Suburban Jungle

Reuben and Veggie Beds





We spent a lot of the weekend in the garden, building two more veggie beds, planting a couple of citrus trees, pruning and pottering. Though our garden isn’t producing much now, it feels good to be building something for the future. From little things big things grow.

I must admit, when Reubs and I moved into this house I was a bit worried about going overboard in the garden. Our block is very small and awkwardly shaped and I seriously doubted that we’d ever be able to make it particularly productive. Reubs was keen to make the most of our limited space and cram it full of edibles. He immediately wanted to rip out all the lawn and replace it with a giant veggie patch, and was adamant that we had enough space for a number of fruit trees, but I was reluctant. It seems crazy to me now but I didn’t like the idea of not having any lawn and I was scared that if we planted too much our yard would look messy and unattractive. (What would the neighbours think?!) So we started small with two little veggie beds, a couple of fruit trees and two chickens, and bit by bit we’ve added more and more. We now have four large veggie beds, ten fruit trees, two passionfruit vines, a couple of berry plants, two elderflower bushes (for making cordial) and hopps (for making beer) which we plan to plant next to the car port so it can climb. We are also hoping to turn a whole corner of our yard into a large chicken coop, so we can keep a bigger flock of chooks. Slowly, I’ve come to realise just how much can be done with a small space (we still have room for so much more!) and I now have a completely different kind of vision for our garden. Not a tidy lawn, tidy veggie beds, tidy trees and small tidy chicken coop, but a rambling patch overflowing with homegrown fruit, veggies, flowers and chickens.

I recently bought Backyard Self Sufficiency by Jackie French (which I highly recommend) and today I was having a read when I stumbled across a quote that so perfectly summed up what I’ve been thinking and feeling, that I had to share it with you. Jackie says:

“I have two images of suburban life today.

The first is of a neat house set in a mown lawn with trimmed shrubs and a sandpit; a clean kitchen with yesterday’s takeaway containers in the sink; and the latest DVDs to fill your life after dinner.

The second is of a suburban jungle: a maze of tangled apple trees and grapevines, carpets of strawberries, and kids with mulberry-stained faces who don’t come inside till dark. You trip over a box of apples in the laundry and the kitchen smells of summer tomatoes and of the basil on the windowsill.

The kitchen shelves are full, so are the lives of the inhabitants.

The richness of our lives depends on our surroundings and what we fill them with.”

I know which one I’d prefer. Bring on the jungle.

Katie xx

PS Just in case you are wondering what our “chicken tractor” is doing in our new veg beds – we were using the girls’ scratching skills to get a headstart on digging up the grass.
PPS My cute apron and trowel are from lovely Brenda‘s wonderful new shop.

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About Katie

Katie is a tea drinking, jewellery making, op-shopping daydreamer. Katie likes vintage dresses, Pictionary, doilies and colourful tights.


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28 Responses to “Suburban Jungle”

  1. Lisa July 21, 2014 at 7:11 pm #

    Your garden looks so lovely! We have a teeny tiny courtyard, so I am only growing herbs and some root vegetables at the moment. Seeing your photos makes me want to do more though!

    • Katie
      Katie July 22, 2014 at 11:38 am #

      We lived in places with only courtyards and balconies for years, just growing tomatoes and herbs in pots. The novelty of being able to dig a hole and plant a tree still hasn’t warn off! xx

  2. Ailsa July 21, 2014 at 8:45 pm #

    It looks lovely. We only have a small block too, and we have a big coop for our 5 girls, plenty of vege gardens and fruit trees. I am looking forward to seeing your unfold.

    • Katie
      Katie July 22, 2014 at 11:33 am #

      Your garden sounds gorgeous Ailsa!! 🙂

  3. Zena July 21, 2014 at 8:57 pm #

    I just love your edible front lawn and it will be exciting to watch it grow. Jackie French is so inspiring! Love that quote that brings back memories from my childhood. This is exactly how I would live in the suburbs.

    • Katie
      Katie July 22, 2014 at 11:33 am #

      I love Jackie French!! She’s speaking at the Bendigo Writers Festival this year and I’m very excited about it! xx

  4. Carla July 22, 2014 at 12:49 am #

    I choose yard number two! Fresh every time and my hands in the dirt. I sure miss my chickens!

    • Katie
      Katie July 22, 2014 at 11:49 am #

      Aren’t chickens the greatest? I can’t wait to get some more! 🙂

  5. Reannon @shewhorambles July 22, 2014 at 12:52 am #

    Your front yard looks huge compared to the ones I see around my town. And I think it sounds wonderful what you guys are doing there 🙂

    • Katie
      Katie July 22, 2014 at 11:21 am #

      Thanks Reannon! Our front yard is a pretty good size but we don’t have a backyard (just a little triangular patch of grass which we plan to turn into our chicken coop) so we have to make the very most of it! 🙂

  6. Rita July 22, 2014 at 5:04 am #

    We live in the ‘burbs, too, and I know just what you mean. No one in our neighborhood has front-yard edibles (though I’ve spied a few in side and back yards). Last year we put a few small vegetable/herb boxes in our backyard, which were mostly a bust. We learned and planted again this year. Some things still a bust, but we’ve actually eaten our own food this year (!), and I’d love to do more. However, I’m realizing that to do this in any way that has any kind of real impact on our diet, we’d need to plant much more. (And learn much more!) While I think French’s two versions of suburbia present a bit of a false dichotomy, I love these words: “The richness of our lives depends on our surroundings and what we fill them with.”

