Category Archives: food forest

New Year Permaculture Update

Happy New Year. We are looking forward to a great 2016. There is so much going gone here at Kaitiaki. The plants and animals are hard at work rehabilitating this old horse property.

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 5.19.54 pm

The plums are days away…

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 5.18.55 pm

but the apples are still months away.

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 5.19.05 pm

These Monty’s Surprise apples won’t be ready until April.

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 5.19.19 pm

Our first crop of grapes is taking form.

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 3.32.17 pm

For me, one of the greatest feelings is being able to look at something I started nearly a year and a half ago, and is really taking shape now. I divided these harakeke flax during winter 2014 and planted them into a windbreak. Here they are today.

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 3.32.48 pm

Ultimately the netting will be taken down and replaced by the living wind break.

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 3.33.07 pm

I just finished a protected chick rearing area.

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 3.33.31 pm

Here is a mixed flock of chicks and ducklings.

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 3.34.35 pm

The food forest has gone from flood this winter to drought, but luckily we did get rain today.

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 3.33.53 pm

This is a reverse angle of the previous photo.

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 3.34.25 pm

A mixed flock of chooks and ducks manage the orchard.

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 3.34.47 pm

Sleeping on the job.  Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 3.39.34 pm

But at least someone is hard at it.

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 3.41.00 pm


Peace, Estwing

2016 Permaculture Principles Calendar and Moon Planting Guide

“Internationally relevant and filled with inspirational and thought provoking images that support and reinforce your values every day of the year. Learn each of the 12 design principles over the course of a month and be reminded of suitable garden activities with daily icons and phase times according to our moon planting guide. Now with a rainfall / temperature chart.”

Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 7.45.34 am

Available in New Zealand only from The ECO School.

RRP: $18 post paid anywhere in NZ. Two for $32 post paid.

Bulk Discounts Available.

Available in Whanganui and Palmerston North at discounted rates for pick-up orders. Enquire.

To order, contact theecoschool at

Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 7.46.13 am Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 7.46.00 am Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 7.45.46 am

“Organise your garden, your life and share your schedule with this deceptively simple but thought-provoking permaculture calendar – for your home or workplace. Illustrating one of the twelve permaculture design principles for each month, gives you the time to absorb them. Each example includes and image and story of locally appropriate sustainable living and design.

Including a planting guide that can help yield more productive crops and healthier plants by planning your garden activities according to the moon phases. Exact phase time changes along with daily icons enhance the traditional gardening rhythms that have been handed down over the centuries.”

Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 7.46.28 am

“The permaculture calendar is made from 100% post consumer recycled pulp on certified carbon neutral paper that is manufactured and printed in Australia using 100% renewable energy.

The calendar’s size and weight take advantage of standardised postage and reduced freight costs. Printing plates and paper waste are all recycled. Inks are vegetable based so don’t release unnecessary VOC’s into the atmosphere or require harmful solvents for clean up. Once the calendar has reached the end of its life you can recycle or compost it, hang the pictures, or keep it intact as a reminder of the principles and important events over the year.

While the production effort does a lot in limiting its impact on the earth and the people in the process, we’re also demonstrating the ethic of Fair Share by donating 10% of the net return from sales of the calendar to Permafund, supporting permaculture projects internationally.”

Peace, Estwing

Holistic Land Management: Permaculture Design in Motion

One year after arriving on this piece of land we are well on our way to developing a premier permaculture property. Like our model suburban permaculture project – the Eco-Thrifty Renovation – we intend to use this as a model for resilience education in our community and worldwide.

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 9.00.42 am

We call this property Kaitiaki Farm. In Te Reo Maori, kaitiaki means guardian. It is the weightiest word I have ever come across in my life, and I do not take using it to name the farm lightly. If our first child had been a boy, Kaitiaki would have been his middle name.

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 8.59.23 am

This extraordinary piece of land has all the makings of a textbook permaculture property and an excellent way to teach best practice in low-input / high productivity land management. It is also a great opportunity for those who want to learn by seeing a ‘work in progress’, I reckon there may be no better place in the world.

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 8.59.05 am

From big concept ideas to specific details, Kaitiaki Farm is a living, breathing permaculture textbook. Most of us learn by doing, so why not consider coming along to the Whanganui Permaculture Weekend 12th-13th September (more details to follow) or coming to a full-day workshop on Sunday, 27th September.

