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A backyard is all you need

liz odwyer
Liz O’Dwyer with two of her ‘girls’ in a new bed that is being prepared for a spring vegetable planting. Photo – Helen Tatchell

By Carol Saffer

Australia currently generates 7.6 million tonnes of food waste every year.
With urban agriculture on the rise, one low cost way to divert food waste from landfills and return its nutrients and carbon back to soil is through composting.
Chairman of the Centre for Organic Research & Education (CORE) Eric Love says every backyard is a potential productive urban farm.
“We can all enjoy healthy, locally grown food, reduce waste and close the loop on food waste by turning it into compost.”
CORE supports the efforts of the International Compost Awareness Week (ICAW), held in Australia during May, that encourages and promotes the importance and benefit of composting to improve soil quality, and at the same time reduce the amount of organic waste going to landfills.
When Moorabool resident Wayne Bell and his family lived in Ballan for eight years their backyard was home to a chook pen, compost bin, worm farms and bee hives.
Mr Bell fed their compost bin with a combination of green vegetable material from the garden, food scraps from the kitchen and a deep litter method of collecting the chicken and duck manure from the pen.
“We don’t throw anything out. Between my family, the dog, chickens and ducks, we recycle 90 per cent of our food waste,” Mr Bell said.
Their 10 square metre garden in the backyard supplied the family of four with 50 per cent of their vegetables during the summer and autumn seasons.
Since moving onto a larger property in Mt Egerton, Mr Bell has started work on building a 40 square metre plot with plans to replicate the beehives and worm farms.
“If I didn’t work full time we could be self sufficient and sustainable fresh-food wise, now that we have more land.”
CORE chairman Mr Love says farming is not restricted to just the rural areas.
“We can have smaller farms in urban areas and enjoy fresh produce at our doorsteps.”
Liz O’Dwyer is a keen composter. She sees it as a “valuable resource when growing food to be self-sustaining.” On her standard quarter acre house block in Ballan, 30 per cent of her backyard is covered in a four-bay compost system, a hen house and no-dig garden beds.
Household food scraps, garden pruning, vegetable cuttings and the hen house flooring of shredded-paper, rich in chook manure, all go into the compost bays.
Ms O’Dwyer practices permaculture gardening, a method that imitates nature taking its course, using no chemicals in the garden.
Except during winter her garden provides 70 per cent of her fresh food.
“Excess harvest is swapped with friends for other foods I don’t grow myself,” she said.
“I don’t have any food waste. Nothing goes in the rubbish bin. What isn’t eaten by me is recycled through the hen house and the composts bays.”