All posts by Kristy

Elemental Permaculture PDC

This week we are speaking to the 2017 Elemental Permaculture PDC group! It’s such a cool thing to be part of – all four of us have at some stage studied with Aaron Sorensen and Dan Deighton, (whether in this course or as part of John Champagne’s Brogo Permaculture PDC) and it’s amazing to meet a new crew of permies as they come through the program each year. Our design process is completely informed by the process that they teach in this program, and while we don’t draw out all the overlaid layers that you do in the proper PDC, the consideration of those factors is right at the top of our minds when we design for a new property.

Some of the 2017 PDC participants working on their designs

If you’ve thought about studying permaculture seriously, DO A PDC! It’s really quite a life changing program, and will affect the way you think about food, landscape, and especially community. This particular PDC runs every year, or if you prefer an online approach there is also a great online program run by local permaculture teacher April Sampson-Kelly at Permaculture Visions. More recently, Milkwood Permaculture have also started delivering a PDC in the area. There’s heaps to choose from!

If you’re not ready for a full Permaculture Design Certificate course, a great way to get started is by coming along to a Permablitz! Our next one is coming up on November 18th – RSVP to if you’re interested!

Photos in the post are from this year’s PDC group – credit: Elemental Permaculture




Blitz #17 Alexander and Mel

Alexander and Mel’s blitz on Sunday was an excellent experience all round – lots of new faces among the blitz regulars, lots of energy, perfect weather, and of course some delicious lunch!

Thanks to everyone who worked super hard smashing in the swaled vegie beds, clearing and mulching the food forest, removing grass and filling the verge with natives and mulch, putting up the chicken house, and generally clearing and improving the site.

One the mulch dust has settled, we’ll put up some reflections and photos from the day!


Companion planting herbs

How is everyone’s winter gardening going?
Our resident propagation guru, Sheryl, has dug up this excellent list of companion planting herbs to use in the garden

Companion planting herbs

Basil In the garden: Plant with tomatoes. Repels flies and mosquitoes.
In the kitchen: Use in tomato dishes, pesto, sauces, and salad dressings.


In the garden: Plant with carrots.
In the kitchen: Related to the onion, chives enliven vegetable dishes, dressings, casseroles, rice, eggs, cheese dishes, sauces, gravies, and dips.

In the garden: Plant with cabbages. Keep away from carrots.
In the kitchen: Use seed for pickles and also to add aroma and taste to strong vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, and turnips. Use fresh with green beans, potato dishes, cheese, soups, salads, seafood, and sauces.

In the garden: Plant near cabbage and tomatoes. Deters white cabbage moth.
In the kitchen: It is common in Middle Eastern dishes. Use with roast lamb or fish and in salads, jellies, or teas.

In the garden: Good companion to all vegetables.
In the kitchen: Of Italian origin, its taste is zesty and strong, good in any tomato dish. Try oregano with summer squash and potatoes, mushroom dishes, beans, or in a marinade for lamb or game.

In the garden: Plant near asparagus, corn, and tomatoes.
In the kitchen: Use fresh parsley in soups, sauces, and salads. It lessens the need for salt in soups. You can fry parsley and use it as a side dish with meat or fish. It is, of course, the perfect garnish.

In the garden: Plant near cabbage, beans, carrots, and sage. Deters cabbage moth, bean beetles, and carrot fly.
In the kitchen: Use for poultry, lamb, and tomato dishes, stews, soups, and vegetables. Try it finely chopped in breads and custards.

In the garden: Plant near rosemary, cabbage, and carrots; away from cucumbers. Deters cabbage moth and carrot fly.
In the kitchen: Use in cheese dishes, stuffing’s, soups, pickles, with beans and peas, and in salads. Excellent for salt-free cooking.

In the garden: Good companion to most vegetables.
In the kitchen: Great with meat, eggs, poultry, seafood, and in salad dressings, marinades, and sauces.

In the garden: Plant near cabbage. Deters cabbage worm.
In the kitchen: Use in casseroles, stews, soups, ragouts, and with eggs, potatoes, fish, and green vegetables.

More Herbs

In the garden: Plant with coriander, which promotes its germination and growth.
In the kitchen: Use in cookies, cakes, fruit fillings, and breads, or with cottage cheese, shellfish, and spaghetti dishes.

In the garden: Plant with tomatoes, squash, and strawberries. Deters tomato worm.
In the kitchen: Use leaves in salads; flowers in soups and stews.

