The Thrifty Gardeners

Among my library finds this week were two real gems which have long been on my amazon wishlist. The Edible Garden and The Thrifty Gardener by Alys Fowler. I’m in the process of planning our veggie patch, or food garden, as Alys would prefer. Her gardening situation is about as far from mine as possible. She gardens in the cool, fertile soil of England, where her major pests and predators include moles and hedgehogs, whilst her chief concern is how to extend the growing season through the British winter. My garden is in the backwaters of hot, windy Brisbane. My major predators will be possums and native turkeys (yes, turkeys). My climate is so warm that is seems, to my infinite sorrow, unlikely I can grow garlic. If I’m honest, the real allure of the books was Alys’s wild hair and charming, punk permaculture aesthetic.

And yet, organic gardening has common threads, the world over. Feed the soil, let the soil feed the plants. Imitate nature, not the farmers’ fields. Live with the holes in your lettuce. A hole-y lettuce leaf is better than a sprayed one.

While Alys’ thrifty ideas are getting me riled up with enthusiasm, there have been a few checks to this process. Even a thrifty gardener needs some cash, apparently. Wine crate pots are certainly charming, but they aren’t free here. Cheap potting mix is about as fertile as a pile of rotting socks. And Bunnings’ lowest prices are just the beginning of a long list of garden inputs that adds up very quickly. Lucky the girl who has a mum to buy a pair of gardening gloves and a hand trowel or two.

A thrifty gardener, it seems, must wait. Wait while the compost bin does its thing. Wait while the green manure brings life back to the soil. Wait while the toilet rolls pile up for seed raising. Wait while tools and hardware are thrifted or borrowed. Wait while the bank balance recovers enough to buy bales of mulch and bags of sheep poo.

But there’s plenty of fun to be had in the meantime. Like perusing the seed catalogues of Eden Seeds or The Digger’s Club, or searching out local sources of manure and knowledge, or cheering on a husband who’s building a cage to keep out possums and bush turkeys.

Oh, and reading books by a British girl with amazing hair who is growing food, like you are, on the other side of the world.

Alys Fowler, The Thrifty Gardener

Alys Fowler, "The Thrifty Gardener"


2 Responses to “The Thrifty Gardeners”

  1. 1 Arthur April 24, 2012 at 10:56 am

    Ah Ally – my Grandad, and yours too, would be proud of you. They may never have heard of Amazon or Alys Fowler, but they sure could grow food – just as you will do. It is in the genes and already Rose is showing signs of having inherited a green thumb. I’m proud of you too!

  2. 2 Ali Smith April 26, 2012 at 8:05 am

    Those books look fantastic. I’m going to suggest them for Wollongong library. Wondered if the Freecycle network might have anything you can use?

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A girl with a camera, a toddler and a sewing machine. Making sense of Germany... and life in general.

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