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Planting Guide Index

Early Days

The Mulch Pit Community Garden was established on an eroded underutilized car park on the western side of the Nightcliff Uniting Church building in 2009.  Two key church community members, Ministers Jana & Paul entered into a period of discernment asking the question: “How can this property help us be church?” At that same time Jana and Gai Nowland embarked on a life changing Permaculture Design Certificate course.  From these two intentional processes much emerged to grow the “Green” focus at the church.

This period of discernment resulted in us identifying 5 practices or purposeful actions that sustain us, guide us, and remind us of who we are. We've fleshed out how we aim to care for the earth and people and live out the notion of enough for all in the following ethics connected to each practice. A statement of how we hope to be together... as a congregation in a community garden. 

1. Hospitality
Earth - Yellow

The Mulch Pit is inviting, inclusive, safe and respectful.

2. Discernment 
Fire - Red

The Mulch Pit operates by a consensus decision-making process.

3. Sustainability  
Wood – Green

The Mulch Pit incorporates sustainable practices, maximizing local resource use and on-site recycling.

4. Connectivity 
Metal - White

The Mulch Pit is a community space and community events are integral to the design.

5. Spaciousness 
Water - Blue

The Mulch Pit is open for all of the community and is always in process, guided by fun, art, creativity and beauty.

We attempted to model many sustainable practices in its formation and will continue to do so. The raised bed borders have been fashioned out of disused objects that were headed for the dump and echo the elements (wood, earth & metal so far). The mulch was provided free of charge by a local tree lopper saving himself dumping charges and us delivery costs.

The garden beds are a Mandala design often used in permaculture. The word "mandala" is from the classical Indian language of Sanskrit, and while it can be loosely translated to mean "circle" a mandala is far more than a simple shape. It represents wholeness, and can be seen as a model for the organisational structure of life itself--a cosmic diagram that reminds us of our relation to the infinite, the world that extends both beyond and within our bodies and minds.

Brief Description of the Garden

The Mulch Pit is open for all the community and always in process, guided by fun, art, creativity and beauty.

The Mulch Pit is a permaculture garden, which means three things

1. Care for the earth.

2. Care for people.

3. Enough for all.

In practical terms, that means the garden is organic and tries to be in tune with the local environment, the neighbourhood and, with all humility, the universe.

The Mulch Pit offers 7 garden plots for rent and has many communal garden spaces. Almost all plants grown in the Mulch Pit are edible. Tools and equipment are stored on site for use by gardeners. The Garden covers an area of approximately 30m x 50m.

Management and Governance

The Mulch Pit is a project of the Nightcliff Uniting Church and has representatives who report to the church executive on a monthly basis. The Mulch Pit invites all of its members to participate in monthly planning meetings (held on Saturday mornings at the garden) and annual strategic planning meetings. Decisions are made by consensus in line with our principals and practices. Meetings are usually attended by a core group of 4-8 key members. The Mulch pit has no employed staff  run entirely by volunteers and relies heavily on a small group who provide most of the labour and initiative.  In the past 18 months we were fortunate to have the assistance of the Conservation Volunteers on a weekly basis.

The garden has always been a low budget project, relying on fund raising and occasional community grants plus the water bill and occasional other costs covered by NUC. Plot renters pay a small fee for a 6 monthly lease.


The Mulch Pit is open to the public and to members 7 days per week. There are no fences or locked gates (apart from the chook enclosure) and we encourage people to wander through at any time and enjoy the garden.

- Communal gardening: fortnightly gardening working bees are held on Friday evenings or Saturday mornings; tending the communal garden areas or doing special projects.

- Cooking Nights: held 1-2 monthly in the garden and adjacent outdoor kitchen: everyone is invited to share together in harvesting, cooking, then sharing a meal of a vegetable growing in abundance. This is a great way to share knowledge, fun and friendship and learn from those of tropical cultures who are most familiar with the vegetables grown in the garden.

- Swap Table: The Mulch Pit runs a swap table on Saturday mornings where produce and eggs from the garden are exchanged for home grown vegies or a donation by those attending the NUC opshop or Frilly’s tea and coffee. This is a time when many children  and adults enjoy the garden with its peaceful places, chickens and fascinating plants.

- Chickens: feeding and tending our chickens has always been a popular point of engagement with the garden: be it by joining the weekly feeding roster or bringing kitchen scraps. Our chickens are particularly popular with young children.  

Special projects

Over the years we have run many permaculture projects in the garden  which bring people together and teach knowledge and skills. For example: building the chicken enclosure, building and decorating wicking beds, paving and decorating the new tool shed, building the herb spiral.

Garden and permaculture features

- wicking beds: demonstration self watering vegetable beds built from old fridges: a great way to garden in a small area and conserve water. Wheelchair accessible.

- banana circle: Our banana circle is about to be replanted when the moratorium on bananas is lifted: the bananas feed on a central compost pit.

- herb spiral: a permaculture idea with the hardy, sunloving herbs at the top and shade loving ones on the south east side lower down

- Composting: the top soil of the garden is made entirely from mulch and horse, chicken or cow manure: we regularly add more to keep our plants thriving. We have sequential composting bays where gardeners and locals are encouraged to place plant waste. Our chickens produce top quality soil from grass clippings from the adjacent oval, from weeds from the garden and from kitchen scraps. Wood chips are used on paths which break down to beautiful top soil during the wet season.

- Irrigation: The Mulch Pit uses rainwater where possible through the wet season and shoulder period from the 400000l water tank. The garden is on an automatic watering system which is adjusted with the seasons according to garden needs. Efforts are made to plant “nurse trees”,  strategically placed to provide partial shade through the hot dry times of the year. Mulch is used to reduce evaporation from garden beds.

- Weed and pest management: Members and visitors are encouraged to weed in the communal areas. We have pictorial instructions about common weeds.  Many are thrown to the chooks. As a permaculture garden we avoid pesticides and herbicides.

- Recycling: The Mulch Pit is committed to protecting the environment through recycling materials as much as possible. Much of our infrastructure is made of recycled products: eg: old Hills Hoists creating the structure for our shade areas, recycled reinforcing mesh creating the basic structure for our shade house, old fridges converted into wicking beds, old bathtubs for water loving plants.

Community outreach

The Mulch Pit has an active online presence through its website, facebook page and an email list of over 150 people. The garden is regularly visited by school groups , mental health groups, and play groups plus a multitude of visitors to the Opshop and Frillys tea and coffee on Saturday mornings plus the local church congregation. Over the years we have been involved in many community events including Gardening Australia (June 2017), The Tropical Garden Spectaulars, Open Gardens (Darwin), the Darwin Fringe Festival (7/17) and the Sea Breeze Festival. The Mulch Pit has also hosted many film nights in which films about gardening, environmental and social justice issues are screened.