I’m a Canadian living in Perth with my partner. When I first arrived we needed to find a place together and stumbled upon a lovely little villa in not quite suburbia but not quite urbania either. 5 km from the city, 10 km from work and 2 minutes from the grocery store…perfect. But the jewel in the crown was the large back yard and the shed (the former being a requirement of both of us, the latter a necessity for my handyman husband).
Our garden has changed the way I think about food, self sufficiency and ‘food security’. I supposed I’ve recognized how much control we’ve given over to large supermarket chains, clothing retailers, and China’s manufacturing juggernaut. I’m not fanatical about organic, nor do I necessarily disagree with genetic modification, but I do think we need to slow down a bit and take back control. How you march with your dollars is THE driving force in the economy and you CAN change things with simply the way you spend your money. This blog will take you on my journey from ‘buy it’ to ‘make it’ and hopefully self-sufficiency.
It started with our little rented villa in Perth…
The back yard was wood chips and a bit of concrete paving. So, the first thing we did was collect all the chips in a pile, make a few garden beds and get on the phone to “Jim’s Mowing”. You see, Perth has – how do I say this – substrate rather than soil. It’s ALL sand…I couldn’t quite believe it when I moved her, but it’s true. And plants don’t like growing in sand…unless you have a hydroponics operation – which we don’t. Jim’s Mowing drops off bags of grass clippings to our doorstep every week, which my partner diligently empties out, piles up and turns regularly. If you live in a reasonably well to do neighbourhood, your neighbours have just kindly provided you with all the fertilizer you’ll ever need in those little grassy clippings. They make lovely compost – and free at that.
Here’s how you do it: Call up your local mowing company, get them to drop off grass clippings in the bags, empty the bags into a giant pile and turn the pile every week. This works best in summer for the rotting process to occur – so in a few weeks (depending on the weather) you’ve got compost. You know when it’s done because it will smell earthy and not sour. Sure, it may be stinky when you turn the pile, but it doesn’t last. When it’s done spread it in the garden and turn it in (turning in is quite important). About 2.5 cubic meters will be enough for a 4m x 4m garden bed. Let it sit for a few days and then get planting! This should last you for about 12 months until you have to compost again.
We started planting and have already gone through one crop of tomatoes, rockmelons, lettuce and capsicums. But, that was a few months ago…so I shall start from where we are now – winter. Coming from Canada I’m amazed that anything grows throughout winter, but the plants seem to be ok – not growing super fast – but ok. Here are some of our winter veggies and herbs:
If you want to get gardening in Australia, I highly recommend the book “The Australian Fruit and Vegetable Garden” by the Digger’s Club…lots of useful information about planting times for your part of the country, soil types etc…
Be sure to stay tuned for handy information about preserving all those lovely veggies and make use of the cheap seasonal produce in the supermarket. It’s easier than you think and can, make that ‘will’ save you a load of money.