Google vegetable gardening and you will get any number of sites with reams of information on a range of garden styles and techniques, including subjects like organic gardening, permaculture, wicking beds etc.… But there is one aspect of vegetable gardening that is rarely covered online and that is that of the traditional Aussie vegetable gardener. So, what do I mean by ‘’traditional Aussie vegetable gardener”? Like most things the definition is fluid, but below is a list of characteristics that I consider make up a profile of one:
- THEY DON’T GROW VEGGIES IN RAISED BEDS.
Though they might have raised borders around their veggie garden.
- THEY DON’T MULCH THEIR VEGETABLE BEDS.
Though they do have compost bins and are dab hands at making good compost.
- THEY ARE EXPERTS AT GROWING ROOT CROPS SUCH AS PARSNIPS, TURNIPS, AND SWEDES.
- THEY RARELY GROW ZUCCHINIS OR BROCCOLI.
- Though they do like to grow cabbages and cauliflowers.
- THEY WATER THEIR VEGETABLES USING A HANDHELD HOSE OR WITH A WATERING CAN USING RAINWATER FROM AN OLD DRUM FED WITH A DOWNPIPE FROM A SHED ROOF.
- THEY ALMOST NEVER USE THE TERM “ORGANIC”, THOUGH THEY OFTEN USE ORGANIC PRACTICES.
- THEY GROW THEIR VEGETABLES IN ORDERED ROWS. THEY SOMETIMES PRACTICE COMPANION PLANTING BUT EVEN THAT IS DONE IN AN ORDERLY MANNER.
- THEY RARELY USE THE INTERNET AND OFTEN DO NOT EVEN HAVE A COMPUTER.
- THEY ARE USUALLY COME FROM A BLUE-COLLAR BACKGROUND.
Though I did meet one who was an accountant.
- THEY ARE MAINLY MALE.
Though I have come across one female.
- SADLY, THEY ARE PRETTY WELL ALL NOW QUITE ELDERLY, USUALLY IN THEIR EIGHTIES.
There might be some younger ones still around but due to a range of reasons most of the children of the traditional Aussie gardeners I have known have not followed in their parent’s footsteps.
- THEY LEARNT THEIR SKILLS (AND THIS IS THE REALLY IMPORTANT POINT) DIRECTLY FROM PARENTS, GRANDPARENTS AND NEIGHBOURS AND NOT FROM BOOKS OR COURSES, OFTEN STARTING THEIR VEGETABLE GARDENING CAREERS WHEN THEY WERE CHILDREN. AS A RESULT, THEY HAVE A UNIQUE AND DEEP KNOWLEDGE OF HOW TO GROW VEGETABLES.
Over the years I have come across a number of these gardeners, though they are not easy to find as they do not sing their own praises. But if you do find one try to get to know them as they are an incredible fountain of vegetable gardening wisdom, wisdom that they are typically happy to pass onto others if asked. Sadly, once they die their knowledge will be lost as apart from a few tattered notebooks they never commit any of their knowledge to words.
So, if you find one of them out there in your neighbourhood, do try and pick their brains! You won’t regret it.
There is a complementary cohort to the traditional Aussie gardener, that of the traditional Greek, Italian and Eastern European gardener. Unfortunately, I have only come across one since leaving Melbourne in the 1980s (I live in Ballarat). Before leaving Melbourne I did meet some Greek and Italian gardeners, including an amazing old Italian couple who gave me a tour of their incredible garden. But due to a combination of the language barrier and my lack of understanding of just how amazing these gardeners were I did not take full advantage of the knowledge they had to offer.
This is a vegetable garden in Bendigo. It displays all the signs of a traditional Aussie veggie garden, Neat ordered rows of vegetables with no mulch. Amazingly this gardener is ninety years old (April, 2020)
Noel’s vegetable garden in Ballarat. Noel is in his early eighties (April 2020)
Another photo of Noel’s vegetable garden. Noel does not have any raised beds or even set paths.
POSTED: 20th April 2020