JUDE and Michel Fanton eat from their Byron Bay garden all year round, but theirs is no ordinary veggie patch.
- VIDEOS: Some highlights from the open garden, PLUS Jude shows you how to make a delicious curry powder from plants you can grow in your backyard
- PHOTO GALLERY: Take a look around Jude and Michel's garden
From the bush tucker plants and exotic fruit orchard at the front of their property to the wild and rambling herb and vegetables growing at the back, the Fanton's permaculture garden demonstrates how, with some planning and a bit of creative thinking, an ordinary suburban backyard can be transformed into an edible wonderland.
The founders of the Seed Savers Network opened their garden to the public last weekend and I was one of dozens of eager gardeners who seized the opportunity to listen and learn from a couple who have inspired an international movement dedicated to saving (and sharing) seeds and preserving food-growing knowledge.
As I followed Jude on an information-packed tour around her one-acre block I discovered that this garden was as practical as it was beautiful. While appearing as pretty as any ornamental garden could look, each plant in it had a purpose beyond mere aesthetics.
For example, the clumping bamboo growing at the edge of the property was not only stunning to look at; it also fulfilled the permaculture principle of every element of a garden having multi-functions. The bamboo was placed where it would provide privacy screening from the road; it acted as a wind break; protected shade-loving plants; could be used as a building material, such as garden stakes; the dried leaves formed a mulch to condition the soil and the sweet new shoots could be eaten. All that from just one plant.
Other plants provided food to eat or drink, nutrients for the compost "teas" the Fantons feed the soil or attracted beneficial insects to keep the garden thriving.
After guiding us through her garden, Jude then showed us how to make a curry paste from ingredients most local gardeners are capable of cultivating in our sub-tropical climate.
Freshly picked ginger and turmeric roots were pounded into a paste along with home-grown galangal and garlic, while mustard and coriander seeds were ground with dried chilli to form an aromatic curry base.
The tour ended with an invitation to take home some marigold, mustard and cabbage seeds to get started in our own garden. I left the Seed Savers' property with a handful of seeds, a couple of cuttings from the kitchen garden and full of inspiration to turn my own backyard into an edible paradise.