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 8.58.53 am

We believe in offering the highest quality resilience education and that money should not be a barrier to attendance. The Permaculture Weekend is free to attend, and all of our workshops run at half what others charge. When it comes to excellence in community resilience education, there should be no compromise.

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 8.58.12 am

The workshop will cover many aspects of permaculture, including: designing for wind and water; tractoring birds; improving soil structure; composting; swales and drains; nurse trees; slope stabilisation; trees as fodder; pollarding firewood; alley cropping; drought-proofing; market gardening; developing and managing a food forest; scything; and more.

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 8.58.34 am

Peace, Estwing

Permaculture Internship: July-September, 2015

We have been blessed with amazing interns over the last five years, and now we are looking for another. Dates are roughly the end of July through September.

Screen shot 2015-07-08 at 10.34.40 AM

We are midway through developing a large (5 hectare) permaculture property and renovating an 80 year-old home.

Screen shot 2015-07-08 at 10.31.28 AM

Our interns have cherished their time with us and still keep in touch.

Screen shot 2015-07-08 at 10.28.11 AMWe believe in hard work…

Screen shot 2015-07-08 at 10.30.13 AM

…and fun.

Screen shot 2015-07-08 at 10.28.20 AM

Our work has been featured in national and international magazines and websites.

Screen shot 2015-07-08 at 10.33.32 AM

  We seek a highly-motivated individual who is keen to learn eco-design, holistic land management, organic agriculture and horticulture, green building, community organising, farm skills, and more.

Screen shot 2015-07-08 at 10.32.36 AM  Contact us on theecoschool  –  at — gmail  dot   com

Screen shot 2015-07-08 at 10.35.55 AM

Dr. Nelson Lebo is a professional eco-design eductor. He holds a diploma in permaculture and is a recognized permaculture design educator.

Screen shot 2015-03-31 at 10.23.51 AM

Peachy Keen

We have had a great peachy weekend. On Saturday we planted 10 of our peach trees that I raised from stones starting early last winter. Here they are next to a swale topped with tagasaste.

Screen shot 2015-03-01 at 6.11.46 PM

We still have a dozen trees that we will give away and sell.  Screen shot 2015-03-01 at 6.10.45 PM

Here is Verti checking out the recent work.

Screen shot 2015-03-01 at 6.11.35 PM

This is the reverse angle of the peaches and tagasaste.

 Screen shot 2015-03-01 at 6.12.03 PM

Verti watered the peach trees thoroughly.  Screen shot 2015-03-01 at 6.12.32 PM

On Sunday we went to our old house to pick some of the abundant Black Boy peaches.

Screen shot 2015-03-01 at 6.11.16 PM

We picked this box and it hardly made a dent in the fruit still on the trees.

Screen shot 2015-03-01 at 6.10.34 PM

Yum is all I can say.


Peace, Estwing

Early Summer Permaculture Update

This is the difference between climate and weather: while 2014 is on track to be the warmest year on record globally, we have had a long, cool, windy winter/spring here in the lower north island. The winds have been nearly relentless for the last 3 months, but the hours of daylight have increased on schedule. I’m getting up 5:00 or 5:30 am everyday now.

The biggest indicator of the cool weather is that our tomatoes are behind schedule.  Screen shot 2014-12-17 at 7.35.26 AM

Last year we had ripe tomatoes on the 13th of December. Two years ago it was the 20th. This year we might get them by Christmas. But it looks like we will definitely have courgettes by the weekend.

Screen shot 2014-12-17 at 7.35.15 AM

We will certainly have potatoes for Christmas.

Screen shot 2014-12-17 at 7.37.07 AM

Long term, we have pumpkins forming on the vine.

Screen shot 2014-12-17 at 7.35.34 AM

We finally got the chook tractor into the fledgling food forest.

Screen shot 2014-12-17 at 7.36.52 AM

Those birds have a big job to do.

Screen shot 2014-12-17 at 7.36.08 AM

This apple has been transplanted from our last property.

Screen shot 2014-12-17 at 7.36.39 AM

We also transplanted this dwarf nectarine. I thinned the fruit so we’re hoping to get a few good sized ones in the new year.

