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.
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.
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.