Establishing Your Own Orchards and Vegetable Gardens

There are a range of gardening methods that not only produce great food, but that are good for the environment and perfectly suited for orchards and vegetable gardens on your rural residential property. These include:

  • Companion planting and natural pest controls that are a `no chemical’ solution to warding off garden pests;
  • ‘No dig’, organic and permaculture gardening, all of which require minimum effort, use no chemicals and build long term soil health;
  • Native lawns and herbaceous lawn alternatives that reduce the need for mowing and watering, and provide an attractive landscape feature; and
  • Growing native plants that have low water requirements and therefore reduce demand on available water supplies.

There are also numerous other benefits to growing food on your property. It can be a great way to get some gentle exercise and to learn more about your property, the local environment and the native birds and animals in the area.  It can also be a great opportunity to meet people as home grown produce is greatly appreciated by friends and family or it can be traded or sold at local farmers markets.  Adopting gardening practices which reduce the use of water, use local sources of organic material rather than fertilisers, and incorporate birds, insects, wildlife and native plants into the garden will benefit your property in the long term, helping to prevent soil degradation and the build up of residues from pesticides and fertilisers.

Companion Planting and Natural Pest Management

There are alternatives to using chemicals such as pesticides, insecticides and fungicides in your orchard or garden.  Companion planting refers to a combination of two or more plants that produce benefits for the growth of particular plants (eg increasing the nitrogen content of the soil).  Companion planting can be used to deter pests (eg using plants that secrete natural pesticides) or to attract pest predators to the garden (eg by providing habitat for birds).

You can also use natural products from the garden or kitchen to deter garden pests.  For example, a water solution containing garlic and hot chilli can deter plant eating insects, while most people have heard of spreading sand or saw dust around the perimeter of garden beds and plants to deter snails.  Such alternatives not only benefit the natural environment, but are also safe for your family, pets and livestock.

‘No Dig’ Gardening

A ‘no dig’ garden is a quick and easy way to establish a garden on your property. It simply requires building the garden bed up in layers to form mounds using organic matter such as animal manure, composted material and other mulches.  These types of gardens can be built over existing garden beds, lawns or hard rocky ground as temporary or permanent garden beds, are relatively low maintenance and provide excellent drainage.

Waste Management and Soil Improvement

Kept in a worm farm, earthworms are a great way to manage small amounts of green waste, such as food scraps from the kitchen.  Best of all, they produce highly fertile worm castings to use in the garden or orchard.  Earthworms can also be introduced directly to garden beds to improve the water and nutrient properties of the soil.  Earthworms thrive in soils with high levels of organic matter and good water holding properties.  Composting organic material on your property is an effective way of reducing your organic waste and providing high quality organic matter for your garden or orchard. Refer to Managing Waste - Reducing, Re-using and Recycling in this Guide for more information on how to recycle organic matter and the benefits of this for your property.

Organic and Permaculture Gardening

Organic gardening aims to avoid the use of chemicals, whether fertilisers or pesticides.  Nutrients are provided through adding mulch and compost, rather than synthetic fertilisers. This also has the added benefit of reducing weed growth and associated maintenance. Pests can be managed through a combination of techniques, including mechanically removing pests and encouraging predators.  Organic gardening acknowledges the function of soil organisms (such as earthworms, insects, bacteria, and fungi) in maintaining soil health.  It also recognises that adding chemicals to the soil to destroy insects and weeds also harms beneficial organisms.

Permaculture gardening takes organic gardening a step further, aiming for the integration of the relationships between food production, and other aspects of lifestyle, such as housing and appropriate technologies (including renewable energy technology) to create a productive and sustainable lifestyle which compliments the functions of the natural environment.

Native Lawns and Alternatives to Lawns

Native grasses, herbaceous species and gardens incorporating native groundcover species all provide an alternative to traditional grass lawns. There are numerous benefits to establishing these alternatives that include:

  • Much lower maintenance - native lawns need less fertiliser, mowing and weeding
  • Require much less water, and are more resistant to drought or frost
  • Many species have showy flowers or seed heads which attract native wildlife
  • Conventional lawn species, such as Buffalo or Kikuyu, will spread and invade areas of natural bushland
  • Native lawns and alternatives grow well in problem areas which are too dry, wet or shady for conventional lawn species
Local Rural Supplier
Local Council
Local Community Garden
Local Farmers Markets
Native Plant Nursery

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