The West

Picture: Robert Duncan/The West Australian

There are many more facets to being sustainable than being water-savvy and growing your own food, according to local garden expert Josh Byrne, who has released a new book that tackles the ins and outs of creating a resource-efficient backyard even where space is limited.

The environmental scientist and ABC TV Gardening Australia presenter said gardening was an easy and accessible way for people to cut their eco-footprint while improving their quality of life.

"I often remind people that it's more than just being waterwise or growing vegies; these are important attributes but sustainable gardens need to provide a whole range of functions and, importantly, be resource efficient," Byrne said.

"If designed and managed well, a sustainable garden will also be cost-effective to run and look great with only modest maintenance requirements.

"The aim is to minimise external needs such as water, fertiliser and transported materials and to maximise outputs, or functions, such as food production, shade and habitat."

Small Space Organics, Byrne's second book, details the development of a garden he created in a narrow 60sqm area in South Fremantle, accompanied by technical and horticultural information on subjects ranging from irrigation and alternative water supplies, to vegetable and fruit tree cultivation, organic gardening techniques, pruning, propagation and organic pest and disease control.

"It tells the story of one of my favourite gardens that I designed and built on Gardening Australia in a way that I hope will inspire gardeners to think about how they garden," he said.

"My aim is to tell an inspiring story of how one garden was created and at the same time provide an authoritative source of information that can be used as a useful reference for many years to come.

"In essence, it is an instruction manual to create and sustain your own water-sensitive, productive oasis."

Despite the common misconceptions that sustainable gardens needed to be big and were not particularly attractive to look at, Byrne said, with good design, even the smallest patch could be home to an inviting urban oasis.

His own garden in White Gum Valley is a great example of making the most of the space you have.

It is home to an array of organically grown edibles in pots and raised garden beds, various water- conservation systems (including greywater and rainwater harvesting for household use and irrigation), and an urban wildlife habitat consisting of diverse plantings of local and regional native species, a small source of drinking water as well as refuge and nesting sites such as undisturbed leaf litter, rocks, logs and nesting boxes. There's even room leftover for a cubbyhouse and play area plus an alfresco area.

Byrne said his ideal garden was one that was an extension of his lifestyle and a working part of his household.

"In addition to the environmental benefits, it's a place where my kids can play and engage with nature right by the back door; where we can relax with friends, and a place where I can just chill out and potter," he said.

"What I've set out to demonstrate in this book is that you don't necessarily need a lot of space to do this, but you do need to use the space well. It all comes down to good design and execution."

Josh will be signing copies of his new book at the summer harvest and planting day at Urban Orchard tomorrow from 11.30am. See What's On (far right) for more details on the event.

With good design, even the smallest patch could be home to an inviting oasis

The West Australian

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