2 PDCs in 2017, Howling Dingo runs rampant, new wines released, major permaculture event for Adelaide, study permaculture design, Holmgren's Advanced Permaculture course, fig tree sale and more...
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Food Forest

Food Forest News: February 2017

Welcome to the Food Forest E-newsletter: it's about self reliance, new design tricks and good things that are happening in our community. If you received this newsletter you may well be subscribed… but if not, subscribe via our website.

Open Day and courses in 2017

  • Sunday 9 AprilOpen Day
    10am-1pm: Info Session and tour on Building with Strawbales
    2pm-5pm: Property tour & Permaculture Info
  • April/May and November - Permaculture Design Certificate Courses
    With David Holmgren, Permaculture co-creator, 10 days
Short courses in June 2017 Tours by appointment.

Holmgren returns to teach Permaculture Design in SA

Become skilled in the design of sustainable homes, gardens, towns and businesses through an amazing course that will give you a clear ethical framework for living and a set of principles that will enable design for permanent human occupation of the planet.

Co-originator of the permaculture concept, David Holmgren, will teach in the opening 5-day block of our upcoming Permaculture Design Certificate course. Dates 21-25 April, 5-7 May and 21-22 May. Earlybird price for the course closes March 17.

This unique opportunity to learn with one of the leading exponents and philosophers of permaculture gives you a chance to update your values and techniques or start your permaculture career at the cutting edge. Find out more about David at

Atmospheric change in overdrive

In Graham Brookman's life (and he is not terribly old!) the CO2 level in the atmosphere has increased by 33% and the rate is accelerating.

Last spring, SA's temperature was 1.5 degrees higher than the long term IPPC average.

Weather and food production

The last 12 months has seen unprecedented extremes in South Australia with the lowest recorded winter chill (which prevented pistachio flowering), the largest rainfall ever recorded in a number of months (causing flooding and river channel collapse on the Gawler River), unprecedented wind gusts in some areas (smashing fruit trees and SA's power network) and unseasonal rain (causing loss of hay crops and development of downy mildew & Curly leaf).

On the other hand, most cereal crops benefitted from good aggregate rainfall, aquifers were replenished and soil cleansed of built-up salt.

The big winners

European pears, figs and pomegranates have been major beneficiaries of the weird season with just enough chill for the pears to flower normally, and the warm conditions extending the growth season of pomegranates & jujubes.

The high rainfall, watering the whole landscape meant that the wide, shallow root system of the figs and olives flourished, rather than being reduced to the drip irrigated spots during summer.

Revegetation setback

The massive river flow last winter brought unwelcome flotsam downriver, including many dumped tyres and a lot of weed seed. The pest plant Castor Oil germinated right across the floodway and California Burr along the channel. Major work will be involved in cleaning up the riparian zone and establishing flood tolerant native species.

The problem as the solution

Permaculture design encourages us to flip problems on their head, so high river flow can be exploited by planting species that enjoy inundation in a floodable forest for furniture timber or dams and aquifers full of good quality water.

We saw a magnificent high flow river diversion in NZ while there recently and have been learning a lot from Indian engineer Ayyappa Masagi who has restored water to tens of thousands of dry wells and bores by capturing storm water in lagoons and infiltrating it into aquifers.

Bumper year for agroforest

High rainfall produced a wonderful yield of oaten hay, heavy crop of Honey locust pods and some very contented sheep (as well as beautiful shade during the summer!).

Who needs herbicide?

The Food Forest encourages sour sob (Oxalis pes capre) to grow under the rows of fruit trees to compete with other weeds through autumn and winter. On the first hot day in spring, the sour sobs collapse and leave a fine layer of mulch in an otherwise pretty weed-free row. Cereal crops are grown in the inter-row space to be grazed by geese

Cosy Cottage - a strawbale haven above the floods

This one-room tiny house, occupying under 15 square metres, features sofa/double bed, sink and running water, desk, three chairs, battery lighting and copies of Organic Gardener magazine.

It has an edible landscape, pond and great views to the river & forest. Strawbale walls built and first coat plastered in 1 day. Materials cost $5000.

Oh Honey!

The big river this year sparked a massive flowering by Red River Gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) and the bees have been going crazy collecting nectar. It makes a superb all-purpose honey and is the gold on our breakfast table.

Silos rescued!

These interesting old silos from Roseworthy Agricultural College were destined for the scrap metal merchant before the eagle-eyed organic systems researcher, Chris Penfold, spotted them and suggested a move back into active service at The Food Forest. They are being modified for the storage of Carob beans and will also provide a canvas for permaculture artist Michael Crigler to create murals depicting the stories of our food crops for school groups and other visitors.

Howling Dingo hits the wire

The baby vines in the Howling Dingo vineyard, planted last April, have grown like lunatics and even popped out some bunches on their way up guide strings to the quite tall Ecotrellis. Many of the vines have developed full cordons (the woody horizontal bits) and are sending canes skywards. We plan to graft some of the rows to extremely heat tolerant varieties from Portugal later in the year.

