Permaculture: Solving the World’s Problems, One Garden at a Time

27.10.14 Grow, Learn Blog SumoSalad
Urban gardens

When I speak with Mandy Stubbs on a Sydney spring morning, she is busy in the kitchen.

“I’m just making a pineapple cake,” she says casually. “I’ve got some pineapple which isn’t that good, so I decided to make a cake with it.”

It’s this initial comment that lets me know that this woman is serious about sustainability. Many of us would throw away a pineapple we didn’t think was too tasty or a bit odd, but Mandy, President at the Lane Cove Community Garden PermaPatch, is always thinking of ways she can reduce her waste and is focused on solutions, not problems.

Here are some of Mandy’s musings, including the process of starting the community garden, to Permaculture, to saving the planet and beyond!


Mandy Stubbs, President of PermapatchIt all started in 2009, I was the coordinator of Permaculture Sydney North and we all were very enthusiastic about our own gardens, but also wanted to share the message of sustainability with other people.

David Suzuki [academic & environmental activist] encourages people to think globally but act locally, so this was where we started with the idea of a community garden.

We thought it would take us years to find a suitable space, but we were lucky enough to be approached at our local fair by Johnno, one of the members of the Uniting Church who was interested in starting a community garden out the back where there was unused land. He wasn’t sure how to get started and we were hunting for a space; it was a marriage made in heaven!



We organised a TAFE outreach course where we were all able to work together to plan the garden. It started out with some compost bays, which is the most important foundation for any garden. After that we looked into where the sun and shade was on-site, which helped us decide what should be planted where.Bees in the Community Garden

We all put in lots of our time and worked together to source materials from places that would have otherwise been thrown out. Things like bricks and manure, which cost nothing but also reduces waste.

The garden is all no dig, and actually set on top of an old car park and tennis court; we had to make all of the soil, source the plants and organise drainage. The whole garden flooded one winter while everyone was away and I was left by myself to manage it! We’ve definitely learnt more lessons along the way.

You’ve got to be mad to do it! We are just completely passionate about saving the planet in the best way we can think of.


The Rules for PermaculturePermaculture isn’t about some mad hippy lifestyle with no electricity; it’s about living as comfortably as you can, but not trashing the planet while you’re doing it.

My introduction to Permaculture was through a course at Ryde TAFE. It was important for me to do something I really wanted to do and it was the only gardening course that was of any interest as all the other courses had too much horticultural industry focus for me.

The great thing about Permaculture is that it aims to find solutions to the world’s problems. For example, you don’t have too many snails in your garden, just too few chickens to eat them. It employs good old-fashioned common sense, symmetry and lateral thinking which we can sometimes forget in our modern lives.


We’re sort of been victims of our own success in a way. We had quite a few people involved in the garden who were very helpful, and they ended up getting so enthusiastic that they sold their houses and moved to the country! They’re having a wonderful time on their properties but we’ve ended up losing some great friends in the process.Plans for the Future

Lots of people enjoy coming to the garden as they only have balconies at home, and we always have people coming to drop off their scraps to help our compost.

We’ve also put in some raised beds to create ease of access for those in wheelchairs to be able to be involved. We’d like to continue having workshops with the community and helping get the word out there and have people be more aware of their own impact environmentally.

We always like to see more members and encourage the ethos of sharing.


Outside of the garden itself I’d like to see the verges in the area to be used as a food forest, so people can help themselves to some fresh food. I’ve had people criticise using the verges as they’re worried about their plants being taken, but that is exactly the point. We should be sharing these things, I like it when people come and pick some dill or lettuce for themselves.

Strawberry fields at PermpatchCommunity is one of the things we are seeing fade more as people work increasingly further from where they live. I think verge gardens could be a great way to bring people together again and encourage conversation between neighbours, street parties and sharing of food. Food has brought us together since the beginning of time.

I hope it happens, but I do worry we might have gone too far in the opposite direction.  

SumoSalad has teamed up with Permapatch to help build an Aquaponics system in their garden. Read more about that here, or to join Mandy at Permapatch as a community gardener, please drop them a line here.


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