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Gardens that can withstand holiday neglect!

Gardens that can withstand holiday neglect!

By Lachlan Storrie, Tree Frog Permaculture

Lachlan’s alternative lawn – all natives and rarely need mowing.

Sometimes I hear people say … ‘I can’t have a garden, it’s too much responsibility and I like to go away on holidays’. Little do they know, it is possible to have the best of both worlds!

So much of the joy of growing using Permaculture principles and techniques is setting up a somewhat self-regulating and maintaining system which still provides you and other organisms with the things they need.

For you frequent holidayers and other busy humans, there are a few points I can make to try and persuade you of this truth. As it happens, a key of it is to challenge and transform existing perceptions.

Tiny Suburban Food Forest

A shift from Annuals to Perennials

There are some adjustments you can make to your idea of what is edible. Remember we only utilise around 2% of the world’s edible foodstuffs and many of these plants will grow for numerous years with minimal maintenance required. Unlike the annual vegetables you have likely grown up eating which tend to be at the higher end of the input scale, generally only living for a couple of seasons at a time.

Self-seeding annuals

Self-seeding annuals

There are many annual edibles that happily self-seed and thus propagate themselves, meaning – you don’t have to do it! You just have to know what they look like and where to find them in your system, then let them flower and seed freely.

Part of this will also mean figuring out which edible plants like your particular climate and soil conditions best and favouring the use of those, at least to begin with until more favourable and diverse micro-climates are created.

The more you know, the more attractive the system is – aesthetics are 9/10th’s psychological.

To the unacquainted, the more ‘untamed’ look of a low-input garden can be seen as just messy, unkempt or unstructured. The thing is … plants organise themselves into a natural structure/order where they will perform the best. Often by taking plants and making them conform to our pre-formed ideas of order, they are put into spots where they do less well and thus require more input from us.

Pumpkin did its own thing over the holiday period

As you learn more of this natural order, the diversity and cooperation you can see between your different garden elements provides the beauty and awe any garden can inspire.

Flowing with and embracing nature rather than butting up against it

If you rail against the inevitable for long enough you can burn out and lose your passion. This uphill battle represents an enormous waste of both psychological and physical energy that could go into boosting your system’s productivity. It might be at this point you pull everything up and turf or pave the entire yard, then pay someone to pressure-spray or mow it on a regular basis. i.e. Purposefully desertifying your surroundings. The only organisms that win then are the grass-cutters and concrete cleaners.

Alternatively, you could share a garden with a neighbour or utilise a local Community garden for your food production. Then you can plant a lovely native habitat garden in the excess space instead which will still ‘give-back’ to you and the environment while still being less maintenance than turf.

‘Each time a garden is replaced by a caravan-port, a Permaculture fairy dies …’

Lachlan will be at the Sustainable Futures Festival on 11 September. If you’d like to attend one of his free Permaculture workshops at 10.30am or 2:30pm, please register here.