Jeannie's Garden

A friend of mine, who lives on the outskirts of Melbourne Victoria (Australia) is a committed eco-gardener. She walks the walk AND talks the talk. So I was interested when she recently wrote to me about her gardening efforts.

birds in apple tree at Jeannie's garden

"I'm finally making some progress on the garden. This house sits on an acre of land and I wondered how I would ever tame it.

It was a traditional set up. Lawn front and back, garden beds and concrete paths. I think it's saving grace for me was the small orchard out the back which provided plenty of food for the local wildlife.

I was in despair at the level of work this garden needed to be 'kept'. Mowing, weeding and worst of all, watering!

This area has been in drought for several years now and the idea of wasting precious water on the garden was too much for me. The local reservoir is at a record breaking low of just 8% of capacity and the water restrictions continue to tighten.

I had to make a decision about what I would keep and what I would let go.

The thirsty 'english garden' plants were the first to go. Roses, delicate sun affected peonies and carnations simply couldn't take the conditions. I let them perish.

Second thing to falter was the lawn. I simply wasn't going to waste water on something that was, frankly, so foreign to the landscape. It just needed too much to keep going.

Of course, I also didn't want to use a petrol driven mower due to the pollution, so the lawn perished as well. I have however, bought myself a brilliant sythe which I use to great effect on those areas that need it.

By now, my neighbours were convinced they were living with the neighbour from hell. My dead and bedraggled garden contrasted sharply with their neatly kept, THIRSTY, suburban gardens.

I continued to hand water those plants I thought best suited the native landscape. The recycled water from my shower and washing machine was enough to support the orchard and those native plants that still needed a helping hand.

Our topsoil here is thin and prone to blowing away in the dry conditions. So rather than dig up those plants that had died, I cut them to the ground keeping their roots in place to hold the topsoil. I then applied the principles of no dig gardening and started layering a new garden over the top.

I am planting native grasses, bushes and trees as I rehabilitate more and more of this wonderful patch of land. And what a difference it has made!

The plants are all doing well with little attention. The no dig method means the garden needs next to no watering and the plants are thriving. The native grasses do not need to be mowed and remain green even during drought. They also present less of a fire risk in this tinder dry country.

My neighbours were still agitated this year, as I have not rehabilitated the whole acre yet and they filed a complaint with the local council.

Of course, I received a visit from the local fire officer, whose job it is to make sure the fire risks in the neighbourhood are minimised.

I took him through the garden and he was thrilled. He understood that the garden I was planting would be more fire resistant than those around me. He left without imposing a penalty but not before he contacted the land care council officer about what was going on in my yard!

He then rang me and we had a long conversation about my plans. The call ended with an arrangement to run eco-gardening workshops in my yard at a future date! Chalk one up for the eco friendly gardeners!

Wombat walking in garden

Meantime, I continue the rehabilitation. The native plants are thriving. My garden is full of dragonflys, butterflys, rosellas, cockatoos, parrots, possums and even a local wombat. It hums with life.

And me? I continue to watch, plant, collect seeds and ruminate on my garden.

I have been here for several years now and it's certainly taken some thought and effort. But this garden is a magnificent adventure and it brings me joy every single day."

Enough said.

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