Vale Dan Palmer

Vale Dan Palmer

Dan Palmer, a permaculture pioneer, and creator of Making Permaculture StrongerVEG – Very Edible Gardens Holistic Decision MakingLiving Design Process and co-founding the Permablitz phenomenon, Died this month aged 47. His sudden passing has deeply saddened his friends, readers, and listeners.

He was tireless in his service to, and ‘needling of’ permaculture and its design process. Dan is sadly missed as a fearless questioner, a passionate connector, and strong and fragile a spirit as the living systems he loved. 

Donations of support for his young family can be made at GO FUND ME

If you, or if someone you know is struggling with mental health, don’t wait – get help now. Talk to a friend, reach out and visit to Beyond Blue

Living fences: Using plants to define your boundaries – With Mara Ripani

Living fences: Using plants to define your boundaries – With Mara Ripani

Mara Ripani is Permaculture Australia Professional Member – you can find her at https://villagedreaming.com.au/

Fences are often necessary for privacy, security and the safety of pets and children. As Mara Ripani explains, there are myriad ways to create them with plants, adding extra greenery to our built environment.

With populations increasing and cities and towns growing, we need to take every opportunity to
introduce green into our built environment: ‘rewilding’ our surroundings, even in small ways. A living
fence is a simple and effective way to start. There are many approaches to creating a living fence:
what they all have in common is a thriving explosion of plants!

What is a living fence?
Fences are commonly used for creating privacy (both visual privacy and by preventing access), for
keeping pets and children contained and safe, and simply for marking property boundaries. With a
bit of planning, all of these requirements can be fulfilled with a living fence: one that is made using
plants on their own or by combining plants with an appropriate structure.
Depending on its main purpose, the space available and your aesthetic preference, a living fence can
take the form of closely-planted clumping grasses, a hedge created from shrubs, a line of small trees
or espaliered fruit trees, or a cascade of tendrils and flowers from a climbing vine – to name just a
few possibilities.

Why choose a living fence?
No matter how small your property, if there is room for a fence then there is probably room for a
living fence. Well-kept living fences are extremely beautiful. Evergreen plants provide a verdant wall
to look at all year round. Climbing plants with flowers provide colour, interest and architectural
shapes to admire. A living fence is an extension of your garden, allowing you to layer greenery to
create depth and texture. And if you already have a standard fence, you can breathe life into it with
a climbing plant.

Cooling microclimates
While living fences add a great deal of beauty, they can also help green our cities and create cool
microclimates. Built-up urban areas are prone to the urban heat island effect: dense concentrations
of pavement, buildings and other thermal mass surfaces absorb daytime heat, releasing it again at
night. As a result, ambient temperatures can increase by one to three degrees Celsius. Greening
infrastructure projects large and small, including living fences, can help counter this effect through
the plants’ natural transpiration.

How to choose plants for a living fence
When deciding on the style and plant selection for your living fence, consider its purpose,
maintenance requirements, and how it will fit into your existing garden. Whether you opt for native
or non-native species, always ensure you avoid species considered invasive in your area. Be careful

that your living fence does not impede communal walking paths, and consider traffic sightlines
where necessary – especially for cars exiting driveways.

Grasses
If your main priority is boundary marking, a living fence can be as simple as planting a row of
ornamental grasses. There are many choices: Poa labillardierei (Common Tussock-grass)
Pennisetum alopecuroides (Chinese Fountain grass), Lomandra hystrix (Green Mat-rush,)
Miscanthus sinensis (Chinese Silver grass), Schizachyrium scoparium (Little Bluestem) to name but
a few. Be sure to choose perennial grasses that will live year after year, either evergreen or grasses
that will dry to a sandy or copper colour, marking the changing seasons. Some grasses have spiky
foliage or sharp edges hence consider their appropriateness. Grasses can be cut back in late winter
or left uncut for a few years. When cut back they reappear as vibrant green tufts in spring.

