This is the text of an article about Margaret's garden, published in issue#43 of the International Permaculture Journal (June-August 1992)
If you compare this with the Virtual Tour of 2011, you'll see how much has changed in 20+ years!

Inner City Oasis

by Steve Payne - currently Editor of the ABC gardening programme's Organic Gardener.

Packed into Margaret’s minute inner-city house block are over 100 plant varieties and a myriad of ideas for energy efficient living. From grey water re-use to wire mattress springs as plant supports, Margaret has combined imagination and improvisation to make her small home in Adelaide, South Australia, productive and charming.
Here are portions of her detailed permaculture site analysis which includes not only her house and garden but the surrounding neighbourhood.

Margaret has created a close interaction between her house and the outdoor cultivated areas. All fences support productive plants such as choko and passionfruit and a small water garden in the backyard supplies cool air to the house on summer nights.

The design is based on having no lawn, with a deep mulch covering the ground throughout the year. Rather than composting, Margaret prefers to scatter finely-shredded organic matter directly onto the mulch layer. She has promoted a wide variety of productive trees, vines and shrubs, including a perennial understorey and self-seeding annuals.

The driveway area has been enclosed and is used for wood-sawing, storage, general work and the collection of mulching materials.

Water - Every Bit Counts
The concrete surrounding the dwelling is angled to run-off onto the garden and the mulch ensures all the rain enters the soil allowing no run-off even after long dry spells.
All waste water from the house is applied to the garden - mostly to young plants, the banana, and to annuals. Margaret says she hand waters in emergencies only. In the driest State in the driest continent on Earth, this is a pretty good effort.

Fertilizer and Weeds
'I use no artificial fertilisers,' says Margaret. 'Nutrients are obtained from the mulch, from the excreta and bodies of insects and birds, from the sub-soil and the occasional application of liquid manure, especially when sawdust or woodchips are added to the mulch.
The occasional incursions of kikuyu grass on boundaries I treat with a low-toxic herbicide - very carefully!
Soursobs I mulch over, and if they break through in deep mulch they can be pulled by hand.
Grasses and other weeds are hand-pulled before seeds form. Mulch reduces weeds dramatically and makes them easy to remove in any weather.'

Margaret says her good plant identification skills and knowledge of the uses of plants ensures that very few are counted as genuine weeds.
'In spite of the various pests of civiisation, I expect to be able to leave the garden to itself for long periods once it is fully established. This is always a long-term proposition with permaculture and will probably take at least another five years as some plants are yet to be put in .
One of the bonuses I find in the garden, which others may consider a pest, are snails that if well-prepared are delicious and very high in quality protein.
I find mushrooms and other edible fungi occasionally appear in season but I certainly haven’t sown them.'

Future Possibilities
If the city cat menace could be brought under control, Margaret be lieves quail might be successfully run in the back garden for eggs and meat. They could act as miniature tractors, as well as controlling insects and providing manure.

The garden is not on a main road but has attracted considerable attention in the neighbourhood. It has featured in the local paper and is visited often by small groups so has good educational potential. Three is the maximum touring party!

House and Garden interaction
All biodegradable waste from the house and garden is reduced to mulch, except faeces and urine which are flushed down the toilet using 1/2 flush only.
A 3,300 litre rainwater tank provides water for all purposes in the house and supplies the water-garden. Tap water is used only for showers. All water is recycled onto the garden and grey water quality is excellent - no soapless detergents, shampoos, conditioners, commercial cleansers, disinfectants, deodorants, bleaches, toothpaste, chemical dyes or mor dants, insecticides, borax or other contaminants are used.
The water tank supports, and is shaded by, a banana passionfruit.
Margaret’s house has a white roof, good in sulation and low ceilings, but poor eave design and large SW facing glass doors in the kitchen, reducing energy efficiency. Giant bamboo provides some shade on summer after noons and is cut back in winter. She has planted deciduous vines near her work area which will shade this and the NW wall, when mature.
'Flowering vines and seven year beans give me privacy on the porch and their prolific growth in summer shades the NW wall and bedroom window,' says Margaret. 'At night I open the sliding doors in the kitchen so that cool air from the water garden is drawn into the house.
I also have abundant indoor plants and an old-fashioned fire bucket (instead of a fire-extinguisher) which increase humidity. I have combined these and other factors to make what was originally a hot-box into a comfortable summer living space where no air-conditioning is needed.
Cooling at night is very rapid and perfume from the flowering plants enters the house.'

A very efficient ‘pot belly’ stove provides Margaret with heating, cooking and some hot water in cold weather. She scavenges the small amount of wood required and hand-saws it in her work area. When finances permit she plans a solar panel on the roof for hot water.

Virtually nothing is wasted in Margaret’s permaculture system. She says the wood chopping provides exercise and the sawdust and scraps are used for mulch. The wood ash is leached for potash lye and some is sifted finely for scouring powder.

Margaret’s productive living area does not stop at the front gate. Neighbours, friends, the local community centre and L.E.T.S. (Local Employ ment Trading Scheme) members all form the close community from which she draws inspiration. From the surrounding streets, gardens and parks that are within walking or carrying distance , come pollination of almonds and peaches by local bees, fertiliser from birds, cuttings and seeds, and mulching materials (mainly fallen leaves from street trees, and grass and clover clip pings from local parks and ovals).
Stone, bricks, broken paving, bottles and jars, large tins with handles, wire, washing machine tubs, old mattresses (for mulch, coconut fibre and wire trellis), cardboard, newspapers and horse manure are also gathered and used.
And one thing that weighs nothing and is gathered free for the soul is admiration for the garden.

Adelaide is well known for its food plants in public places. In season, Margaret also can gather:
carob, almonds, crabapples, linden blossom, olives, plums, peaches, pears, pome granates, grapefruit, lemons, feijoas, cherry guavas, cumquats, grapes, and a variety of edible fungi and edible weeds.

Excess produce from the garden goes to a ‘Share and Harvest’ scheme, for barter, gifts, and fundraising.

Margaret is coordinator for the Permaculture Network of South Australia and shares her ideas and permaculture knowledge through workshops and writing.


Please note: If you want to "see" the garden, & learn more about Permaculture & sustainable living, please visit Margaret's website:
She created this site because she no longer gives tours of the garden, even to very small groups - there simply isn't room any more.
There is a complete plant list, the text of her series 'The Permaculture Journey' and links to city garden & Permaculture sites all over the world.

Notes on original design....... PIJ June 1999 article
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