How Rishi transformed a bare and compacted rental patch into a permaculture oasis

We met Rishi as a participant in our 2023 Rocklyn Ashram PDC and were awed by his ability to creatively use and respond to change (moving countries, renting in Melbourne), use edges and value the marginal (a barren front yard) and obtain a yield (bumper crops!). Today he shares his story and a slideshow of awe-inspiring images that’ll give every urban or rental permie heart. You can follow Rishi’s gardening exploits on Instagram @greendodoblog

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About a decade ago, I ventured to Australia for my studies. In just three short years, I returned to Mauritius armed with a diploma and a newfound sense of purpose. My departure was bittersweet; I was mostly elated but also tinged with sadness for not fully exploring Australia’s offerings. I longed for its breathtaking landscapes, vibrant gardens, and abundance of fresh flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Inspired, I embarked on a gardening journey back home, igniting my passion for cultivation.

The allure of Australia lingered in my heart for years. I couldn’t stop reminiscing about the stunning flora, thriving community gardens, warm-hearted people, and the wealth of knowledge in areas like growing, grafting, beekeeping, herbalism, and permaculture. While still in Mauritius, I stumbled upon the PDC course at Melliodora, led by David Holmgren, and I knew I had to return one day to partake in it.

Four years ago, I finally took the leap, returning to Australia for a working holiday and further studies, but primarily to learn and flourish. Within my first three months, I began searching for a house to share with friends. After visiting several options, I stumbled upon one in the tranquil northern suburbs of Victoria. The front yard resembled lifeless soil, devoid of growth—even weeds were scarce. Yet, all I saw was a blank canvas brimming with potential. I mustered the courage to ask the landlord if he’d permit me to do ‘a bit’ of gardening. He chuckled and agreed, wishing me luck. That marked the inception of one of the most rewarding endeavours of my life.

Once settled, I spent countless nights pondering my approach. A few scattered boxes or some pots could suffice, but my ambitious spirit impelled me to go bigger. I scoured online marketplaces for affordable tools, sketched elaborate plans, and envisioned harvesting bountiful crops and blooming flowers from this very land. Armed with a shovel from a generous neighbour, I eagerly set out to dig, only to be met with stubborn, unyielding soil. Undeterred, I acquired an axe pick, which also proved ineffective against the unforgiving earth. It was a novel challenge, far from the simplicity I initially imagined, but I thrive on challenges.

Through sweat, the occasional tear, a touch of blood, extensive reading and research, unyielding perseverance, and moments of doubt followed by renewed determination, I turned that dream into a reality within just two years.

During this time, I regretfully missed out on enrolling in the PDC course. Then, the unforeseen arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic brought lockdowns in its wake. Little did I know that my garden would become my anchor during this tumultuous period. It kept me grounded, provided sustenance and filled my days with joy and contentment. As restrictions eased, neighbours began gathering for friendly conversations and food exchanges, friends enjoyed surplus harvests, and I eventually fulfilled my dream of taking the PDC course, an experience that surpassed my wildest expectations.

Sadly, after three years, the landlord expressed the desire to move back into the house, prompting me to seek a new home. On a positive note, he still shares the garden with me, where we continue to cultivate and share our bounty. I’m already planning my next garden, leaning towards a more permaculture-oriented design—now I just need to find the perfect spot.

It’s been quite a journey, and my gardening adventures in Australia have been nothing short of transformative.

You can follow Rishi’s gardening exploits on Instagram @greendodoblog


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