Thursday, 10 September 2015 01:10

The World According To Costa

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The World According To Costa

A self-confessed lover of nature and friendly host of Gardening Australia, Costa Georgiadis is firmly committed to maintaining the vibrancy of Australian soil. Here, Emily Sparshott discovers how you too can create a green outdoor space that rivals the work of Georgiadis himself.

Costa Georgiadis, television and radio personality, landscape architect, permaculturalist and local environmental warrior, has committed his life to implementing sustainable practices both at home, and within the greater community. While his infectious personality and love of nature is what certainly appeals to his television audience, his community-minded grassroot initiatives are what truly sets him apart.

Here, Queensland Pool + Outdoor Design chats with Georgiadis to discover why we should implement sustainable practices in our own backyards, and how even the smallest of efforts can improve the wellbeing of not only your home’s outdoor space, but that of the world.

A LITTLE HISTORY

Both eccentric and gregarious, Georgiadis’ personality is what draws people to him. A fresh, passionate approach to his work is at the crux of his appeal, and has resulted in an impressive portfolio of media gigs.

ABC’s Gardening Australia is one of Australia’s longest running gardening shows, and has been made iconic through preceding hosts Peter Cundall and Stephen Ryan. Taking the reins more than three years ago, Georgiadis has provided a fresh take on landscape gardening.

More recently, Georgiadis’ collaboration with dirtgirlworld resulted in Get Grubby TV, an effort to inspire young people to engage with nature – essentially, to let kids get grubby and discover the benefits of the outdoors. The pilot episode of Get Grubby TV aired on World Soil Day in 2014 and Georgiadis hopes to develop more episodes in the future.

As well as this, his segment with Triple J radio’s drive hosts Veronica and Lewis, ‘Gnome Man’s Land’, involves Georgiadis dressing up as a garden gnome, and visiting people in their homes who have a problematic garden that needs a little love and care.

His unconventional look – certainly, his beard has been cultivated with as much love and care as his garden! – and an unwavering love
for the environment has catapulted Georgiadis to become a modern legend of the landscape gardening industry. This passion, he explains, has been apparent since he was a boy.

“Growing up close to the coast I was always fascinated by the ocean and the sheer power that it could display. Sitting on the rocks and looking out over incoming sets of waves crashing on the shore really did introduce me from a young age to the rhythm of nature,” Georgiadis describes.

“And then of course there was my grandfather. His backyard was literally a working market garden. He introduced me to the importance of soil and the whole cycle of life through the seasons.”

With the guidance of his grandfather, Georgiadis embarked on a love-affair with the majesty of Mother Earth, which has proven to be a long- lasting, fulfilling journey.

PONDER YOUR PLOT

While you may not consider yourself to be a green thumb, it’s important to acknowledge that the implementation of sustainable practices in your backyard will improve the vitality of your space both temporarily and in the long-term.

However, before you start digging up the dirt, it’s vital to first consider the characteristics of your block to recognise what can realistically be achieved. As Georgiadis explains, a sound knowledge of your existing space is the first step to achieving a green dream.

“Take the time to observe nature around your house. By that I mean, where does the sun rise and set? Which areas are in shade all day? Where does the wind come from? Which parts of the garden are affected by the summer sun and winds, and the winter sun and winds? Where does the rain go after it falls around your house? Isitonaslope?Isitatthebottomofthehillor the top of the hill? Where does water run to? Are there any low points?

“By getting to know the microclimates around your house, you can start to better understand how to craft the spaces efficiently over the four seasons.

“Work out what you want out of this space. Is it for growing? Is it for beauty or outdoor entertaining? Most likely it could be all of these.

“Whether it’s a rooftop, courtyard, balcony or a small front verge, a little bit of time, input and creativity can transform the smallest of places into a real retreat. And you’re not restricted to just the ground – vertical gardens allow you to multiply the amount of garden space around you.”

START STRONG

Once you have investigated the intricacies and microclimates of your backyard, the next step is to decide on what sort of green practices to implement. Indeed, initial small steps can lead to larger and long-lasting successes down the track.

