Growing Abundance in the City – Renegade Style
When House of Fluff scored the one-year lease on our new place in Hamilton Hill at the end of 2011, there was one criteria that we’d all agreed on – a yard big enough to grow food in! We weren’t prepared to entirely abandon our previous garden, so we took cuttings, propagated seed and potted up all we could and chucked it on the back of the ute bound for new territories.
I’d already gotten a bit too keen and gone snooping around the new place with a notepad before we’d even had our application accepted assessing the sun angles and making various observations to figure out the best place to grow gardens would be. By the time we moved in, there was already a full-blown permaculture design for the place – probably only half of which was actually feasible, given our limited tenure on the place – but we were tired of renting and had decided to pretend that we owned this place!
Before we’d even unpacked any boxes, I’d found a hacksaw and started eagerly cutting all of the greywater pipes and diverting them to future garden sites. In Perth, water is scarce with sometimes less than 400mm annual rainfall, so there was no way I was going to let our valuable bath, shower and nutrient-rich dishwater to be flushed off the property!
In the front yard, we were determined to turn our fantasy into reality and plant a miniature ‘food forest’ using some short-lived fruit trees and vines we’d grown from seed and a few different layers of herbs and ground-cover plants. As the house was scheduled for demolition we did realise that all of this might be in vain, but we took a gamble with the hope that in a couple of years, we may just be harvesting our own homegrown fruit from the trees and, at the very least give the chooks some shade in summer.
We’d placed the chooks in the front yard, so that we could talk to them from the kitchen and let them out to roam, eat bugs and entertain the neighbourhood. Since we were using the kitchen greywater to irrigate the “Fluff-Circle” as the food forest came to be called, we made sure to put achook-proof fence around it so that they couldn’t get in and kill the plants or drink the dirty water.
We had a couple of banana suckers that I’d dug up from my Dad’s place down south, so I looked up some ideas on how to make a banana circle using waste water and came across instructions on how to build a mulch pit.
Basically, it looked like a great way to keep the filthy greywater from spreading disease while at the same time feeding the fruit trees and building soil. We buried the few metres of poly pipe I’d used to divert the kitchen sink water and dug a pit at the end of it, where we planted 2 paw paws, 2 bananas, 2 tamarillos, 2 comfrey plants, a passionfruit vine and some sweet potato suckers. Our vicarious piece of Northern NSW right here in Freo made possible with a bit of scungy old water!
After just 3 short months, it was bursting its banks with lush foliage and obviously loving the non-stop supply of kitchen water with old bits of food and junk being washed down the line. To tackle the buildup of fat in the soil, I’d thrown a handful of worms in a month or so earlier and upon scratching the surface, I now found it teeming with squillions of manic worms having the time of their lives.
Fast forward twelve months and we now have the first crop of fruit coming on – everything from passionfruit and tamarillos to the bananas and pawpaws! It spins me out to think that just over a year ago, these trees were just seeds from a pawpaw or tamarillo that one of us had found in the dumpster behind the organic fruit shop. Talk about good resource recovery!
It just goes to show that you don’t need to spend heaps of money, do a buttload of work, live in the country or even own your own land to grow a food forest! Since putting the Fluff Circle in, we’ve done pretty much zero maintenance on it, bar the occasional scooping of muck from around the water pipe and plonking it around the trees. It’s given us a beautiful private shady spot to relax and watch the chooks by in summer and gives me a never-ending supply of joy and reassurance that we can bring even the most desolate urban landscapes back to life with plants and animals that can give us food for the belly as well as the soul!
Just to give you an idea of what you can create, here are a few before/after shots!