Screen shot 2014-12-17 at 7.36.27 AM

Peace, Estwing

A Permaculture Food Forest in Three Years

While much of our eco-thrifty renovation involved converting an old villa into an energy efficient eco-home, we also put considerable effort into turning a rubbish tip into a Garden of Eden. Much of the latter work was guided by permaculture design.

The most visible difference between permaculture and what otherwise might just be called organic gardening is the presence of a “food forest.” The word permaculture was formed in the 1970s from a contraction of the words permanent and agriculture. The choice of these words represents the emphasis on perennial crops over annuals – in other words fruit trees over vege plants.

Screen shot 2014-11-28 at 10.30.28 AM


Screen shot 2014-11-28 at 10.30.40 AM


This is not to say that permaculture excludes growing annual veges like tomatoes, potatoes and pumpkins, it just tips the scales toward apples, peaches and feijoas. Among the reasons for this emphasis is that perennial crops require less tilling than annuals. Tilling disrupts natural soil ecosystems, can cause erosion, and requires lots of energy.

A food forest differs from an orchard in a couple of ways. First, it consists of a wide range of species and even a number of varieties within each species. For example, we have planted a food forest with apples, apricots, peaches, plums, feijoas, guavas, pears, figs, paw paws, olives, and nectarines. Among the apples, we have over a dozen varieties.

Second, permaculturists tend to choose cultivars that are resistant to diseases, making them easier to manage organically. For example, Black Boy peach trees tend to be more resistant to curly leaf than other varieties.

Alongside disease-resistance, another characteristic that might be selected for is storage life. I remember 15 years ago when I was buying my first apple trees I selected varieties that were both “good keepers” and blight resistant. With a cool cellar underneath my home (in the U.S.) the apples would remain fresh for many months with no specialized cooling equipment. Screen shot 2014-11-28 at 10.30.51 AM


Screen shot 2014-11-28 at 10.31.02 AM


Another characteristic of food forests is the presence of “nurse trees.” A nurse tree is one that provides services that help the fruit trees establish themselves and thrive. As the fruit trees grow up the nurse trees are pruned away.

Tagasaste (tree lucerne) is a common nurse tree. On our Castlecliff property we have used it extensively to nurture the fruit trees. Tagasaste is a preferred nurse tree for many reasons: it is fast growing – reaching a height of 2.5 metres in 18 months; it fixes nitrogen in the soil; it is relatively wind-tolerant and drought-tolerant; it’s foliage is good stock fodder; it’s flowers attract beneficial insects; it is a great chop-and-drop mulch for fruit trees; when it is no longer needed it can be cut down and burned as firewood.

Tagasaste is also a good companion for native saplings. For example, I inter-planted it with hebes and was amazed at how well the two grew together. At Te Kura Kaupapa Maori O Tupoho I inter-planted tagaste with wind-hardy corokia and grisselinia around the outdoor play space for the kohanga. In the short term the tagasaste will protect the tamariki from wind and sun, but in the long term those roles will be filled by the slower growing natives.

Screen shot 2014-11-28 at 10.31.15 AM


Screen shot 2014-11-28 at 10.31.32 AM


Along the same lines, in our food forest the fast-growing tagasaste provides much needed wind protection for the fruit trees until the natives take over that role. I often refer to this type of planning as four-dimensional design because it involves a distinct time element.

Another example of four-dimensional design in a food forest is integrating fowl such as chooks and ducks. We have successfully rotated our “ladies” through the whole of our Castlecliff property for pest control, ‘weed-eating’, and building soil fertility.

Next weekend we will be installing a food forest in Gonville, and thought it would be a great chance to offer a very hands-on workshop. See sidebar for details.

Peace, Estwing



Food Forest Design and Installation

Sunday, 7th December, 3-5 pm.

Designing a food forest for wind, sun and water using fruit trees, natives and tagasaste.

Space is limited. Registration essential., 06 344 5013


Seeding an Herbal Ley Around Fruit Trees

I have been rushing to get our fruit trees planted before the cool, rainy weather gives way to long, hot, dry days. With 74 trees planted so far I am nearing the end of the job.

Screen shot 2014-10-21 at 10.04.27 AM

But essential to the process is getting an herbal ley seeded around each tree while the rain will still provide the irrigation. This is important because most fruit trees are shallow-rooted and they compete directly with grasses for nutrients and water. An herbal ley is a diverse mix of plants that are meant to provide a range of services in an orchard that grass does not.

