Feb. 8, 2012

The little garden that could

I’m writing this post on behalf of my husband, who’s the green thumb. I’m the writer and documenter of our duo, and constant admirer of Adam’s adeptness to growing and greening. We live in a small but charming one-bedroom flat in Bondi, and are lucky enough to have our doorway open up onto a small patch of grass, dominated by the communal Hills Hoist.

 

Facing east and nestled next to a ten-story apartment tower that blocks sunlight for all but 3hrs of the day, this patch of grass was a bit of a lost cause when we first moved in. Like many apartments in Bondi, the shared backyard was nothing but an oversized sandpit, a place to hang your washing out and exchange occasional pleasantries with fellow tenants. 

 

Garden fresh

6 years on and it’s flourishing with plants, both decorative and edible, and to my husband’s delight, has become a mini prototype for the rambling vegetable patch and garden we hope to some day create in a home of our own.

We’ve maximised the north facing wall (which gets the most sun) with hanging garden sacks; brimming with tomatoes, basil, lettuce, jalepenos, chillies, coriander and succulents. At its base, we’ve got large pots of rocket, chives, oregano, bay leaves, parsley and mint. All of our pots are second hand, salvaged from friends, roadside chuck-outs and preloved roots. The sacks, though a little unsightly when freshly hung and void of greenery, are cheapies from Bunnings.

Tucked away in the corner is our beloved wormfarm (courtesy of the compostrevolution.com.au), which receives a good daily feeding of kitchen waste. The harvests from our wormfarm are more than enough to keep our garden healthy and thriving, and our household contribution to landfill has quartered!

Rocket vs. Pests

Pests are part of the parcel. We try not to fight them too much. When our rocket fell victim to some greedy caterpillars, we thought, oh well, as long as they stick to the rocket... we’ll just call that our sacrificial pot! Weeks later, our rocket had developed a defence mechanism – furry spikes on its stalks! The green grubs have now deserted us, and we’ve got our rocket back.

As an Eastern Suburbs’ resident that’s never owned a dwelling, this is the first time I’ve really taken pride in the space beyond the front door. An edible garden is something you can ease into – from a few balcony herb pots, to a fully-fledged veggie patch on your median strip. Start small, with some easy wins (like basil and parsley), do your research, be prepared to experiment (and fail), and most of all, be patient.

The day you start snipping a few sprigs of chives on your scrambled eggs, making fresh mint tea, or snapping a few lettuce leaves off for a side salad, there’s no turning back... you’re a bona fide kitchen gardener! 

 

Helpful resources we’ve scoured along the way:

One magic square, by Lolo Houbein

Green Magazine(lots of ideas on how to maximise small spaces)

http://compostrevolution.com.au/

Pre Loved Roots, Alexandria

 

Written by Anika Ebner.

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3 comments

  • Interesting Anika especially about the rocket growing spikes.

    bev Griffiths
  • I love your story about the rocket and the caterpillar. It's easy to forget that the caterpillars have as much right to be here as we. A garden shouldn't just be a means to and end, it should be an eco system. And isn't it amazing how plants have the ability to take care of themselves?

    Catherine Marshall
  • I love the hanging sacks filled with herbs. what a wonderful idea. I too live in a flat but in coogee and have transformed the available space with veggies and herbs, and have made them available for the other residents. last week a friends visited, so I proudly showed off what I'd achieved and to my surprised he said, "Oh, I didn't know you could grow edible foods in the city"!!!

    it's so rewarding watching them grow. I've jsut planted my autum crop of kale, brussel sprouts, brocolli and peas.

    maryanne

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