Reservoir – six years later
Remember starting a new project – enthusiasm galore that peters out to a trickle after the initial work is done? How many projects keep on going and growing and going and growing? Damian has done it!
Six years after his front garden permablitz and about five years after the back garden blitz, he now needs a machete to get through the foliage to harvest the abundance of veggies and fruit. His garden seems to be a complete ecosystem, with many self-seeded and perennial edible plants, green manure plants whose purpose is soil improvement, worm tubes to return nutrients from food scraps as well as a water tank. Planting is in-ground as well as in raised beds using discarded styrofoam boxes and other re-purposed containers. The garden was designed to produce all year round, with a minimum maintenance and it certainly does that.
In 1978 Damian was inspired by a talk by Bill Mollison, renowned environmentalist and a co-originator permaculture proponent. After this he went home and learned all he could. At first, he used what space he could in his rented homes, but when he bought his Reservoir fhome he made his dream a reality.
On his small suburban block, Damian easily provides for his needs for much of the year. In addition to all the usual tomatoes, strawberries, pumpkins and so on, he has sourced many things we don’t usually find in the local shops, all of which are growing like mad. Pepinos, tamarillos, two types of mulberry, loquats, several guavas and a babaco are just some of the more exotic fruits. The babaco is a native of Ecuador, but grows well here and produces a long fruit from a single, tall stalk (see the photo above). There are muntries – a native berry not often grown in city gardens, warrigal greens, fig trees (kept small for the space), nasturtiums for colour and salad, parsley by the front step, strawberries in pipes on the back deck above the rocket and lettuce planted in boxes.
Everything is thriving– the nasturtium leaves are so large they could almost be mistaken for waterlilies! Any extra produce is either given to neighbours or taken to one of several food swaps in the area. Swaps are great for socialising as well as swapping food and tips.
Maintenance is fairly easy as the thick planting means that weeds have little chance, and so much is perennial or self-seeding. Three helpers in the garden peck through the prunings, clear out coddling moth, provide fertiliser and eggs (as long as the golf ball is in the nest for encouragement).
The only element of the original permablitz that didn’t work was the bathtub fish pond in front; the tub leaked so the pond was turned into a raised garden instead – a great example of “the problem becoming the solution!” The compost bins did their job, but the rats are difficult to discourage, and the worm tubes work really well. As a result the bins are now upside down, growing things.
Few possums visit as Damian protects with a lot of netting and mesh bags to cover ripening fruit. They have less habitat here, since there are quite a few empty lots without trees in the area.
There are two houses on the block, with a shared driveway and the typical ugly wooden fence on the side. Damian, an artist by profession, has relieved the grey with large, beautiful nature paintings. Further along, a narrow planting of geraniums and cactus thrive. A spontaneous parsley plant doesn’t look out of place among the cactus either.
I asked Damian how the neighbours feel about his atypical front yard. “Only positive feedback”, he said, “It’s a good way to meet them.” Neighbours stop and chat, enjoying all the green. One said it brought memories of medlar trees in his childhood home in Cyprus. Many already know about permaculture. Maybe they, too, will be inspired by Damian’s own garden.
Bill Mollison would be proud!