‘Most water and energy is used to grow and transport food. Thus if a house was to do nothing more than grow all its own food, it would save more pollution and use less water than if it were self sufficient for water and energy from on site systems.’ - Michael Mobbs et al (2006) 'Aussies Sustaining Australia.'
This is what we’re working towards in our backyard and why….
At Happy Earth we grow an abundance of fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs all year round. There’s over 120 fruit trees and shrubs, with everything from acerola to white sapote, and a 60 square metre vegetable garden. And it’s all grown organically and sustainably. So why have we gone so ‘nuts’ over growing food in our backyard?
Well, food is THE biggest single contributor to our ecological footprint. So growing some food locally really is the key to urban sustainability. The production of most food these days is awfullly inefficient. Just think of all the synthetic fertilisers, large scale irrigation, pesticides, herbicides and machinery used to produce food in a 'conventional' way. Then add in all the travelling and refrigeration involved in going from the farm to wholesalers to factories, to supermarkets, before food finally arrives on our plates, packaged and often processed. The energy we get from eating the food is nothing compared to the energy put into getting the food to us – it’s all back the front!
Growing some food in our backyard is a big step towards sustainable food production. Most of the resources needed for our garden are provided on site. Compost systems, worm farms, and deep litter chicken systems turn all our food scraps and organic household wastes into valuable food for the garden. Two 9,000 litre water tanks and grey water from the house supply the gardens water. In our backyard, fresh food is only a few steps away – no packaging and transportation needed here! Pesticides and herbicides aren’t needed either, as we grow a diverse range of plants, create healthy soils and encourage beneficial insects and animals.
Fruit trees in the backyard also assist to make our house more sustainable. Some trees provide cooling shade in summer, while other deciduous trees allow light in for warmth in winter. Fruit tree prunings will fuel our combustion wood heater, keeping us toasty on chilly nights.
To be sustainable over the long term, gardens need to be fun and rewarding – places people enjoy being. Animals, art, ponds, places to eat and sit - they all bring life and joy to our garden. As well as laughs and company, our chooks reduce our workload by scratching around and aerating the soils, eating up pests, and improving the soil with their manure.
'Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food' – Hippocrates
There’s such an intimate connection between our health, the health of the plants we eat, and the health of the soil the plants are grown in. Food today just isn’t what it used to be, and we’re paying the price with an epidemic of chronic and degenerative illnesses. The quality of our food is on a downward spiral as plants are grown in poor soils, fed synthetic fertilisers, sprayed with chemicals and sometimes even genetically modified.
By growing organically and creating soils full of life, you can grow foods full of goodness, right in your own backyard. Growing in your backyard also opens your plate to a whole world of food you never see in the shops, like yummy chocolate pudding fruit and juicy babacos. It’s a chance for us and our children to rediscover just how fun and tasty, good food can be.
For a more detailed overview of the landscape design for our property, click the image below and/or refer to the various topics on the sidebar under ‘The Food Garden’.
Happy Earth Landscape Design
(Click to enlarge)