    • Katie
      Katie July 22, 2014 at 11:29 am #

      Technically we don’t live in the suburbs (our entire town has a population of just 500 people, so it’s more like a little village) but there definitely aren’t any front yard veggie patches. We don’t have a backyard so the front lawn is the only place ours can go! Totally understand about the discovery you need to plant much more to make a real impact on your diet. We’ve experienced the same thing, which is why our veg garden keeps growing and our lawn is rapidly disappearing! 🙂

  7. Jan July 22, 2014 at 10:37 am #

    I would choose a suburban jungle too. I love the look of sheer bliss on Daisy upturned face.

    • Katie
      Katie July 22, 2014 at 11:35 am #

      Hehe, I know! She’s the cutest! xx

  8. Ravs July 22, 2014 at 3:03 pm #

    Wow! Just, wow!

  9. The Life of Clare July 23, 2014 at 6:32 am #

    I love the jungle! Your chook tractor is great! Do your girls go into a hen house at night? We need to get a new chook house/tractor.

    • Katie
      Katie July 23, 2014 at 12:04 pm #

      Our girls have a little coop (you can see it in the background of the second pic) where they sleep. They also stay in there on wet days, as the tractor doesn’t have a roof. A chicken tractor is a great option if you can’t let them free range (we can’t because A. our fencing is inadequate and B our dogs would eat them!). 🙂

  10. Amber July 23, 2014 at 7:13 am #

    My neighbors (although they rent) have lived next door for 16 years. They grow gardens, not lawns. Even the transformation in the 4 years since we’ve been their neighbors has completely floored me! They have been such an inspiration and powerful resource as we start putting mark on our own backyard space. Keep at it dear, you have the motivation and it’s looking great!! 🙂

    • Katie
      Katie July 23, 2014 at 12:05 pm #

      Your neighbours sounds amazing Amber! How inspiring! xx

  11. Bek @ Just For Daisy July 23, 2014 at 11:58 am #

    Just bought Jackie’s book off eBay! Thanks for the tip – can’t wait for it to arrive!! 🙂
    Love what you’ve started! We’re hoping to expand here too so looking forward to learning mroe!

    • Katie
      Katie July 23, 2014 at 12:07 pm #

      Oh, I hope you love it! Reubs and I have found it so inspiring! xx

  12. Kim July 24, 2014 at 9:51 pm #

    I love what you’re doing Katie. Jackie French is fab! If you haven’t already read it, her book Seasons of Content is a wonderful and pragmatic glimpse into the life of her garden. I’m missing my country garden terribly after a move to the city so have become obsessed with indoor plants and balcony pots. I love reading about your adventures. Keep it up 🙂

  13. Lauren July 26, 2014 at 8:52 am #

    We’ve been in our house for three years now. Did much the same thing as you and left Melbourne to come here. I am pretty happy with our garden as it was just a few shrubs and a couple of rose bushes, but now we have several veggie patches and plantings, fruit trees, a cottage garden incorporating natives and a swing in the peppercorn tree for the kids. We bought cheap and have been slowly renovating. I too have had the same feelings of wanting it done ‘now’ but slow progress seems faster when you look back at what you didn’t have before. Enjoy your garden – its the best therapy you can get. x

  14. Jess64 July 27, 2014 at 12:58 pm #

    Did you make the chook tractor. Thinking we are going to need to do something like that for sometimes. Are your hens laying, do they “hold on” until they get back to the run.

  15. Jess64 July 27, 2014 at 12:59 pm #

    Oh and forgot to say I love that Jackie French quote, I think I’ll print it out and frame it somewhere to remind myself what I’m trying to achieve.

    • Katie
      Katie July 28, 2014 at 2:50 pm #

      Hi Jess! We were planning to make a chicken tractor but we actually spotted this little run in a discount shop for a great price, so we snapped it up. It’s very light which makes it really easy to move around the year. I’ve seen similar ones in pet shops. Our girls usually lay pretty early and we don’t put them out until mid morning, so they they’re all done by then. Though we did once get an egg in the tractor! 🙂

  16. Bevin January 1, 2015 at 10:05 pm #

    I love reading your story and your garden is lovely! I keep telling all of my friends that come out to our farm and say that they dream of having the acreage we have so they can grow their own food that they can start with what they have. I will be sharing your blog with them!


  1. Summer Harvest | House of Humble - January 7, 2015

    […] talk on the same topic at the Bendigo Writer’s Festival. I touched on Jackie’s ideas in this post but, basically, her philosophy is that the traditional neat rows of vegetables you see in European […]

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