Last year in November, with some help from Uncle Robot, we started the second stage of our Permaculture garden on the edge of a cliff. Okay, it’s not quite a cliff but it is steep and definately not your average back yard.
Most people who visit our garden look at us in disbelief especially those who saw our backyard before we started. The last two years has been a magnificent and exciting journey as we’ve spent our spare time converting a totally unusable space we rarely visited into a functional and accessible terraced garden – a place we grow food and visit every single day.
But how did we get here? How does one go about changing a totally unfriendly space into something useful?
Perhaps my earliest inspiration came many decades ago when I travelled through Europe and Indonesia. It was here that I first saw how terraced farming was used as a technique to grow crops in mountainous areas. Not only functional but beautiful as well. The concept was planted.
Then I visited Peru and I saw the ancient Inca terraces in the Sacred Valley and on the road to Machu Picchu. The location and size of these magnificent agricultural terraces defies belief but these ingeniously engineered structures created a sustainable form of agriculture. This clever design meant that gravity fed water could reach into all the terraces below and their north facing aspect would have helped retain heat through the night which would have been very important in this high altitude Andes region. These terraced farms were probably very productive and would have provided a significant amount of food for the growing Inca Empire.
A couple of years ago I saw how the Nepalese lived in the steepest valleys made possible through terracing with dry stone walls. Throughout Nepal terraces support homes, tea houses, shops, schools, markets and temples but they also provide large accessible areas for crops and animal grazing.
What I saw was on an extraordinary scale but it got me thinking how we could apply a similar idea to our small backyard and that dormant seed was finally germinated.
Our little terrace Permaculture garden in our backyard in urban Sydney is a tiny dot in comparison but like the ancient terrace farming systems throughout the world, it too has given us the ability to grow our own food in a space that was otherwise untenable.
Here’s some photos of stage II of our Permaculture garden. All of the rock has come from our own backyard apart from the sandstone used in the making of the steps which we bought from a nearby quarry.
You can see that some of the images have been taken looking down from our deck above and show the outline of the garden including the little semi-circular beds purposely built for our heritage apples. Another important aspect of small space gardening is the use of vertical space and our apple trees will be trained to grow in a flat plane but I’ll go into the concept of espalier in more detail in another post.