Permablitzing in the Macedon Ranges

KNAGWOOD Farm in Kyneton is the creation of its two owners, Tadhgh Knaggs and Sarah Lockwood. 

The former city slickers have embarked on a change of lifestyle, moving from Brunswick in Melbourne to their Macedon Ranges farm two years ago.

The couple, along with  14-month-old son Silas, are in the midst of creating a permaculture farm on their property, using the advice of locals to discover what works in the frost-prone lands of Kyneton.

They were inspired by the Melbourne Permablitz movement, where green thumbs hold workshops and converge on city gardens to create sustainable and edible gardens.

Sarah and Tadhgh have also turned to social media to generate interest and garner advice on their new farming project.

“It’s exciting to start with a blank canvas,” Sarah said.

“We decided to put it online to get that community interaction and learn from the knowledge out there.

“We want to get input and learn from others, as well as educate others.” 

They have discovered what the best plants are to grow in the region by opening up their operation to the public.

“We don’t want to force things to grow that don’t work, that’s why we want to talk to people and find out what does,” Sarah said. 

Rows of pumpkins and sweetcorn, beans and peas, squash and cucumbers, and zucchinis spread out behind their home. 

Tadhgh said he is using traditional methods of companion planting.

He is also dabbling in what he has dubbed “confusion planting” to overcome pests.

“It is putting lots of different plants in nearby so they generate different insects that have to interact with each other. 

“It’s replicating the natural environment.”

Tadhgh said the move to the online world also helped break down people’s conception of being “organic”.

“Some people are a bit sceptical of the organic label. For instance, what does a free-range chicken actually entail? 

“People can become apathetic about it. By putting it online, we are inviting people to see how it is done and also show the problems we have. 

One of the biggest problems the couple have on their farm is overcoming the dry and somewhat inhospitable soil. Locals, organic producers and knowledgeable gardeners have all given advice to the couple.

Three goats, laying chooks housed in a converted cow shed, and sheep are helping turn over the soil.

They have also laid down pea straw, which acts as a nitrogen fixer, and newspaper, which smothers grass. Plenty of compost has been added over their vegetable patch.

Tadhgh said the move to country living was proving to be a great decision. “I have a new respect for farmers,” he said.

“It is extremely labour-intensive and a lot of work to get the soil how we want it. But it’s a good lifestyle change. 

“I couldn’t think of anything better than being outside and growing veggies.”

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