When Alice Ziebell (The Design Files’ partnerships manager) and her husband Marlon (landscape architect at Ziebell Landscape Architecture) moved from their Northcote rental to their new home in the country, they initially imagined themselves living on many acres in the middle of nowhere.
Instead, they ended up on a 1412 square metre block in the middle of Korumburra town. But, as visitors to their idyllic home will know, this tranquil spot feels far more removed from the bustle of the main street, not 500 metres from their front door.
‘It gives us the best of both worlds,’ says Alice. ‘We can grow as much as we could possibly need (and more!) in the garden, whilst also being walking distance to everything we need in town.’
When Alice and Marlon first started working on the garden in 2018 it was an unloved, open space with a hard piece of compacted dirt where the previous tenant’s caravan had once been parked. ‘It was the perfect blank slate for us to create our little paradise!’, says Alice.
Now, the garden is complete with fruit-laden trees, a bee hive, chicken coop, wild flowers and vegetable beds, which have slowly developed over time with extra rows added as Alice and Marlon’s planting needs grew.
Spring is the busiest time in the garden; it’s the season of sewing seeds and planting seedlings, in the hope of a plentiful harvest in the coming months.
Peak summer into early autumn sees them picking and processing said harvest! This time of year is less about being in the garden and more about being in the kitchen, turning homegrown produce into pickles, jams, chutneys, pies, cider and much more, to be enjoyed in the months ahead. Then, it’s time to start sewing and planting seedlings once again.
It’s an idyllic lifestyle, but not without its challenges, says Alice. ‘It certainly keeps us on our toes! One year there was no rain at all, and everything just turned into a crisp! The next year we had so much rain that everything went mouldy and the tomatoes didn’t get enough sun to ripen, so we ended up with kilos of green tomatoes.’
A big lesson they learnt was the importance of caring for the soil as well as the plants. ‘After a bumper couple of years, our soil became depleted because we weren’t giving it the love and nourishment it needed. Now, in between each growing season we are dedicated to adding lots of compost, mulch and giving beds rest time/adding green manure crops. Since learning this, we’ve been rewarded with plants that are thriving!’
Some days the pair spend a couple of minutes in the garden, other days, hours. ‘To some it might seem like work, but to us this is where we are happiest,’ says Alice. ‘It truly is a labour of love.’
Alice paints a pretty picture of their garden paradise as she describes the sweet smell of tomatoes and basil as they warm in the sun, the apple tree heaving with fruit, picking warm and juicy peaches and the brightly hued flowers giving pollen to the bees.
But in truth, there’s nothing sweeter than sharing the garden with their young son Otis. ‘Gardens are such a rich and magical place for kids to grow up. Each day Otis runs to collect the eggs from the chickens, or checks if there are any ripe strawberries for him to pick. He loves watering and shovelling soil, picking veggies, and going on little ‘adventures’ with us. The garden really is natures playground and I hope it will teach him that the most important things in life are almost always the smallest things.’