We visit Jackie French’s place

Today Allison and I visited Jackie French’s place, through the Open Garden Scheme.

Jackie is a well-known author, and my favourite columnist in Earth Garden magazine.

To get to her place, you head to Braidwood, then to Araluen, and then the Open Garden Scheme organised a bus for the tricky last leg.  It’s not an easy road, and there’s little parking at Jackie’s place.  The bus had a few groans and bumps getting through, though I guess it would be OK in a car if you were careful.

Jackie’s place is a very good example of permaculture, though she never uses that word.  She has a vast number of trees, mostly fruit-bearing, and many are 20 to 30 years old.

Jackie must have been very disciplined in tracking down lots of weird things, and following through to get them planted and watered.  Some things she just planted from seeds saved from fruit, and she’s very happy with the results.  Others were available fleetingly.  Some things she had to plant in successive years until one day they got their start.

Perhaps the craziest thing about Jackie’s place is all the tropical fruits and nuts she grows, despite being in an area with heavy frosts.  She says that the secret is to get cover plants in, to provide a canopy.  When they are ready, the new trees will burst through the canopy and all will be well.  She has immense avocado trees, macadamias, mangoes, pawpaws…

A very nice feature of the garden is that much of the work is done by native animals.  She has to have chicken-wire sleeves on trees while they are getting started, to discourage wallabies.  But the chicken-wire has to start about 30cm above the ground, so the wombats can get in to clean up the weeds, or else the wombats knock the cages over.  Now she’s growing climbing roses up the trees, to discourage possums.

Jackie cheerfully “tithes” 10% of the fruit to the wildlife.  Actually I suspect rather more, as she’s not selling her produce commercially, and you can only give away so much to friends.  Everything is covered in fruit, so the yield must be huge.

There’s lots of permaculture stacking, and some clever games to keep her intensive vegie gardens always covered with plants.  Lots of perennials, including a rather interesting melon that produces zucchini-like bits, or mighty hard-shelled tasteless melons if left too long.

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