Readers Mailbag – Suburban Block Size

How much land is enough to provide food for your family?  Do you really need acres of land?  Well it all depends on what your goals are.  Mine were simple.  I needed as much as I could manage with the time I have available.  No more, no less

Today’s question comes from Tracey about that very subject.

Hi Gavin

Thanks for sharing your family’s adventure into semi self-sufficiency with everyone. I find your stories really inspiring.

I have looked on your site, and can’t find the info I’m looking for – although it’s probably in BIG letters under my nose.

How large is your block? Have you ever done a birds-eye plan of the garden? We have tried the rural acre block, but due to a bad back and missing family, we are going back to suburbia and since you seem to provide so much we are hoping ours can sustain our modified dream.

I appreciate that you are busy, so thanks for your time

Tracey & W

Well firstly Tracey, thanks for the email and sorry to hear about the bad back and you missing your family.  I know all about bad backs and the dampening effect it can have on plans.

So on to your question.  My suburban block is 779 m² (0.19 acre).  It was the average block size back in the 1970’s when my home was built.  Not all is arable, as the pool takes up about a fifth of the land and the house another two fifths, leaving me the remaining two fifths to grow food and raise chooks.

I have posted a birds-eye plan of the garden before, but that was quite a few years ago.  I found an updated aerial view of my house and land (circa Oct 2012), and I have highlighted things that can be squeezed in to a small block of land such as ours.

Well, I believe that a picture is worth a thousand words, so here it is!

As you can see, you can fit an almighty swathe of things in a suburban block.  Hopefully you will be able to see the potential in which ever new home you choose.

Your dream can become a reality, even in suburbia.  Mine did!

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Comments

  1. says

    Very cool. I guess all gardeners love seeing the layouts of other folks’ spreads!

    This may to be helpful too: “Backyard Orchard Culture”. I’m planning on doing fruit trees this way – at least trying it. The basic idea is to stunt the growth of the trees so that they bear a manageable amount of fruit for a family plus you can work with the trees while standing on the ground. The trees are planted in an arrangement of four, about 18″ apart and then are summer pruned to keep them 6 – 8′ high. There’s more to it than that, and I’m still looking into it, but the Dave Wilson Nursery site has quite a bit of info (including some videos) – they may have even originated the technique. Here’s an article from their site to get you started: http://www.davewilson.com/homegrown/gardencompass/gc01_mar_apr_01.html

  2. says

    Awesome picture, Gav. And of course you’ve added/modified things quite a bit since the last birds eye view. You really do fit an amazing amount of food into a small space! And it doesn’t show the cheese cave or the beer brewing…

  3. says

    Very inspiring – you’re really using the land well. We’ve just gone all out and bought 11 acres (!!) but it was more because we loved the old homes it contained and wanted to give our country upbringing than because we plan to use it all. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • says

      Nice one. Yes it would be pretty time consuming to maintain a lot of the 11 acres. Are you returning most of it back to its natural state, and how much are your going to turn to food production? Would love to hear your plans.

      Gav x

  4. says

    I’ve been privileged to visit your house Gavin on Sustainable House Day and I was stunned at just how much production you squeeze out of a not overly large growing space. It’s inspiring to say the least and I’m sure I will be reading through your older blog posts a LOT in future for hints and ideas on how you’ve done it. I absolutely ADORE your idea of the fish farm too. I have looking into aquaponics too – it’s a brilliant concept and it’s on the list to look into over the quieter winter months.

  5. says

    wow you have a lot of fruit trees. I have always thought I didn’t have the room for fruit trees, but am managing to fit a few into our small space by planting in pots etc.

  6. says

    It is amazing how many fruit tree you can squeeze into a small space. If you also use techniques like espaliering trees agains a fenceline or wall then the number trees increases again.

    I’m lucky enought to have a larger than standard suburban block and I have fruit trees planted down the back of the block in a triangle pattern so that every tree is about 3 to 4 metres from any other. I haven’t planted out the whole area but I have about 25 fruit and nut trees with room for another 15 without any problem. That works out to about 6 to 7 square metres per tree. I know people in small spaces who have even denser plating than that with no problems.

    Cheers

  7. says

    Hi Gavin; what a cool way of mapping out and displaying your yard….I think I might give that a go…. I’m building a mini orchard in my front yard at the moment as it gets the most sun.

  8. says

    yeh, reckon I might have to give doing that picture thing a crack as well, Gavin.

    I have been tempted several times to replace the ‘patio’ with veges.

    … and the shed. *shock!*

    but haven’t gotten much further than the thought. It’s a thought worth having though ;)

    We also have fruit trees planted closer together on the reading o Jackie French – about why fruit trees are usually planted further apart (England minimal sun whereas we have heaps of it here, and for commercial reasons – pickers/machines to go up and down the rows). Ours are maybe 2-3m apart? if that. So far so good.

    We have also used dwarf varieties for some or are just keeping them pruned.

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