On a humid Monday eve, a group of 70-80 permaculturalists, community enthusiasts and active gardeners gather in the Alexandria community centre in Sydney. Their common ground steams across all aspects of a greener world but today they gather on more specific terms. They’re here to find out about the permaculture craze, Permablitz, that is overtaking Melbourne’s green thumb and gardening community. Permablitz is a 25 year old community project started by local permaculturalist Dan Palmer and has grown into a large scale organisation that carries out the design, landscape and implementation of 25 edible gardens a year in and around Melbourne. The definition of a Permablitz (as stated on their website) is fairly simple:
Permablitz (noun): An informal gathering involving a day on which a group of at least two people come together to achieve the following:
- create or add to edible gardens where someone lives
- share skills related to permaculture and sustainable living
- build community networks
- have fun
Its seems fairly straight forward but as the speaker, Adam Grubb begins to explain, after years of trial and error the process of a Permablitz has a specific structure that makes this green-feeding operation work.
An informal economy
Firstly a Permablitz acts as an informal economy, not a charity. The idea is that if you help out at three Permablitz, then you get to have your own fully designed and landscaped edible garden. The host, who is having their garden re-modeled, provides the seedlings and equipment as well as a shared lunch and the volunteers chip in where they can (extra seedlings or plants).
A tailored design (and design team) that works with nature
It is a collective that needs certain components to make it work. A Permablitz must have a design team to map out an effective and practical design. The design must work with nature and not against it, which, we are told, only requires a bit of common sense and an understanding of ways you can organise things, “It’s no place for cookie cutters” Adam slips out. A Permablitz is also specific to the location and to the person. Each part of the property has a different microclimate i.e. slopes, soil types and weather protection so a site analysis must done to construct the ideal design. Similarly, each person has their own skills, dreams and motivations and part of the process is understanding how to fulfil their edible garden needs.
A lead facilitator
A lead facilitator is also an important aspect of the Permablitz process. There needs to be someone to direct (but not micro manage) people in what to do and to keep the ball rolling. Workshops are run to teach volunteers different aspects of permaculture and to avoid the day becoming loose, disorganised and in the end tiresome. At the end of the day a brand new edible garden is constructed from the complimentary balance of hard work, education, socialising and eating: a fabulous way of bringing the community together. They’re rarely short of volunteers either with each event booking through an online rsvp system. The turn out sits at around 80% with honesty and commitment as their best insurance.
But what really makes Permablitz in Melbourne so successful is that after 25 years there is a strong citywide collective and a free and willing momentum that drives positive impact.
Edit: It’s been proven to work in Melbourne, and now, there’s a Permablitz in Sydney!
Image credit: Permablitz
Words by Sally Ayhan