My garden transformation project (progress update: month three to six)
I’m six months into my year long project to transform the garden from lawn (front and back) to the beginnings of a food forest. And because I promised I’d share my progress (or lack of) with you, it’s time for an update.
My goal is to produce more of my own food, have surplus to share with the neighbours, make the garden a more diverse ecosystem, use plants to help reduce the harsh summer heat, and have a place to spend time away from screens and the news.
If you missed the first update, you can read it here (progress report month one to three).
In some ways it doesn’t feel like I’ve got much to report, but looking through the photos, things have certainly changed a little.
Digging out the lawn (front garden)
After a mammoth effort and bit of help from the neighbours, the lawn at the front is 90 per cent dug out. There is still a strip next the the driveway, and the last of the garden bed mounded against the house.
(Before you ask me any questions about lawn removal, have a read of the post I wrote explaining why I’m digging it my lawn by hand.)
My long-term goal is to put in-ground vegetable beds here. I also want to put up a frame and grow a grape vine (or two) across the front of the house to help keep out the harsh summer sun. Grapes are great because they are deciduous – they will shade the house in summer but lose their leaves in winter, and let the winter sun in.
Once I’ve got the last of the grass out I’ll make a bit more of a plan.
In the meantime I was gifted some seed potatoes and had some leftover leek seedlings (and a few silverbeet swapped with a neighbour for some surplus kale plants), and I still had soil left from my bulk delivery for the back yard garden beds.
So I bought a couple of second-hand raised beds on Gumtree as a quick and easy way to plant these out.
The front garden looks a little weird currently, but the plan is starting to form (even if only in my head).
Digging out the lawn (back garden)
I haven’t made a huge amount of progress here, but I have expanded the grass free area between the fig and the mulberry, and cleared the grass behind the big raised vegetable beds.
I also removed a bit more grass to plant the lemon and lime trees.
(If you’re thinking they are planted close together, that is deliberate. I don’t want them to get too big in this spot, and so being close the roots will restrict one another. I just need to prune them as they grow to ensure the branches don’t get tangled together – which is easy to do.)
At the end of March I purchased a few trees to plant (including the lemon I just mentioned – the lime was a housewarming gift).
I’ve planted the macadamia in the south-west corner of the garden. As it grows, it will shade the rest of the garden from the harsh afternoon summer sun and protect the other plants. Macadamias are native to Queensland and can handle a bit of brutal summer sun.
I’ve planted the pomegranate in a spot that doesn’t get much sun in winter, which is fine as they are deciduous. As it grows taller it will have more access to the sun year round (it just needs to get as tall as the gutters, really) which will help with fruiting.
I planted the Chilean guava, a lemon verbena and an ice-cream bean tree (grown from seed, this one) along the back between the banana and the macadamia. The ice-cream bean has not appreciated being transplanted and I’m waiting to see if it survives. I did grow a few more successfully from seed, so if this one fails I have a back-up.
Ice-cream beans are nitrogen-fixing trees, meaning they have nodules on their roots which add nitrogen to the soil from the air. Magic. I want to have a few nitrogren-fixing plants to help with the soil biology. (All Acacia species are nitrogen-fixing too, and we have some great native ones so I’m hoping to add some smaller ones in too at some stage.)
The three garden beds at the back are looking great, and I’ve started to pick the broccoli and cauliflower. One they go I’ll sow more carrots and plant some beetroot seeds.
I’ve also got plenty of kale (three different types), possibly too many leeks, garlic (which will be harvested in spring), silverbeet and a sole ruby chard, some peas that aren’t very happy with life, and mixed Asian greens (pak choi/bok choy, an interesting green one that I have no idea what it is, and possibly a third variety). There are also a few carrots germinating in between.
Garden plans: what’s next?
The passion fruit I purchased in March is still in its pot (and yes I’m feeling guilty about that) and my next plan is to rip out some of the rosemary hedge and get that in the ground. I have a few other potted plants that need to be planted out (like the bay tree).
The rest of the front lawn needs to come out, and I need to submit my verge plan to council so I can get that started. (More grass digging. Yay.)
I also want to chip away at the lawn out the back, so the various mulched sections start to join.
Then there is the reticulation to be sorted (I got a quote, but did nothing with it – but I’ll need this sorted before September) and hopefully the final front garden vegetable beds will be prepped.
Lots to do!
Now I’d love to hear from you! Do you have a garden, or garden plans? What are you planting? What are you reading up on and learning about? Anything else to add? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Wow! You’re doing so well, and I find it so interesting.
Thank you Margaret! It’s definitely fun to share the progress – and very motivating when you know you need to show you’ve actually done something!
You’ve done an amazing job, it looks wonderful and will no doubt taste great!
Thanks Karen, slowly getting there! :)
So impressed with your garden, not easy in Perth’s sandy soil and hot summers. Well done! Here in southern NSW I’m harvesting silverbeet, bok choy, Broccoli and broccolini,, with cabbages and cauliflower coming on. Such a great thing to do!
I’ve no doubt summer will be a challenge, but I’m working on the sand by improving the soil and the sun by increasing canopy cover. Won’t be able to do much about the brutal temperatures, though!
Love the progress! I’ve been following your yard/garden updates since Day 1. Keep posting those pics. You are inspiring us over here in the US. (Jersey Shore) Hope to come visit one day and see the transformation in person.
