Permaculture Garden Project

The Permaculture Project

The Caloundra City Private School Permaculture Project is a slowly evolving, organically based program that welcomes any student in the School who would like to learn about self-sustaining food development in a ‘backyard’ setting. The School’s Permaculture garden began in 2008 with a willing band of Year Seven students who threw themselves into an idea that we could grow food that was not only ecologically sound, but that tasted great also!

Over the past few years the garden has been the specific responsibility of the Year Six students and, whilst many other students throughout the School are participants, it is the Year Six students who plan for the future in the garden and take general responsibility for its upkeep. They also find that there are numerous learning opportunities within the curriculum that incorporate what they have learned in the Permaculture Garden and they generally have first choice when it comes to securing a tasty morsel from the garden.

Of course, Permaculture is so much more than growing vegetables. By adopting the ethics of Permaculture and applying these principles in our daily life we can make the transition from being dependent consumers to becoming responsible producers. This journey builds skills and resilience at home and in our local communities that will help us prepare for an uncertain future with less available energy.

At this stage in the program’s evolution we have chosen to adopt both a useful and manageable degree of projects that have given us a sound foundation based on healthy principles. At the time of writing we have chosen to focus on the following elements:

There are eight ‘formal’ garden beds and a number of ‘informal’ areas where plants have been grown. All of these gardens were built by the students (under supervision), which proved to be a major undertaking that has added an enormous sense of design to the project. The plants thus far have included: passionfruit, zucchini, potatoes, beans, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, pumpkins, melons, broccoli, snow peas, melons, cauliflower, beetroot, bananas, onions, sweet corn and various citrus, herbs and flowers – just to name a few.

We have also looked at a variety of ways in which we can grow the same crop. For example, beans have been grown on ground plants, trellises, tripods and arches. By doing this we have opened the eyes of many students as to the possibilities that exist in their own home garden situation. Additionally, problems that arise with crops are dealt with, as far as possible, using the principles of organic gardening, which in a world of ‘quick fixes’ is a welcome change.

We have a fully functioning chicken yard, built by our parents and students, that provides us with an essential element of Permaculture design. The chickens provide us with manure for the garden and eggs for the table as well as taking care of a great deal of our excess food – food that used to be destined for the waste bin. All of the necessary requirements for the chickens (feeding and watering) are taken care of by our Year Six students as well as many other students within the school.

One of the most popular activities in the school is when we procure a number of fertilized eggs and incubate them in a classroom. The ensuing chicks that are hatched are quickly acquainted with the human touch by just about every student in the school. Of course, every chick has to have a name (some more than one) and luckily they are largely unaware of this, as their names are usually similar to KFC, Nugget, Tandoori, Sunday Roast and the like.

A number of water tanks have been introduced throughout the school and this rainwater is used to establish and maintain the plants throughout the entirety of their lifecycles. The water is also utilized in the chicken pen.

Another aspect of Permaculture design is the creation of soil and compost that will enhance the growth of our plants. Three specific compost bays have been built (again by one of our awesome parents) and into these goes a combination of food scraps, grass clippings, lucerne hay, manure, coffee grounds and a weird concoction of seaweed and fish emulsion. The result is the absolute best soil that one can imagine, capable of sustaining life itself!

In addition to the ‘green thumb’ aspects of the Permaculture Project, students are heavily involved in the commercial aspects of growing crops and keeping chickens. These specific tasks include working out sale prices, marketing, purchasing new additions to the garden, banking and managing the occasional Produce Stall. All-in-all a remarkable experience, taking the students on a journey from the planning to consumption of a product that they take a very personal interest in.

The Future
One might ask the question, “What does the future of our school’s Permaculture Project hold in store?” The simple answer is, “It’s endless.”  Worm farms, orchards, water features, livestock and a host of other ideas are on the agenda and who knows where it will all end?  We have made a modest start and there is so much more to discover and learn. What we do know is that this program is a wholesome, intelligent and creative exercise that has the potential to affect a whole generation of the future.