New wines released

Patrons of the Adelaide and Gawler farmers markets will be the first to taste four new 2016 wines based on Spanish varieties Tempranillo and Mataro as well as a drop of Shiraz.

Temptation is a dark, fruity wine with hints of toffee, cloves and liquorice on the palate. It has the warmth and friendliness of Shiraz and the spicy tannins of Tempranillo; fabulous with food or without.

Home Block Mataro is a light, dry summer wine which many people prefer chilled.

Home Block Shiraz-Tempranillo is a brick red, fruity wine with berries on the nose, pepper and liquorice on the palate and pleasant French oak tannins on the finish.

Naturalisation of indigenous plants

The extra rain has accelerated growth of perennial native plants and will guarantee the production of seed which will have its chance of germination in the coming growing season. It is now 30 years since the Biodiversity Block on The Food Forest saw any fertilisers and the return to a native ecosystem is very obvious, with quandongs and native pines now in their third generation and native grasses and shrubs dominating the understorey. The pictures above show the spread of quandongs from a mother tree and a fallen native pine with many native fungi (probably edible) breaking it down, while a young native pine has popped up to replace its mother. 

Major Permaculture event for Adelaide

You are invited to attend the presentation of an Honorary Doctorate to David Holmgren by CQUniversity and his address on the sustainable design and function of towns and cities. 

Scheduled for The Joinery at 111 Franklin St, Adelaide, 5-8pm on 19 April, the event will also introduce a new book by David entitled 'RetroSuburbia', which will be the subject of his illustrated address. The event will also launch CQUni's Graduate Diploma of Permaculture Design and give guests an opportunity to meet students who have completed the Graduate Certificate in Permaculture and see their projects.

Please RSVP to attend this exciting event by Friday, 31 March 2017, via email to

Study graduate programs in permaculture design

CQUni's campus on Greenhill Rd is the headquarters of accredited graduate study in Permaculture design, taught worldwide online and face to face. Both the Grad Cert and Grad Dip are available part time and accept students who have recognised bachelors degrees in any discipline, with the intention of training a diverse group of professionals with skills in sustainable design.

Enrolment is open now and classes start 6 March.
Fees have been kept low by Australian standards and Australian students may defer fee payment under the HELP scheme.

Advanced Permaculture Planning + Design Methods

This 4-day residential course in Hepburn Springs 10-14th April is offered by David Holmgren, co-originator of the permaculture concept, and Dan Palmer, co-founder of the Permablitz movement, director of VEG and author of Making Permaculture Stronger.

It is for those who have completed a Permaculture Design Course, with a strong interest in permaculture principles, reading landscape, site and landscape mapping, planning and pattern language to join with those studying permaculture at the highest academic level. 

The course will be a mix of presentations and group work, including in the landscape, discussions and responses to participant projects. Further information is available on David Holmgren's website.

Tropical Permaculture Guidebook re-written for the World

Born as a guide for the people of East Timor the expansion of this book  is a game changing project - an open access online Tropical Permaculture Guidebook designed and produced specifically for developing countries. 

It is highly practical, with over 2000 detailed illustrations and downloadable chapter-by-chapter. Taking the broad aim of creating sustainability and regeneration, it provides the practical how-to steps for communities and farmers to actually achieve it. This encompasses all aspects of food production and living, especially addressing the steps needed to protect the environment, reduce climate change and develop resilience to its impacts.

Co-authored by Timorese Ego Lemos and Australian Lachlan McKenzie, and produced by Permaculture Timor-Leste, xpand Foundation and Disruptive Media, the book deserves your support  Access online chapters from the website now!

Sign up for your printed copy when it's ready.

Tropical fruit in Adelaide

SA-grown bananas are now commercially available at farmers markets in Adelaide as tropical spells become more frequent and low temperature conditions less frequent.

Two-easy to-grow cultivars are Silk and Lady Finger. 'Pups' (young banana plants) are often available at the meetings of the Rare Fruit Society of SA, which is also the greatest repository of knowledge and experienced growers in the State.

Fig tree SALE!!

The Food Forest nursery has several hundred fig trees for sale. They include traditional varieties like Cape White, Black and White Genoa, others from the CSIRO collection Deanna, Celeste, Persian Prolific, Archipal, Tena, Preston and Excel. There are also some wild cards like Adam’s Pride, Early Abundance, Zida, Forest Green and Vadoulis’ Sugar Fig, as well as the luxurious Spanish Dessert, with its pollinator Capri. The trees are almost one year old, grown in 3 litre bags and are certified organic.

Price is significantly discounted to $10 per tree for orders of 10 trees or more. Many buyers have purchased a ‘full-collection’ of Graham’s trees.

Small numbers of trees can be picked up from The Food Forest stall at the Adelaide Showground Farmers Market on alternate Sundays. Graham also has some Illawarra  Plum (Podocarpus elatus) and Scrub Cherries (Syzygium australe), a type of lilly pilly.

The Food Forest website has a lot of information about figs, including varieties in this collection. Contact or ph 85226450 mob 0407771985.
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