Thanks Rachel, and yay for the enthusiasm! Oh don’t you worry, I will! And you’d be most welcome to visit :)
I am currently growing parsley, rocket, lettuce, mint and basil (just) on my balcony in Brisbane. the thing is, I’m not really a fan of lettuce or rocket so I don’t really know why I’m growing them. And with the current weather I do not feel like eating a salad anyway, but lettuce grows so much better right now than it does in summer. At some point I actually need to make a salad…
On a different topic, I read a blog by an archaeologist who writes a lot about Ancient Roman food. It turns out that Romans were the masters of making use of every little bit, and since you’re start growing grapes, you should have a look at this. https://tavolamediterranea.com/?s=grapes
I love a balcony garden, Krista! I feel the same about lettuce. I’m growing mizuna which is like a milder form of rocket (tastier in my opinion) but it is totally out of hand and taking up half the garden bed and crowding out my poor leeks!
And what a cool website! Thanks so much for sharing :)
Sounds awesome Lindsay and the pics look great- you cant underestimate how much work digging out lawn is! I would rethink planting the bay tree though unless its a dwarf variety?
Thanks Pauline! Well, the bay needs at the very least repotting. But it’s been pruned (by the store, when I bought it) as a hedge – meaning there’s no one strong stem – so it should be fine as long as I continue to keep it pruned. Don’t worry, I’m not going to let it get taller than the house!
I also don’t think a bay tree is such a good idea. Our neighbours tree has sent so many suckers into our garden. They just come up everywhere. I don’t want to use Roundup or any poison on them so we just cut them off at ground level. I am most impressed with your garden & great crops of fresh produce.
That’s really interesting what you say about the suckers, Debbie, because my neighbours have a couple in the ground and they are both slow growing and definitely sucker-less. But Google tells me this is a thing! At the very least it needs a (much) bigger pot! My plan was always to keep it at shrub/hedge height, which would help. How tall is the neighbour’s tree? (I have seen some horror story bay trees!)
Oh wow! I have a few veg that are actually taking off this year but this is amazing.
Thanks Emma, but wait until I get what is in my head into the ground! *Then* you’ll be impressed! ;) Just (quite a lot of) digging and planting to do first!
I’m currently trying to do the same in my garden. The soil is intensely clay based, in some parts barely draining and causing plants to rot. It’s a slow process to dig in gypsum and compost.
I’ve planted lemons, Davidson’s Plum, Natal Plum, bananas, mulberries and a bunch of other things, interspersed with native flower and edible plants. I hope they will survive long enough as I fix the soil!
I’m not envious of your clay, Frances. For all the problems with sand, at least it is not back-breaking to work with! If only we could swap a little sand for a little clay!
Your plants sound lovely. Hurrah for gardens!
Great post, congratulations Lindsay, I’m impressed by the progress you’ve made in such a short time! It’s interesting reading everyone’s comments, and I was moved by yours, Frances. When I fist decided to create a flower and vegetable bed in my clay soil, I dug up some lawn and filled the hole with compost mixed with some of the garden soil : it was back-breaking work, and filled with water the first time we had a really heavy rain ! By the time I did the second bed I’d learnt about the lasagne method : I simply put cardboard down on the ground and layered “brown” and “green” vegetable matter on top. For years it was a better bed than the first one ! I don’t dig anything in, just lay it on top, and by adding vegetable matter every year all my beds have improved. I collect leaves from the street and 3 neighbours now give me grass and hedge clippings. I’d rather have clay soil any day, it can be progressively softened by adding lots and lots of organic matter, holds water and is very nutritious. Neither my neighbours or I have yet grown carrots successfully but tomatoes, cucurbitaceae and cabbages love it, as well as lots of shrubs ! As for the problem with draining, I’ve made mulch pits and am now beaking my back again making mini-swales in the bits that are still grass (also to make the most of the summer rains which are becoming rarer as it gets hotter here in south west France). If I understand correctly, the best way to give sandy soil these capacities is to add wood char pre-composted with manure (as well as lots of organic matter of course).
this looks amazing
my mom use to have a backyard garden like this when we were kids i think she will love this article
It looks great!
And it totally sucks you have to essentially ask for permission to plant a garden in your front yard
Very impressed and encouraged by all your very hard work. I tried making a mini garden here in Victoria, BC but planted seeds way too closely so not much but a few skinny greens. In my father’s greenhouse that we took apart and moved from North Vancouver over on the ferry, and put together from two photos, I have lots of tomatoes almost finished and beautiful zucchini. Very pleased there. Next year I will put in another bed in the greenhouse to grow more veggies. My rhubarb has been moved to a sunnier spot that was constantly full of weeds. Also in an original clay bed, between my house and the neighbours, my raspberries grow every year with lots of berries. I found a raccoon eating the wild plums on another tree one Sunday. Neither my old apple tree (over 50!) nor my pear tree have had any fruit the past few years but they provide beautiful shade since our summers are getting hotter. The wild plum is taking over the yard and will need to be cut drastically back. Right now I can hear the Canada geese practising flying to go south. Soon we will get our rainy winter and the windy days that seem to be increasing. So encouraging to read about all your hard work and results. I might try some winter greens.