens located in Sydney. We wanted to visit a variety of Permaculture designed gardens that reveal the breadth and range of creative design. From the tiny to the large. The brief was to find a variety of gardens that challenge, surprise and inspire.


Penny Pyett and Mr Redford

Penny’s influence on her students is amazing, especially¬† when you see her choice of espaliered fruit trees and scented flowers repeated in their garden designs. Penny showed us her own home quail production system. Her grey water system, her ducks, food forest and especially her favorite rooster, Mr Redford, a handsome red cockerel that Penny has raised and named after the Hollywood movie star. Someone had thrown him into her backyard when he was a baby chick and he’s certainly grown into a handsome showy bird.

Penny’s lives next to a high rise dwelling and keeping crowing roosters would be a no-no for most people so building a straw-bale insulated chicken coop was something that surprised us.

The roosters were kept in the insulated coop at night and any noise was suitably muffled so as to not annoy the neighbours.

Insulating a chook shed also adds warmth in winter and keeps the coop cool in summer. So do people complain? Not according to Penny, given that her chook yard is right next to a busy block of flats.

Working a Permaculture design into a tiny south facing aspect was also a challenge for Lucinda Coates who lives in a strata title townhouse complex. Walking through the sameness of corporate looking  hedges stops you in your tracks when you walk over to her home unit. A bewildering array of edible plants, a green arched bower to walk through, a water feature, a herb spiral and even a mandala garden greet you as you walk down the winding path to her rainforest refuge. Almost every plant is edible. Fruit trees and vegetable gardens abound.

Battling body corporate isn’t a challenge if you get people on side she says. Lucinda’s intricate design is a credit to her perseverance in making Permaculture work in a small scale Urban Design.

Swimming Pool Fish Farm Aquaculture Conversion

This swimming pool is stocked with over 100 Silver Perch thriving naturally in the backyard

A highlight for us was seeing a swimming pool returned back to its source – a fish farm stocked with Silver Perch right in the suburbs. Les Mulder’s home looks smart and upmarket. Worried about Peak Oil and the energy crunch, Les had already installed some grow beds he sourced from Murray Hallam and turned his ornamental fish pond stocked full of goldfish and Koi into a thriving aquaponics system. But it wasn’t enough. A few months back, Les turned off the pump to his 55,000 litre swimming pool and transformed it into a fish farm. Goodbye chlorine and expensive electricity bills. Hello Nature! His friends say he’s crazy but Les and his wife are happy to turn this pool into a natural swimming pool that will also grow food.

He still recirculates the the water in his pool through a smaller 60 watt pond pump to aerate the water and keep the 100 Silver Perch happy. He filters the water through an array of bio-filters and water plants. Les says he doesn’t feed the fish commercial fish pellets. The fish have gone natural and are now growing very well eating only what grows in and on the surface of the pool. The fish eat on the roots of the plants, algae and any mosquito larvae. Certainly the fish we saw were about 5 months old and hit the water hard when Geoff Lawton threw some bread onto the surface. Les believes the fish do better thriving on a natural diet of small pond organisms and vegetation. A natural system like this that is lightly stocked is also less susceptible to fish losses if the pump should fail given that the pool is a large body of water able to sustain adequate aeration for a longer period of time.

The Urban Permaculture DVD will be out later this year.