MAKING GOOD BETTER
Good Organic Gardening|Good Organic Gardening 12.5
THE IRREPRESSIBLE TV PRESENTER WRITES ABOUT HOW SHE, WITH HUSBAND ANTON AND DAUGHTER FRIDA, TURNED A STEEP HOBART BLOCK INTO A PRODUCTIVE GARDEN
Hannah Moloney

WHEN YOU HAVE A BIG FARM TO MANAGE, THERE’S USUALLY NOT MUCH ENERGY TO DO ANYTHING ELSE. A SMALLER PROPERTY MEANS WE CAN DO A RANGE OF THINGS BEYOND OUR FENCE LINE AS WELL.

Over 10 years I lived in about 25 share houses, so when we landed in our home as owners in early 2013 we were more than ready to get stuck into it. After almost four years (and one baby) in our home with no driveway access, we managed to purchase the neighbouring weed block and extend their driveway up to our place. At which point we really accelerated our garden dreams with extensive orchards, vegie garden, chooks, bees, ducks and our much-loved pair of milking goats.

We also built a top-notch shed and garden office and renovated beneath our house to create a gorgeous tiny house for friends to live in.

People were surprised we chose to live in a city instead of setting up a country farm. Surely, we wanted a big farm to permaculture-fy?

No, not us — having lived in both rural and urban areas (and loving both) we made the call to live in a city for a few reasons: not wanting to be dependent on a car to get around, being able to live near our community and wanting to have time and energy for community resilience projects off our property.

When you have a big farm to manage, there’s usually not much energy to do anything else. A smaller property means we can do a range of things beyond our fence line as well.

Also, as I grew up on a cranking urban farm-like property in inner Meanjin/Brisbane, I knew that small properties can do most things if you manage them well. We wanted to help inspire others to realise this and revitalise urban life.

And I must say, it’s been wonderful — a boggling amount of hard work, but wonderful.

KEY DESIGN CHALLENGES AND OUR RESPONSES

Like every property ever, ours came with some design challenges we had to find a way to work with. 1. Firstly, our block is very, very steep. When we first arrived to what was mostly a lawn with a border of weedy shrubs, it was literally too hard to walk across the slope without sliding down the hill. When it rained, most of the rain just shot off the slope down the hill.

Being experienced permaculture designers we were able to design the bones of the property very quickly and had an excavator working on the site within two weeks of living there. To this day, both Anton and I think one of the best uses of fossil fuels is to use excavators to shape landscapes so they can hold water and nutrients. From this, you can build incredible soil health and healthy soils = healthy plants/animals = healthy people. Soil. Is. Life.

So we terraced the whole property to create easier access and hold water and nutrients in the slope. This is a common design pattern you’ll see on steep landscapes when it comes to gardening and agriculture — everywhere from ancient Chinese farming terraces to Italian olive groves to our backyard in South Hobart. It’s a global, commonsense design solution to working with slope. 2. The second challenge was stabilising and retaining the terraces. While terracing our slope was relatively straightforward, retaining and stabilising it was a little more complicated.

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