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Construction of the potting shed.
Designing the Cider Tonic Permaculture Garden

Hello once again ACV lovers and welcome to our next Cider Tonic tale. In this blog I have to tell you all about how we designed our new permaculture wild food garden.  

We wanted to incorporate modern technology and timeless growing methods throughout. Ultimately our intention was to design a permaculture garden that’s good for the earth, so we can continue to grow our Cider Tonic ingredients that are good for your gut!

The Cider Tonic Garden is getting a makeover.

Being a chef, I have always had some form of a vegetable garden. I built one here at our home Clary many years ago, when we previously lived here. They were run of the mill, stock standard raised vegetable beds so I could grow fresh produce. Let’s just say I was practical folks.

Over the past couple of years, especially since creating Cider Tonic, my philosophy has changed as much as my gut flora. I knew what I wanted to do to grow all the delicious ingredients for my tonic. This time though, I needed to do something a little more left of normal and I knew I needed help.



Some “before” shots of the garden.

The Principles of Permaculture.

Did you know that we are growing all of our Cider Tonic ingredients including Garlic, Onion, Parsley, Citrus, Apples, Turmeric and Ginger right here in our new garden? We are growing everything except the salt and honey.

To do this, I knew I wanted to use permaculture techniques to work with nature, not against it. By weaving together the elements of microclimate, annual and perennial plants, water and soil management, and human needs, I wanted to use permaculture to form an energy-efficient, low-maintenance, high-yielding and intricately interconnected system throughout our garden.

Permaculture is the harmonious integration of landscape and people.  An alternative system of providing food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way.  It gives us access to a diverse toolbox including agriculture, water harvesting and hydrology, energy, natural building, forestry, waste management, animal systems, aquaculture, appropriate technology, economics and community development.

It’s all about the soil.

I also wanted to use a system that would enrich my soil over time. By planting a permaculture food forest and wild garden I could forever add nutrients to the soil. It’s important to me that the biome of our soil is healthy for growing all of our special tonic ingredients.  The quality of our soil is directly related to the quality of the food we eat. When we eat great quality food then we have a healthy gut microbiome.

Amazingly, I found about the spectacular permaculture garden designer Cecilia Macaulay one night just after I had made this decision. I found out through local Garden Farm Stay in Hiawatha that Cecilia had a connection to my local area of Yarram and reached out to her



Cecilia Macaulay, Permaculture Garden Designer Extraodinaire


Rod from RJ Diggers, digging a trench for the swale. 

Why did I choose Permaculture Designer Cecilia Macaulay?

Cecilia uses her special life-design skills to identify the traps where we waste our energy and then she designs around them so that she can help us create positive surroundings.  

Her achievements are outstanding. From designing a self-maintaining garden on Richard Branson’s Necker Island, to consulting for the Taronga Zoo as well as the time she spends in Japan speaking and practising her philosophies, not to mention her contribution to my new favourite book “Retrosuburbia”, Cecilia is certainly one of a kind.

Cecilia has been an inspiration to work with. She applies permaculture principles inspired by pioneer Bill Mollison to both the great outdoors and inside our homes. She injected creativity, I’d call it her own magic, into my practical ideas!

Upon arrival, Cecilia was excited to find that I had cleared out our whole back garden space, which gave her a blank space to design with. Together we envisioned an evolving garden that was rambling, but stays neat and tidy. It has lots of curves and interesting pockets, so I can explore while I’m out maintaining and harvesting from it.  Plantings can self seed, there is a food forest for productivity, and a bell tent so I can meditate from a quiet space where I can appreciate the garden.  

Cecilia taught me that the secret of designing gardens was not to be afraid to change things when plans don’t work, always stick to the principles but to be prepared for an evolving garden, first during the design phase, and afterwards as the garden continues to grow over the years to come.


A permaculture garden for exploring.

Cecilia is very keen on designing keyhole garden paths. This is so you can wander in and be enveloped by the garden. I didn’t want to be bending in half any more (I’m getting on you know) as I was with the aforementioned raised beds. It’s a garden that this free spirit can wander through freely.

