Suburban permaculture at its best
Cally Brennan and her family have been living at their current home in Cook for the past 5 years – it was specially selected because of its size (850 square metres), north-facing living areas, and location; being closer to the local shops gives them the flexibility to walk and ride more, and drive less.
There is a diverse mix of perennial and annual plants, both edible and ornamental (from original plantings). The long-term plan is to create a permaculture style food forest – the variety of plants will foster a more resilient and pest resistant garden.
Directly after moving in and to get a head start on growing food, a series of wicking beds made from converted IBC containers (Intermediate Bulk Container) were set up on the former circular driveway in the front yard. These water saving beds help overcome the challenge of growing plants in the vicinity of a very large gum tree.
The backyard, which was originally lawn, is now designated productive space, including annual and perennial veg & herbs, and at least 30 fruit and nut trees. Two sunken veg beds have been added, designed to absorb and retain the maximum amount of water. A series of culvert, French and agricultural drains have also been installed, to maximise water harvest potential. The plan is to direct any overflow back into the stormwater system.
As is classically permaculture, all veg, herb and companion plants are left to self-seed and reproduce. The flowers of many are also attractive to beneficial insects, birds and other wildlife. Some of the many examples are garland chrysanthemum (Asian leafy green), ruby mustard (flowers have a wasabi flavour), parsley, wild rocket, cultivated forms of yarrow, mangelwurzel (heirloom foraging beet) and gai lan (Chinese broccoli).
Among the vast array of fruit and nut trees growing are 6 avocado trees, currently in pots. Once established, three will be planted into the garden adjacent to a concreted area for warmth in winter, and three will be kept in pots as backup, giving Cally the ability to move them indoors when it’s cold.
Harvest for the year so far is an impressive 320kg; this includes 70kg of tomatoes and 30kg of tomatillos! The family have been eating their way through a sizeable stash of passata and other equally delectable preserves, stored in what used to be a fancy underground wine cellar. Cally said that once they convert their current garage space into more growing area, her goal is to harvest a staggering 1 tonne of food!
About Cally: Cally grew up in a gardening family in the UK and has always been interested in plants; her grandfather was even a participant in the Dig for Victory Gardens campaign in WWII. She joined Permablitz Canberra 9 years ago, where she developed a passion for permaculture and experimenting with different ways of growing food. Cally has since completed her certificate in permaculture design (PDC) and now runs regular workshops and does urban permaculture designs.
For more: www.canberrapermaculturedesign.com.au