How to Build a Permaculture Vegetable Garden

– Tiny Eglington’s method, educator Geoff Lawton

This is a photo report of a vegetable garden built for Ann Foster in Condobolin, NSW Australia, which shows basic steps that allow you to build your own permaculture veggie patch.


You don’t need much, but you do need:

  • compost
  • any ruminant manure
  • lime
  • cardboard (or hessian bags)
  • Lucerne hay (or any acacia leaves)
  • straw (seedless)
  • water
  • plants and seed

The basic tools:

  • shovel
  • rake
  • sharp knife/screwdriver (for punching hole in cardboard)
  • hose/watering can
  • wheelbarrow

How to built a permaculture vegetable garden – the steps

Check out the site, discuss possibilities where to set up the garden.

Explore the present vegetation, and determine its qualities and uses.

Clearing the site of weeds and grass, evaluate locations and levels for the trenches.

Dig trenches (levelled), the soil from the trench is put on the garden beds.

Dig out the trenches a bit more, level the beds. Try and keep the bottom of the
trenches level, so they fill evenly with water.

Add manure (sheep manure in this case), put it on as thick as you can, don’t
worry if some falls down in the trenches. Then sprinkle a bit of lime.

Wet the cardboard and place it over the bed, in the trenches as well,
approximately 3 layers thick.

Also hessian (jute) bags work, similar procedure, 1 layer thick.

Cover with Lucerne hay or any acacia leaves, then a layer of straw (seedless).
Cover the trenches with straw as well to minimize evaporation.

Fill the trenches with water (you can check here how you’ve done with
levelling, by letting the water in from one point (set up dams) till completely
full and decided where your 1 watering point will be. You can put a short
pipe in the top of the dam to overflow into the next trench. Notice
capillary rise is working, the water making its way up into the bed.

Get your plants and seed! Check a companion planting guide for good
combinations of plants. I like to check the moon planting guide and practice
it when possible. Using hybrids or non hybrids is up to you but non hybrids are
sustainable by collecting your own seed.

Separate plants where possible and cut holes in the card board
(only big enough for the tap root to go through), make a cup in the
straw and fill with compost and plant the plants or seed.

Concerning planting space, consider the size of the plants when they are
fully grown; the whole bed is covered with vegetables, including down
the sides to the water mark. The new plants and seeds have to be watered
from the top (daily in the summer) until the tap root goes through the
hole, then it will receive its water from the trenches.

A permaculture vegetable garden can be built at any size. From a few pots to a 1000 acre property.

All about building a permaculture vegetable garden and more you learn in a permaculture design course (PDC). And there are loads of information to be found on the web as well!

How to Maintain – tips and tricks


Again: The new plants and seeds have to be watered from the top until the tap root goes through the hole, then it will receive its water from the trenches. Every area is different (depending on rainfall and soil types). Eg. in Cunnamulla, western Queensland, temperatures were in the high thirties, with no rain, so had to fill the trenches every 7 days.


If you cut a cabbage, trim the excess leaves off and chop them up and leave them on the bed (in permaculture terms; chop and drop). Leave the tap root where it is and plant a new plant or seed beside it, the new plant will feed off the old root as it composts.

Now the important thing: put compost around the new planting as to replace what the cabbage took away. Composting is the key to a sustainable garden.

What you have done

1. You have created an organic garden that’s water friendly
2. You have created a weed free garden, which will remain weed free as long as you keep composting (with seed free compost)
3. And most of all: you have created a sustainable food supply in your backyard

I was a monoculturalist for many years, this way is much too easy, it’s the GO!

Happy planting.

Further Reading: