The garden was done to an absolute minimum before we bought the house. It looked like the vendor had worked it up to a certain point, and then just dumped marble chip on the rest in order to sell it. The front was a simple square of couch grass. The back had one nicely paved area with a raised garden bed around it, but the rest was some horribly laid pavers, and lots and lots of those damned marble chips.
I was there a good year before my work travel allowed me to actually make any changes. I started slowly with one veggie patch running the length of the house down one side – maybe 30 to 40 square metres. This involved shovelling up and barrowing out several tonnes of marble chips, and then barrowing in several tonnes of organic loam. South Australia is known for heavy clay soils, and building up raised beds is by far the best option.
The nicely paved area was perfect for an entertainment area, so I had a large pergola put over that.
The raised garden bed was retained well, but was full of horrid plants – geraniums, ferns, and conifers. I left some of the ferns as they were quite healthy, despite having little-to-no care. Same with a couple of the prostrate conifers. The rest went.
I then expanded the productive area by pulling up a large area of pavers and putting in some raised veggie beds.
That then expanded to the back fence, where I put in fruit trees and a poultry area.
One thing we found that helped was using multi-grafted fruit trees. Our block was a good size, but it still doesn’t take long to fill up suburban house block. We chose things like a plum with two cultivars chosen so they’d pollinate each other, and a lemon/lime graft.
We then encroached on the ornamental area, planting more fruit trees and reclaiming some as a herb garden. The entire ornamental area would have gone but we had dogs and apparently they need somewhere to crap.
We still wanted the area to be attractive. Personally, I find nothing prettier than a healthy veggie patch, but having that next to our entertaining area was tough due to the crap factories (aka the dogs). With that in mind, we worked up some manicured productive areas, like a little raked gravel spot with a mandarin tree.
What started out as a couple of hundred square metres of ferns, geraniums, and tonnes of marble chip, all of which I had to pull up and barrow to the front, ended up as mostly veggie/herb patch, 10 to 12 fruit trees, a handful of chooks and ducks, and a large covered entertaining area.
It ended up being a lot of work, but it extended over several years and I really didn’t notice just how much effort it took. In fact, there were parts of the garden that I’d done and redone three times over, simply because I was running out of space and things to do. I had literally ripped up my entire front yard twice to redo it, and it was mostly out of boredom. It wasn’t work. It was fun.