Mike and his partner bought an unrenovated house on a leafy Mt Colah street 10 years ago. Their garden starts on the verge with edibles, and the front yard is a thriving ‘no dig’ food forest. There’s another obvious sign that there’s something interesting going on here – a community swap stall with seeds, plants and books all enclosed in a big, old red phone box.
Mike says he’s met more of my neighbours in the last month, than in seven years!
Mike’s aim is to improve livability while caring for the planet. Mike renovated the original house to increase its energy efficiency, with solar water and solar electricity. He’s built a hardwood pergola down the west side of the house which hosts a grapevine that shades the house in summer. It’s the first of many clever structural innovations he has installed in his garden using mostly recycled materials.
The three-bay compost system is built from recycled roof sheets and brick pallets. Liquid from the back of the bays runs and into a well-positioned bucket. Like all the compost, this liquid is then diluted and used on the garden.
The chook house is palatial and has been built using leftovers from the renovation. It’s both vermin and fox proof, and he used the old front door as the human entrance.
Rainwater is captured across the site, stored and cleverly distributed. Mike has four tanks positioned around the garden that collectively hold 27,000 litres of water. The garden is irrigated via overhead driplines and tank overflows are redirected to garden beds. Storm water from the driveway is redirected into a set of pipes that are re-directed into the garden.
The entire back lawn was dug up to create swales (a series of contoured ditches) designed to slow down water flow and hold it in the soil.
There’s was a rocky outcrop in the backyard where water naturally collected into a pond. Mike has since bricked in the pond, added a bathtub for an outdoor pool for the kids and then found a bathroom basin which he turned into a bird bath.
Mike has made wicking beds from second hand bulk containers. One is used as a liquid fertiliser brewer and the other four have been chopped in half to make 8 wicking beds. The sides of the wicking beds are protected from the sun with recycled zinc aluminium panels take from a roof. The wicking beds are placed in an ‘exclusion zone’, that has been covered with netting to prevent fruit fly, possums and rats making off with the produce.
For Mike, the journey of the garden is infinitely more important than the destination. He’s learnt a lot on the way and is keen to keep learning. It’s inspiring to see what can be achieved in such a short space of time and what will follow, as Mike’s sustainable gardening journey continues to grow.
SYDNEY GREEN WATTLE – Acacia decurrens *
THYME – Thymus vulgaris cv.
PINEAPPLE SAGE – Salvia elegans
SILVERBEET – Beta vulgaris cv.
PEACH ‘FLORDAGOLD’ – Prunus persica cv.
QUINCE – Cydonia oblonga cv.
BASIL ‘PERENNIAL’ – Ocimum cv.
FENNEL – Foeniculum vulgare cv. *
* Check before planting: this may be an environmental weed in your area
Filmed on Dharug Country | Mount Colah, NSW
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