Shrubs
Privacy and safety for children and pets can be achieved with shrubs planted to make hedges
(though note that hedges need dense foliage or supplementing with a wire fence to reliably contain
small pets). There are many shrubs to choose from, and garden nurseries offer plenty of information
on the growing requirements of plants to help you make your selection. Look for plants in the
following genuses Acacia, Westringia, Acmena, Yew, Thuja, and Laurel to name but a mere few.
Search for plants that suit your soil type and climate, and be sure to check the height, width and
growth rate. Fast-growing hedges will establish quickly but need more frequent pruning, watering
and compost. Slower-growing hedges can take years to establish but will then need less
maintenance.
Also consider colour, foliage texture, and whether you’d prefer evergreen or deciduous. An
evergreen shrub will stay green all year round, while deciduous species will change colour before
(usually) dropping their leaves. For example, Berberis thunbergia (Japanese Barberry) is a deciduous
shrub that goes from green to bright red foliage in autumn. For silver foliage try Westringia fruticose
(Native Rosemary(, Teucrium fruticans Tree Garmander), or Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Silver Sheen’
(Pittosporum Silver Sheen)

Trees
A line of small trees can also be used to create a fence, or to green an existing fence line. A popular
choice is any tree in the conifer family with a tall, narrow form; plant them as close as planting
instructions will allow.
For an ‘edible fence’, you can espalier fruit trees. Espaliering is easy to do, saves space and allows
even small garden owners to access seasonal fruit. Buy bare-rooted trees and plant in winter, and
explore the many instructional videos on different espaliering techniques available online.

Climbing vines
Climbing vines on a structural support can form a fence for privacy and for containing animals and
kids. Choose evergreen plants for year-round screening or deciduous ones for a flash of autumn red
followed by bare branches. You can use metal mesh or tensioned wire on a structural frame or a

wooden fence to support your vines; remember that climbing plants are heavy once established so
make sure the structure is able to support the weight.
There are many fantastic climbing plants to choose from. The evergreen Hardenbergia violacea
(Purple Coral Pea )produces a mass of gorgeous purple pea flowers. Pyrostegia venusta (Golden
Shower) has stunning orange trumpet flowers and climbing tendrils. Trachelospermum jasminoides
(Star Jasmine’s)’ sweet fragrance, Rosa banksiae’s (Lady Banks Rose) rose clusters and the tiny
fairylike leaves of Muehlenbeckia complexa (Maidenhair Vine) are all attractive options. If your home
or rental property has an existing brick or masonry fence then try Parthenocissus tricuspidata(Boston
Ivy) with its burnt red autumn leaves, or Ficus pumila’s (Creeping Fig’s) attractive juvenile leaves.

Before planting
Whether you opt for grasses, shrubs, trees or climbers for your living fence, do your plant research.
How will the plant grow? How will it change over time? What level of maintenance will it need? Will
it drop leaves? Might its root system cause any long-term problems? While it is good to be aware of
these things, however, don’t get overwhelmed: generally the value of a living fence far outweighs its
care needs. And one final piece of advice: if establishing a new fence, it’s a good idea to do a
property boundary search via your relevant state agency to ensure you’re putting the fence in the
right place and not on your neighbour’s property.
Whether you live in a city, a regional town or in the bush, infrastructure like fences is often
necessary. Likewise, rewilding our living environments is important, and easy to do. A living fence is
a great way to combine the two, and the benefits will be experienced by you and all that pass by.

Permaculture trainee runs Treebog workshop in Kenyan camp

Permaculture trainee runs Treebog workshop in Kenyan camp

With the help of a Permafund grant, Kajulu Hills Eco Village in Kenya has trained a number of residents of the Kakuma refugee camp in permaculture skills. Many people are born and grow up in this vast camp that’s been operating for 30 years and has an estimated 16,500 family compounds each with an average of 20 people.

One of the trainees, Marcelin Munga, is a member of the Farming & Health Education organisation (FHE) in partnership with Biologic Design which successfully applied for a Permafund grant to run a 4-day Treebog construction workshop for camp residents.

The Treebog’s innovative compost toilet design encloses the area below an elevated platform with two layers of wire mesh. Straw is stuffed between the two protective mesh layers to act as a visual screen for the first year’s use plus to allow airflow, soak up excess urine and stop odours. Carbon-rich organic matter is sprinkled on the above-ground pile after each use. The resultant nutrient seepage fertilises food trees planted intensively around the Treebog, e.g. bananas and papayas that fruit two years after construction. A rainwater tank collects runoff from the roof for a hand washing station next to the Treebog.  

Jay Abrahams of Biologic Design UK, who designed, created, and developed the Treebog, hopes that the skills and knowledge required to build one can spread throughout the Kakuma camp and beyond. 

