strivetoengage

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Gardening from scratch in hard clay and during a drought

rainfall graph, drought

Low rainfall during a long drought in the 2000s. Source: Bureau of Meteorology

Since 2007 we have built a low maintenance, low water usage garden that provides us with flowers and some herbs, vegetables and fruit, and native animals with food and habitat. We moved to our home in February 2007, in the middle of a long drought. The block of land had been part of a sheep station and the soil was compacted and degraded. A few plants were already there, including an established pink-flowering robinia (Robinia pseudo decaisena) tree and a young Chinese Pistachio (Pistacia chinensis) tree.

New garden bed on nature strip just planted with native and endemic drought-resistant plants (Feb 2007) and covered from the mountain of bark mulch to the right.

New garden bed on nature strip just planted with native and endemic drought-resistant plants (Feb 2007) and covered from the mountain of bark mulch to the right. Pistacia chinensis tree to the far right.

We live on a corner block and had a weed-infested nature strip down the side of the yard. The first thing that we did was to use the cardboard removalist boxes to flatten the weeds down along the side of the nature strip beside our house. By good fortune that week there was a native plant sale with bargain prices for native plants so we bought about 30 native and endemic drought-resistant flowering plants from there and cut spaces in the cardboard to plant them. Next we covered the entire section in eucalyptus bark chips, about 10cm thick.

Our drought-resistant native garden has flourished and is now a habitat for native birds. We have never watered the garden but as you can see the plants have flourished since we planted them 6 1/2 years before this photo was taken. We extended the garden all the way to the footpath and the plants in that section are slowly growing.

Our drought-resistant native garden has flourished and is now a habitat for native birds. We have never watered the garden but as you can see the plants have flourished since we planted them 6 1/2 years before this photo was taken. We extended the garden all the way to the footpath and the plants in that section are slowly growing.

We built a retaining wall to give some shape to the dirt wash-away that was the side of our yard and back-filled it with soil and tried unsuccessfully to grow lawn there. It became clear that it was a big waste of water, money and time so we gave up on the lawn and covered the patch with bark chips instead. We are now contemplating covering it with fake grass.

Our back yard just before we moved into our house had patchy lawn and three plants in it. Note the shadow from the tall pine tree to the north of our yard.

Our back yard just before we moved into our house had patchy lawn and three plants in it. Note the shadow from the tall pine tree to the north of our yard.

In our small backyard we have over the years espaliered an apple and apricot tree to the back fence and built a series of elevated vegetable garden beds from pine sleepers and back-filled with topsoil. We now have a small orchard including an established plum tree (donated by a friend who couldn’t fit it in her yard any longer), two apricot trees, two dwarf pink lady apple trees, a guava tree, a fig tree and most excitingly a cherry tree.

Raised vegetable gardens along our back fence (in winter 2013), also espaliered apple and apricot trees.

Raised vegetable gardens along our back fence (in winter 2013), also espaliered apple and apricot trees.

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