Welcome to Dan’s Garden

Dan's Garden

Hi Everyone, and welcome to the first Seeds of Plenty garden blog. My name is Dan and I am the founder, owner and main worker at Seeds of Plenty.  This first blog entry is a little late but I hope you can understand that my best laid plans got railroaded this year. So better late than never.

We are a small seed company based in Eltham in the outer north east of Melbourne. We sell mainly vegetable, flower and herb seed for home gardeners and small scale farmers and we specialise in selling heirloom, open-pollinated, and some select hybrid seeds. 

The reason for our existence has always been to educate and inspire people to garden and to grow their own food. My hope for this blog is that you can learn from some of our mistakes and triumphs and hopefully you can feel inspired to grow your own food or plant your own flower garden. 

Our Garden

As we’re based in an urban area our ability to access land for crop growing is limited. When I and the business moved out to Eltham a couple of years ago, the plan was always to build a garden where we could trial new varieties as well as develop a method whereby we could grow some of our own seed in a limited space. So, we built a garden that’s currently split into two areas: some raised beds for trials and an area where we  grow plants for seed production in planter bags. 

The Raised Beds

Eltham has very poor soils, it’s also very hilly and our garden is on a sloping site.  So rather than toil for many years to develop the soil, I decided to go with raised beds and to bring in most of the soil in one go. 

Starting back in July last year I began the process of mapping out the gardens and slowly constructing the beds. We have 4 sets of raised beds each about 6m long and 1.7m wide. The beds are tiered into either 3 or 4 smaller beds and they’re all made of Redgum. 

Note: Redgum lasts forever, but is very, very heavy. My back did not thank me for dragging up the 60-odd sleepers that it took to build those beds but at least I won’t have to carry any more up for a while. 

Below are some before and after photos. You can see that we got the soil blown in rather than carrying it in. We needed about 12cu/m of soil and considering how long it would have taken to carry 120 barrow loads of soil up a 50m hill, I think it was well worth the extra cost to have it done in 2 hours. 

BEFORE (Old tired veggie patch, not used in many years)

Construction (Initial stages, took about 3 months)

Gravel around the edges and soil pumped into the beds. Our dog, Doris, looking a bit confused.

Truck pumping fresh soil up to our garden beds.

The beds in February 2020 (Covered and full of tomatoes)

You can also see we installed netting on top of the beds. We have a lot of trees in Eltham which makes it quite beautiful, but the trees also house lots of little animals that love eating veggies. The possums in particular have a fondness for eating baby plants whole, and they like eating flower buds. I learnt that the hard way last year when I lost over 100 tomato seedlings in one night! We also wanted covers to keep out pollinators as some of the beds were going to be used for seed production. 

I will talk about what we are growing over the coming months, but at this point we have tomatoes, chillies, capsicum and one variety of melon growing for seed in these beds. There have been no possum attacks yet and very few insect issues. 

The Planter Bags

When I started Seeds of Plenty my goal was always to grow my own crops for seed. Lots of people in this situation would go and buy a farm or rent some acreage. But our family is very connected to the city, and due to a visual disability, I don’t drive a car, which made living in the country very impractical. 

Rather than get despondent, I did a lot of research, watching countless videos about urban farmers and growing crops in small spaces.  I concluded that growing high-value wet-seeded crops (tomatoes/chillies) in pots/planter bags was going to work best.  They give me flexibility to grow the same crop in the same space year to year and  allow me to move or expand into other urban blocks if I want to without the need for too much infrastructure.  

Below you can see the pictures of the planter bags which we have set up. We filled these bags with mushroom compost on the bottom and garden soil on the top. We also added some organic fertiliser to get them going. 

It took a lot of effort to fill the bags, but they’re very easy to carry around. Each one has its own drip line, and as with the larger beds, we have netted all the crops to exclude pollinators and keep out the possums. Touch wood, but so far, we have used no insecticides and have had absolutely no pest issues – and it’s looking like a big crop of tomatoes. 

Total of 264 Bags. (6 rows of 44)

Smoke from the bush fires in January

Planters in mid February. Loaded and ready to start harvesting.

For those who are wondering why all the tomato plants in the planter bags are less than 4 feet tall, we are growing what are known as Dwarf Tomato plants. They are small, indeterminate tomato plants that have been bred to grow abundant crops of regular sized tomatoes. 

