Looking at photos of digital creator Connie Cao’s garden, one could easily assume it is part of a sprawling country property. In reality, Connie’s garden occupies the backyard of her suburban Melbourne home, that she has lovingly tended to since late 2019.
Connie designed her backyard as a productive garden after completing a permaculture design course. ‘The whole idea of nature being able to weave magic into a seed and turn it into a plant, no less an edible one that we can enjoy and consume to sustain us, is just so incredible to me,’ she says.
Her backyard suburban garden covers about 170 square metres, inclusive of an enclosed veggie patch. ‘At the moment I’m growing a range of fruiting veggies such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and pumpkins which I love to preserve to enjoy during winter,’ Connie says. ‘I also love growing Asian veggies and have winter melon, malabar spinach, long string beans, and okra in the garden.’
On the opposite side is the greenhouse where Connie grows frost-sensitive plants, and raises seedlings at the start of each spring. The garden is designed with easy access to both this zone and the vegetables in mind.
‘Both of these spots are visited regularly, so they’re zoned closer to the back door,’ Connie explains. ‘In permaculture, we talk about zoning in terms of thinking about what needs more frequent access and placing those items in a closer, more convenient location to the home.’
There’s also a ‘secret garden’ feel to the layout, designed with various twists and turns revealing different ‘rooms’ and nooks throughout.
Towards the back of the garden is a flower patch, fruit trees, and perennials that require less attention. ‘Most of the planting is quite scattered to give it a natural feel, as well as help mask scents to help confuse pests!’
Connie has drawn on various family members for their help and experience over the years. The DIY netted enclosure, made of aviary mesh walls and bird netting, for example, was the brainchild of Connie’s father to help keep pests at bay.
Connie says tending to the garden takes up about half a day each week, usually on a weekend morning.
Creating this garden has supercharged Connie’s interest in sustainable living. She’s recently completed a Diploma of Sustainable Living, and shares regular gardening content on her social media and website.
‘The thought of being able to grow your own food in your backyard (or front yard!) and build food resilience at the same time also makes gardening such an empowering and community-building activity,’ says Connie. ‘I’m really passionate about the idea that anyone can grow their own food instead of lawns!’