He says “The Treebog is a very good example of permaculture design in action. It shows how by placing the components in mutually beneficial locations the “problem’ of the toilet wastes, becomes the source of the solution: a regenerative, resource creating, tree-growing, sanitation system. The Treebog is a simple, Regenerative Sanitation or ‘W.A.S.H.’ System. It provides sanitary compost toilet facilities, where the human waste and handwash water are considered to be a resource to be used – not a problem to be disposed of!”

“The Treebog is not a long drop toilet” he explains, “as there is no pit required underneath. The Treebog is an aerobic compost pile that simply sits on the soil surface underneath the platform. The compost pile is surrounded by the enclosed base as well as the trees that are planted around the structure, so the liquids soak into the soil underneath the Treebog and into the root zone. As there is no pit underneath, this helps to protect groundwater from pollution.”

It’s estimated there are around 1,500 Treebogs in use in the UK. Other projects have introduced the technology elsewhere in Africa and in Asia.

Support for projects like this by the Permafund grant program is made possible because of the generous donations received from individuals, families, permaculture groups, businesses, and community fundraisers.

Over the past 10 years, Permafund grants have benefited 58 environmental, community-building, and permaculture education projects in Australia and 15 other countries around the world.

Donations and recurring contributions to Permafund can be made  here  through the ‘Give’ portal on the Permaculture Australia website. Donations of $2.00 or more are tax-deductible in Australia. All donations and contributions are warmly welcomed.

For more information please contact permafund@permacultureaustralia.org.au

Farming & Health Education  https://farmhe.org/

Biologic Design  https://www.biologicdesign.co.uk/

Donate link for Permafund  https://permacultureaustralia.org.au/permafund/

Introducing the 2022/23 Board of Directors

Introducing the 2022/23 Board of Directors

The 2022 Permaculture Australia Annual General Meeting was held on the 23rd April at Research, Victoria and online. 

Congratulations to the following Board of Directors who have been appointed for 2022/2023:

  • Toad Dell, Queensland
  • Debbi Long, Victoria
  • John McKenzie, Victoria
  • Donna Morawiak, Queensland
  • Jed Walker, New South Wales

Huge thankyou to the outgoing Directors, Wendy Marchment, Greg Rodwell and Sophie Thompson. Big thank you also to Virginia and Stephen Solomon for hosting the AGM at their residence. It was a gorgeous Autumn day which was perfect for a pot-luck lunch outside post the AGM followed by a tour of the house with a Retrosuburbia perspective. The property is one of the Retrosuburbia case studies and is undergoing further changes to ease the load post retirement from paid work. 

Special thanks and acknowledgement was given to Wendy Marchment with a bouquet of flowers, on her work as Secretary over the past four years. In particular, on getting PA’s compliance and governance systems up-to-date, having established many templates and processes including the Directors’ induction checklists which will make the transition easier and smoother for incoming Boards. 

TedxPermaQueer – Cultural Solutions to Climate Change

TedxPermaQueer – Cultural Solutions to Climate Change

Tackling our ongoing climate crisis means adjusting the behaviours, attitudes and relationships we hold with the environment and with each other. It’s not just tech solutions we require but deep cultural shifts. It won’t be a single action but the collection of many small and sweeping changes that sets us up for success or failure and culture is the bedrock of behaviour.

We’ll be exploring through a variety of speakers how shifting culture from mainstream society, whether ancient or modern, can help change our current climate path. With special emphasis on first nations ways of knowing and being, drawing from lands managed in sustainable and regenerative ways prior and post colonisation, we will explore what a new space of cultural emergence might look like. An emergence that is appropriate, equitable and listens to the needs of the land and the people.

  • What does it mean to be a custodial species in our environment?
  • What is culture? what is good culture and what does it mean to reclaim our cultural practices?
  • How can we contribute to meaningful cultural emergence as ethical and responsible consumers?

These are a few of the questions we’ll be exploring in depths over the three days of this seminar, with many more exploring the themes of right relating, impacts of colonisation, moving beyond helplessness, cross-cultural dialogue and breaking the binaries we live within.

All profits raised from this event is going towards a specific land back fund for First Nations Aboriginal people. 

For more information:

The event details can be found here.

Permaqueer are Professional members of Permaculture Australia, the national permaculture member organisation. Find out more including how to join here.