In the garden: Plant here and there. Loosens soil.
In the kitchen: Use in rye breads, cheese dips and rarebits, soups, applesauce, salads, coleslaw, and over pork or sauerkraut.

In the garden: Plant with radishes.
In the kitchen: Use with soups, salads, sauces, eggs, fish, veal, lamb, and pork.

In the garden: Plant away from other herbs and vegetables.
In the kitchen: Use to flavor pastries, confectionery, sweet pickles, sausages, tomato dishes, soups, and to flavor vinegars and oils. Gives warmth and sweetness to curries.

In the garden: Plant near roses and raspberries. Deters Japanese beetle.
In the kitchen: Use in tomato dishes, garlic bread, soups, dips, sauces, marinades, or with meats, poultry, fish, and vegetables.

In the garden: Plant here and there to improve the health and flavor of other plants.
In the kitchen: It’s a great flavoring for soups, stews, and salad dressings. Goes well with potatoes. The seeds can be used on breads and biscuits.

In the garden: Good companion to all vegetables.
In the kitchen: Excellent in almost any meat, fish, dairy, or vegetable dish that isn’t sweet. Add near the end of cooking.

Summer Savory 
In the garden: Plant with beans and onions to improve growth and flavor.
In the kitchen: Popular in soups, stews, stuffings, and with fish, chicken, green beans, and eggs.


Permablitz #14 – Farmers by Choice

This blitz was one of the most epic sites yet! There was a great showing from the local community, who already knew the hosts from their previous work with the Flame Tree Community Co-Op and other permaculture projects around the area. It’s really wonderful to see the networks and connections strengthening, and people working together, sharing knowledge and resources. The hosts (Luke, Nathan, Marina, and David) were amazing and did so much pre-preparation work getting the site ready for the day and it was a smooth and enjoyable blitz day as a result!

The local media got in on the act, and printed an article about the Farmers by Choice crew and what they are doing with the space. Check that out here

We’ll do a full post soon but for now check out the pictures of the day on the Facebook page!!

Our next blitz is going to be around May 2016 – this will be a return to our roots of smaller backyard designs, and will be held in Port Kembla. To get on the mailing list and stay in touch with what is happening, email us at



Permablitz #11 Catherine

This blitz was a really great demonstration of what you can do on pretty much zero budget, in a rental property. Luckily Catherine has a supportive landlord so making a few changes wasn’t a problem, but it did mean we needed to plan for short term rather than long term production. We focused on no-dig kitchen gardens, weed control and making the garden space more liveable and enjoyable for the household. There was no point planting long term fruiting trees like avocadoes, but seasonal fruits like banana and tamarillo were fine to add in to the mix. Add to this an area for a chicken run and a viewing platform for the house full of keen surfers to check out the waves on the daily, and we had a winning recipe.

Catherine shares her reflections below, along with some recent pictures. Check out the Facebook album of before and after pictures from the day


Catherine: My blitz was on a rental property that I share with a few others. The real-estate had been hassling me for years about keeping the overgrown back-yard under control and when the landlady finally agreed to pay for it to be cleared, I had to capitalise on that by getting the Permablitzers in to put some things in place, so that it didn’t immediately get out of hand again! Luckily there was a slot coming up in 3 weeks’ time, so I said ‘Yes, please!’ and then started panicking about organising everything (mostly, about the food!)

We had a good turn-out considering the short notice, but it was less than some other Blitzes and those that were there will attest to the fact that the whole back-yard basically consists of one horrible hill! Because of all this, the design team did the best thing possible and decided to focus on 2 or 3 key areas, to make the back-yard useable and to give me a good head-start to build on in future.

So that’s exactly what we did – built steps and a pathway to the top where we made a flat surf viewing area, made 2 no-dig garden beds, and planted native plants, banana trees, and comfrey, amongst other things, to try and challenge the rampant weeds for supremacy! There is also a flat area at the side of the house where we put in a pond and an herb/salad garden and mulched the pathway.

The day went well, I think, I mostly remember flitting around and answering questions, not being in any one place for long and constantly realising that I still hadn’t done that thing I was going to do half an hour ago. At the end, we had a well-deserved beer overlooking the surf and then an even more welcome swim (it was a HOT day!).

