Living close: strata title permaculture

| Off-Farm goings on | comments | Author :
Lucinda's great DIY vertical gardening system

The too-hard basket seems often applied to fledgling aspirations of creating bountiful gardens in rental or strata title properties. Which is really quite understandable, in some ways. To succeed in such ventures one needs to effectively communicate with (sometimes dubious) landlords and fellow residents, which is no small thing.

Recently, though, we came across Lucinda’s garden, which is a beautiful example of such communications gone right. A small space, strata-title, yeehar permaculture garden in the heart of northern Sydney.

The mini food-forest up the side of the apartment

Lucinda owns a low-rise apartment which is within a block of perhaps 8 dwellings. You probably know the type – lots of garages and big driveways that lead off to little brick boxes where people live: the fronts of the apartments look squeaky clean and the back patios tend to be, shall we say, underutilized as true living space.

more vegies and a patio

I’ve not had much experience with the ‘body corporate’ aspect of owning a strata title, but from the grumblings of multiple friends who have, i get the idea that negotiating any sort of change, especially aesthetic change to one’s apartment, can be a long-winded process.

Lucinda has been chip-chip-chipping at her strata’s body corporate for about 3 years now; to allow her to plant a little something here, plant a little there, install a water tank down the side, put in a pergola, replace that hedge with something just as attractive but also edible, and so on. You get the idea. Permaculture by attrition.

small but healthy pond with wonky mirror behind to increase sense of space

I think the bit-by-bit approach embodied here just might be (while being frustrating for Lucinda) the reason why, after only a couple of years, this garden is so wonderful. Lots of protracted thought and small spurts of (approved) action. Lots of planning and designing followed by occasional and long-awaited implementation.

The results here speak for themselves. Maybe strata-title does have its up sides?

Lucinda has squeezed an awful lot of goodness into a small growing space

Visiting Lucinda’s home made me think about small space gardening (as opposed to very large space gardening, which we’re struggling with at Milkwood). The advantages of small are huge. You can fold space and time intricately into any permaculture design, but on a small level the possibilities seem greater than on a farm-scale, sometimes.

When you look out across a field,  you seldom consider the full potential of the first square foot of earth directly in front of you. But in a small space, every edge and wall and square foot could be so many things….

a small but effective mandala-ish garden - lots of edge here

As i explored Lucinda’s garden a whole bunch of Holmgren’s design principles kept popping into my head: use slow small solutions / value the edge / design from pattern to detail.

There’s so much fitted in here! Ponds and a mini food-forest and keyhole gardens and vertical gardens and trellis systems and on it goes. wow.

happy little guild of rosemary, squash and other stuff

So i thought i’d share some photos as a bit of spring inspiration – this is what the poorly-favored scruffy patches around the sides of apartment blocks could look like in Sydney with a bit of love, care and good design.

Despite allowing for committees and regulations and  permissions (and having a full-time job), you too could be growing tamarillos and pawpaw and vegies aplenty like Lucinda in that sad and sorry strip down the side. Happy planting!


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18 responses to “Living close: strata title permaculture

  1. Love the article. I did a similar thing where I live except I did it on common space. The initial plot was the initiative of three households. A year later we were asked by body corporate to create another one on the other side of the property.

    One body corporate at a time. It is doable. Body Corporate realises the added value of doing something like this.


  2. What a lovely garden. I too agree with your comment, that sometimes small is easier than big – as far as designing/planning out gardens. We are on land, and its often harder to know where to start when there is space all around.

  3. I’ve started retrofitting our micro rugged, dry and sterile strata backyard into a Permaculture-inspired edible landscape. Things seem to be growing! And it creates a wonderful community spirit!
    I am glad to read that others have done the same (and to see that there garden is striving!) – a real inspiration!
    Thanks for sharing this story!

  4. This is the type of garden we will need more of in future, especially in the City of Sydney area which will accommodate an additional 80,000 residents over the next 20 years (population presently around 177,000), mainly in apartments, with very limited open space for shared gardens in public places.

    The apartment block where I live installed its own apartment community food garden. We had to accommodate space for social activity, for the existing (thermonuclear powered) solar clothes line and for outdoor recreation that were the needs of other residents. The garden beds are simple rectangles on the basis that simple solutions for simple needs (as opposed to the need for complex solutions for complex problems) works best and for ease of maintenance.

    Vertical gardens will grow some crops alright but need special attention to maintain water to them. There is more interest now in rooftop gardens though these need preliminary assessment for roof strength (some rooftop growers first get a structural engineers report), the effects of wind, access to adequate sunlight and roof drainage.

  5. Looks fab. Just wondering if you remember what border material was used to make that fantastic looking curvaceous keyhole bed? Some sort of plastic??

  6. Fabulous! We have just over 3/4 acre and I am just venturing into the world of permaculture. Glad to have found your blog and posts like this 🙂 Look forward to reading more and more!

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