Summary + Statistics
Retrosuburban Real Estate Checklist rating: This property hasn’t yet been rated.
Location: Lilydale, 35km north-east of Melbourne (pop. 16,000 of 4.5m)
2016 Property Rent: AU$?p/m
Household: 2 adults
Floor space: ?m²
Roof area: ?m²
Water tank storage: ?lt
Tank water use: ?lt per day
Mains water use: ?lt per day
Annual Power imported: ?kWh
Av. Power used: ?kWh p/d
Annual Gas used: ?MJ
Annual Wood used: ?m³
Food production: Vast majority of vegetables after 1 year.
Waking hours at home: ?
This bed was expanded for a summer garden, and by winter 2015 we had around 70m² of productive vegetable beds, including a greenhouse made from reinforcing mesh and horticultural plastic offcuts.
Nearly all the garden infrastructure like fence wire, posts and trellises, was sourced from local hard-rubbish piles, as was around 80% of our home furniture, supplemented by the abundant op-shops of Lilydale.
We set up a drip irrigation system (purchased new for around $200) to cope with the hot Victorian summer.
To convert lawns to gardens, we constructed hot compost piles on the boundary of the existing garden.
In this way the beds progressively lengthened, being enriched by biological activity during the process.
After the underlying grass was quickly killed by light exclusion and heat, we shovelled the dead turf onto the compost pile, roots soil and all.
All our food scraps went back to the garden, via the composts or worm-farms, plus around 80lt/week of coffee grounds collected from a local cafe.
Another major source of organic matter was the large number of deciduous trees on the property, from which we harvested leaf-drop for composts as well as deep accumulated leaf mold that went straight into the beds.
Soil test results in spring 2015 showed a number of deficiencies, but a high cation exchange capacity and organic carbon content.
Using a method based on Steve Solomon’s ‘Intelligent Gardener’, we developed a complete organic fertiliser made out of organic soil amendments and minerals. In addition to this, regular applications of seaweed and activated compost tea helped boost plant growth.
While Matt had gardened at a fairly low-key level for several years, Saba had never grown anything before.
Nonetheless, a keen eye for detailed research and boundless enthusiasm meant that the garden was well-organised and productive.
We developed planting schedules with the intention of avoiding seasonal gluts, yet who could have known that 6 cucumber plants could produce such volumes?
As our garden grew, our reliance on external sources of produce declined, to the point at which in January 2015 (8 months after the first broadbeans bed) we were only supplementing essentials that we failed to grow sufficient quantities of, such as onions and potatoes.
Otherwise we ate wholly from the garden, plus exchanges with neighbours, for the last year and a half. A certain stubbornness in refusing to buy out-of-season or shop-bought produce helped us focus on being creative with garden produce by using good seasonal recipes.
Initially we had great intentions of recording all the produce from the garden, but found recording each salad picking and daily basket too taxing. However, we tried to record our major fruiting crops such as tomatoes, beans and potatoes.
Our garden journal records a total of 208kg of heritage tomatoes from about 14 plants in summer 2015, which achieved our goal to be self-sufficient in tomatoes year-round with over 80 bottles of passata.
We did try growing other fruit trees – grafting onto a wild apple on the nature strip, grafting cherries onto ornamental cherry root suckers and berries – but only the red currants produced harvest thus far.
Presently our time has come to move on. While we are somewhat sad to be leveling the beds and replanting pasture grass, we are happy with the thought of a happy soil ecology existing below the surface.
Compared to the powdery white structureless soil left after next door’s strawberry crop was ploughed in, our soil is a lovely dark, rich, organic loam.
The lawn will be nutrient dense for the next tenants, just waiting to be dug up and replanted!
Produce collected and weighed
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