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Easter Special: 20% off all garden consultation and design services

We’re celebrating the Easter holiday with a special saving for our internet followers!

Take a huge 20% off any garden consultation or design package!

Home visit +1 hr of personalised professional advice

was $60 now $48

Home visit +  1 hr consultation +  written report

was $300 now  $240

Want your own kitchen garden? Get the right advice and solutions for your new food garden or bring an old one back to life.

Sloping, rocky, small or problem block? Yes, you CAN have a fantastic food garden!

Your personal kitchen garden consultation by a qualified Permaculture designer

A plan that’s unique, and maximises your aspect and features in the best way for a gorgeous and productive garden.

First, you’ll have a home consultation to discuss your situation, wants, and ideas.

Then, you can choose to add a personalised program of care and advice specifically for your location and needs, and even a 2D design for your future garden.

Whatever you choose, you’ll get reliable, professional advice that’s right for your situation.

Sample design: intensive fruit garden

Which option is right for you?

Option A: $60 now $48

Perfect for when you have a basic concept for what you would like from your kitchen garden and want some help getting started.

Home consultation

I’ll visit you to discuss your space and ideas, as well as potential challenges. I’ll also give you effective, environmentally sound ideas and tips for how to best turn your ideas into reality.

Option B: $300 now $240

Turn your dream into reality with a home visit, great practical ideas, plus a report filled with creation and management advice and details to make it happen!

Home consultation


Written report including links to relevant websites and suppliers

Want more? You can also order a 2D design of your future garden for as little as $180 (average design $200-$250)

All the expertise and help you need to start growing and enjoying fresh fruit and veggies from your own kitchen garden!

1 hr home visit consultations are available within greater Sydney area only. We also offer phone/Skype consultations for clients who live outside the greater Sydney area. You just need to provide us with photos and an overhead map (such as in a contract of sale) of the site.

We offer  home visits to Central Coast, Bathurst and Wollongong (approx. 2 hours of Springwood, Blue Mountains) clients who book a consult plus written report or design services.

Call me on ph:0431 383 516 or fill in the form below to book your time and I’ll get back to you.

*Bookings must be made by Tuesday 2/4/13 to claim this discount.


New series of short workshops

We would like to announce that we are now running a whole heap of short workshops focussing on the essential skills of food gardening. Topics include making compost, caring for chooks and a whole heap of other fun things!

Dates and details are in the link below. We hope to see more of you here soon!

From plan to reality- a mobile chicken coop that works!

We finally have a mobile chicken coop that is appropriate for our needs and that suits the landscape of the property!

I have kept chickens for coming on three years and would consider myself an over-protective parent. I still haven’t lost a chook to predators even though we have lived adjoining bush land the entire time and our neighbours have suffered losses. I also think I have made all the mistakes in coop design possible in the past and hopefully have remedied them all in my new design!

Old coop

The temporary barracks

The problem:

After we moved here, I had no chicken coop. I stumbled upon an old trampoline frame which I quickly converted using materials that I brought with me from the old house. Unfortunately, it was a bad design for the chickens, me, and the land. Access was poor for egg collection and it could only be placed in a couple of spots on the land that were flat enough. When the ground was too steep, the chickens wouldn’t use their roosts and they would slide around in the nesting boxes. We ended up with lots of broken eggs and egg eating became a bad habit for a couple of the younger chooks. At least 1-2 eggs were being lost each day. We had looked around for manufactured chicken coops that were suitable but we were unable to find any. It seemed all the coops were designed to sit on flat ground. Great, except that we have little to no flat ground!

The solution:

I came up with a concept of a coop that would suit everybody and was designed for our hilly, uneven landscape.  This new design is specifically planned to suit our needs. It is an exclusively free-ranging coop and is not a chicken tractor. The chickens roam outside during the day but are free to come in and out of the coop to lay at will. The chickens have no access to the soil whilst in the coop, but since they’re either laying or roosting most of the time that they’re in there it’s not really an issue. The floor is made of wood which I can easily fill with grass, straw and other treats, and just as easily empty out onto the garden or compost after they are finished with it.

Original design

Planning the palace

To work out how my dream coop would be, I needed to consider both the requirements of the chickens and the requirements of the humans using it.

The requirements of a chicken in the coop:

  • protection from weather and predators
  • access to food and clean water
  • enough space to nest and roost

Our requirements:

  • Access, access, access – it had to be easy to clean and change food/water, as well as good access to tend to brooding chooks (a big one most people don’t think about). If you are planning on raising chicks you need to be able to separate the brooding hen with the fertilised eggs from the rest of the group. If you don’t it can turn it to utter chaos. We have a separate small cage that has its own food and water and it can be placed inside the main coop. The brooding chook is placed in there for the gestation period and no other chickens can get in. If you try and take the broody chook away from the rest of the flock, she can stop being broody and then you lose the fertilised eggs.
  • Easy to move – although the new coop is quite large, I can move it alone by wheeling it around the property (though it’s much easier with 2 people).
  • Able to sit flat on a hillsideThe 2 front legs can be adjusted to different heights depending on the slope and there are wheels on the back. This also creates a shady space under the coop for chooks to rest on hot days or in rainy weather if they don’t want to go inside.

    dan and coop

    Almost ready

Cost and materials:

The coop cost about $200 in materials as I was able to use some recycled materials. The roof and sides were all tin (recycled) and the wheels came from a retired BMX from our local “Freecycle” network. If everything had been bought new, it would have been more like $400-500. (This cost excludes labour. This is not something a beginner can make. I had to get a fellow Permie friend, carpenter and all-round builder who was able to weld this up for me. I was lucky that he taught me to weld in the process so I can now make these sorts of things myself.)

