The Generational Gardener

For Joan Campbell, gardening is in the genes. Her mother and grandfather were both great gardeners and Joan obviously took note as a child.

‘My grandfather was a brilliant gardener and used to show flowers at the Castlemaine Show. I can still picture his Ballarat garden, an old fashioned cottage garden, with more flowers than food. Mum had a garden at Campbells Creek the size of a tennis court. We had a paddock of irrigated lucerne and mum would clean the channel out and let the water go through the vege garden. You should have seen her carrots!’

In the community garden you can tell where Joan digs – her crops are without a bite when all around the slugs and snails are snacking, her greens are lush and leafy in the middle of summer.  Joan has her own plot and shares another with her daughter-in-law Jodie. She also oversee the worm farms, a vital part of the garden.

Joan Campbell amongst the broad beansJoan’s gardening epiphany came from reading a book – she calls it her ‘bible on compost’ – about organic gardening in1990. She started off by setting up bales of straw to make compost bays. Joan would make a ‘hot’ compost, from mixing manures, kitchen scraps, green material and then introduce worms, transforming the mix into humus.

‘It used to get red hot and then the worms would come in; it was absolutely beautiful! I can’t do what I used to (turning the compost by hand) so the chooks and the worms do all the work for me now.’

Joan lives in Campbelltown and became involved in the community garden through her connection with John and Pam Phillips at the Anglican Church (our landlords). Her husband Ewan did the fencing for the garden. Ewan and Joan were invited to the launch. Joan joined as a ‘digger’ member on the day and went from there.

‘I just liked the idea. I make the trip in for the first Saturday of the month (for the produce exchange) and I usually combine a visit to the garden when I am passing through Newstead.’

Ill health last year curtailed things a bit, but Joan’s preparing for a bountiful season ahead. ‘I’ve really enjoyed it. I slowed down a bit last year but I’m looking forward to getting things going now. I’ve got onions in, about to put in peas, rhubarb, lettuce, bush beans and zuchinni.’

‘I’m not into the scientific side of things, I don’t bother with pH tests or that sort of thing. It’s more doing it by feel.’

4 thoughts on “The Generational Gardener

    • janet barker says:

      Thanks Julie. Answer..yes, see penny woodwards info on it. It’s a south american staple, related to sunflower, similar to jerusalem artichoke but less vigorous. Plant it now. It’s a popular permaculture plant because it is so high in carbohydrates. The only thing for Newstead is that it is hardy but not frost tolerant so plant after the last frost (can start off tubers in our igloo and plant out later) and it takes about 6 months to grow so needs to be harvested before the early frosts in autumn. Greenharvest have some great info on it. If you could source some tubers we could give it a go in the communal areas or a raised bed.

  1. Carol of South Muckleford says:

    Another great profile, Janet. I first met Joan at the Community Garden and immediately liked her. She is very generous with her time and with sharing her extensive knowledge. A beautiful article about a beautiful lady.

  2. Saide of Sandon says:

    Lovely story of gardening over the generations from Joan. My parents enjoyed gardening and at various stages of their lives had vegetable gardens of varying sizes, shapes and delectables. My father’s specialty was climbing green beans. My mother’s was rarer plants at the time, like kiwi fruit and avocado, a Queensland Lily and a Californian Redwood. We lived in the Dandenong Ranges so had plenty of moisture and deep, steep soil that turned us children into mountain goats.

    My fondest memories as a child are visiting my aunts and uncles on the other side of the ranges at Wandin and Seville, when those, now suburban, areas were covered with orchards. We would pick all sorts of different plums, and cherries, apricots and nectarines. These orchards were what my childish imagination knew was the original Garden of Eden.

    My aunt had a secret cellar where she kept her treasure trove of pickled peaches, but mostly sweet preserves of plums, apricots and cherries in multiple shelves and multiple rows of coloured fruit in the cool dark of the cellar – a great place to be in the heat of a summer’s day.
    It was not easy to find, as the cellar was at the bottom of the garden with a secret secluded door, fringed by bushes and steps leading down to a thick wooden underground door, opened by a large old key my kept in the kitchen. It was the best secret of that garden of plenty and fed an imagination ripe for secret garden adventures!

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