The Spiral Garden

Our Garden Re-design :: Spiral vs Line September 29, 2015 07:00


A few weeks ago, I looked out the kitchen window and said to Huz "I think we need to remove the spiral. We need straight beds if we're going to increase our yield". He shrugged and wasn't particularly fussed either way, a little sceptical about how much food we could actually get from our garden anyway. He'd never had much interest in growing veggies, despite his enthusiasm for everything else permaculture. Then a week later he spent the day diving into skills for growing food with Good Life Permaculture. He learnt everything from composting to market gardening, realised he already knew a bunch of stuff with his ecological background and years of gardening, and it all just clicked.  He decided it was all about two things: tools and straight lines.

Initially we chose a spiral shape for our vegetable garden in an attempt to slow the flow of nutrients, water and ourselves through the garden. We actively sought something whimsical that would take us out there and slow our own energy flow a bit, inviting us to linger. Knowing spirals to be pretty whimsical and therapeutic, it seemed perfect. An experiment in energy and growth and playfulness within a permaculture system.

The spiral worked really well for a while. We'd converted a large expanse of lawn to something productive. We'd managed to find a system of rotating guilds that flowed though the spiral with the seasons. It was pretty hippy-dippy ace. But it wasn't as productive as it could have been and the difficulty of integrating animals, particularly chooks, into the veggie garden bothered me. Plus a curved line can be harder to cultivate and a crop-rotation system in spiral format seriously messes with your head! Plus we'd managed to find that slowing of energy we craved, that space to daydream, around the edges of the veggie garden, in the food forest.

So right now, along with everything else in our lives it seems, we're going for a complete overhaul. Hundreds of convict bricks have been pulled up again and paths are being re-defined. We've begun the back (and arm!) breaking process of double-digging the soil as we create long, straight beds, slightly reminiscent of a French market garden.

It's the first time we've really dug a garden bed, always opting for raised beds in the past. But we're hoping to give ourselves just a little extra topsoil in our mega-heavy-clay-soil garden. We're observing and chatting about the history of certain patches of soil, what grew where and how and why the soil is the way it is. It's surprising the difference chooks can make to a small patch of heavy clay soil in just one month and how, even months later, you can tell that they've been there by the way the solid crumbles in your hands. We're thrilled that every little bit of effort we've put in so far has paid off. There are some seriously lush areas of topsoil there! We're so glad that our years as custodians of this particular patch of soil haven't been wasted, as slow as the progress seems to have been. It's also surprising how when you've lived somewhere for many years, you can still find remnants of those who've lived there before - old pipes, rusty pliers, broken teacups hidden beneath the soil. We're taking note and learning more as we go.


We're spending long days in the garden, working around the clock to make sure we get it going as soon as humanly possible. Each of us getting involved and taking a role into the construction of something we hope will help feed us and help the budget stretch a little further. We're buying way too many tomato plants at the RTBG fundraiser tomato sale. Huz is nerding out, planning crop rotations and putting his love of spreadsheets to good use. We're making sure we harvest the little bits we can from what's left from the winter garden, and feeling super excited to watch our spring garden evolve through future seasons.

How does your garden grow this spring? 
Have you ever created a garden you loved and dug it up to begin again?

Don't forget our next Seedlings Permaculture for Families e-course begins on October 1st - that's two days from now! A perfect time to dig deep and find your permie mojo. 

It's really important to us that Seedlings is accessible to as many people as possible. So before we begin, we're offering two full scholarships for this  round. If you, or someone you know, would like to join in but isn't in a position to afford it right now, please email us at hello@spiralgarden.com.au. We'd love to hear from you! 

Happy gardening! 

~ Lauren. xx

This post was originally published on our personal blog, Owlet. 


Permaculture :: Growing + Learning April 24, 2015 17:30


We've been talking permaculture in these parts for a while now. Our owlets are well versed, having been guinea pigs for our Seedlings e-course, and living with two passionate permie parents, they've totally picked up the lingo. It's hilarious, and pretty amazing to watch how they absorb it so intuitively when we begin talking. And it's an awesome moment when you realise they're getting it, growing with it. Everything's going to be ok with earth stewards like them in the ranks. 

Two years ago, this week exactly, I completed a Permaculture Design Certificate here in Hobart. For me, it was pretty life changing. Like a positive way of re-framing what we already do; connecting the dots so that we can create the kind of community and world we hope to live in. It was a huge, awesome period of growth for me. I discovered it was all about gardening and community and nature and mindfulness and so very much more. Intrigued by my learning experience, Owletpapa undertook his PDC last year, and right now, as I type, he's completing his Permaculture Teacher Training with Rosemary Morrow and a bunch of other incrediblepassionate permie peeps. It's a perfect fit for him and his ecological brain and somewhat outgoing nature. We're sitting up late into the night talking, debriefing and planning and wondering where this all might go… How we can implement permaculture thinking more fully into our lives. And casting our eyes over our permaculture design (or designs rather, as we've got one each!), and seeing how we're going with implementing that. 


On the practical side of things, our permaculture design is probably one third of the way implemented. We're slow and lazy gardeners, but motivated by bursts of work between bush walks and work days. We have a chook orchard and a small food forest that are going gangbusters. The veggie spiral is bubbling away as we experiment with crop rotation, succession, guild planting and a whole lot of soil improvement. We've slowed the flow of water and nutrients from our garden, created topsoil where there was none, and learnt so much. But we have a heap more lawn to convert into productive space. There's that back corner that's just made for a studio of some sort if we can forego the Hill's Hoist. The front verandah could do with some sort of pergola to grow grapes up and we need to move the side gate. Bees will be arriving in Spring and I'm hoping ducks won't be too far off. The house is another matter entirely, with lots of improvements to be made and water harvesting to be improved. The front garden is yet to be touched, although it's an established mostly-indigenous garden now. Although not as fast as we'd like, it's getting there. 


One of my favourite permaculture principles is Use Small and Slow Solutions. Our current group of Seedlings are looking at it now and hopefully finding some comfort in it too in their busy family-filled days. It's the one that reminds you to just work on things one bite at a time. Things will get done eventually and by slowing down, playing, working, observing, you can appreciate the process so much more. Only realising further down the track what you've achieved. Much like parenting owlets. You just need to trust the process. 

Spots are filling up now for our third season of Spiral Garden Seedlings. In the interests of slowing things down, we're changing the format this Winter. We'll be working through just one principle each week so our families can really get stuck into it deeply, or just pick one thing to do on the weekends. Family time. So far, just one shy of 60 families have joined us for the course. We're super thrilled that some of them want to come back and do it all over again this time. In amongst our Seedlings families have been green thumbs, gardening novices, permaculture designers and teachers, homeschoolers, unschoolers, educators and we're estimating about 300 children - fabulous earth stewards. We're so grateful for the opportunity to share our work and our passion with each of them, seeing families connect and work together. Yep. It's going to be ok. 

~ Lauren. xx
This post was originally published on our personal blog, Owlet.