Our garden has been designed to fulfill many functions.
Our block is very small, so a good screen of trees and shrubs is necessary to keep the noise from the road and neighbors down, as well as to allow us to move around the garden and house without fuss. The citrus hedge, planted near the fence-line will provide the greatest amount of privacy as it directly masks us from the street.
Aesthetics are important, as daily reminders of the beauty of nature are so important to our lives. A wide variety of plants with different flowering and fruiting seasons will provide us with year round beauty. Some of the plants have been selected because they attract insects and birds.
We have planted some exotics too, to add some variety to the landscape, and to remind Jelina of home.
Lots of plants shade the ground. A tree layer will give us a break from the Westerly summer sun and edible ground covers are on the way to covering the ground.
We sheet mulched the ground with cardboard and then added about 10 cm of a mix of fine mulch and compost. Over the winter we will build this layer up with more compost and straw.
Shading the soil and mulch keep the soil cooler in summer and help further reduce water loss through evaporation.
We decided to make all outside areas permeable, this will prevent storm water runoff and help reduce the pollution it causes. Permeable surfaces like paving and gravel allow rainwater to soak into the soil and release the moisture slowly. I have made our gravel paths extra deep so as to allow a lot of water to reach the soil and then to release it slowly over summer.
Summer and winter need two different plans of attack for their respective heating and cooling properties.
Summer means lots of shade, protection from both direct and indirect (reflected) heat and cooling of the air. For us in summer, this means breaking the northern sun that tracks across that end of the house (fortunately, the positioning of the house is such that this is the narrow axis) and the western sun that blasts the longer side that includes the main living areas.
Trees have been planted in two rows. The furthest row from the house is a citrus hedge, planned to be about two metres tall. This will block radiant heat from the road, as well as shade the front third of the garden. The row closest to the house consists of deciduous trees that will block the sun in summer, and allow it in winter when the leaves fall. This row is planned to grow to about four metres in height.
All the trees will shade the ground around them and the as well as cool the air nearest them through transpiration. If my theory works, as the sun moves across the sky, the shadows of the trees will move across the garden, causing localized changes in air temperature that (might) generate micro – breezes.
Winter means reducing the amount of wind hitting the house and the rain that falls directly on it. Winter means cold south westerlies that gust strongly throughout the season. Our main living areas are on the southern and western sides of the house.
On the southern fence-line, I have planted a row of three olive trees (my favorites, Kalamata Jumbos). I’m planning to espalier these and make a hedge about two metres tall to block the southerly aspect from the strong winter winds. All the trees on the block will break the force of any cold winds, reducing the airflow and creating pockets of still (insulating) air.
All of these measures will reduce temperature extremes in and around the house. This will, of course, reduce our power consumption, reducing bills and our footprint.
Everyone should grow at least some of their food. It’s a common sense way to reduce bills, reduce pollution through food miles and pesticides, improve health through better nutrition and the therapeutic effects of growing your own food,knowing that you are a little protected from the whims of politicians and economics.
All the trees and shrubs in the garden are fruit bearing, selected so that something should be available all year. All the ground covers are edible or have medicinal properties.