This is the garden of my dreams that I am designing with Cecilia. She has helped me achieve all my goals for the elements the garden needs. Ultimately it is my space and feels like me.  Mind you, we have not stuck to all the gardening plans we originally had in our minds. There have been many drafts and we change things as we go along, when some things haven’t worked. Its freeing to be encouraged by Cecilia to imagine what will work better. Then we go  and do some more research and tweak the design here and there.

Japanese Herbs in the garden.

Firstly, around our rainwater tank there Cecilia has designed an Asian Tank Garden. I love the Japanese influences that she has injected into my space. We will fill it with Japanese herbs such as: Mizuna, Burdock, Wasabina, Shiso, Negi and Japanese Parsley.

One of my ideas was the Ginger and Turmeric Greenhouse, where I can grow these much needed ingredients for our tonic all year round. Mark constructed wicking beds in there for me. We also have just finished constructing a potting shed where I can keep all my tools and grow lovely things from seed. These are the functional parts of the garden, I have added a special stained glass door to the shed and it adds beauty to the garden.

Further to this  permaculture design plan we have also decided to build another slightly bigger room on the side of our shed, which will be lined and insulated to store all my ferments and preserves, I think of it as my own outdoor pantry where I can keep my excess gourmet goodies.


I went Knight Grey!

I also painted a grey fence in a shade called “Knight Grey”. Cecilia wasn’t sure about it at first, but now she’s a big fan of the lime green plants that contrast against it. Dark fences for the win! This is Cecilia’s first suburban garden project.  She usually designs city courtyards but I think I’ve persuaded her to take on larger backyards, we’ve had so much fun with it!

Garden elements that create harmony.

A cool feature that we had planned for our patio area was a boxed undulating herb garden. However, we found problems with drainage on the site. To combat this, we are still planting herbs here but using a Hugelkultur bed instead.  This compliments the natural wetlands and swale that captures the excess water which Cecilia has designed. The back of our block is quite dry at times and we can use the swale to divert the water to this area.  It solves a couple of problems.  I have to say, with the rain we have had already it seems to be working efficiently, so I am very pleased. Thank you nature.

Creating beautiful natural productivity, our food forest envelopes our bell tent with keyhole paths that twist and turn. These paths travel underneath the figs, apples and citrus.  They will also provide cool shade to our three new Silkie chickens. I have named them Cecilia, Katie and Millar, all after some of the incredible friends and family in my life.

Edible flowers and vegetables are all planted under the food forest canopy to attract friendly pollinators.  There are insect hotels hanging cutely from the tree branches.

Our neat and enclosed compost system is located at the end of one of these keyhole paths. We can pick up things as we wander along and then create wonderful organic matter as well.

As you can see from Cecilia’s planning, working with our block in mind, we can let nature help us to overcome its difficulties and find creative solutions to these problems.







Our new silkie chickens.

Leaving our new garden to go travelling has been tough.

While this is all very new to me, we got planting!  The wonderful shapes we have seen on paper are emerging.  Everything is beginning to grow. It was very scary leaving the garden during driest autumn we have ever had.  Despite this we came home to a flourishing oasis.

Our friend Leanne Bowden and Cecilia both came by to water the garden and our wicking beds in the greenhouse pretty much took care of themselves.  They only need to be filled up every 3 weeks.

Most of all, Cecilia has opened my eyes to a different way of growing food and has challenged me. Now I grasp how its all going to work. I really appreciated Cecilia coming in with her creativity and seeing beyond the practical to help me achieve a beautiful space that’s all ours!

Oh we’re not finished yet!

While I said that we are growing all our ingredients, we do not have any bee hives to make honey. Yet. would love it if anyone in the area might be looking for somewhere to put some hives as l would love to play host to them and have more bees buzzing around my garden!

We are also planning to have our very own farm gate stand situated at the front of our home when our garden is in full swing. We are hoping to sell our excess fruit and vegetables this coming Summer from our front gate.  Yep, you can come and have a chat and pick up some produce. We will let you know when we have this set up on our instagram page, where I also write mini updates on the progress of our Cider Tonic garden.

The best part of this adventure is that I get to share it with you all through that great elixir of life, Cider Tonic.

Until next time, get out there & enjoy the little things in life.
Remember to love your guts like l love your guts!



Marina | Cider Tonic