Food Forest

A sustainable lifestyle website wouldn’t be complete without a section on the garden. But we’ve called our garden category The Food Forest in honour of the permaculture design concept of the same name. The backyard food forest contains more than food – there’s space to live and play, space for wildlife, and maybe even pets – but inherent in the idea is the sense that the food part of the design is not limited to a small, discrete vegetable plot at the bottom of the garden. This garden is filled with food, for wildlife and people alike.

There are fast growing fruit trees espaliered along fence lines, evergreen Warrigal (New Zealand spinach), interspersed with other understory plants, blueberry bushes in tubs, rambling pumpkins trailing over shrubs and perhaps the front lawn. There may be chickens (chooks, in the Australian venacular) wandering around, or carefully placed in portable chook domes, a la Linda Woodrow. Or perhaps there’s a beehive or frog pond or worm farm, or all four sets of helpful workers inhabiting the garden.

Of course, a sustainable home doesn’t have to base it’s garden design around permaculture, but it’s certainaly a good place to start.

How to Grow Chemical Free Grapes

Grapes - Sweetness by Marina Del Castell (Flickr) | Sustainable Suburbia

Do you enjoy a glass of wine, or a bunch of sweet grapes? Did you know that Grapes make the top 10 list of most pesticide laden foods in both Australia and America? Today I am pleased to welcome Guest writer Mackenzie Fox, who describes why that is, an how you can avoid using pesticides…

7 Favorite Safe Lawn and Garden Solutions

7 Favorite Safe Lawn and Garden Solutions |

A month or two ago, knowing that I would be pushed for time (and internet access) while I am travelling, I put out of a call to my regular readers for guest posts. This week I have a guest post for you from Mary Jo Nieson of, sharing her favourite safe garden solutions. Please note…

Growing Vegetables with Children

bright green herbs grow closely together in pots.

Vegetable gardens not only bring fresh, seasonal produce to your table and immense satisfaction to your soul, but they can be inspirational and educational for your children. Working with compost, worms, water, seeds, insects, plant growth and the final fruits of your labour instil in children not only the importance of being involved with their…

Growing Sweet, Sweet Corn

Beans growing up corn plants with squash trailing underneath

Well firstly, we’ll establish the difference between sweet corn and the generic term, ‘corn’. Those lush fields of gold blowing in the summer wind I remember from my English childhood were corn, which in England tends to be a collective term for wheat, oats, barley or rye.  Generally speaking, corn in America and Australia means…

Vegetable Garden Basics: Growing Broccoli

a broccoli head sitting in the middle of a large plant, ready to pick

I always think of broccoli as a kind of superior cauliflower, but that could be something to do with childhood memories of English school dinners, where the ‘caulie’ was boiled to death, grey and unappetising. Yeuch. Talking of boiling, broccoli is a mass of valuable nutrients like glucoraphanin, which the body turns into sulforaphane, a…

Getting Started with Backyard Chickens

A young white Silky pullet free ranging in front of the skirt of a scare crow.

Raising organic, backyard chickens is one of the best decisions you can make to live more sustainably. Not only do they eat your vegetable scraps (in addition to a little grain), but they also pick snails and slugs from your garden, give you fabulous manure to add to your compost pile, and even lay eggs…

How to Grow Garlic

A clump of flowering garlic plants

“Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; Wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; Lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; Garlic makes it good.” ~Alice May Brock With winter on the horizon, the anticipation of hearty chowders, spicy chilis and rich, filling pastas gets me excited to…

Make and Use Your Own Organic Fertilizer

A home made compost bin, 2/3 filled

Before you consider making your own organic fertilizers, you need to know why they are beneficial for your garden.  So what are organic fertilizers and what do they do?  Basically an organic fertilizer makes soil more fertile – richer in nutrients, more able to hold water and hence to effectively sustain the growth of plants.…

How to Make Your Own Compost: From Waste to Wealth

a double handfull of finished compost

Every year, large amounts of organic wastes head to the landfills, taking up extraordinary amounts of space and creating methane off-gas. It is estimated that about 60% of a household’s waste is organic. In Australia in 2006-2007, 13.6 million tonnes of organic wastes went to landfill (PDF, 880KB). Learning how to make compost decreases the…

How to Grow Cucumbers – Rambling or on a Trellis

Cucumber vine growing on a trellis, with a single cucumber hanging down in the middle, ready to pick

Crisp, fresh-from-the-vine cucumbers are the epitome of warm summer evenings. From the gourd family Cucurbitaceae, cucumbers can be pickled or sliced and depending on the variety, can be cylindrical or elongated in shape. Traditionally thought of as an out-of-control vine rambling across the yard, it may surprise you to know that cucumbers also grow exceptionally…

Growing Drought Tolerant Herbs

oregano and thyme growing in a larger blue ceramic container, hanging over the edges

Though you may assume that, like the water loving herbs in my last article, all your herbs will benefit from being planted in organic, loamy soil in a sunny area, then fed and watered well, actually some herbs positively thrive in barren conditions.  Native Mediterranean herbs like marjoram, thyme, oregano and rosemary grow best in…

Growing Popular Water-Loving Herbs in Pots

Mint growing in a pot with some lovage struggling in the middle

Following on from Growing A Container Herb Garden, here is some more specific information about growing particular herbs.  The following  herbs all like similarly moist conditions, so could be grouped together in pots, or grown in the same container – though it is probably advisable to grow mint in its own pot, as it is…