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Geoff Lawton’s Zaytuna Farm Video Tour – Part II

Last year I took some time out to make a Zaytuna Farm Video Tour for you all (embedded here, with lots of photos and text). The positive comments, both on our site and on YouTube, along with additional questions (see comments below this post), encouraged us to make another!

This new video, above, shot 11-12 months after the original video, is twice as long and covers several aspects of the farm — some we hadn’t covered before, and some we had, but now with additional aspects and details. You’ll see Geoff talking about natural buildings, cattle laneways, and how to keep goats parasite free. Geoff will take you through the entire plant nursery process at Zaytuna Farm, from seeds and potting through to actually planting a tree. You’ll see food forests at various stages of development, a new purpose-built fish pond that will soon be in production, and much more.

Mixed throughout is footage that shows some of the diversity of plants and wildlife you can see at Zaytuna Farm — a permaculture paradise that’s far removed from the worn out old cattle property it used to be only ten years ago.

This farm inspires me with what is possible with sensible permaculture design — i.e. when doing our best to cooperate with unchangeable natural laws. Beauty and diversity don’t have to be found only in ‘parks’, ‘reserves’ and wilderness areas — it can be found right where we live and work. I hope you’ll see that our gardens, streetscapes and farms can also all be full of life and beauty and can contribute to not only our own mental and physical health, but the health and well-being of the biosphere as a whole.

I hope you enjoy.

P.S. I’ll add some photographs below for good measure (see more here also).

P.P.S. If you didn’t catch them already, I also made this pictorial post, and two other videos (see links below) from the same trip (and I have another video in the pipeline…):

Paradise Dam

Geoff collects jackfruit seeds from what is possibly the oldest jackfruit tree
in Australia (southern Queensland)

It’s not a small tree

Latifa keeping busy

Zaytuna Farm from a neighbouring property

Ish and Tony keep the students fed…

… with lots of nutrient dense food

Geoff, Nadia and Latifa enjoy some chill-out time

A little (no more than 2cms long!) tree frog adds to the diversity of Zaytuna Farm

… as does this koala


    1. What a beautiful family you have Latifa is a darling little girl she well have a wonderful life. You are a good mommy and Daddy God Bless you all. What a good show 1 and 2 was Thank you. Paula.

  1. This is an excellent showcase of the farm. I didn’t have time to make it to the end, but up to the 2/3 mark I loved it. Kudos Geoff and Craig for putting this together!

  2. Great to get the update Geoff! Fond memories of the PDC in April. Receiving news about progress at Zaytuna is always encouraging and inspires us to keep pressing forward to develop the practice of permaculture. This video reminds us of what is possible. Always good to see you together as a family too! Best wishes, Phillip

  3. Brilliant , inspiring and moving, love the farm you all seem so relaxed this is the way to live no-doubt about it.

  4. i get such a kick out of little latifa tinkering around with things – filling pots, picking leaves, mimicking movements – as her dad relays the depths and breadths of a good permaculture.

  5. Fantastic Geoff. Thanks so much – you are such an inspiration for us. One thing I would really appreciate your comments on is how to get over the struggle we are having with trying to establish any sort of decent ground cover, let alone a perennial one, in an initial food forest we are trying to establish (~1/4 acre between swales on a north facing slope) when we often only get the bulk of our rainfall (as little as 400mm in really bad years) within a 3 to 4 month window in winter followed by a long dry period and hot summers. Even the pasture grasses struggle and often die off over summer here is South West WA.

    We have all your DVD’s and have also watched all of your videos but obviously, with the exception of your Greening the Desert video, all of your other food forest video relate to a slightly climate. Any suggestions would be very greatly appreciated.

  6. You get better in front of the camera with each new video Geoff. Another great video, thank you so much!

  7. Love the long tour.! Such an inspiration. No woo-woo in the film, just down to earth examples of what can be done. And has been done. Keep up the great work, and also the outstanding videos to the world. We can make changes for the better now.
    And loved Latifa! She is going to be an outstanding permaculturalist!

  8. Does anyone know why plants are started in pots and then moved into the ground? From my perspective, would it not be easier to place the seed in the ground?

  9. Thanks for another great video. Would you please share where the misting equipment in the green house is available from please. Both the actual misters and the solenoid trigger device. I have been looking for low cost misting equipment for a while. I can only seem to find stuff that is far too expensive or sub standard.
    PRI PDC Graduate.

  10. Love the new video Geoff! Great to see a bit more detail of what you’re doing there on Zaytuna Farm. I have to agree with Chris’ post regarding Washington USA as I’m trying to figure out how to do this in Central Oregon, USA which has a very similar climate to his…very cold winters with not much precipitation (12-16 inches at best) and long hot summers. Since we have an abundance of rock, gabions are a no-brainer, but I’m thinking that I’ll have to make dams from concrete and rock since we have very little clay content in our soil and bedrocks are high. I’d really like to learn how to make these types of dams as I’ve already had some success with earth dams in western Oregon. Thanks so much for the inspiration and education!

