I visited the Koanga Institute last week and as usual, I was inspired by the maturity of the development of their permacultural design of a multi-storied garden. Koanga has built up a rich ecosystem and variety of vegetables, fruits and flowers by sowing and saving heritage seeds and plants. I can’t help but reflect how my gardening techniques and views have changed since I first planted silverbeet and lettuce seedlings in a small, carefully tended weed-free plot. I wanted more fresh food for my children and so over time, I’ve learned to garden without digging and of the importance of creating natural diversity.
“An ecological garden has many layers, from a low herb layer through shrubs and small trees to the large overstory. Each layer can contain ornamental species, varieties for food and other human uses, wildlife plants, and flora for building soil and maintaining a healthy ecosystem. Together the layers provide diverse habitat, many products, and plenty of visual interest.” (T. Hemenway. (2000). Gaia’s Garden: a guide to home-scale permaculture. p. 26).
Organically grown vegetable seeds were the reason for my visit. I like growing different varieties and so buy heirloom seeds with the view to saving my own seeds from plants grown in my garden. For winter crops this year, I’ve sown: Winter Lettuce (wavy fingers for picking through winter), Nutty Celery Apium graveolens (nutty taste, disease resistant, can pick by the stalk through winter), Purple Sprouting Broccoli Brassica oleracea, Salad Pea Pisum sativum (low growing, tasty shellout peas and edible tendrils), White Belgium Carrot (large, sweet taste, fast growing, good in a warm climate), Manglebeet Beta vulgaris (sweet, mild taste, large orange root vegetable).