Plant / Life: Judy Sederof

Sixty square metres isn’t big. Think a small studio apartment, an inner city courtyard garden, or your kitchen and living room combined. Now, think about this: 25 fruit trees, 150 eggplants, zucchinis till the cows come home, and a year round supply of greens and herbs. Welcome to Judy Sederof’s over-achieving sixty square metre East Brunswick garden!

The Sederof family home is north facing to ensure good solar access. Image by Annette O'Brien.

Judy and her husband Andreas own Sunpower Design, a sustainable home building company. They built their own home a few years ago (check it out here), and the garden quickly followed. Like their house, the focus of the garden was very much on sustainability. “We’re hoping to eventually produce most of our own food,” says Judy. “I think we have around 25 dwarf fruit trees. They’re espaliered on the boundary and in pots, there’s pomegranates, olives and a fig growing in the nature strip out the front!”

With a background in interior design and a keen eye for beauty, Judy designed the garden herself, with assistance from a permaculturalist from her local nursery. The property is a dual occupancy, and Judy and Andreas’ house sits on the southern boundary, ensuring as much room for the north facing garden as possible. The garden’s aspect is perfect for food growing and ensuring solar access to the house.

Large slate stepping stones interplanted with Corsican mint lead to a laser cut Corten steel entrance gate at the property boundary. Not given to wasting space, Judy has espaliered fruit trees growing along the entry pathway, as well as the odd sunflower!

The Sederof family – Andreas and Judy, and their daughter Samantha. Image by Annette O'Brien.
Low groundcovers such as thyme and chamomile are planted around stepping stones leading to the compost tumbler. Image by Annette O'Brien.
When you run out of ground space for plants, the only way is up! Image by Annette O'Brien.
The over-achieving eggplant! Image by Annette O'Brien.
The Sederofs used white cypress timber, a native softwood, for all the exterior cladding of the house, the deck and the curved pathway through the garden. Image by Annette O'Brien.
Drought tolerant plants like lambs ear (Stachys byzantina) and stonecrop flank the timber entry pathway. Image by Annette O'Brien.
A dwarf avocado tree, one of Judy’s many fruit producing trees. Image by Annette O'Brien.
‘I put my mums ashes underneath the rose and it’s just gone mad,’ says Judy. ‘Its been blooming for eight months now!’ Image by Annette O'Brien.
Judy has espaliered dwarf fruit trees, like this apple, to maximize usable space in the garden. Image by Annette O'Brien.
The petals of marigold flowers are edible – throw ‘em in your next salad. Image by Annette O'Brien.

Upon entering the property, a curved white cypress timber pathway leads through the garden to a large timber deck – where most meals are eaten during the warmer months. Concealed under the deck are two large rainwater tanks, used to water the garden and flush the house toilets. Flanking the timber pathway are some of the few ornamental plants found within the garden – a collection of tough drought tolerant plants like lambs ear (Stachys byzantina), rosemary, and tall stonecrop (Sedum spp.).

And then there’s the edibles, many of which are planted in raised timber wicking beds, as much of the site sits on basalt rock, meaning areas of very shallow/non existent soil. Wicking beds are raised planters with a water reservoir at the bottom from which plants can draw up water through their roots as they need it, through capillary action.

Judy loves the garden. “When the weather is good I’m in the garden every morning for a few hours,” she says. However, even she is blown away by the food she’s managed to produce from it. “I’m amazed at the produce we’ve gotten from the garden. The eggplant is still producing fruit and its June! I think I’ve had over 150 eggplants from it over the season.” One plant, 150 eggplants. Clearly Judy is doing something right.

“People can be sustainable in a small space,” says Judy when I ask her what she’d like to share about her experience of creating and nurturing her garden. “You can downsize and still grow a lot of your own food.” Holy moly you certainly can! Judy’s garden is testament to this very fact. I just wish I lived next door so I could have access to the excess eggplants.

This story was produced as part of our monthly collaboration with The Design Files.

Drought tolerant plants like lambs ear (Stachys byzantina) and stonecrop flank the timber entry pathway. Image by Annette O'Brien.
Judy grows most of her vegetables in raised wicking beds. Image by Annette O'Brien.