Sustainable Organic Farming, Agriculture, Permaculture - Sustainable Living

Sustainable Organic Farming - Family and Community

The aim of this section of the website is to learn to become as familiar as possible with (initially) growing food and (later on, as I get around to it) keeping animals. If you are new to this, it is best to start small and work up from there.

Everyone can have some kind of kitchen garden, even if it is only a few pots in kitchen. The darkest basement kitchen could provide the perfect conditions for producing a constant supply of mushrooms and bean shoots, with herbs in a window box outside. In a well-lit kitchen, mustard and cress, chives and many herbs could be grown inside, and dwarf tomatoes outside in a window box.
George Seddon, Your Vegetable Garden in Australia, p14

For many city and suburban people this is a whole new field of experience. As a first step, try to develop a feeling of becoming comfortable, familiar, and friendly with the idea of growing food and simple farming techniques. Some reading (see later on this page) can help greatly with this, and then you can progress to practical work with a simple project such as the box garden (also later on this page). If you know anyone with a vegie garden, you could ask them if they would like someone to help out with it occasionally.

I will be writing more about this topic in the future (with examples of what I have been up to). For now, here is another motivational quote. It is from a fiction book, but still I find it quite inspiring.

In the foot-deep windowsills of her early-twentieth-century [New York City] apartment building, Mary was growing a garden. Tomatoes, peppers, chard, three types of lettuce, radishes and a dozen different medicinal and culinary herbs grew from pots, in flats, and escaped out of many homemade planters. In the bathroom window was a huge squash plant, which trellised around the towel-rack and onto plumbing under the sink. "You can't trust the food you buy in stores," Mary had told him. "It's genetically altered and laced with chemicals." So she grew about a quarter of her own food. Impressive.
Thom Hartman, The Greatest Spiritual Secret of the Century, pp194-195.

Home Farming Books

In Australia:

First, I would go to a newsagent and get a copy of Earth Garden Magazine. They only come out every three months, and cost about AUD$7.00, so you could get them all as they come out without too much commitment. It is not the kind of publication where you need to read every word from front to back. I find that just leaving them around the house, perhaps on the table where you would eat breakfast, and then you will find yourself browsing through them and picking up ideas. If you do this a few times, you will notice that your point of view is beginning to shift. You will become gradually more comfortable and familiar and happy with the idea of living a much lower-tech lifestyle—the kind of lifestyle that everyone who wants to be around and prospering for more than another decade or so will, sooner or later, be seeking. Their website is The Good Life Book Club.

All of the books below on this page are available for loan at the Blue Mountains Library, and most can be purchased from the Permaculture and Self Sufficiency Books page.

Most Highly Recommended

Backyard self-sufficiency by Jackie French AUD$18.95
Living the Good Life by Linda Cockburn AUD$29.95

Other Books

These I recommend less highly than those above, but might be worth a look if they sound interesting to you. A regular subscription to Earth Garden Magazine will cover most of the topics from these books.

Getting Started In The Country by Stephanie Chambers AUD$16.40
Home Farmer - Volume 1 AUD$14.95
Home Farmer - Volume 2 AUD$16.95

The Box Garden

This section is taken from the book "Backyard Self-Sufficiency" by Jackie French, pp50-52 (of the original edition, I haven't got the page numbers for the new 2009 edition). Published by Aird Books, Melbourne.

A Lot of Veg in a Very Small Space

Get a styrofoam box from the supermarket.

  • Half fill it with weeds or lawn clippings or cabbage leaves, etc.
  • Fill the rest with potting mix or compost or even garden soil. (Cook it in the oven first for an hour to kill weed seeds.)
  • Bung in some seedlings.

You can fit a lot of plants in a styrofoam box. Say: six lettuce, one cucumber, and three silverbeet plants, or a couple of silverbeet and a tomato or zucchini that will sprawl over the edge so it doesn't take up too much room; or six parsley plants, a capsicum, a come-and-come-again lettuce (one you just pull the leaves off as you want them), and a cucumber trailing out of the box—the variety is endless. You an also put your box next to a post and let climbing beans trail up it.

Salad Box

This year we have a salad box outside the back door. It gets the green water which has steamed the veg (we don't use salt, and leftover vegetable water is good fertiliser), cold tea-leaves, coffee grounds, leftover herbal tea detritus and anything else that's convenient to throw out the back door like the dirt from the dust pan. (This is high in both nitrogen and phosphorous—most dust is, with bits of hair and skin as well, which is excellent fertiliser.)

In the box we've got parsley and chives, a cut-and-come-again lettuce (cos will do), a cucumber, a rainbow chard plant (the young leaves are good in salads), Egyptian mint (very mild, and good chopped in tabouli), and a tiny Tim tomato which I either keep pruned or let sag over the edge.

The box certainly doesn't keep us in salads, but it can provide a meal when it is dark and raining and I don;t want to trudge down to the vegetable garden—and it makes an excellent Christmas present for an elderly friend.

You can cram a lot in a box because plants can lean over the edge of it—you only need enough room for the roots. As long as you water it, and feed it with soluble fertiliser every day (either commercial seaweed-based fertiliser or home-made "throw weeds, comfrey, compost, manure, and urine in a bucket, cover with water, then wait a week and ladle it out" fertiliser—otherwise known as brown gunge).

One box can provide two lettuces a week, four feeds of silverbeet, three harvests of celery, a couple of cucumbers and parsley. Best of all: you can grow it where you can reach it whenever you need a handful of greens.

Starting Your Own Box Garden
Starting a Vegetable Garden
Permaculture, Self Sufficiency And Sustainable Living Books
Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) Course Directory
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