“I think the simplest thing people can do to get started would be to acquire a kitchen benchtop sealed container [in order] to start separating food scraps from the waste bin. If they are not ready to compost or start a worm farm, they could take the scraps down to the local community garden or find someone local who has chickens. This action alone will have huge environmental benefits immediately,” Georgiadis says.

“Next step could be to start growing some of your own herbs to get yourself into the addiction of gardening. As you become more and more hooked, you can start to increase the amount of area by getting some more pots, or cultivate a small patch perhaps 1m2–2m2 to start with.

“Don’t be afraid to start small and allow your garden to expand. If you have a larger space, it wouldn’t hurt to get some advice from a skilled professional so that you have a vision and a rough plan to work towards. That way, you won’t make decisions that may be inappropriate ... [for example, with] a tree that has been placed in the wrong spot.

“Look at where your downpipes are and think about opportunities to store and reuse rainwater.

“Establish a composting system so that you can immediately start to remove food waste from your bins.

“[Finally] if you have a large garden, think about the possibility of keeping a few chickens. They are incredible pets because they consume huge amounts of organic waste, they provide you with eggs, and [are] a way to access your neighbours’ greenwaste, which helps to build community and connections.

“Step-by-step is the key. Don’t overdo it and don’t intimidate people with your newfound enthusiasm, just hand them produce and watch their reaction,” Georgiadis recommends.

TAKING A LEAF

Establishing a more environmentally-friendly home contributes to the good of the community, too. While Georgiadis’ knowledge has benefitted gardening novices, it’s what he does within his own home that proves his commitment to his work.

So, what exactly does Georgiadis do to maintain his green ethos? Plenty, it seems.

“I separate any food scraps from my waste bin. I see the scraps as a valuable resource and they either go to the chickens, the compost or my worm farms. I have a bin on the street outside my place so that neighbours can drop-off their food scraps and greenwaste for me to use in the compost, the worms or of course, for the girls (chickens).

“All of the eggshells I generate at home are dried. I then put them in the blender and break them down into a fine powder, which I then use in my garden beds or sprinkle on my compost as slow-release calcium ... easy.

“I have a verge garden, which is like a street community garden where people can benefit from the produce we grow together.

“Creating gardens outside your house has so many benefits. When I started the verge garden, it was an immediate way to get people from one end of the street to meet people at the other end

of the street. It brings children out of their house and onto the street, where they too can socialise and mix with members of the local community of all different ages.

“And it’s not necessarily about growing food to eat. The benefit of growing flowering plants and local native plants helps to feed members of our wildlife community: from birds to bees and insects too.

“By connecting these verge gardens [between homes] we are creating a series of biodiversity walkways which help the natural ecosystems of our area. And all of this can be done without necessarily being environmental or eco-active. You can draw people into [using verge gardens] who may not otherwise be interested [in participating] in it. So by default, they actually become environmentally active without knowing it.”

FUTURE FORAYS

With a successful career and packed schedule, Georgiadis certainly has his hands full. Yet, it seems he has more in store for our younger generations.

“I love that Gardening Australia is an opportunity to showcase how anyone can get their hands in the soil and unleash passions that they may not even yet know they have.

“So I suppose I really want people to get the growing bug and from there will come a real interest in health and nutrition, not just of their own bodies but of their families, neighbours, communities and the overall health of the environment in which they live. And that interest will naturally ripple out to the whole planet and its health too.

“Over the next 12 months I really want to take the storytelling behind Gardening Australia and develop it even further through youth and children’s networks. Now that’s an endless compost bin of opportunity if you ask me – so watch this space.”

There’s no denying that Georgiadis has dedicated his life to the betterment of the Australian landscape. While you may not possess the same gardening prowess as he does, small tasks – such as saving your food scraps or planting a veggie patch – can lead you down the garden path to green living.

Following in Georgiadis’ eco-footprint, by acknowledging the unique characteristics of your home, you will discover the potential of not only your outdoor space, but the wider community’s. After all, the grass can be greener on this side, too.

 

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