The tale of Bek's backyard...

30 March, 2014

It's only now, about 4 years on from starting fruit and veg gardening in my backyard, that I have started to look back and think about just how much has been done to and in the garden over the years.

So I thought I'd to a retrospective on how the garden has grown and evolved over the time I've been in this house. Today I'll be outlining the evolution of the backyard, and over the next few posts I will do the same for the front yard, raised bed veg patch and of course, the orchard.

It all started back in 2009 when I started living in this house. This is the backyard which I had to look at every day through the kitchen window every time I washed the dishes or made a cup of coffee.

Not all that appealing is it. This was the view from the verandah, with the straggly branches of an overgrown camellia to the left, and the straggly branches of one of three fig trees on the right. Of course, front and centre is the ubiquitous hills hoist, without which no Australian backyard is complete, and further back in a supporting role the ugly back fence and neighbours visually less than exciting shed. The stacks of roof tiles and sheets of corrigated iron held down (or supporting) the black pots are merely icing on the cake.

To given an additional idea on how the house is situated, this is a rough plan of the block.

This is pretty much what the block existed of when I moved in. 

It is an odd shaped triangular block, with the kitchen looking out onto the rear of the yard and opening out onto the verandah.

Something had to be done.

So I did. I moved the roof tiles and corrigated iron into the garage and pulled out the offending ugly bush on the left. Then I started planting. Around the same time I started a gardening book, for which I am now eternally thankful and highly recommend.

This was the original plan.

By the time 2010 came around I had put in a bunch of green goddess lillies (pilfered from the local river, but I feel ok about this as they are a noxious weed and clog the waterways dreadfully), some iris's, agapanthus, lavender and geranium, as well as my first fruiting plant, the passionfruit which I hoped would cover the ugly fence. I left the lantana for the same reason. I didn't much like it, but I liked it better than the fence.

I had also radically pruned the fig tree and started an attempt at a pond, which was not particularly successful being neither level, nor fully waterproof (somewhere around the 10cm mark was a leak, which meant it needed continual topping up so you didn't see the cement bases of the border rocks as you can in the photo).

But it was a (small) improvement on its previous incarnation.

I worked my way around the perimeter of the triangular backyard and built on the original plan, putting in more green goddess, more agapanthus, more lavender, and a few more edibles (the central pot is a cherry tree, and the terracotta pots slightly to the right of the shovel handle are blueberries).

This photo was taken on an incredibly rainy day, where the water was about 15cms over the grass at this point. It never rains but it pours.

Further around the yard (and in slightly more photogenic weather) I had pulled out the overgrown camellia and replaced it with three nicer ones further into the corner where they get more shade. I also planted a buddileja and have an avocado in a pot (it since died).

By 2011 things had growed up a little and I had snuck in a few more edibles including the strawberries, but I was sick of cutting the grass and the lantana (I had a path running through behind the iris plants).

The time had come for a major overhaul.

I decided to poison the grass, and cover it with gravel (because gravel was cheaper than paving). I also got rid of the hills hoist as having it in the center of the yard ruined the view of the yard and I really didn't use it all that much, preferring to air dry clothes inside on racks.

I also moved the pond forward and made it almost double the size and twice as deep. It took me ages to dig that thing! But I needed it nice and deep to be able to grow waterlillies which I have always loved.

The plan was modified.

Its a pity I don't have any photos from around then.

In 2012-13 I further extended the garden beds and put in the paths which eventually became graveled also, and started focusing more on planting edibles amongst the ornamentals. This documents the edibles I first started with, leaving blank the rest of the purely ornamental garden beds.

Over that time into the backyard went some fruit trees including 15 apple trees (12 step-over apples and 3 free standing dwarf apples), 2 cherries, the Anzac peach and lots of strawberries.

These are the step-over apples when they were first planted as dormant bare rooted trees. 6 Pink Lady step-overs are here, leading around the left side of the backyard bordering the path leading to the front yard.

The other 6 are Woodbridge Winter Pippin and they border the garden beds to the right side of the pond.

The other trees went in scattered around the garden beds, with the idea of it eventually becoming a food forest.

In 2013 I further extended this fruity paradise with adding a mandarin and lime which are being espaliered, plus two oranges between the lilac trees to provide an evergreen covering for the colourbond fence. 

Also that year I got my ducks and had the challenge to fit in their pen. One of the fig trees had to go. Ah well, there is still one left.

How do I fit it all in? Like this.

21 - Peach Anzac, now also grafted with Fragar and Blackburn Elberta
22 - Orange Valencia
23 - Step-over apples Pink Lady (6)
24 - Cherry Regina
25 - Orange Cara Cara (red fleshed)
26 - Evergreen blueberry
27 - Apple Dr Hogg (named after the well know (in apple circles) pomologist and a good cooking apple)
28 - Apple Bramley's Seedling (another well known cooking apple)
29 - Cherry Napoleon
30 - Apple Andre Sauvage
31 - Step-over apples Woodbridge Winter Pippin (6 - including the 5 drawn plus one in the duck pen not noted)
32 - Mandarin Imperial espalier
33 - Tahitian Lime espalier
36 - Cherry (sour) Morello
49 - Fig (white type, variety unknown)

This is the view from the verandah now.

Not too bad. I'll be happy when the trees are bigger and it looks much more like the food forest I want it to be.

This is the view from the far corner, looking towards the duck pen.

So that's my backyard.

Stay tuned for the front yard, raised garden veg patch and the proper orchard.


  1. Gardens are a funny thing. You work out what you want change it and suddenly it is the normal before you realise you forgot to document it. But not you Bek it would seem you have been on top of it the whole time. And with fantastic diagrams to boot. What an amazing change and a complete transformation nice work indeed. Thanks for the tour

    1. They are indeed. I think it was more my nature as a compulsive list maker that is to thank (or blame) than any forethought as to this post or the potential usefulness of such records. But I'm thankful I have them now all the same.

  2. Having seen it after the transformation it was amazing to see where you started from!

  3. What a difference! I really looks great now. You must be very satisfied with all your work. I would love to do something similar, but sadly I didn't have a camera in those early days.

    1. Cheers. But it is most definitely a work in progress. But I love that part of gardening, that it's never really completely finished. I would be very interested in how your garden came about.

  4. What a transformation and a great inspiration. I am on a similar journey . Bought our house(Houston) in 2011. The work is still on. Love how you have documented the whole process. Have a question - would like to know the direction your house faces. It helps to know where people plant their trees and shrubs . I would love to grow mango and raspberries too. We get frosts and ice a few times during winter. But our summers are hot . Gives me hope since you are growing them successfully. Cannot wait to see your veggie garden and orchard. Thank you.

    1. That's great, I hope your gardening adventures appear lots of fruit (and veg) ;)
      I don't exactly know the orientation, but the entrance roughly would face north (based on my rough knowledge of the way the sun travels over the day).
      I don't envy you your climate, I can handle a frost or two but I wouldn't really relish the garden constraints of ice and snow. Well done you.

  5. Wow you have done a amazing job I just love everything you have done you must be so pleased x

    1. Cheers! In retrospect it is pretty pleasing, but I know there is always going to be something I want to change or tweak. But it's coming together nicely.

  6. wow. just wow. i feel exhausted just reading all this work. again, a marvellous rttansformation and now much better view when you do the dishes!!!

    1. Cheers. It was over a 4 year period, so obviously I had lots of rests, so not that exhausting ;)
      so much more to do though...