Guerrilla Gardens of Julia Road, Durban

Submitted by: Margaret McKenzie, Tuesday, July 2, 2013

<p>Frank Edwards in the Julia Road Park Guerilla Garden which has a range of edible plants as well as a number of species that support the development of nutrient rich soil. Permaculture principles were applied in the design and implementation of the garden (Image Source: Margaret McKenzie).</p>

Frank Edwards in the Julia Road Park Guerilla Garden which has a range of edible plants as well as a number of species that support the development of nutrient rich soil. Permaculture principles were applied in the design and implementation of the garden (Image Source: Margaret McKenzie).

Frank Edwards, owner of the Tropical Nursery in Durban, embarked on his first guerrilla gardening initiative four years ago when he planted the beginnings of a food garden in a small public park off Julia Road in Durban. On the same day that he started planting, he received a visit from the eThekwini Municipality’s Parks Department and despite some initial concerns he soon received formal permission to continue planting in a portion of the park.

Edwards applied permaculture principles when implementing the food garden in the park and a range of edible foods are now available to visitors for free harvest. Speaking at an introduction to permaculture event held in June Edwards indicated he does not regard himself as an expert saying “I am not a perfectionist. I have got a lot of things wrong but I am having a fantastic amount of fun.”

Edwards, supported by a number of friends and relatives, is also involved in several other guerrilla gardening initiatives in Julia Road. Since the road is on the interface between a semi-industrial area and a residential zone Edwards has focussed some of his effort on planting in the road verges to help beautify the area and in the longer term to help screen off unsightly industrial infrastructure.

Edwards has also established permaculture gardens in three other locations on Julia Road. One of the gardens has been established on land owned by the Durban Mental Health Society and has been established with permission. A second garden is located on land owned by one of the local factories that was not being formally managed. The factory did not respond to requests from Edwards for permission to establish the garden and he eventually went ahead without permission. The third garden is located on Edwards owned property. In this garden Edwards has included a number of novel features including a toilet where the sewage is broken down to make compost by earthworms and the use of chicken tractors. Chicken tractors are specially constructed portable bottomless chicken cages. Chicken tractors are moved around a garden so that the chickens can forage for food in different locations. The chickens dig up and weed the soil during the foraging process and so prepare the soil for planting, much like a mini-tractor.  They also fertilize the soil at the same time.

Permaculture

Speaking at the event Buzz Gori a permaculture trainer explained that permaculture has three core ethics:

  1. Earthcare: Care of all living things, animals, plants, water, land and air.
  2. Peoplecare: Providing for people’s basic needs and promoting self-reliance and responsibility.
  3. Fairshare: Living within ones means and distributing surplus resources and skills to achieve Earthcare and Peoplecare.

In addition to the three core ethics permaculture applies five “attitudes”:

  1. Work with nature not against nature
  2. Everything gardens
  3. Minimum effort for maximum effect
  4. The problem is the solution
  5. Unlimited yield

Gori explained to participants at the event that permaculture gardens are designed to maximise nutrients in the soil and as a result don’t need the application of commercial fertilizers. Since permaculture design calls for working with nature, pesticides are not used in permaculture gardens. The aim is rather to ensure that there is a balance between the various organisms in the garden. In addition, explains Gori, because plants in permaculture gardens are receiving their full nutritional requirements they are naturally strong and pest resistant. 

To get more information on permaculture or to attend a full length permaculture training course in Durban contact Buzz Gori on whatabuz@iafrica.com. The next permaculture event in Durban is a talk and tour in Alverstone Road which takes place on 13th July.

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Margaret McKenzie