Planting our bay tree in the nature strip

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Bay tree

I’ve had a bay tree for 3+ years, and it’s been happily growing on my balcony in the old unit. Without full sun, it was getting a bit scrawny, but it nonetheless provided plenty of bay leaves for cooking.

With the move to Lewisham, the time was right to give it a proper home in soil. With space at a premium, the solution was obvious: a bit of “guerilla gardening”.

Just before Easter I went out and dug a big hole in the clay soil of the nature strip. This was filled with a rich mix of cow manure and soil, and the bay tree planted in. No need to ask permission, much better just to do it!

I’m looking forward to seeing it grow, and will put a sign on it once it’s settled in saying: “bay tree, feel free to pick some leaves for your cooking!”.

PS. I blame Michael Mobbs for encouraging this sort of behaviour! Having planted trees, herbs and vegetables down Myrtle St in Chippendale, a clear example has been set for all to follow. 🙂


Autumn planting: round one

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Having got the first two garden beds in place, I’ve planted out the following:

  • Sugar snap peas
  • Five colour silverbeet
  • Spinach, Bloomsdale
  • Kale, Tuscan Black
  • Spring onion (seed tape)
  • Baby carrots (seed tape)

(All of these were planted from seed, most from packet, two using seed tape.)

I’ve also got a few of my kitchen herbs in alongside the house:

  • Basil
  • Parsley

Three more waiting to go in

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Three more garden beds

Having planted one garden bed, there are still three more waiting to go in, tucked away in the back garden. A veritable flotilla of garden beds!

Corrugated garden beds

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First garden bed

I’m a great fan of “no dig” gardening, where garden beds are raised and then filled with layers of organic materials and soil. If nothing else, our earth at the front has turned out to be about 30% old building materials (tiles, slate, whole bricks, pipe, old iron).

There are many ways of creating a raised bed: railway sleepers, wood frames, bricks, hay bales. I decided to go for corrugated iron tanks, for two reasons: they were easy to install, and looked atractive.

Tankworks sells a wide range of garden beds, built to order.

I ordered two, 2m long, 1m wide, 1m deep, the same colourbond colour as our roof.

Some weeks later they arrived, and was I surprised. They were huge! 1m deep turned out to be totally impractical, so with the help of a friend with an angle grinder, they were cut in half.

The photo above is the first of the tanks installed at the top of the front garden (the sunniest spot). Still waiting for soil and cow manure to be delivered…

(And yes, there was still some serious mattock work to dig the trenches, generating a good pile of building rubble in the process. Still, a good break from sitting behind a PC all week!)

Water tank

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Water tank

One of the first jobs in the new house was to organise the installation of a rainwater tank. The main goal was ensuring that we could have the garden we wanted, watered when we wanted, regardless of drought conditions.

A water tank would also reduce our overall water usage, and plumbing into the washing machine and toilet was a possibility.

I received three quotes, one from a major business and two from local companies. Prices ranged greatly, and the big supplier was the costliest and provided the least (not a surprise).

What was a surprise was how few of the tank installers were prepared to work “off script”. They had a standard tank type (metal or plastic), standard tank sizes, and were uncomfortable with connecting to the plumbing.

Thankfully, the Marrickville-based supplier was great, asked heaps of to-the-point questions, and was comfortable with everything that we wanted to do.

The tank itself was cheap, only $1,600 for a 5,110L round Colourbond tank. We had it painted to match the colour of our roof (Manor Red). Having space beside the house was a huge advantage here, as it allowed us to install a round tank rather than the ‘narrowline’ (and more expensive) tanks.

We were also able to get away with a bed of “crusher dust” instead of a concrete slab, due to the flat space beside the house. (This saved us at least $1,000.)

Doing a proper job, however, the costs added up, including:

  • Hookup to two downpipes with first flush and leafeaters = $800
  • In-tank sump pump (powerful model for front and back gardens) = $800
  • Connection to toilet and washing machine = $600
  • Filters = $300

All up, the cost was $6,200 including GST. Not cheap!

Thankfully there are plenty of rebates on offer at the moment, and we’re expecting to receive the following:

So that’s a net cost of $3,400 after all the rebates.

It’s a great tank, and the installer did a wonderful job. It’s big enough to serve our needs well, and the recent heavy rains are rapidly filling the tank up.

Letting our house speak for itself

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We’re very pleased with our new house in Lewisham, nestled in  inner-city Sydney. A turn-of-the-century Federation house, it sits in a quiet street with a large enough block for gardening and more.

The two of us have a strong interest in the environment and sustainability, and this blog shares our experiences of doing our bit for the world. We’re not fanatics, and won’t be dropping off the grid anytime in the future.

We will, however, do what we can. These things bring us pleasure, and satisfaction at helping the world. We share our activities on this blog to encourage others in the inner city, and to show that concrete steps can be taken even when in a densely populated residential suburb.