  11. Regarding starting trees in pots, my guess is that because the cover crop is so rampant the trees need to be large enough to cope with the competition.
    Planting some things by seed will just result in them being lost in the jungle and tangle.
    Some of those young trees may have needed six months to a year head start.
    As some seed is expensive and hard to come by, starting them in pots means they all get a chance to germinate and grow.
    Also, if you look at the multi-step process of care, hot house to shade house to semi-exposed standing area you can see that to actually get these things going they take a bit of care at the start.
    And take into account that some things might be grown from cuttings too.

    It is probably important to note too that the wooden stakes beside each fruit tree or particular support tree are there as a marker so that the small tree can be found as the system becomes very overgrown, you get in and do a small chop and drop to get things boosted along. The stakes are not there to tie the young tree to, as seems to be the fatal mistake perpetuated everywhere by people who believe young trees need staking. Nature does not stake its young trees.

  12. @Sam – there could be several reasons seeds are started in pots and not directly in the ground and I can only speak to why I do it.

    1. Some seeds and new seedlings are irresistible to birds and other wildlife. They will dig out the seeds and eat them as well as browse the just-sprouted plants before they have a chance to get big enough to recover.

    2. Get a jump start on plants for the upcoming season. Sometimes you have a short season (4-8 weeks) you want to catch (like our springs and autumns here in the desert) and to get production, you need plants, not seeds.

    3. To have plants ready to take the place of harvested product. Say you harvest an entire lettuce and there’s a bare spot. Another young plant can quickly replace it.

    4. Some plants, like the fruit trees, will have a much better success rate if planted out in pots and then transplanted.

  13. Hi Chris, you write:

    “One thing I would really appreciate your comments on is how to get over the struggle we are having with trying to establish any sort of decent ground cover, let alone a perennial one, in an initial food forest we are trying to establish (~1/4 acre between swales on a north facing slope) when we often only get the bulk of our rainfall (as little as 400mm in really bad years) within a 3 to 4 month window in winter followed by a long dry period and hot summers. Even the pasture grasses struggle and often die off over summer here is South West WA.”

    You are in a Mediterranean climate in South West WA, this is a wonderful climate to design in, as you tend to have 2 slow down periods a year – one in the coldest period of Winter and, one in the hottest and driest period of Summer. The classic permaculture saying “the problem is the solution” means you can take great advantage of this situation, once you understand permaculture design and how to cooperate with your climate regime. In Winter your herbal layer on the ground is green and your trees are leafless and brown and, in the Summer your herbal layer is brown and dry and your trees are in full leaf and green and, only for a short period in the Spring is it green in both the herbal layer on the ground and the newly leafed trees above in the canopy. You need to aim your herbal plant layer choice in 2 directions to cover both extremes of your climate, cool temperate herbaceous plant selections which will boom in Winter and go dormant in Summer and Warm to Hot desert herbaceous plant selection especially ground cover succulents over the larger food forest areas that will thrive in your hot dry Summer. Because of your climate has two very different seasons it means that once you understand how to select the most functional plant assemblies for each season working together then it becomes a very easy and forgiving climate where you can be still manipulating and diversifying the ground cover layers for many years without any problems.

  14. Thank you so much Geoff. Your comments are much appreciated and makes great sense, even seems a bit obvious now. I guess it is going to take time for us to consolidate and translate our new found PDC knowledge and passion into being able to see the obvious but persist we will until we succeed.

    Any suggestions from you or anyone else that can direct us towards the types of plants to consider for those two different herbaceous layers you mentioned would be greatly appreciated.

    With appreciation, Chris

  15. Chris (and Geoff):

    I understand the Mediterranean analogy, as I live a bit further inland and east in Boise, Idaho. One acre urban lot that is heavily wooded. Right now it is 105 degrees (f)and the shade of all the trees is a blessing. That shade is also still a curse, as I am having great difficulty finding much that grows in the shade without tons of water.

    I am currently in the on-line PDC so I know I need to exercise patience, but share Chris’ dilemma on what to plant seasonally as herbaceous layers as I get underway.

    Geoff: you are an inspiration to us all and a great leader towards an abundant future which seems to be ours for the simple service of thoughtful care.

    Chris: please keep in touch, as our proximity will allow us to build on each other’s experiences. Currently, I am working on experiments with a ‘spiral pump’ to lift water from an adjacent irrigation ditch that I have water rights to, but is nearly ten feet below the surface of my main planting area. I use an electric pump right now but really want to get that ‘flow’ up and over my land before it goes downstream without the use of anything more than the water’s energy.

    1. Ty,

      Check out wranglerstar on youtube. Cody has brought back the hydraulic ram pump from days of yore and his 2-3 videos on it will give you all you need to do what you are attempting. Cody is my idol and in your general vicinity. I plan on doing this in Tennessee when we finally get our farm.

  16. Hi Geoff,

    You’re using/promoting a ground cover plant called “Singapore daisy” (Sphagneticola trilobata). As usual, this exotic shows up on weed lists in Australia, so I’m trying to get the real story.

