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‘Project Thoreau’ Updates

Ezanee Cooper gives us some excellent updates on progress with ‘Project Thoreau‘. Use the comments form below to share your knowledge and help develop Ezanee’s plot, or to ask questions that might help you develop your own.

Project Thoreau –September / October 2008 Update

The garden has undergone a bit of a revamp. The bean patch was tidied up to reduce the number of hiding places for slugs and snails, beer traps were established, and the area more heavily mulched. The compost bin was relocated, and a potato patch has been established in its place. This was set up by digging in 10 retaining wall bricks into a square, and filling it with the compost from my bin together with dirt obtained from my sister’s place. Some old potatoes were then planted in, and the vines have already begun to shoot.

The holes of the bricks were also filled with a mixture of the dirt and compost, and a variety of seeds including pumpkin, silver beet, spring onion and basil have been sown in them. Many of these seeds have already germinated. I wish I could claim credit for this idea, but instead I copied it off a workmate who has done a similar thing in his garden. The bricks were also purchased new rather than recycled. However, as with most hardware items in the garden, these bricks will be relocated to the new site when it is eventually established.

I have successfully sown and germinated a handful of New Zealand Spinach seeds. These are looking very strong, and show great promise of a prolific and reliable supply of leaves. I also hold a lot of hope for the chilli plants, and for a while I was particularly hopeful for the sole pepino plant that I successfully germinated from seed in January. However, this plant has struggled to survive from the outset, and lost all its leaves during the winter. Although new shoots emerged where the old leaves fell off, after a short period of incredibly hot weather, the plant just shrivelled up and died, despite keeping it on intensive care. Oddly enough, a couple more seeds have germinated, and one has since gone on to establish itself. However, after my experience up to this point, I have pretty much written off pepino as a target species for the future, and I will leave this particular plant to fend for itself, giving it the absolute minimum of attention.

Project Thoreau – November 2008 Update

During my annual leave from work, I went travelling around New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia checking out the countryside and looking for potential sites to relocate Project Thoreau in the future. While I was in Adelaide, I also took the opportunity to look at the Aldinga Arts Eco Village and the acclaimed Food Forest in Gawler. Both were interesting, and gave me hope of future success in my efforts. During my absence, my sister graciously made the trip once a week to Fairfield to water my garden.

If a large part of permaculture means establishing a garden that can flourish on its own with virtually no maintenance, then I guess I’m on the right track. On my return, much of the garden was over grown. The Vietnamese Mint, New Zealand Spinach, parsley, garlic and silver beet were particularly strong, while many others including pumpkin, potato, jackfruit and ice cream bean are showing considerable promise of future success. Even the pepino survived, although I plan to continue ‘neglecting’ it, and seeing if it can hold up on its own.

Understandably some plants died, most notably the broad beans. However, I did manage to harvest a small amount of beans which I stored in a jar, and can serve as an almost imperishable, long term food and seed source. This a great outcome given that I neither planned nor expected this, and it also fits well with future plans to minimise the use of refrigeration to preserve produce. The lesson for next year will be to sow a lot more beans in order, hopefully, to harvest a much larger crop.

Unfortunately, I had to break my mantra of not using chemical pesticides, when I sprayed inside my compost bin in an effort to eradicate a potential case of fruit fly. This gnawed at me for some time, but in the end I bit the bullet and gave it a thorough spray. I decided that the well being of my lemon tree and my neighbours’ fruit trees was of greater importance than the immediate health of my compost, which hopefully will not suffer too greatly as a result. I did learn techniques for controlling fruit fly, but they are not really practical for me at the present time. Does anyone have any ‘simple’ methods they can suggest?

Overall, however, I feel pretty encouraged by my progress. After looking at the Food Forest, and observing the state of my garden on my return, I am also more and more confident that I am on the right track in terms of experimentation methods, species selection etc. The path to self reliance is long, but I’m optimistic that it will be successful.


  1. I have heard of a trick for fruit flys.
    Put in a cup – 2 tbsp. Water, 2 tbsp. of Balsamic Vinegar, and a few drops of dishsoap.

  2. Nice work Ezanee. Reading about your progress gives me some enthusiasm to get back out into the garden. I have a zillion basil seeds from my present crop and intend on making so much pesto over the coming months. My New Zealand spinach did fry in the summer sun with only a few days of neglect. So I will need to replant it in a shadier location. I have two olive trees in large pots which absolutely love full sun all day when everything else will wilt. ‘Tis a learning experience.

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