Our experimental garden is located about 27 km west of Brisbane’s CBD. The original 2-acre block contained a house, a fence, degraded waterway and lots of weeds.
The property has since been transformed into a house and garden that generates abundant fresh produce, uses efficient water management (including rainwater, stormwater and greywater), runs using solar power and provides habitat for native wildlife. Not bad for a place that needed a crowbar or jackhammer to dig a hole when we first moved in!
The Food Forest
Together with Rotary and Food Plant Solutions, we have created a diverse garden of edible annual and perennial plants. The edible garden is a food forest adjacent to the house and together they occupy approximately ¼ acre. There are thousands of individual plants and several hundred species growing in a forest system. The remainder of the 2 acre property is devoted to waterway rehabilitation and Land for Wildlife regeneration.
In terms of biomass, our key edibles would are herbs and vines such as Sambung, Cranberry hibiscus, Okinawa spinach, Brazilian spinach, Pigeon pea, winged beans, Lebanese cress, Java dropwort, kangkong, native river mint, Mediterranean basil, cassava, sweet potato, yacon, arrowhead, ginger, katuk, all herb, plectranthus, lemongrass, lemon verbena, Malabar spinach, Madagascar bean and yams.
Our fruit trees are scattered throughout the forest and in most cases provide the upper story and protection for the garden. At the moment our most productive fruiting species are the Native mulberry, Gin Berry, Atherton Raspberry, macadamia (ok a nut), Tamarillos, Quapples, Panama Berries, Acerola Cherries, Strawberry Guava, Loquat, Fejoa, Citrus (Lisbon Lemon, Tahitian Lime, Lemonade Fruit and Orange), Bananas (Pissang Celong, Blue Java and Dwarf Ducass), Black Sapote, Pepino, Dianella, Peanut Butter Bush, Dragon Fruit and Passionfruit (if you can beat the animals to them).
Scattered throughout the food forest are several 1m2 wicking beds used for growing annual varieties that require more water and nutrients than the remainder of the perennial garden. In these beds we grow tomatoes, rosellas, cucumbers, beans, peas, beetroot and kale for example.
There are also more than a dozen ponds of varying sizes throughout the forest. The ponds are used to grow semi-aquatic crops like Lebanese Cress and Kangkong. They also provide habitat for wildlife and enhance the microclimate of the food forest by providing humidity and cooling the garden during the hot summer months.
The edible forest is supplemented with worm juice from our 5 worm farms (that recycle household scraps), sheet composting, forest and sugar cane mulch and manure from nearby properties.
Through careful plant selection and optimal water management, the garden requires supplemental watering during only the hottest, driest periods of the year. The rest of the time the garden takes care of itself with the exception of harvesting and pruning.