Obviously the first step is to kill off the grass. The easy organic way to do this is to smother it with cardboard and/or newspaper.

Screen shot 2014-10-21 at 8.33.02 AM

I then mulched this with copious amounts of rotted horse manure while being careful not to mulch against the trunk.

Screen shot 2014-10-21 at 8.33.12 AM

The seed mix I got from friends of ours so I cannot tell you exactly what it contains. You can easily Google recipes for different regions and different climates.

Screen shot 2014-10-21 at 8.33.24 AM

Sprinkle lightly over the top of the rotted manure.

Screen shot 2014-10-21 at 8.33.47 AM

Then lightly cover with more mulch and pat it down.

Screen shot 2014-10-21 at 8.34.08 AM

With a bit of rain it will start to germinate.

Screen shot 2014-10-21 at 8.34.27 AM

As the grass dies beneath the mulch it turns into food for the fruit trees and the herbal ley.

Screen shot 2014-10-21 at 8.34.39 AM

Easy-peasy. Now repeat 73 more times.


Peace, Estwing

Roots and Shoots: Permaculture Update

I just finished a plant propagation course after 9 months. I have enjoyed learning a wide range of propagation techniques, especially propagation from cuttings. We started with semi-hardwood cuttings from NZ native plants, and then proceeded to softwood cuttings from rosemary and lavender.

Screen shot 2014-10-13 at 6.31.17 AM

Finally we took hardwood cuttings from grapes and hydrangea. After months in the propagation mix it is so cool to see the roots have formed. Here is a grape.

Screen shot 2014-10-13 at 6.28.49 AM

Here is hydrangea.

Screen shot 2014-10-13 at 6.29.02 AM

On another note, yesterday I divided a fabulous autumn raspberry to transplant to our new property.

Screen shot 2014-10-13 at 6.32.37 AM

Raspberry roots and shoots.

Screen shot 2014-10-13 at 6.30.05 AM

I’m also excited that the Black Boy peach stones have germinated after a winter in sand.

Screen shot 2014-10-13 at 6.31.04 AM

How cool!   Screen shot 2014-10-13 at 6.30.46 AM

I am now busy potting up the grapes and hydrangea.

 Screen shot 2014-10-13 at 6.31.43 AM

Meanwhile, out in the orchard we have pears blossoming.

Screen shot 2014-10-13 at 6.32.56 AM

Guavas about to flower.

Screen shot 2014-10-13 at 6.33.13 AM

Feijoa flowers ready to burst. Screen shot 2014-10-13 at 6.33.23 AM

Apple saplings leafing out.

Screen shot 2014-10-13 at 6.33.35 AM

This apricot is being trained to grow out instead of up.

Screen shot 2014-10-13 at 6.33.49 AM

Peach blossom.

Screen shot 2014-10-13 at 6.33.58 AM

I also found blackberries growing in the bush.

Screen shot 2014-10-13 at 6.34.34 AM

And even a plum among the native trees.   Screen shot 2014-10-13 at 6.34.42 AM

Exciting times, these!


Peace, Estwing

Spring Permaculture Update

The equinoxal (sp?) winds are battering Aotearoa New Zealand.

Screen shot 2014-10-06 at 5.18.44 PM

Here are my attempts to protect our newly planted fruit trees.

Screen shot 2014-10-06 at 5.19.10 PM

 Screen shot 2014-10-06 at 5.19.22 PM

I barely was able to get the garlic fully mulched on the weekend before the gale started.

Screen shot 2014-10-06 at 5.19.45 PM

After I mulched the garlic I also mulched about 50 new fruit trees.

Screen shot 2014-10-06 at 5.19.55 PM

Be aware it is important not to place mulch against the sapling itself.

Screen shot 2014-10-06 at 5.20.06 PM

Having recently purchased this former horse property, we have 25 years of rotted pony poo to work with.

Screen shot 2014-10-06 at 5.20.19 PM

This gives you an idea of what we have. There are two more piles just as big.

Screen shot 2014-10-06 at 5.20.27 PM

We are boarding a horse now. This is what he produced in 2 weeks.

Screen shot 2014-10-06 at 5.20.43 PM

Despite the winds, it’s great to see signs of spring, like this fig cutting leafing out.

Screen shot 2014-10-06 at 5.20.53 PM

Peace, Estwing