We've been living at our current residence for ~3 years. During that time I've been trying to improve it, off and on. Lack of time, money, and spoons at various points has made this slow and on again/off again in nature. Since the return of the sun down here, my enthusiasm has come back again so I thought it was high time I attempted some sort of documentation of the permafication process.
I'm not very good at remembering to take photos of things, but I have a few floating about here and there.
Our house (really more of an apartment) is the top floor of a two-storey townhouse that's been chopped in half. We live upstairs, another family lives downstairs. We share the yards.
First pic shows access to the backyard. It's through a side gate and squeezing past the water tank or the shed. My cargo bike lives under a blue tarp just behind the gate.
Second pic shows the gap between water tank, metal trellis pole, and shed. It's too narrow for a regular size wheelbarrow, or a large wheelie bin. The small wheelie bin just fits past the tank. The gap between the shed and trellis pole is even smaller - about a foot. This makes trekking material in from the front a royal pain in the behind.
Third pic is a truckload of mulch I had delivered for $50 about this time last year. It took us (me, husband, and a few hours of help from two of the downstairs mob) two days to haul it out back and spread/pile it. I did most of the work since I was the one mad enough to buy that much mulch.
I ended up with a backyard looking something like the first pic here, and a "compost pile" (really just leftover mulch I didn't have another home for) next to the shed. It hasn't stayed like that. I installed the raised wicking bed the first year we were here, and have gotten a few bits and bobs out of it over the years. I'm still learning to manage it properly. With my executive function issues and tendency toward seasonal depression in winter that's harder than it looks from the outside. But I keep persevering.
I started collecting urine to pour over the wood mulch once the beds were raked up. Very little has been done to them other than a couple month's worth of urine dumped on, and a cursory turning with a fork on the unplanted bits just before the autumn rains hit. Then most of it was neglected over winter. Turns out you can grow some pretty good soil with wood chips and piss.
First pic is the L-shaped bed I dumped and raked the mulch into around the raised bed. I planted the south end and left the rest to break down over winter. It needs substantial tidying - the birds have had a little too much fun on the far end. I'd really rather set up more wicking beds than have the free-form mulch piles, but funds and uncertainty of living situation mean it probably won't happen.
Second pic is the compost pile next to the garden shed. It's broken down nicely over winter and the worms are having a field day in there. I'll probably shovel most of it into the wicking bed out back to fill it up again. I'm planning to build a flow-through worm bin to handle our kitchen scraps, too. I'm lazy enough to not want to turn a compost pile regularly, and the food scraps don't break down fast enough when they're just placed under the mulch. I'd rather have a well-sited, low-maintenance worm bin to take care of the kitchen waste than bugger around trying to find free spots in the garden bed to stash things.
Third pic is the U-shaped bed I raked up to the south of the raised bed. The bits I planted didn't do well at all - just not enough nutrients in the still-rotting wood. I've harvested a couple buckets of worm-ridden mulchy soil from one end for the pots and such out front, and the rest might end up in the raised bed if the compost pile isn't enough. Trying to grow things on top of weed mat is a royal pain.
After a week or two of pottering, slow but steady tidying, and some pruning here and there, things are starting to kick off. I bought and planted a basil and a water chestnut from the Diggers shop in the Botanic Gardens. The Digger's Club is an Australian open pollinated, heritage seed company. They have a ton of heirloom plant varieties, and their tomato catalogue alone is out of this world. I also bought some leaf amaranth seeds to plant this week.
First pic is an experimental bed along the front fence that I hilled up. I got a bit sick of having nothing but pots out the front, so I raked back the rocks in this section and applied compost, mulch and seeds. I can't make it any wider than this or else I won't be able to swing my bike through the gate. We have a house inspection coming up next week, so if this section goes unchallenged I'll probably add a few extra feet.
Second and third pics are what the raised bed and L-bed have turned into over winter. A TON of red radish and daikon went to seed, as did some coriander, swedes, and a couple lettuces have yet to throw out flower stalks. While it would have been nice to harvest any of it, frankly I'm impressed that it survived at all. Plus all the ripe seeds have been thoroughly dispersed through the rest of the raised beds. I just don't have the spoons to constantly be planting seeds where they're "meant" to go, so the more vegetables that establish themselves as self-seeding weeds in the yard, the better.
The black round thing in the raised bed is a plant pot with the end cut off. It's currently full of worm food and bedding, being worked on by the critters. Any time I find stray worms while weeding or suchlike, I drop them into the worm tower.
Turns out old eskies make excellent plant pots/wicking beds. First pic shows a converted esky on the left, and a UV stabilised plastic box-turned-wicking-box on the right. The amount of seed the parsley in the black box is setting is astounding. I can't wait to spread it through the yard. The bees (and these tiny little speckled brown beetles) have been loving the flowers, too.
This first esky has the bung down the bottom missing, so it was a simple matter of laying watering pipe down the bottom and filling with soil/compost. I used an old vacuum cleaner hose for the pipe. I snipped slots in the pipe all the way up the flexible plastic, and put the hard plastic tubing up the top for the inlet. The esky doesn't have a huge reservoir, but it's still better than a traditional open plant pot. Things dry out fast in Adelaide summers.
Second pic - this esky holds water well, so I planted a water chestnut seedling in it. A couple of pumpkin seeds have since sprouted from the compost to keep it company. I'm not going to baby them though - if they can't handle the soggy conditions that the water chestnuts need, out they'll go. I'm looking forward to harvesting the chestnuts next March/May.
Third pic - today's major time sink was collecting a second-hand wheelie bin. I found someone selling them for $30 on Gumtree, but the seller let me have this one for $20 since it has a rusty wheel. Me and the kid rode there on the cargo bike and then hauled it home, a 6km trip each way. I got quite a few odd looks since it was during peak hour. Luckily I didn't get pulled over. (Last year a couple of, shall we say, entrepreneurial chaps were arrested while hauling a wheelie bin full of cannabis down the street. I guess I just don't look like the drug-dealing type of hippie.)
I love my bike. It's saved us ~$1200 a year in car costs ever since I ditched the mechanical velocipede for my tangerine machine. I'm fitter than I used to be, too.