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The proper design and layout of an eco-garden ensures that the site's potential is maximised and any replanting, moving of plants or constant fertilisation is minimised. A well-designed garden can also filter any stormwater leaving the property so that the water entering our bay and waterways is clean.
Ensure flow between the inside and outside by including a shaded deck or patio.
Use nature to increase home comfort and assist in passive cooling, heating and cross ventilation. As a general rule, plant evergreen trees, shrubs and climbers where you want semi-permanent shade on south, west and east sides and walls. Most natives provide dappled shade rather than deep shade, so can be very useful combined with deciduous trees on the east and west sides. Use deciduous plants and climbers on north and north-east/north-west sides to let in winter light and sun and exclude summer heat and winds.
Plant to suit the site by using drought-resistant species in sunny and dry areas and plants that are happy with wet feet where it gets boggy in winter. Also use plants suited to the soil to ensure less water and fertilizer use and fewer dead plants. Use native trees, shrubs, grasses and groundcovers where possible for a garden that thrives easily on the local soil, climate and rainfall. For a guide to indigenous plants for the Port Phillip region, visit the St. Kilda Botanical Gardens indigenous garden, or pick up a copy of ‘Indigenous Plants of the Sandbelt', available from Port Phillip EcoCentre, St Kilda.
Keep at least 50-65% of your outdoor space free of structure and solid paving to increase natural drainage, reduce flooding risks and stormwater runoff, and improve stormwater quality. Instead, use a combination of permeable paving (such as crushed rock, mulch, paving interspersed with groundcovers) and plants.
Condition the soil naturally. Use compost, hay, manure and shredded green waste to condition your soil and encourage earthworms and other microorganisms that provide and maintain a healthy and fertile soil.
Plant diversely. Use a diversity of suitable plants to create a more naturally balanced and healthy garden. Always incorporate trees, shrubs and groundcovers.
'Companion plant'. Use companion planting to increase pollinators, reduce pests and provide naturally for fertilisation.
Create a recycling spot for all kitchen and garden waste and turn it into compost to feed the garden.
Efficient water use, irrigation and mulch are essential to prevent water wastage and keep beds moist and healthy. Consider re-using grey water or harvesting rainwater to feed the garden. Put in a well-fitted and efficient irrigation system and minimise leaks. Also use mulch so beds retain moisture.
Grow your own fruit and vegetables to really reduce your total carbon and water footprint.
Without doubt, one of the most holistic and sustainable garden design systems is permaculture. It borrows on the tried and proven methods of sustainable farming and gardening around the world and was introduced by Australians David Holmgren and Bill Mollison.
Permaculture is about creating a natural, permanent and self-supporting edible ecosystem supported by shrubs and trees that protect and nourish both the climate of that micro-ecosystem and provide a habitat for local wildlife. Urban permaculture gardens can be a veritable haven combining vegetables, fruit, nuts, chickens, even fish and ducks with useful natives, cottage plants and perfumed shrubs that also provide a habitat for local birds and other wildlife.
Permaculture seeks to allow people to access and govern the life-support systems they need in their own backyards and rooftops in order to create the smallest and most sustainable eco-footprint possible. It goes beyond self-care and self-sufficiency alone to the care of people and global ecosystems by encompassing a cooperative and collaborative way of creating natural abundance and improving degraded environments. To this end, permaculture seeks to ensure minimal external energy and resource inputs so that the garden is almost entirely self-sufficient.
Permaculture relies heavily on good, holistic house and garden design, and can be used to great success in small urban settings, and even in larger rooftop gardens. It thrives on working with nature and seeing problems as opportunities for innovative solutions.