Brunswick West – 20 months later
Approaching Sandy and Lyndall’s house, you can see the Permablitz catchphrase “eating the suburb—one backyard at a time” in action. In this suburban pocket of Brunswick West I’m greeted by three front yards in a row, all full of flourishing green edibles, with groups of overturned wire baskets protecting precious plants from curious birds. Sandy never dreamed the birds would be worse than the possums. Rookie the dog offers some protection from possums, but this doesn’t help Dorothy next door – despite strategically positioning orange bags of Rookie’s fur!
It is now some 20 months after the Permablitz, where twenty or so people worked exclusively on the backyard. Stoked with everything the team did, and full of confidence and enthusiasm, Sandy has since turned her attention to transforming the front yard as well. She’s off to a flying start, with an olive tree, lemon tree, artichoke, aubergines, broccoli, beetroot and more. The front boundary is is intended to make use of the ‘fence’ to espalier fruit trees. So far, there has been no issue with passers-by helping themselves.
Two horse bones covered in silver foil form an unusual garden decoration – no garden gnomes for this garden!
The kikuyu that previously filled back yard is gone forever. Even now in the bitter cold of winter, the yard has plenty of vitality. The only remnants from the pre-blitz days are a lemon tree and bottlebrush.
Throughout the back yard a series of strong wire fences surround most of the plants, and the reason for this greeted me at the door when I arrived. Rookie, the Australian Koolie, is 18 months old and loves to garden. When we were exploring, she rolled about in a patch of mustard greens that are only being grown to dampen the activity of the nematodes in that area. She is a delightful part of the family, so they just live with the fences for now. The rest of the menagerie is made of wire and metalwork – no danger to the veggies.
The four chooks enjoy pecking around the arum lilies, elephant ears, nectarine and hazelnut tree that are planted throughout their compound. They’re well-fed too, and they feasted on a lot of the nectarine crop last summer when house sitters were in residence.
There was a scarlet runner bean near the chook house which had regrown from the previous year, and looked to have another full crop. However Sandy decided to ditch this as it wasn’t fruiting – this will leave room for something else!
The north-facing back corner is something of a heat sink with its besser brick wall, so it is used for experiments, plants we don’t expect in Melbourne, including lemon grass, Chilean guava, pepino, macadamia, avocado (one small fruit this year), sweet potato, and an almond tree. This area has particularly good soil as the previous owner tended his veggie patch there for several years before selling the house. Sandy is particularly pleased with the banana plant – it’s got bananas! As a bonus, it is tall enough to block the sight line between her office window and that of a neighbour.
As Sandy works from home, it was important that she be able to look out from her home office to something nice and green – now she most certainly does!
Sandy had a run at selling succulents; pots of them make an attractive necklace around the outdoor bathtub in the back.
Sandy’s gardening tips:
- Gall wasp – slice off the gall if you can instead of cutting the whole branch. This pest has been spreading quickly in Australia and gardeners are being warned to look out for it and treat their citrus trees before the end of June if they find it. Its natural host is the native finger lime, but it likes most other citrus as well.
- Check out gardening pages on Facebook for advice: of course Permablitz Melbourne but also Australian Backyard Vegetable Growers #1. And Gardenate.com advises on what to plant now and what to be getting ready for at any time.
- Keep planting. Some things will work, others not, still others may need to be re-positioned before success.
Prior to the permablitz in September 2017, Sandy’s aim was to improve self-sufficiency in seasonal fruit and vegetables production – and this is well on its way to succeeding. It’s expectd that production will further improve once Rookie matures a little more. Meanwhile, they are keeping up with the fences.
During my visit, Sandy confided to me that Permablitz does make one feel a little judgmental; you walk past houses and you itch to put in “just one zucchini, just one pumpkin”!
Finally, Sandy particularly asked to include a shout-out to: Permablitz Melbourne; the designers Anne Herbert, Clare Harvey and Terry Roberts; and all those who came on blitz day. The efforts they made are felt every day.
You can see the original Permablitz report here, and if you want to see some more pics of Sandy’s place, check out the full gallery here!