Permaculture Four-Dimensional Design Case Study: Creating a Micro-Ecosystem for Avocados in a Marginal Location

Two years ago I started preparing a spot to grow avocados. Last week I planted them.


That’s planning ahead 24 months to plant a tree. This is how it started.


This is how it looked last week.


Why so long? A couple of reasons: Young avos need to be protected from frost and strong sunlight. Older avos will die in poorly drained soils. We have frosts and clay soils, so we built an ‘island’ and planted nurse trees.


The mound provides drainage and the tagasaste provides frost and sun protection. Additionally, the tagasaste provide nitrogen, ‘chop and drop’ mulch, and bee fodder.


The other thing that took so long is that our order with the nursery was placed 20 months in advance. The nursery only grafts and grows to order, and makes sure to provide large enough trees of the highest quality.


Two weeks ago I collected 21 trees: Hass, Reed, Bacon and Sharwill all grafted onto Zutano root stock.


This all represents a huge investment in time, money and resources. We plan to make it pay off by caring for the trees until they are well established, and then pruning them to maintain a manageable height. We’ve planted them with heaps of compost and a thick bed of mulch to keep them from drying out this summer. As the avos grow up we will progressively prune the tagasaste out of existence.


We’ve interplanted our A-types and B-types to assure the best cross-pollination. Our family and our interns love avos, so growing our own will represent a significant savings to our grocery bill. We’ll also have surplus to sell locally.


This long, staged process is what four-dimensional design is all about: looking ahead; making a plan; gathering resources; getting your hands dirty; and, seeing it through to completion. In permaculture one aim is to achieve a yield. We may wait another two years for ours, but it will be well worth it.

48 months for an avocado? You bet.

Peace, Estwing

Permaculture Best Practice Tour: Town and Country


The most important skills in permaculture and transitioning to a sustainable lifestyle are: knowing what to do and knowing how to do it properly. In other words, prioritising and quality control.

Not knowing and the fear of failure are what hold most people back. Thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours can be misspent on the wrong projects based on misconception and bad advice.

This tour/workshop demonstrates a wide range of best practice decision-making for rural and suburban properties as well as providing a basket of the most practical skills to make it all happen on your patch. Two exemplar properties in the Whanganui District are included.

Tour guide and instructor, Nelson Lebo is recognised as an innovator in the permaculture and eco design movements. He is contacted regularly by the New Zealand media on all aspects of energy efficiency and healthy homes.


Over the last two decades Nelson has developed three outstanding permaculture properties ranging in size from 700 square metres to 38 acres. His Eco Thrifty Renovation project is the only case study outside of Australia to be included in permaculture co-founder, David Holmgren’s current project: Retrosuburbia.


Kaitiaki Farm is a model permaculture demonstration property that provides a wide range of best practice land use strategies for lifestyle blocks and small farms. Innovative approaches to land management, market gardening, fruit production, home renovation, alternative energy and education are embraced at Kaitiaki.

Topics include: holistic planning; four dimensional design; building soil fertility; composting; wind shelter; water management; growing in sand; growing in clay; preventing erosion; planting and caring for fruit trees; no dig/no till gardening; the best tools and how to use them; growing in small spaces; growing in big spaces; tractoring birds; basic eco-home renovation. screen-shot-2017-01-02-at-5-48-52-am

No better opportunity to get an insider’s glimpse into applied permaculture design in two very different settings.

Past clients and participants say:

“Nelson got us thinking about things differently.”

“I took a workshop with you four years ago and then again for this one. I forgot what a great teacher you are.”

“Nelson explains things in layman’s terms that are easy to understand.”


Register for a full day or half-day. Please specify. Space is strictly limited.

Date & Time: Sunday, 12th February 2017, 9:00 – 4:00. (9 -12, Kaitiaki Farm. 12-1 Travel & Lunch. 1 – 4, Eco Thrifty Renovation.)

Location: Whanganui District

Cost: Full-Day: $125; Half-Day: $75.

Non-refundable deposit required.