‘That Red House’ – A visit to a sustainable garden.

That Red House | she cooks, she gardens

On Sunday, P and I decided to do something a little different and headed up to Coromandel Valley to check out an Open Garden at a place known as ‘That Red House’, which is owned by Luke and Talia Borda. This was my first time going to an open garden and as we drove along the winding roads approaching the house we weren’t really sure what to expect.

‘That Red House’ is difficult to describe in one sentence. It is glorious. It is a large, 1,700 square meter block built on the side of a hill and surrounded by farmland in the heart of the foothills of Adelaide, South Australia. The property is home to a wonderful garden, lush and green with more than forty raised beds and over a dozen fruit and nut trees.

The garden sits at the top of a long driveway and surrounds a modern, sustainable house that is designed to be warm in winter and cool in summer. As we walked up the long gravel drive I felt an immediate mixture of both envy and awe.

I am told that the Borda’s love of productive gardening started several years ago after a health scare which lead to an entire re-think of their way of life. They established a small vegetable garden in the leafy-green suburb of Fullarton and soon found they were growing an abundance of crops in their modest-sized backyard. By 2009 they were ready to take things one step further and purchased the property in Coromandel Valley with a dream of building an energy-efficient house and a productive garden that would provide them with year-round fresh food.

The family had a long list of prerequisites, many of which are on my own list of ‘things I’d like to have’ including a vegie garden that is large enough to provide for the family, large rainwater tanks which can service said garden, an orchard and room for some chooks. Not ones to shy away from a challenge, the Borda’s set about planning their space without any formal training in garden design and only their previous backyard experience to go on.

When they started working the land they discovered that the soil was virtually non-existent with a mountain of clay and rock hiding underneath a shallow layer of topsoil. It was at this point the family decided to install raised beds as a way around their soil problems and, as you can see, they have not looked back.

As you make your way around this garden it is clear that no stone has been left unturned and at every point consideration has been given to how best to utilise the space. Along the windows there are insect repellent plants which have helped keep Adelaide’s notoriously pesky mosquito population under control and even the front porch is put to use with a flourishing grapevine.

Passing through the side gate you are met with a small greenhouse which I took an instant warming to. Inside there are two raised beds which facilitate the growth of a select few summer vegies in winter (genius!) and also acts as a great place to nurse seedlings through that particularly precious stage of initial growth.

Past the greenhouse are two large rainwater tanks and more than a dozen raised beds, each burgeoning with fresh produce and displaying some novel uses of household objects to help support their growth. Off to the right of the garden is the chook house (made to mirror the shape of the main house) and a large run for them to roam. The chooks share their run with a small orchard which they help to keep weeded, fertilised and insect-free.

Back around to the other side of the house there are two large compost bins, more raised beds (including the single largest crop of basil I think I’ve ever seen!) and a closed in space for their resident pugs to enjoy the tranquillity. Everywhere you look in this garden there is something productive happening.

There are forty-four beds in total on this block, including several beds which double as retaining walls in the lawn area at the front of the yard. What particularly impressed me about this garden was how healthy and abundant all of their plants were. Their fruit trees, all in raised beds, were thriving. I guess I had always just assumed large productive tree needed to go into the ground but this has certainly proven otherwise and is something I’ll be keeping in mind when it comes time to overhaul our front yard (currently a mess of clay and tree roots).

This visit has really gotten my creative juices flowing and thinking about how we can better use the space in our garden, if you ever get the chance to visit this place in the future I thoroughly recommend it.

15 Comments

  • Miss Piggy says:

    What an amazing garden – imagine having the space to do all that (or any of it)! I used to go to open gardens with my mum when I was little kid — I loved being able to snoop in other people’s backyards without getting in trouble.

  • Nat says:

    wow! So beautiful!

  • Wow what an inspiration! It would be my dream to grow all my own produce. I can’t imagine how exciting every meal would be knowing you’d grown it with your own two hands!

  • Judy says:

    The perfect way to spend a sunny Autumn Saturday.
    What an inspiration! Thanks for sharing your visit, Erin. Your photos are beautiful.

    • Erin B says:

      Thanks Judy, it was most excellent. It sounds like the owners are considering opening the garden up for another round of tours – if you’re interested you can send them a msg via their FB page (link at the top of the post).

  • Grant says:

    What a fantastic garden, we were planning to visit to but Wendy was crook so we were both disappointed that we missed out. It’s amazing the inspiration and clever ideas you can get when you see other peoples gardens, In a similar way your fantastic blog shares so many ideas. And while I’m at it, our inground worm pots are going gang busters with worms, it’s amazing how much they can eat. We drop in kitchen scraps every few days and I always surprised to see most of the previous lot has been woofed down.

    • Erin B says:

      Thanks Grant – that is great news about the worm farm! I’m sure your beds will be buzzing along nicely with all of that extra goodness in there.

      I’ve heard from the owners of the house who have said that they are considering offering some private tours of the garden at a date to be advised, if you head to their FB page (via the link at the top of the post) you should be able to send them a message to let them know you’re interested. Sorry to hear Wendy has been crook – I hope she is on the mend soon!

      • That Red House says:

        Hi Grant, We will be opening for a private tour this Sunday if you want to wander through. Perhaps contact us on 0400272415 if this is suits. Thanks.

  • Holy cow what an amazing garden. I wonder how much time they spend outside every week. Looks like a lot! I’m incredibly envious 🙂

    • That Red House says:

      Hi Maureen! We do spend a fair bit of time outside, but what healthier way to spend our days! We love it!

  • Julie says:

    Beautiful lifestyle, sustainability in a great area, awesomely inspiring.

  • I love visiting other people’s garden. I always come away feeling so inspired about things we can do in ours. Even better if it is a productive garden. It looks like a fantastic place.

  • what an amazing place they have created! i can see how it would inspire anyone who visited – and so how generous to open their garden to do just that, inspire others. i don’t know of anyone with that kind of open garden here in tassie.

  • Carol says:

    Beautiful! Love your blog.

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