Rainwater tank with carnivorous plants beside the back door

Yesterday we went on a free Water Sensitive Urban Design tour put on for residents by Marrickville Council as part of their ‘Water Revolution’ program.   If you haven’t been on this tour, I highly recommend it.  It was a very interesting, informative & friendly 3 hours.  I’ve come away with a greater understanding of how rainwater & house water can be captured & utilized around our home as well as ideas for green walls, which plants to use & garden ideas.

About 16 residents joined 2 Marrickville Council staff members on a bus tour of 3 properties in Marrickville LGA where water-wise & other energy saving initiatives have been implemented.  Each property was remarkably different so this gave us an opportunity to see a variety of approaches to sustainable living.  I will write 3 posts, one for each property.  It was a chatty group, with great hosts & many opportunities to ask questions.

House number 1 in Lewisham is a typical Federation terrace where residents Jen & Michael have done an extraordinary amount of things to make their house environmentally friendly.  They are in credit as far as energy bills & this is the middle of winter.  Impressive.

Their small front garden is a pretty cottage mix of roses & water tolerant plants.  They plant what they like & if it survives, then it stays.  They have also made a small verge garden around the electricity pole.

The back garden is also very pretty with lots of artistic touches, from mosaic panels & seats, to hanging mobiles.  Directly outside the back door & under a small pergola is the healthiest carnivorous plant I have seen. It has been put here to catch any flies & mosquitoes silly enough to come.

They have installed permeable paving made from house bricks, placed in a circular design. The 10cm deep mix of sand & road base underneath captures rainwater. This then is purposely channeled into areas in the garden, most being directed to water the vegetable patch. There is a small area of lawn that has 2 swales, again, to hold water on the property & to channel it where they want the garden watered.  5 chickens live a lovely life at the far back & are let out to do natural pest control in the veggie patch.  Banana & Paw Paw trees grow in the chook pen & would love the natural fertilizer.

There are 2 rainwater tanks sitting unobtrusively beside the fence. These capture about 4,000 litres of stormwater. This is used for the washing machine & to flush the toilet.  A grey water system collects the water from the washing machine & drips it down to the back of the garden. There are no phosphates or other chemicals because they use soap nuts to wash their clothes. A bag costs about $20 & the nuts last a few months.  There are no irrigation hoses visible as these are either buried in the ground or are sitting under a bed of mulch for easy access.

A very large mirror (approximately 2.5 metres x 1.2 metres leans against the fence.  Apart from creating an illusion that the garden is much larger than it is, the mirror also reflects light back into the garden.  To me the mirror also made the neighbours’ large & lovely trees appear to be part of Jen & Michael’s garden.

They make their own compost & take their neighbours’ grass clippings. There is also a whirly-gig on the roof to take out excess heat from the roof space.  All up this was a lovely garden with many spots of beauty. That they have no energy bills, grow much of their own vegetables, have fruit trees bursting with fruit & service their washing machine & toilet with rainwater provided for free by Mother Nature, thereby halving their town water use, makes them smart people in my book.

I made a short YouTube video of House Number 1 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLTMkCxxS7M

Showing a part of the permeable paving & a channel that diverts rainwater towards garden beds & also swales built into the grassed area. This keeps precious water on the property, but directs it to where it is needed