I needn’t have worried about the food, especially with the capable hands of Josh, Marilyn and Michelle looking after the kitchen. That’s one thing I’d say to future blitz hosts…you probably don’t need as much food as you think, and if it seems daunting (it did to me), then a couple of simple things will do fine. We were eating left-overs for weeks (no complaints there, mind you). It’s definitely a good idea to have dedicated kitchen people, so you don’t have to get too distracted by that side of things.

Roughly one year on, the blitz has made a huge difference to how the back-yard is now and with how we all interact with it. I remember saying that I wanted to build the beds within hose-spraying distance of the back deck, in case I was too lazy/busy to go out there with it. These days I am out there all the time, slowly expanding the growing area up the hill, sitting at the top table with a beer/guitar/both, checking on the chickens that I’ve recently installed at the top or just pulling out a few weeds on my way through.

Some areas got wild again pretty quickly and unfortunately, I did lose track of some of the plants we dotted around, and some may have subsequently succumbed to the whipper snipper, but most of it survived, and the great thing is that it’s not un-manageable now, the basic structure is there and I’m so much more motivated to expand on it and I don’t feel like the bits I can’t get to are overwhelming.

I’ve taken a few pictures, they’re not great quality, but hopefully it will give you some idea of how it looks today.


Veggie beds from the side. I had a great harvest last year from all seedlings we put in, although I had to put a fence around it this year against the rabbits. I built 2 more beds up the hill from the lower 2 from the blitz, based on the retaining wall of newspaper bundles, which I am allowing the grass to cover up.


Wish I could show a photo of a frog on the tile! One did move in, but then we tried to make it nice for it by decorating the edges and I think it scared him/her off. It is FULL of tadpoles though, so hopefully soon!


Veggie beds from below with ramshackle fence and milk bottles for use in rabbit proofing seedlings. It didn’t really work, but it helped a bit. What you can see there is mostly tomato plants.


You can’t see all the comfrey that was planted here because I pulled all the leaves off the other day for the compost, but there was tons of it and all the other plants we put in alongside the path are going well, although the weeds are a little out of hand too. I like it though, it reminds me of Tom’s Midnight Garden or some secret pathway like that.


Chicken run/house in the background. Even though we planted avocados and other things there on the bank, it had got so wild when I came back from a few weeks away that I had to sacrifice it all to the chickens, who are having a great time keeping that bit under control for me!

Some of the native grasses that we planted, holding their own. Viewing platform / wire storage area. The shade cloth is intended for a hammock that I want to put in up there, for even more relaxed surf checking!
View from the top having just whipper-snippered the bank. It’s mostly grass now though, so is much easier to keep on top of.


Althea and Donna, who I adopted from Alasdair. It was hard to get a picture of their whole run, but it basically goes up from where the banana pit is and runs right the way across the back bank, behind the table area.


I ended up moving the compost pile to inside their run, with this simple arrangement, so they can just pick through what they want from the scraps.

So those are my blitz reflections, it was a great fun day, it didn’t cost that much, as most of the materials were sourced for free and I was kindly donated a lot of plants. It has made a massive difference to the usefulness and accessibility of the back-yard and continues to give me plenty of home grown produce to enjoy. I also think that while some of my flatmates were a bit sceptical/confused by the whole thing and they still are not extremely involved, they do use the space a bit more and they can also see/taste the benefits, so I feel like it has had an effect on spreading the sustainability message too, which is great.

Thanks so much to Bec and Jacqui and Kristy and Shez for all the time they put in, and to everyone that came along and tackled the hill on that killer hot day and at all the other blitzes, I hope to attend another one soon!

Permablitz the Gong Community

It’s a really amazing community that has grown with Permablitz the Gong over the past thirteen blitzes. Together we’ve hauled countless bales of straw and lucerne and dubious smelling manure, put up fences, dug ponds and swales, planted trees and veggies, and done created all sorts of amazing permaculture landscapes. In addition to that, we’ve also built some pretty cool bonds. People have started getting together outside blitzes to hang out, weed each others gardens (thanks to Stacey for creating the aptly named irregular Slackerblitz!), share knowledge and skills…we’ve even had a romance form amid all that organic matter!

At a recent blitz, one of our blitzes Maddie said that she wanted a way to network with people outside the blitz environment and so in response we created a Facebook group for everyone! There are some great discussions happening there, and it’s a great place to share excess resources, ask for help or advice, or just talk about all things permie-related!

Check it out: Permablitz the Gong Community