By Karral Miller
Three years ago Thea and Luke O’Loughlin came from Melbourne to live in a rented house in Albury. Previous tenants had planted some citrus trees, a banana tree (plantains), a passionfruit vine and a few pumpkins and potatoes but had left little in the way of good gardening beds. Undaunted and with almost no gardening experience, Thea and Luke set out to produce as much of their own food as they could without spending a heap of money.
Thea told the story of their gardening journey to an enthusiastic group at the Seed Savers gathering last Thursday 23rd March, meeting for the first time at their new home at the Sustainability Action Centre on the Causeway. The O’Loughlins grew lots in pots to create a garden where there wasn’t one with the added advantage that they could take it with them when they moved. Then they “turned over beds and had a crack”!
Garlic was one of the first crops they planted and success increased their confidence. They also grew snow peas and chilies. Initially they didn’t improve the soil much but soon discovered that compost was the key and built a three bin compost system. They found that a dripper system on a timer was the most practical and cheapest watering method for their needs and used pea straw as mulch. They became masters of invention, using recycled and scrounged materials wherever they could to build frames for supporting and netting plants. They use fruit fly baits but have found that netting is the best option for protection against fruit fly, caterpillars and birds. Initially they made frames for netting from recycled curtain rods and prunings from citrus trees but have since graduated to using star pickets, poly pipe and recycled bricks. They were not afraid to try things, for example, over wintering capsicums under plastic – “half successful”.
By the third year Thea and Luke were producing bumper crops, giving away gluts of fruit and vegetables. Thea became an enthusiastic recorder and photographer of the amount of produce they grew- in her own words “almost obsessive” and uses social media to tell of their gardening adventures. She acknowledged the role of Seed Savers for providing seeds for diversity of plants and for the huge amount of gardening knowledge she has gleaned from activities and talking to other members. She and Luke are moving on to Canberra now. They will build a garden again and we are sure that with the experience they have gained it will soon be bearing prolifically!
Thank you to Thea (and Luke) for telling us of their gardening journey – an inspiration to all beginning gardeners and a reminder to all of us to be creative in the garden. We wish them well in Canberra and hope that they find a Seed Savers branch there. If not, perhaps they’ll start one!
— And big thanks also to Karral for sharing her notes & photos from this session with us! —