    We have a property in progress, with swales, and all our attempts at establishing a grass-excluding groundcover have failed. What we have now is a multitude of species – comfrey, sweet potato, nasturtium, vetch, dunn pea, clover – and lots of weeds – cobbler’s pegs, fireweed, etc. Together, they are keeping the grass at bay somewhat. None are really ground covers though.

    The intriguing thing about the Singapore daisy, is it seemed to be ONE species doing the job exceptionally well. A lot less work (perhaps ignoring the multiple elements for multiple functions principle). This would be useful to us, though I want to make sure I don’t introduce a plant that will be a problem later.

    To me, the opinions on weeds are the spectrum from the overly simplistic “just a plant not where you want it” to “anything not native”. I like to stick to somewhere in the middle with the ecological definition (according to Dr. Elaine Ingham):

    1) Grows rapidly
    2) Reproduces quickly
    3) Produces lots of seeds
    4) Tends to grow on poor/disturbed soil.

    To this I add: 5) travels easily, 6) dominates existing ecosystems to the point of reducing biodiversity.

    Do you know enough about Singapore daisy to know how likely it is to be a weed (on the temperate mid-north coast of NSW) and produce problems, travel downwind, downstream, etc?

    No surprise, it’s not carried by any seed retailers that I can find :)

  17. Hi Greg
    it is all a matter of context and productive permanent ecosystem establishment. I have been fascinated by fast carbon pathways (weeds) for 30+ years and have studied their beneficial effect globally on my travels. I have had some very interesting lengthy discussions with Bill Mollison on this subject too.

    Prejudice is so easy to adopt with living elements but to quote my good friend Isabel Shipard the famous herbalist “If you hate ANYTHING in the the environment it will haunt you forever”.

    To quote Bill Mollison “as the the global environments collapse you will learn to love every weed”.

    Singapore Daisy does not spread by seed, is controlled by shade, facilitates a fungal dominated soil ideal for establishing tree systems, is eaten by grazing stock.

    I do admit it is much too rampant for most people to be brave enough to use ( a real hard working immigrant), and so time will tell the story. I love its ability to fast track forest systems, I have always loved to use rampancy and feel I need lay down examples.

  18. Thanks PRI team.

    I love these updates as they are a real inspiration and it is great to see what is possible with good designs which are tested in the real world. Great stuff.

    Hi Chris,

    I’m in the exact same climate as you but on the other side of the country and Geoff’s description of the progression in plant growth is exactly what happens here. In the early days of the establishment of the herbage you have to live through a weedy phase, but after a year or four no one plant dominates the ground cover and there is incredible diversity of plants. If you let local native animals into the system, they will bring in seeds from the surrounding area too. Remember to leave water out for them during January through March and that will hopefully reduce the snacking on your fruit trees. Wallabies can be little vandals.

    You also have the same fire risk that I have to live with so at about Christmas time (hopefully a few weeks before this though), you have to make the decision to chop and drop the herbage to ground level, but do not till the roots of those plants as they will regrow when water becomes available. Better to have the plants as mulch covering the soil which will break down come autumn than to risk dry elevated fuel loads under a food forest, but you have to assess this on a year by year basis as some summers can be exceptionally wet and even tropical depending on the rainfall and humidity conditions.

    Good luck and keep experimenting and trying stuff out to see what works and remember to write about it!


  19. Hi Chris,

    Almost forgot to mention. Mediterranean climates have a great advantage in that the pest cycles are continuously broken on a yearly basis. The only insect I cannot compete with is the cabbage moth and its larvae which eats all of the brassica plants come summer (the larvae make great chook food). The small birds (fairy wrens and red breasted robins) that would otherwise prey on it shelter from the sun during the day so the moth runs rampant. However, the moth doesn’t survive the other cooler seasons where the birds sort it out, so brassica plants happily grow.

    I doubt Zaytuna farm has problems with predation to any large extent being a reasonably well balanced and diverse ecosystem, but that climate would have less extremes of weather so any predation would be over a longer period of time. A mate of mine that grew up in Queensland pointed this cycle out to me, otherwise I would never have noticed it.


  20. Craig, Geoff, just got to watching this all the way through. Love the detail and having been to Zaytuna, it’s great to be able to show others a little of what I experienced.

    The detail on your nursery system was great, as it’s a bit I missed when I was there.

    Keep on keeping on and best regards from Caroola Farm, Mulloon and the Permaculture eXchange crowd!

  21. Anyone with any ideas about Daniel’s question
    “Would you please share where the misting equipment in the green house is available from please. Both the actual misters and the solenoid trigger device. I have been looking for low cost misting equipment for a while. ”



  22. Thank you Geoff, Latifa and the entire permaculture community. An incredibly inspiring and informative video.

    If only the rest of the world could see through permaculture eyes, planet earth would transform into paradise, and then there would be no turning back.


  23. Thanks so much for this! I too would love to see more detailed photos of the automatic misting device and possibly a short write up of its construction. We’re going to try and build our own, but a mini tutorial would be quite helpful. Cheers!

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