Inch by Inch, Row by Row: Building Annual Beds

A common misperception of permaculture is that “it is a messy form of gardening” – or that it is a form of gardening at all. Permaculture is a system of design. Growing annual vegetables can be a small part of a much larger farm system. For small-scale organic growers, annual veggies are an important source of income especially during the first years on a property.

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We took a totally different approach. Annual beds have mostly (except for our commercial garlic crops) been on the back burner for the last three and a half years while we’ve focused on water management and drainage, planted over 2,000 trees, fenced 400 metres of stream, renovated the house, and improved soil quality in the paddocks. With off-farm income and a fully-booked internship programme we were able to take it slow, which also happens to be the best way to convert paddocks to no-dig beds.

We lay polythene down for six months…

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…and then broad fork the beds.

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Everyone helps.

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We shift the plastic to a new area every six months and cover it with grass or branches to reduce UV damage from the sun. After forking we form raised rows and plant out the annuals from our nursery.

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Garlic takes up bed space for six months each year, which has meant we’ve not been able to grow much else until now.

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Three more large annual beds will go in over the next 18 months and then we’ll have the market gardens fully up and running – after five years.

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Slow and steady wins the race.


Peace, Estwing

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