New digs and area to scratch

A room with a view

Compost is hot, but chook mulch is hotter!

Compost vs mulch

Last post, I wrote about some of the finer points of successful composting. Compost is a great addition to your soil and is vital for making good seedlings. Still, making enough compost to regularly apply to your soil (as many books suggest) is often difficult, requiring excessive amounts of time and materials. If you have added lots of organic matter into your soil and you are happy with the state of it,  I do not think compost is regularly required (though it’s still a good idea to use a decent handful in the planting hole before planting out seedlings). However, for kick-starting a new garden with poor soil (or no soil as is the case for my new garden), you might initially bring in large amounts of compost or manures. Avoid “garden mixes” unless you are on clay as they have too much sand in them. If any readers have an entrepreneurial bent, a specially-made soil full of clay (rather than sand) would be a hit in the Blue Mountains!

Assuming your soil is good, here’s what I recommend, and what I do in my zone 1 garden. Make compost exclusively for seedlings and compost tea. For the rest of your garden, make chook mulch!

How to make chook mulch

1. If you have any spare land or lawn that just never gets used on your property, let the grass grow tall (rather than mowing it) and sow it with a “forage seed mix” that you can buy from rural supply shops. If you don’t have one of these places nearby, the grain in a poultry seed mix works just as well. If you don’t have spare space to grow grass and weeds you  might try a few other things:

    • Ask your neighbours for their grass clipping and weeds.
    • Find a nearby vacant block and ask if you can maintain it.
    • Look around. I recently found a place locally that the council mower men stash grass clippings which could be used for this same purpose.

Why grow your own mulch crops? A few words about plant diversity and plant health:

Unless you’re growing your own grasses and weeds to use in chook mulch, you’ll probably be buying it in the form of straw. Most straw is baled from fields of single crops like wheat, lucerne etc. All of those things are good but the real magic comes from having a diversity of plants in your mulch. Why? Different plants contain different essential elements that other plants require. Let’s use comfrey for an example. Comfrey contains: silica (to build cell walls); nitrogen (to promote leaf growth); magnesium (many uses including making other elements accessible to the plant); calcium (cell wall development and general growth); potassium (to help promote flowering and fruiting; and iron (which allows the plant to photosynthesise and transpire).


The goal is to get as many of the essential elements plants need from the soil, into your mulch, and back into your garden. Here is a link to a list of plants you can grow that will help you create great mulch. These types of plants are called “dynamic accumulators”. As well as comfrey, some other common accumulators include carrot, parsley, and borage. These guys are great for bringing in beneficial insects too. Get to know them. They’re some of your best friends in the garden!

Grow lots of dynamic accumulators so you can feed them to your chooks, along with your weeds and grasses. That will ensure that the finished product is a feast of essential minerals for your garden.




OK, so now you’ve got your mulch crop sorted…back to making chook mulch!

2. Get chooks and make a straw yard (a chook pen that you can throw straw into and collect it again later).

3. Now cut an armful (I use a 60 litre bin) of grass/forage crops/weeds every other day and give it to the chooks.

weeds, glorious weeds!

Buying a hand sickle or a “Kama” knife from Green Harvest here, will make this job (and many others) ten times easier.

Kama knife

Throw all your weeds in there too. This reduces the amount of grain you need to give to the chooks (I have found about 20% less), and they’ll eat the bits they like (including all the weed seeds) and kick around the grasses/weeds they don’t want to eat so they never has a chance to re-root.

Girls getting excited about the new grass delivery!

4. Let the chooks do their thing for a couple of days. Try to keep any new material away from the older stuff, e.g. up the other end of the straw-yard.

getting stuck in

5. Now you have mulch for free, which is also covered in manure! While teaching my most recent permaculture course I was asked if the fresh chicken manure in the mulch would harm the plants. If the fresh manure was dug into the soil, yes it may burn the roots of the plants. Recall from last article that if fresh organic matter is added above the soil, it slowly breaks down over time. We are just adding the mulch on top of the soil so it is of absolutely no harm. In fact, you can’t regularly buy mulch as good as this anywhere!

6. Apply chook mulch to your garden in a layer of approximately 15cm. Don’t skimp- sprinkling it on isn’t enough to work its magic.

Chook mulch is a winner. It gives you free mulch, happy chooks, delicious golden eggs, fantastic soil, and great gardens!

De-seeded and manured mulch: chook mulch!

New workshop announced: get fishy with Essential Aquaponics on Sunday 4th March


If you would like to host a workshop at your place and have an aquaponics system built please see this link


Announcing our latest workshop: Essential Aquaponics for the Backyard Grower

We’ll show you how to raise beautifully fresh organic fish and vegetables in your own backyard using an easy and water efficient growing system!

Learn how to install and run a complete home aquaponics set-up for freshwater fish and veggies all year round.

Some great reasons to book yourself a place:

Know how: learn the key ideas and theory behind successful aquaponics systems

Confidence: get hands on practical experience using materials to build a complete system

Affordable: We’ll show you how to build a system on a budget using affordable materials for a fraction of the price of some commercially available systems, and we’ll tell you where to get the materials! The demonstration system we’ll build costs $100-300 (depending on the tank) while many systems cost around $1500!

Ongoing support: we’ll help you with any questions you might have, both on the day and once you start your own system.

This workshop is suitable for all knowledge, skill and fitness levels. No heavy physical work is involved.

When: Sunday 4th March 2011, 10am-4pm

Where: Faulconbridge, Blue Mountains

Cost: A donation of $5-$10 is appreciated to cover the cost of advertising and refreshments.

Places are limited to ensure plenty of hands-on experience so bookings are essential.

Please complete the registration form below and we will send you an email with additional information.

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