When A Gardener Considers Moving To Queensland

Bellis as it looked before establishing the garden

Sandy, a ‘Bellis’ blog reader, is buying a 5 acre property in the Samford Valley, north west of Brisbane…

“I must say I was impressed by your patience in establishing the drainage and improving the soil. I may be organic, but I’m also impatient and that’s been my downfall in the little suburban garden we’ve been practicing on here in Sydney. But live and learn”…

Dear Sandy,

That’s a great part of SE Qld to garden. Gets some rain even during drought, but plan for hail damage, ensure good drainage, and improve your soil.

It’s amazing to see how effective soil improvement and good drainage can be. My place has had over a metre of rain in 40 days, and not one succulent has died due to good drainage. In many years drainage may only prove to be necessary for one wet spell, but that one wet spell can wreck a food garden.

My improved soil is not just healthy and fertile, it can mop up 80mm of rain in 30 minutes (2011), and 234mm rain in 2.5 hours (2008), and the contoured site sheds very little stormwater. Having our own sewage system and rainwater tank as well creates an enormous buffer against drought and flooding.

The infrastructure and the landscape design works so well. Imagine if all of the 150,000 houses in Brisbane that are just like mine were working together against drought and floods. The benefits increase still further if you’re a farmer, or a manager of a network of city parks and catchments.

My place has had no crop losses, I’m harvesting daily, and the garden looks like nothing unusual has happened. People in low set houses who haven’t improved their soil or drainage have had stormwater raging through their houses. One friend has lost everything – poultry, house, his beautiful established garden – all erased, all washed away. It’s heartbreaking.

I believe this sort of work and infrastructure is essential in 21st century Queensland, especially Queenslander-style houses in flood-prone areas.

The Samford area experiences more heavy rain and storms than Wynnum, even in drought it gets some rain, so:

* How high is the elevation of your house site? Mine is 5.5m above the 1974 flood peak;

* Have you seen your local flood map? Brisbane City Council has flood maps. The street next to mine is a floodway, which means it’s likely insurance companies know which properties are at risk and which aren’t.

My advice is to get things right from the start. Patience early on will provide a successful garden, and better security well into the future.

Good luck and welcome to Queensland!

Jerry Coleby-Williams
15th January 2011