They’re the result of a lot of amateur breeding that has been done over the last 15 years under the banner of the Dwarf Tomato Project. To date, there are over 60 varieties available, and fingers crossed, we should have several available for sale later in the year. They are the perfect solution for people who have little space or love growing tomatoes in pots. 

So that’s it for the first edition of our garden blog. Harvesting of the tomatoes took place over the last month. I learnt a lot during that period and will cover it in the next blog which will come in the next month. Here is a sneak peak at some of the tomatoes we got.

10 thoughts on “Welcome to Dan’s Garden

  1. Dan Ross
    Robin C. says:

    Love your work, bud! Love your work.
    What are those black egg shape tomatoes in the last photo?
    Will you sell me some of those please?
    If you want to see your plants go well water with a mild solution of Bicarb Soda once a fortnight. It makes the water better, effects cation exchange for the plants in the soil, and assists in conteracting the effects of those mongrel eucalypts.
    Their roots secrete euc. oil. A powerful anti bacterial, and anti microbial.
    And if you want to deter euc. roots chasing your gardens, water along the boundaries with a fairly strong solution of Phosphagen or something similar. Euc. hate phosphorus.
    When I was driving a cab in Canberra, a lady I met had two euc. on the nature strip that were huge and giving her and her house a very hard time. So she got something like I mentioned and watered around the bases of the trees with spectacular results. The limbs started to explode/expand incrdibly until they had to be cut down by the council.


    • Dan Ross
      Dan R. says:

      Thanks Robin

      Definitely will have some of the black tomatoes coming in about August. It was a funny tomato season last year. We didn’t get as much seed as we thought. I would expect the tomatoes to be up on our site by early August. Atomic Grape is the variety in the pic.

      We use Epsom Salts on the tomatoes. I put Geotextile linings at the base of the beds and so far that’s stopped the roots. Hopefully it will last a few year.

  2. Dan Ross
    . says:

    Good job , thanks for your efforts . I have ordered some seeds today & particularly look forward to some of your interesting varieties of tomatoes come the warmer weather.

    • Dan Ross
      Dan R. says:

      Hi Graham

      Thanks for your encouraging words. We should have some of the black tomatoes and dwarf tomatoes listed on our site in early August.

  3. Dan Ross
    . says:

    I have established the veggie garden at Eltham Men’s Shed in Eltham but the Corona virus has stopped us completely, hoping to get back for spring planting.
    We will be sourcing some seeds and seedlings hopefully soon.

    • Dan Ross
      Dan R. says:

      Hi Daryl

      Apologies for the late reply as I am still learning the ins and outs of our blog system I have managed to miss your comment. Having worked in Mental Health for many years I really value the work that you do and the benefits of having a place where men can meet up and connect. If you require any seeds please get in touch through our Contact Us form.

  4. Dan Ross
    . says:

    Hi Dan, I have just found your site and blog. I am a total beginner and have just spent the last 18 months rejuvenating my Dads much loved veggie garden. He was the gardener in the family. A quick question as to why you net to keep out pollinators. I net to keep birds off the pretty stuff, but why pollinators?

    • Dan Ross
      Dan R. says:

      Hi Cheryl

      Thanks for your question. The reason for keeping out pollinators is about ensuring that the next generation of plants will grow true to type. In nature you get a lot of crosses between plants of the same species. With tomatoes this is usually done by bees going from one plant flower to another and spreading pollen around. By netting the plants we stop this happening. The one problem then is that this will decrease fruit set as the bees shake the flowers and this helps them release pollen. Lucky for me I have 2 kids who found stimulating the flowers with an electric toothbrush a real novelty. I also paid them extra pocket money. You don’t need to net plants to save the seed, but if you are reselling the seed you want it to grow properly or else customers may not like it when there get green tomatoes rather than red ones.

  5. Dan Ross
    . says:

    Fascinating to see your garden Dan. Great job please keep posting so we can see your progress. I’ve just got my first batch of your seeds germinating in trays and so far looks like I’m getting about 95% germination which has me absolutely stoked. Much better than the last lot of heirloom seeds I bought. Putting in another order today. Nice to see where they come from, I’ll send you pics of the next generation of your veggies when they come up!

    • Dan Ross
      Dan R. says:

      Thanks for your kind words Terry. We try to take care of our seeds and store them well. I also chose the heat sealed packaging because it keeps the seed dry. I have to admit that my garden only provides a small amount of our seed. (Some of the more unusual varieties) We source a lot of seed from other growers and wholesalers. Saying that, we are selective about who we get seed off and we look after it. Hope your garden is growing well. I will post again soon.

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