If you have signed up to my mailing list you will have heard that we finally are no longer renting as we purchased a house – hooray!
Things have been a little quiet as I’ve been wrangling a toddler and a baby, whilst managing a move and minor renovations to get the house liveable. My hope was to get more done in the garden during our prime growing season, however kids, budget and general time restraints ruined those plans.
Renting whilst wanting to grow our own food has been a challenge but still rewarding. We’ve had our orchard of potted fruit trees, temporary raised beds with a bazillion pots, our quest to get approval for chickens and our aquaponics (which was our favourite option when renting).
A bit about our new place
Our house is located just north of Brisbane, we’re still sub-tropical but we’re on top of a hill with coastal breezes which is a little different to what I am used to. We’re also dealing with clay soil, I’ve dealt with sand before but never clay so this is a whole new challenge for us.
The house is the original house from acreage that was subdivided so it’s weirdly positioned on the block. We have more of a front and side yard then we do a backyard. The block itself is 735sqm which is a decent size for suburbia, but the house manages to take up around 80% of the property, and the driveway takes a good chunk of our prime growing space. We have one neighbour which is a new build and the other two sides border a small children’s park.
If we’re completely honest, when we put an offer in for the house our idea was to knock the original house down and bring in a second hand QLDer and make the most of the views of Moreton island, glass house mountains and the western ranges. Plus make more space for gardens and potentially a pool. But that’s more of a 5-10 year plan at this stage.
The western side of the property is basically 2 metres wide, half of which has been concreted. The southern side (which is at the back of the property) is around 5 metres wide, the eastern side is about the same and 70% shaded by a huge gum tree that is located in the park beside us. The North of the property is the front and we have about 7 metres to work with here, full sun and full force wind – and 30% of it being driveway.
Creating our blank canvas
First up we needed to clear all the plants from around the house. The pervious owners had planted gardens directly next to the house (huge palms rubbing against the gutters) and we also found an active white ant nest in the garden. So we needed to clear that up and move the soil that was built up around the weep holes of the house, we hired a bob cat to get that under control. Even though we have a steel frame double brick house, we will now make sure there is at least a metre around the house clear from gardens to prevent potential termite attacks.
The next big thing was containing the beagle and the toddler. The four weeks we didn’t have a fence I had to lock them all inside and for a outdoor loving toddler it was like some form of torture. The beagle would be running for the park at any opportunity she got – luckily the old girl is slow these days so I was able to capture her but wasn’t my ideal daily routine running after a toddler and a beagle with a baby in my arms (most often still in my pjs).
The original fence was an old chainlink one with no gates and didn’t completely contain anything. We didn’t want the beagle barking at everyone in the park so we opted for a 6ft wooden fence for privacy. 90 metres of fence has been erected which has taken about a month to complete as Nathan only had the weekends to get it done. It’s been a big job but it’s almost done.
Whilst the fence was being built, I was able to really observe the best planting positions for the garden. Things I was looking at was slopes, sunshine, wind. My initial plans flew out the window when I came to the realisation that the gum tree was going to shade a large part of the garden. Thankfully we’ve been here during the transition from Winter to Summer so I’ve been able to see the pattern of where the sun has gone and the shade that comes from that.
Plans for the garden
My main goal for the entire space is to make all the plants to be 100% edible. Eventually I’d like a ‘mow free’ yard, but lets be real, kids like grass to run on so there will be patches of turf while the kids are little (but I’ll be ripping it out as soon as they turn into teenage zombies who never leave their rooms).
My dream garden was going to involve a mandala style with the chickens as the centre, but the long narrow nature of our usable space pretty much means this won’t work on this property. I wanted to integrate the chickens as much as I could into the space, but also have them not to close to our living areas and not take up too much of our usable space. Because we’ve already built our chicken coop, I didn’t want to redo it to make a tractor setup, so instead I am opting for an orchard style run for them.
Here is the general plan:
clothesline + Kidzone (Ivy’s mud kitchen plus blackboard and sandpit) with a bit of turf + grapevine pergola to provide shade in summer. We’ve already setup one aquaponics here, but I’ll also plant Mediterranean herbs along here.
A herb garden right near the BBQ and kitchen door. Fruit trees and raised bed vegetable patch + a shaded growing space for gingers and shade loving plants.
Mostly shaded by the gum tree so some turf for the kids to play plus the chicken coop and run/tree orchard, a shade house and some aquaponics and wicking beds.
A keyhole ornamental style garden with loads of edible flowers on the north eastern side, I want my fig tree to be surrounded by strawberries and be the central piece for this area. On the north western side, screening edible plants (at the moment we’ve planted around 60 sunflowers and all our pineapples). I am also keen to try a few different styles here including haybale gardens.
So that’s pretty much the initial plans for the garden, I am sure it will evolve over time and change as we go.
It’s going to be a long slow process to get it to where we want but that’s going to be half the fun. For now I’ll curse at the dusty bowl (or mud pit that it is right now) until we get some plants growing!