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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.
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.
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.
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.