Does Space Matter

So I have been an absent landlord from this blog for some time now. Coming and going as I could but not there as often as I could be.

I am member of a group called the Garden Share Collective and this month’s blogs are on space.

Space has been on my mind and it seem ironic as I am currently coming to terms with the fact that I am about to have a lot less space in my back yard for my garden.

When we bought the non-hippie house hold we had 3 very lose requirements

  1. A house with lots of light (or the potential for)
  2. Gas for cooking (not very environmental but still the best option for control for me as a cook)
  3. A decent sized backyard. 8 years of living in a flat with no back yard had given me a desire to have some space for a garden etc.

So we bought the place and moved in.

Life got in the way, the decent sized back yard got over run.

When the kids came along I had really only put in fruit trees and tried a few garden beds half heartedly.

pumpkin2 pumpkin1

On finding out more about permaculture and because of the kids and desire to move to a simpler life I started to work on the back yard. A food forest was put in chicken runs lots and lots more trees. Wicking beds garden beds, perennials. All sounds good. We grew a decent amount and I foraged a lot but in truth the back yard never really lived up to its potential. Out hybrid life style of full time work, 3 kids, the changes in rainfall, multiple half started projects and the eternal war with couch and kikuyu grass meant the output was always lower than its full potential.


It wasn’t till I got bees and put in a lot more flowers and looked at rhythms and the garden had been there that we started to see yield but still the garden space never really lived up to its potential.

And now well due to a change in family circumstance the back yard has to have a granny flat for my parents in law. 50 square meters plus at least another meter all the way around and few more for access in total about 100 square meters gone.


The way our back yard is structured the space issues are exacerbated. All the sheds had to go, 8 trees had to be removed including my greengage that was just starting to kick along and flowered just before I was forced to move it.

We have also had to level out a huge section and to put in some retaining walls due to the slope.

All in all the back yard is now in a state of flux.

But flux can be a good thing. In permaculture we the objective is not really to make the best of the best but to make the best of what you have.

The addition of my parents in law adds in resilience and reduces some our dependency on the service society that is the childcare industry.

A smaller better managed back yard space and garden beds, the use of the additional vertical spaces will add yield. A smaller area will mean that harvests do not get missed and the yield is maximised. Less space to fight the grasses in.

In a probable el nino year the addition of 50 square meters of water harvest space to that back of the property will potentially help a lot

In the same way Small scale organics can win over large scale conventional it is the human factor that decides the win or lose of this outcome. Conventional farming only trumps small scale organic when the amount of labour is added in, so a smaller space more output less labour.

Don’t get me wrong there will be challenges. My parents in law come from a very different generation and have very different ideas of what is sustainable.

I have also noticed already that some pests are back as their predators where most likely in hibernation will have been destroyed by all the work and the balance of plants in the garden has been reduced particularly the early flowering small flowers which small predators such as wasp and lace wing love.

In the end the one thing we all cannot deny is there are more of us in the world and less space.

It all remains to be seen if this is true and that smaller might be as good but I think in the end you can make many things as positive or negative as you choose.


I am currently working on a new design for the back yard and after all I do have 10 more trees now to plant around in that new design 🙂