The Incredible Edible Oasis
Good Organic Gardening|September - October 2021
Why wait to retire to an acreage when you can create a productive paradise on a suburban block?
Claire Bickle

When Kylie and Steve Stapleton decided to turn their garden in Brisbane’s northern suburbs into an edible forest, one of the first trees they planted was carambola, also known as starfruit — so naturally they named their little piece of paradise The Green Carambola.

The Southeast Asian native isn’t the only tropical exotic growing in profusion on their 612sqm block. There’s also black sapote — a South American persimmon sometimes called chocolate pudding fruit — and New Guinea bean, which is neither from New Guinea nor a bean but a vigorous African climber that produces a long, pale-green gourd somewhere between a squash and a zucchini.

This so-called bottle gourd, a cucurbit also called calabash and used in West Africa to make eating utensils and musical instruments, shares space with a massive passionfruit vine on a trellis that Steve built.

Marginally more familiar are dragon fruit, blueberries, pawpaw, low-chill peaches, the prolific ‘Panama Gold’ passionfruit and ‘Dwarf Cavendish’ bananas.

Among the non-fruit items are several varieties of beans (including sword beans), peas, okra, corn, tomatoes (OK, that’s a fruit), cabbages, parsley, garlic and a few varieties of sweet potatoes.

The couple wish they had space for even more fruit trees but, while still working fulltime, they find the space is more than enough to look after. Their dream is one day to have a hobby farm on an acreage — but in the meantime they thought, “Why wait?”

THE GARDENING BUG

A high-school visual arts and inclusive education teacher, Kylie loves cooking, hiking and kayaking as well as drawing, printmaking and painting. But she says that since the age of 14 or 15 “she’d start up a small patch in the garden wherever they lived at the time”.

Steve describes himself as “gardener by day, craft beer connoisseur by night”. Besides dabbling in brewing he does much of the grunt work around the garden, such as building the trellis that Kylie hopes will one day support a grapevine.

Among his handiwork are the timber raised beds in the backyard and the raised corrugated-iron beds in the front garden as well as a potting bench and garden sink.

Ever the artist, Kylie loves using old ladders and trestles to grow things on and a lot of her art is inspired by their surrounding garden.

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