There is a plethora of life and ideas behind the gate of Dean Bleasdale’s Carina Heights home.
The foods growing in this Winstanley Street garden include cumquats, coffee, lemons, mustard, broccolini, climbing and dwarf beans, basil, passionfruit, chilli, sage, celery, cos lettuce and potatoes.
Dean, known by many as ‘Green Dean’, runs a range of events from his garden and seminar space. Experimentation is a big part of how he guides his garden to evolve. On Sunday I attended his gathering brilliantly named ‘Meet the Flockers’ which included a tour (with tastings!) of his garden.
He started the tour off by showing us where he houses some ex-battery hens. Dean founded the KFC Project (kindness for chickens).
All battery hens rescued by the KFC Project are legally obtained and paid for from egg farms.
Dean keeps the hens until they are sufficiently healthier and he then re-homes them with people who, he says, are seeking to help them have a second chance in life.
“When they first come out of the cages it’s like they are kind of getting their sea legs and are happy to lay in the sun all day,” Dean said.
“As a biological resource – they [the chickens] turn everything over constantly – fantastic composters, pest control and that sort of stuff. Really cool girls.”
However, he says that people’s main motivation to adopt or foster these hens needs to be compassion for their well-being.
There is a Madagascar bean vine threading itself through some wire fencing.
“Absolutely prolific fruiter once it gets going,” he said. “You only need one vine to produce a lot of food.”
He is also growing Pigeon Pea which has a great deal of functions in permaculture and cooking.
Dean showed us an area where he has removed a hibiscus hedge and intends to turn it into a structure like an orchard or “food forest”.
He is planning double rows of fruit trees, bordered into sections and says he is trying to use every space possible.
In this section there are compost heap mounds over the top of the stumps covered with cardboard.
“Within a very short time, especially if it’s hot composting it will just rot those roots off at ground level. It saves resources, poison and all of that and puts it all back into the soil.”
Nearby there is a chook tractor he made from a table and wire.
“I move that round for a couple of hours, put a few chooks in it and swap it around so they all get a turn. I put some shade over it and water in it,” he said. “It saves you huge amounts of work and they love doing it.”
Dean says it’s important to him that no biological resources leave the site (apart from things he gives to others).
“All those things that people put in their green bins – they’re losing valuable biological resources, they’re losing nutrients.”
There’s a whole range of human-made items Dean finds uses for too – things given to him and items obtained in kerb-side pick-ups.
He has a range of different seedlings in shoes and I saw him give one of them to a lady who was showing interest them.
A large part of his food production is from his driveway strip that has dug out and bordered.
“It’s mass planted with stuff we like to eat – leafy greens,” Dean says.
He pointed out the lemongrass. “It’s great for cooking, teas, and a great habitat for praying mantis. It’s also a really good repellant. Grasshoppers will want a nibble but not much else.”
I tried two different types of mustard plants while we stood at this garden strip.
“Knocks your socks off,” Dean said while waiting for our responses.
They were really flavoursome and it would take just a small amount to add heaps of taste to an otherwise bland dish.
Fenugreek, sorrel and pepinos are some of the other interesting things growing in this driveway strip.
“I hand-water. I don’t have any irrigation because hand-watering puts you in touch with your garden. It’s time consuming but it’s relaxing and you get to know your plants,” Dean says.
He had a chat to us about his white chokos. The whole plant of a choko can be eaten and Dean broke off some of the leaves.
“Have a chew – You’d swear it’s asparagus when it’s steamed,” he said.
“Pull them off, blanch them in boiling water for 10 minutes, let them cool, make up a rice mix – then dolmades – you wouldn’t know the difference.”
We walked around the main chicken section at the front of his house (separate to the one housing the battery hens). His chickens have heaps of space and it’s clear Dean loves spending time with them.
Not coming from a chicken background myself, I loved looking at the beautiful Silver Penciled and Golden Laced Wyandottes.
I really urge locals to visit this impressive and diverse garden. Dean makes everyone feel very welcome and he is passionate about sharing his extensive knowledge.
Interestingly, Dean says most of the guests to his garden, and its related events, come from outside of the Carindale / Carina region. He’s been striving to get locals more involved and interested.
Contact Green Dean, 0432 414 266, email@example.com