CLARE local Pauline ‘Paulie’ Calaby knows a thing or two about home gardens having an amazing, self-sufficient garden on her property, and as an early childhood educator, is passionate about explaining to children where their produce comes from and how to grow it yourself.
“I have been interested in gardening since my grandpa taught me from a little girl,” Paulie said.
“I remember all the houses in his neighbourhood in Prospect had a veggie garden where they would swap and share produce.
“Since then, every house I have lived in has had some sort of edible plant growing in either the ground or a container.
“This is why it is so important to me to share my knowledge with the children I work with at schools and kindies, I just love seeing their face light up when they eat a home-grown tomato.”
A few years ago, the Calabys moved to a property with a bit more land, so Paulie set to creating an organised and seasonal garden so she’d hardly have to buy veggies again.
“Luckily there was a veggie area already there but it has probably taken me the last two years to sustain my permaculture practices and go organic, incorporating chooks, biodiversity, worm farms, compost and collecting my own water supply.”
Many hours have been spent in the garden and Paulie said the most important process is to get the soil right.
“Veggies like a well-drained, friable soil with lots of organic matter like compost mixed in.
“They need a fortnightly application of fertiliser and seaweed solution to feed their hungry appetites and keep them healthy.
“This will make the process of growing veggies easy, there is a saying ‘plant a $2 plant in a $10 hole’
“Also, get to know the insects and animals that inhabit your garden, not all insects are bad, some are beneficial which you need to attract with certain flowering plants and most bad ones can be eradicated or controlled using basic home remedies rather than nasty pesticides.”
Once the soil is ready, gardeners have the choice to grow from seed or plant the seedlings and also whether to propagate your own or buy packet seeds.
“I mostly raise my own seedlings from seeds as I harvest the seeds from my own garden, but sometimes I purchase seedlings to get a head start,” Paulie said.
“Some I direct sow into the ground and others I raise as a seedling which I grow in homemade newspaper pots or toilet rolls so the whole container can go into the ground to avoid root disturbance.
“Most seed packets and seedling punnets come with growing instructions of when, where and how to plant, and I keep a journal of what I plant when and where I plant it so I can use crop rotation to avoid disease.
“I have gardening books and also borrow them from the library as well as watch gardening shows like Gardening Australia, those guys know their stuff!”
At the moment, Paulie’s summer veggies are finishing up and being harvested and the cooler climate veggies, which are the leafy greens, root veggies, legumes like peas and broad beans, have gone in as well as the onion family plants like garlic, spring onion, are being planted.
“I also plant edible and beneficial insect-attracting flowers such as calendula, borage and Queen Anne’s Lace.”
Other garden tips Paulie is happy to share include:
My two most important things I have for my garden are mulch and compost.
Any vessel with drainage and at least 30 centimetre depth can grow veggies.
Veggies need at least four to six hours of sunlight.
When planting your veggies, look at how long it takes to harvest, for example you can be harvesting lettuce in four weeks but onion will take 30 weeks, so maybe grow spring onion instead.
Grow what you will eat, no point planting six kale plants that will take up precious garden area if you aren’t going to eat them (even though Kale is super easy to grow and very good for you)
Growing your own veggies can become addictive especially after you have tasted the delicious fresh, home-grown produce.
It’s ok to eat holes, not all of your veggies will be supermarket perfect, give them a rinse in a sink of cold water with a little bit of vinegar to wash any critters off.
And remember – there are no such things as mistakes in gardening, just experiments.
Paulie has attracted her own cult following on her Facebook page, ‘Planting with Paulie. Sustainability and gardening tips’, please jump on and check it out.