I have a weakness for garden centres. I can lose hours to browsing, reading plant information and discussing the pros and cons of various shrubs with staff members. It’s a rare occassion that I come away empty-handed, which is something of a hazard in that our suburban block is already knee-deep in plant life!

Looking around our garden on any given day, it certainly looks like we’ve reached capacity. There’s a very comprehensive array of trees/shrubs and we simply don’t have room for any more. Really.

Starting from the back corner, excluding the non-productive trees/shrubs (camelias, roses, dragon tree, vines, nasturtiums, dombeya, geraniums, hibuscus etc) and working round the house, our urban orchard includes: a semi-dwarf blood orange, calamondin, sunrise lime, three passionfruit vines, two grapevines (sultana and flame seedless), a ruby ruby blood plum, lime, pink grapefruit, olive, d’Agen prune, fig, trixzie miniature pear, hawaiian guava (still very small), bay tree, cherry, lillypilly, persimmon, another olive, cumquat, dragon fruit, strawberry guava and loquat.

We also have many (!) rosemary bushes, goji berries and boysenberries growing, and three raised garden beds for vegies/herbs. That’s a lot of shrubbery by anybody’s reckoning – and potentially an awful lot of produce! And yet here I am potentially on the hunt for another fruit tree…

My excuse is that our small back lawn (3×7 metres) simply isn’t draining very well. We dug it up 18 months ago to try to solve the same problem. The soil had compacted and become waterlogged, unable to withstand the combined pressure of poor drainage, inadequate sunlight across late winter and a dog with gastric problems. To quote a friend, it had turned into the eternal bog-of-stench. Delightful.
replacing the lawn_november2014

So we recruited some help to dig up with existing lawn, turn and aerate the soil, added new soil and replaced the struggling soft leafed buffalo turf (Sir Wallter) with another hardy, low maintenance grass that allegedly tolerates shade and is self-repairing and drought tolerant (Matilda). As an exercise it was jolly hard work and not a great deal of fun, but it had to be done. Yet here we are 18 months later and sections of our back lawn are boggy and muddy all the time. Again.

The grass isn’t coping with the part-sun it gets in the winter months and the self-repair aspect seems to have fallen by the wayside. The limited soil depth  in those areas isn’t helping with drainage either.

Himself has once again tried aerating the soil and adding soil wetter and we’ll see how that works out. It’s also been suggested that we put in one or two semi-shade tolerant trees that don’t mind having ‘damp feet’, as this will help probably. Tricky thing is to find the right tree. It needs to be deciduous, I’d prefer it to be productive, we don’t want anything that’s going to grow too big, and need it to be dog-safe (i.e. not poisonous). It’s a big ask and the front runners so fair are a moringa  (perhaps a bit big) or a white mulberry.

Drainage research continues. The grass remains soggy. The dogs remain muddy. And I’m definitely starting to hear the siren song of the garden centre…

One thought on “Our Urban Orchard

  1. Danielle on June 20, 2016 at 12:32 pm said:

    You could consider a Japanese Dogwood (Cornus kousa), or a hawthorn (Crataegus species), or maybe a strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo). I still think a dwarf shahtoot mulberry is your best option though. 🙂

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