Brunswick – two years later
While the day of Lenka, Fergus and Aroha’s original Permablitz in the autumn of 2016 was both rain-soaked and windswept, I was happy to answer the hosts’ kindly invitation to come back and see the results in January of this year. I was especially glad to see the afternoon so warm and clear! The contrast made a fitting metaphor for the transformation of their long, narrow suburban Brunswick backyard.
In their initial site visit, the design team found a backyard deeply shaded by an opportunistic evergreen privet tree, a clothesline along the fence cluttering the space halfway down the yard, and a large wicking bed at the rear which had not been as successful as hoped. The hosts’ original wish -list included a more functional space, a more productive garden area, a wicking bed by the back door, fruit trees, and some lawn for two year old Aroha to roll around on.
The most immediately noticeable difference when I returned after nearly two years, was the dramatic increase in light. Despite having had most of its dense canopy removed during the original Permablitz, the privet had as promised, begun to re-grow a higher canopy, which provides summer shade while letting through plenty of winter light for both the alternative lawn beneath (dichondra, native violet and golden oregano all having survived well) and the raised garden beds against the fence. This is a great example of how the permaculture principle of ‘using small and slow solutions’ can have significant effects.
The permaculture principle of ‘observe and interact’ was also evident in that some modifications had had to be made by the hosts post-permablitz and bee. The frame of the recycled bathtub wicking bed had required some reinforcing to support the weight of water and wet medium, and the overflow pipe had become blocked at one point – possibly as the fine particles amongst the scoria settled upon the geotextile fabric inside. A little tinkering from Fergus had seemed to have fixed these problems however, and by the time of the revisit this seemed to be working reasonably well.
The raised garden beds were making much better use of the space previously occupied by the clothes line and were filled with a variety of healthy looking summer vegetables, at just the right height for Aroha and Luna to help with the taste-testing and cultivation.
In line with the permaculture principle of ‘produce no waste’, the grey water system had been designed to make use of water from the washing machine to irrigate the fruit trees at the back of the yard. Although this worked perfectly on the day of completion, the old washing machine had not been up to the task of regularly pumping water all the way to the orchard. Disappointingly, some of the original fruit trees had not survived, although these have now been replaced.
Despite this however, Lenka and Fergus said they were very happy with their transformed backyard and it was clear that the goal of creating a more functional space had been achieved; each trip to the clothes line or the compost bins providing opportunities to check on wicking beds, raised beds and fruit trees without extra effort.
It was a wonderful thing to have been invited back, and also to see our hosts happily enjoying their light, productive and rather appealing backyard on a warm, lazy afternoon.