Land Efficiency In The Suburbs

I originally posted this on the Simple, Green, Frugal Co-op, but I wanted to repost to ensure its survival.  It is quite topical seeing that Sustainable House Day is only four sleeps away!

You have probably heard of energy efficiency, but what about land efficiency. Are you really using what you have in the most efficient way?  Or do you dream of selling up and moving to the country to settle down on a few acres?  Do you really need a house cow or goat to live a sustainable lifestyle?

Those sorts of questions used to go around and around in my head when I first started this journey.  Sure I may have dreamed about it for an odd minute or two, but never seriously, and I just don’t have the room for livestock.  They would be nice, but not practical.

Early on when I just started my greening, the family and I decided that we would do the best we could with the space we had available. Our space is a 779 sqm or 8385 square feet or 0.19 of an acre.

More than most plots around my area where the houses are getting bigger and the land getting smaller.  McMansions are rife around here because property developers have gotten greedy! To some this may sound like a lot of land. It is all relative I suppose.

Anyway, I have managed to squeeze a lot of things into my normal sized suburban yard. Click to enlarge to picture.

I sourced the image from Near map have detailed aerial photos of most Australian urban centres.  North is at the top of the picture and I have marked our boundary in red, highlighting some of the stand-out features.

 Hopefully it has put all the other outdoor photos of my garden that I have taken for my blog into context for those who are regular readers.

There is not one bit of land that is unused except for behind the shed, and I even let the chooks down there occasionally to clean it up.  Most of the pool area is now covered with an arbour for the grapes, and there are five new citrus trees in large pots at the front of the pool.

There is room for improvement in the front yard, as I am planning some drip irrigation in for the existing fruit trees.  I have 14 fruit trees in the front yard with the tallest being 2 metres (7 ft) and the shortest only 60 cm (2 ft). I have a second rainwater tank now under the garage all hooked up to the original tank and the veggie patch.  I have a small 12 volt water pump for irrigation that is connected to my standalone solar PV system.

We also have no lawn at all. That’s right, not a blade of grass to be seen except for the nature strips which I just mow and don’t water. I ripped up the rest years ago and put in food production. I find that lawns are such a waste of space, resources and water.

However, all in all, I wouldn’t have it any bigger and certainly not much smaller and I find that I can manage it in the spare time that I have available.

I am very happy with what we have and couldn’t want for any more land.  By making do with what I have, we can grow just about anything in the smallest of spaces.

You just have to use your imagination!


  1. says

    Totally agree on getting rid of the lawn, I only have the nature strip left and that is soon to become gravel and beneficial flower beds/seedling overflow space. I love how you’ve used every bit of space, even down the sides of the house!

  2. says

    Great post Gav!

    I don’t plan on buying a lawn mover for the new property as I plan to have all of it used for food production and raising chooks too.

    P.s. How exciting to have your grapes growing over your pool! It will look fantastic as well as being super productive

    A great, great post again.


  3. says

    Hi Gavin,

    I’m so glad you posted this. We have been contemplating blocking off one whole section of the yard and putting in heaps of vegie beds around the existing fruit trees. The only thing putting me off was whether we needed to keep the existing fruit trees surrounded by grass.

    We live on 1020sqm, and the fruit trees are in a huge half of our backyard that gets sun all day. Looking at your front yard is very inspiring :-)

    We hope to put some avocado trees and more veggie beds in our front yard once we have a decent fence. Currently passersby treat it as a rubbish bin and beer bottle recycling facility *sigh*.

    • says

      Hi Mrs B, I have a mate who has fruit trees at the end of each veggie bed. They really do well due to the extra nutrients that they gather from the fertile soil.

      Gav x

  4. says

    You have a similar block to what we currently have here in Spotswood. We are moving out from here for some more land (1/2 acre so not too much) but also for the small town lifestyle rather than the inner burbs which are fast becoming very packed in. We are planning to raise our own meat and maybe in the future, goats for milk too. As much as we adored this area when we bought here just over 4 years ago, the community is changing as people sell up and move out. In our street alone (and it’s a street of only a single block) there are 2 completed builds where 2 houses are now 5, 2 vacant blocks, 1 more for sale and 2 others awaiting building permits. And the block behind us, the same size as ours now has 3 nearly finished townhouses with gardens only slightly bigger than my kitchen. It’s not a community we want to be a part of anymore. When we move we will be making the most of every spare ounce of space though. :)

    • says

      Hi Jessie, I hear you. When your community changes around you due to greed developers, it is time to bug out. I think you made a wise more buying in Ballan. It is such a nice place and has a strong community and good climate.

      Looking forward to meeting you on Sunday

      Gav x

  5. says

    Hi Gavin, You may have already blogged about this, but how do you protect your fruit trees from pests in your front yard, ie. birds/ bugs/ disease? I use mesh sleeves on our apricot tree, and now on our plum & nectarine, as well as sockettes on the apple trees. We also spray for curly leaf on our stone fruit at bud swell too. In fact, for every different variety we have there seems to be something different to be done to it! I want more fruit trees, and have space out the front, but am put off by having to spend more time controlling pests that I don’t really have. I guess once you get to know which organic spray, trap or exclusion product you need, it’s easy enough.

    We have almost 1000sqm, and though we still have dreams of ‘moving to the country’ at times, I also know we have enough to keep us busy where we are. Adapt in place is our motto!

    • says

      That is a great motto Bec. Adapting in place and building community will be the key to survival and happiness.

      As for the fruit, I use exclusion bags for the apples, and nets for the stone fruit. Coddling moth is taken care of by the chooks. The big plum tree is left to fend for itself as it is usually laden with more than enough blood plums for both the local wildlife and our family.

      Not really effected with leaf curl, but don’t really know why.

      Gav x

  6. says

    Love it! My favorite part of your piece is where you say you wouldn’t have it bigger, because that’s pretty much how I feel about my space. I used to (and still occasionally, but not often) wish for more land (because I’d like goats), but realistically, at my age, I know this quarter acre is about all the land I am comfortable trying to cultivate and maintain, and really, used wisely, it’s more than enough.

    Thanks for the continued inspiration ;).

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