Food & Seasonal eating, Plants in Permaculture

Plants in Permaculture: Sunflowers

This year we grew sunflowers at our property for the first time.

We decided to sow a crop after picking up a few old dried heads from a planting out the front of a local school.

Of course, they have been BEAUTIFUL. Sunflowers are absolutely glorious beacons of summer and they have given us a lot of pleasure.

However, by observing and interacting with our crop, it's become obvious that sunflowers have usefulness and purpose in permaculture systems that extend beyond their aesthetic, and their "easy growing" nature.

Attracting Beneficials

Sunflowers lure beneficial bugs (including pollinators) into the garden, therefore acting to improve pollination of fruit and vegetables.

A Living Trellis

The strong and sturdy stalks of sunflowers act as a perfect natural trellis for summer crops such as cucumbers and beans.

Shade and Companion Planting

Sunflowers cast a shadow as they grow. This makes a good location for growing plants such as lettuce and spinach, which can otherwise bolt in full summer sun.

Green Biomass for Compost & Mulch

At the end of the growing season, chopped stalks and leaves of sunflowers spread over the garden as mulch helps protect the soil over winter. Chopped stalks and leaves can also be added to the compost pile as "green" nitrogen-rich material.

Nutrition for Humans and Animals

Sunflower seeds have a fantastic nutritional composition ( How sunflower seeds are consumed is often determined by their size and colour (which are variety dependent). You can harvest sunflower seeds after the sunflower heads have browned and dried.

The larger, often “striped” seeds, have human culinary application. These seeds need to be hulled and roasted prior to eating. Sunflower seeds add a tasty, nutritious crunch to salads, stir fries, veggie patties and biscuits. They also make a great substitute for nuts in any pesto!

The smaller black seeds can be pressed to produce oil, and the left over meal given to chickens to eat. Feeding the whole, un-pressed black seeds to chickens as a treat in autumn and winter helps them to gain weight and stay warm in the cooler months. The healthy oils of the seeds add shine and gloss to chicken feathers that increases their water resistance, also helping the bird to stay warm in winter.

Please comment on any additional features of sunflowers for use in permaculture you think should be highlighted below!


End of Year Greetings!

Ballarat Permaculture Guild wishes to extend its warmest wishes to all members and friends as we approach the end of 2019.
Whatever your beliefs, whether you celebrate or not, we hope you enjoy a peaceful and relaxed end of year break.
We look forward to meeting more of you in 2020, whether it be at formal events such as courses or permablitzes, or socially at potlucks, the market or the pub.
Keep up with all our activities here

BPG Committee



Ballarat Permaculture Guild, now in its 10th year, held its 3rd AGM as an incorporated body, on Wednesday 13th November, 2019.
There was a great turnout for the meeting and to hear the speakers reporting on the activities of the working party for a new LETS (Local Exchange Trading System) scheme.
All committee positions, except for Vice President, were filled without the need for voting.
The committee for 2019-2020 is -

President - Steve Burns
Secretary - Lisa Hofler
Treasurer - Karen Fitzpatrick
Ordinary members - John Moss, Elizabeth Moss, Liz O'Dwyer, Indigo Brooke, Jude Porteous, Sarah Ryan, Elise Sullivan

Keep up with all BPG activities via our Events page or the BPG page on Eventbrite

Permaculture courses

Permaculture Design Course

BPG runs an annual Permaculture Design Course (PDC) and has graduated at least 100 new permies since 2012. We're still collating figures for the ones prior to that but the first one that ran in 2008 had 40 participants, so it's possible the total figure is closer to 200!

We do smaller classes these days (max 22) and the format has changed several times to become the 8 weekends over 6 months model we use now. This extended format suits people who simply can't take 2 weeks off to do an intensive, live-in, style of PDC. It gives students time between classes to digest and reflect on the content, read further if they wish and work on projects.  Students get to know one another better over a longer period, often forming lasting friendships, local permie groups, and a broad permaculture network.

PDC students visiting Melliodora

Our students come from a fairly large catchment and we regularly have people from Melbourne, Geelong and Colac areas, as well as many from Ballarat and surrounding areas.

Our wide range of teachers are not only local but come from Melbourne, Castlemaine and Heathcote. We foster new teachers where possible (often past graduates)

Our site visits include Melliodora, a highly productive urban garden, a commercial worm farm and alternative buildings.

The PDC committee evaluates the course every year and adjusts the course in response to student feedback and teacher availability, in order to keep things fresh and current.

Undertaking a PDC can change your life and it's lots of fun. Consider joining us for our 2020 PDC. You can read more about the content and find an enrollment  form on our PDC page