Urban Projects — by Nicola Chatham November 30, 2011
You don’t have to know her street number to find Rosina Buckman’s place. All you need is the street name. Winner of the Edible Landscape Award from Australia’s Sunshine Coast Council in 2009, her garden spills out into the nature strip, bursting with plants.
Her driveway, once a barren front lawn, is now edged with strawberry runners, passionfruit vines, chilies and edible greens.
“Before we get started, I want to show you something that saved my life!” exclaims Rosina.
In front of us are a wheelbarrow, a piece of timber and a rather imposing cleaver.
I wonder if one of her chickens is about to have a very bad day, but no, this is Rosina’s new movable workstation and mulching system. With terrifying dexterity, she holds a palm frond in her left hand and chops furiously with her right. Pieces of the dried frond fly everywhere.
Visitors giggle nervously at the dangerous procedure, but thankfully all her fingers are intact at the end, and we title her Queen Chop-Chop.
Recently Rosina covered any remaining lawn on her property with hay mulch. Now the front garden is just as productive as her back yard. A mini orchard is on the left, and her kitchen garden, complete with a raised garden bed, is on the right.
She relocated the corrugated iron bed from the back yard to take advantage of the northern sun, and has been rewarded for the strategic move with plentiful supplies of tomatoes, bok-choy, mustard, chard, eggplants and lettuce ever since.
The tour moves on into the orchard, passing the “Trespassers could be composted,” sign on the way.
We dodge a swinging pendulum hanging from the archway (the largest New Guinea Bean I’ve ever seen!) and find ourselves face to face with fruit trees. Here, planted in the front yard, are a tangelo, lime, orange, and lemon tree, growing happily where once was only grass.
Rosina’s garden is an inspiring example of how abundant, productive and diverse an urban permaculture system can be.
It’s incredible what she’s squeezed into her 670m2 block; a banana circle; orchard; worm farm; two compost bins; and two chooks nestled behind the 2 x 6 metre shade house.
The chook pen is her pride and joy as she spent considerable time figuring out a multipurpose design, finally settling on a system where she divides the long, narrow run into two areas. During summer, she allows the girls to have free reign in both, and in winter she closes off one end and plants out the fertile ground with veggies.
And with all these systems she still has room for a pool surrounded by potted pineapples and sweet potatoes.
We can see the evidence of clever design in her compact system. She harvests water from the roof and has rigged up a flexible hose direct from her down-pipes into her swimming pool.
“I haven’t had to top up the pool with town water since I’ve installed that system,” she explains.
She also has a metal rainwater tank on the western side of the house where she collects her drinking water.
“I can’t stand the taste of chlorinated water. I never want to drink town water again!” she says.
And what happened to all that mulch produced by Queen Chop Chop? She’s combined the small pieces of brown waste (carbon) and green clippings (nitrogen) to form a pile approximately one cubic metre in size.
It’s so hot Rosina dares us to put our hands in — and steam rises when someone moves the organic matter. Because of the extra surface area produced by chopping the waste, microbes have more to feed on, and the resulting compost is ready to use in a matter of weeks.
Rosina has a passion for permaculture. It’s evident in her generous teaching (she’s toured all the Sunshine coast libraries giving demonstrations and talks), in her infectious laugh and especially evident in her garden.
Thanks for sharing your passion and excellent examples with us Rosina. We love you. Please keep your eye on those fingers, Queen Chop-Chop!
Note: As it happens, Rosina is selling her painstakingly developed urban site. If you’re looking for a well-established permaculture property, this might be just the thing….