Let me introduce myself…I came to Australia at the age of 9, having lived in a big city in The Netherlands, to live with my family on a bush block in the Dandenong Ranges here in Victoria. I instantly fell in love with Australia’s wildness (although was at first a bit taken back by the size of some of the insects). My first vegetable garden came a year later, in the middle of our gumtree forest…it was of course not a success.
Move forward some years and many vegetable gardens later, a degree in Zoology and Marine Biology, some time working in zoos in Australia and overseas, a Diploma in Horticulture, Permaculture Design Certificate and Horticultural Therapy qualifications…and I am again growing vegetables among the gum trees but this time with great success! I’ve also grown to love the diversity of creepy crawlies that share my garden and I’m particularly fond of the solitary native blue banded bees that visit.
Situated on two acres, my garden is both a land for wildlife property and food forest for my family. Resident wildlife includes among other things; a wombat, feather tail gliders, echidnas, many birds and the occasional copperhead snake. I have a bee hive, chickens for eggs and a couple of goats for fertiliser for the compost. The vegetable garden is divided into two with one at the side of the house and another in the front to make use of microclimates and sun angles. There is a large greenhouse for winter cropping and a diverse array of fruit trees, hazelnuts and berries. The garden is managed organically and fertilised with homemade compost and worm wee from the worm farm.
I’ve spend many years working in both private gardens and on organic farms and for the last eight years I’ve been working as head gardener at the Gawler Cancer Foundation, a retreat centre for people with Cancer and Multiple Sclerosis, which is situated on 40 acres in the Yarra Valley. Together with the rest of the garden team we manage the maintenance of the grounds, ornamental gardens, large herb garden, fruit orchard and grow an acre of vegetable crops to use by our chefs during the retreats. We have recently gained organic certification for this garden which was a real celebration. I also conduct garden workshops both from home and during the cancer retreats at work, to introduce people to the health benefits of growing their own food and the healing benefits of spending time in nature.