Food feast

Food feast


home gardening

Full of exotic edible plants, herbs, vegetables and fruits, this garden is good enough to eat

By Natalie Raad
Photography Patrick Redmond

What began as a small vegie patch is today the ultimate food garden sanctuary. Located in Armadale, Victoria, the garden is not only pleasing to look at, with its array of colours and textures, but is edible in every sense of the word.

The brief by homeowner Sophia Konstantyniuk was to create an abundant vegie garden. She called on garden designer Chris Williams to transform her blank canvas of Kikuyu lawn, a few trees, a Hills Hoist and a crumbling incinerator into an oasis of colour and flavour.

Responding to the brief, Chris decided to create an edible landscape using organic methods and to make the garden both productive and beautiful. Being sheltered with plenty of light and an east-facing aspect, the garden was ideal for growing edible plants.

The first step was to remove the lawn, which was done by digging it out and applying a mulch of newspaper and cardboard overlayed The front garden has two main beds: a vegetable and herb bed along the front fence and a succulent garden by the house. Established trees and shrubs here include a large Sasanqua Camellia and a Himalayan Dogwood (Cornus capitata). The succulent garden includes agaves, Echeverias and Aeoniums. The vegetable bed has Mediterranean herbs, carrots, asparagus and day lilies with edible flower buds.

“The back garden is the main productive area,” explains Chris. It contains a mix of seasonal annual crops such as tomatoes, beetroot and celery as well as perennial species such as Seven Year Beans, Queensland Arrowroot, Taro and Cape Gooseberry. “The perennial plants are used to give the garden structure and to lessen the workload of seeding and planting,” says Chris. “Many of the perennial plants die back during winter but re-with thick layers of pea straw and lucerne hay. In the first year, only half the lawn was converted. The garden gradually spread across the entire backyard through more mulching and digging.

“Ninety-five per cent of all the plants in the garden are edible in some way,” says Chris. “Many of the plants, however, are unusual for Melbourne food gardens.” These include species such as Queensland Arrowroot (Canna edulis), Taro (Colocasia esculenta), Oca (Oxalis tuberosa), Japanese leaf vegetables such as Shungiku (Chrysanthemum coronarium) and herbs such as Sweet Leaf (Stevia rebaudiana).

As with many edible landscapes, the garden looks best in the growing season and in summer the garden provides 70 per cent of Sophia’s vegetable and herb needs. “Many tropical perennial species such as Taro have been used to give the garden a lush feel,” explains Chris. shoot vigorously in spring.”

Staple herbs such as parsley, garlic chives and basil are grown as close to the house as possible for easy access. On the concrete patio are pots of Sacred Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera), Asian water spinach and water lettuce.

Where the path leads down to the shed and garage, rainbow chard and silverbeet have been planted with Japanese herbs and leaf vegetables such as Mizuna and Shungiku. To soften the path, lemongrass has been included. The main vegetable garden on the right of the path contains corn, zucchini and beans growing up a small tepee.

In the seating area on the north side of the garden, young grape vines have been planted to grow over the small arch. In front of the arch there’s a patch of Vietnamese mint, Taro and Asian water spinach.

Also included in the design is a small water garden, created out of a plastic children’s sandpit and a chook pen.
“Growing food requires more planning and physical effort than for a purely ornamental garden, but it is well worth the effort,” says Chris. “All the activities in the garden, from composting food scraps and feeding the chooks to sowing seeds, harvesting and cooking vegetables are both fun and therapeutic.”

For Sophia, having food at hand means fewer trips to the supermarket. But best of all, the garden provides food for family and friends and gives Sophia the perfect opportunity to get to know her neighbours through the exchanging of vegetables and the sharing of meals.