Suburban food gardening in Perth, Western Australia

Posted on 05 May 2014

Over the past year I’ve been following a facebook group called Jetto’s Patch, a Perth edible garden on less than half an acre (1482 square meters). Admittedly, my involvement in the group has been minimal as we’ve been in Bolivia gardening in a completely different environment. I’ve quietly sat back and read posts, information and advice from people all over the world but I’ve been specifically interested in Dario and Michele, who nurture their abundant garden with passion and research.

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Friends of ours in Perth have found Jetto’s an inspiring and deep resource for their own budding suburban food garden. Over the years they have struggled to find local information and experience that takes into account the bad, mineral depleted, sandy soils of Perth, harsh sun through the long summer and local pests like slaters. This facebook group has become a wonderful space of sharing as it records “information and pictures of the many food crops able to be grown and harvested in the Perth climate on a small suburban lot and on a natural sustainable basis according to the rules of nature”. As you can imagine, I was thrilled when our friends suggested we organise a tour of Jetto’s with Michele and Dario for yesterday.

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Their small space  contains more than 600 species of edible plants arranged as nature intended, through various layers – like a food forest.

From the high canopies of their large fruit and  nut trees like almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, macademias and pecans…

…to the lower tree layer that includes species of citrus like cumquats, lemons, limes, grapefruits, mandarins and oranges along with acerola cherries, avocados, figs, pomegranates, guava, apricots, peaches, plums, pears, olives, quince, apples and more…

…to the shrub layer including bamboo, sugar cane, blueberries, tamarillos, raspberries, gooseberries, 6 types of bananas, a myriad of chilli varieties, capsicums, eggplants and the exotic peanut butter fruit…

…to the herbaceous layer filled with various vegetables and herbs like thyme, silverbeet, peas, Chinese vegetables, kale, cabbage, celery, comfrey, tatsoi, basil, chives, chia, fennel, mint, nettle, poppies, rosemary, sage and stevia

…to the rhizosphere layer of root vegetables like jerusalem artichokes, potatoes, turmeric, arrowroot, taro, sweet potatoes, ginger and yacon…

…to the vertical layers of chilacayote squash, melons, trombochino zucchini, passion fruit, snake beans and caigua

…and lastly, water plants like water chestnut, kang kong and watercress.

If you are interested, here is a large list of what they grow.

Wandering their garden I felt peace among the food forest, the chaos, the interdependence, diversity and stability of that environment. I felt inspired by the abundance and obvious health of this system as I observed natural predators like frogs peeking out at us from behind their leaves. This is a place of safety – free from chemicals and poisons, brimming with life and health. Lots of mulching and compost combined with no digging means this soil, and all the organisms within it, is rich and able to nourish without the disruption from human intervention. Worms and chickens do their part happily. Michele seed saves, propagates and plants out carefully. Dario prunes, builds supports and attaches fruit fly netting as needed. They experiment growing exotic plants in their little microclimates, the latest being a coconut. This is permaculture at its finest!

Michele and Dario have found their calling in life. They combine their passion with humour as they contribute their bit to saving the world through gardening and sharing. They make it clear though that they are not activists, they feel everyone can “make a great difference by taking charge of their own health and welfare by growing useful plants, which is do-able, and has an immediate impact on a much wider scale”.

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