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Kitchen Gardens of Australia  :  Eighteen Productive Gardens for Inspiration and Practical Advice - Kate Herd

Kitchen Gardens of Australia

Eighteen Productive Gardens for Inspiration and Practical Advice

By: Kate Herd, Simon Griffiths (Photographer)

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Whether you want to reduce your carbon footprint, sav money, become more self-sufficient or just enjoy the unique taste of fresh produce, there has never been a better time to create a kitchen garden.

Join passionate designer and green-gardener Kate Herd on her journey around Australia to eighteen diverse kitchen gardens, from subtropical Queensland to the arid zone of central Australia, from the suburbs of Adelaide to the countryside of rural Victoria and Tasmania.

Some of the gardens belong to well-known personalities such as Leonie Norrington and Josh Byrne, While many are the creation of enthusiastic amateurs. For each, Kate provides a detailed garden plan, a brief history of the garden, the people who tend it and a description of how they have overcome the challenges of difficult climates and soil types. There are tips on innovative irrigation techniques, environmentally friendly pest management and how to create a garden from recycled objects, with an overall emphasis on sustainability.

With stunning photography by Simon Griffiths, Kitchen Gardens of Australia is as lovely as it is practical. It is a book to inspire and motivate gardeners at all levels and a timely reminder that creating a beautiful, productive, sustainable kitchen garden is a labour of love and an act of 'inherent optimism'.

About The Author

Kate is a passionate kitchen gardener, writer, graphic artist and designer. Her own beautiful garden on the Yarra River in Alphington, Melbourne, has been included in Australia's Open Garden Scheme to great acclaim. Kate combines a passion for perennials with a love of heirloom vegetables and commitment to bush revegetation. She designs gardens to be beautiful, functional and sustainable, and is a firm believer in making gardens to 'live, play and learn in'. In recent years she has worked with her partner, landscape designer Philip Stray, on residential and commercial plans and designs. She has written for The Age and other gardening publications. Kitchen Gardens of Australia is her first book.


At a young age I learnt that productive gardens come in many forms. My green-thumbed neighbours had a circular garden of vegetables, roses, perennials and herbs within their transpiration bed; my farming relatives boasted a neat fruit and vegetable garden encased entirely within a wire netting cage. Another neighbour had a small market garden, and yet another a sprawling edible landscape that made him almost self-sufficient. My memories of these gardens are unashamedly nostalgic: picking posies of flowers for the table, eating apple cucumbers while standing among the vines, hiding in a corn field taller than my head munching on ripe corn, pulling up carrots . . . For a free-range child like me, picking things by myself for myself to eat was deeply satisfying. And of course, the more illicit the act of picking and eating, the more delicious it tasted!

Whether we call it a decorative vegetable garden, an ornamental vegetable garden, a potager, a vegie patch, an edible garden or a plot in an allotment, community or school garden, all are kitchen gardens. What distinguishes the kitchen garden is the combination of the useful, edible and attractive that elevates it above the simply utilitarian. A kitchen garden is one in which you grow the things you bring into the kitchen ­- herbs, vegetables, fruit and flowers. I like to define the kitchen garden as a domestic-sized garden in which a combination of these four elements is grown.

Twenty years ago my stepfather was horrified when my mother planted corn in our 'nice' and 'respectable' front garden in the Melbourne suburb of Kew. For him it was embarrassing; it smacked of urban peasantry: 'What will the neighbours think?' Thankfully, vegie gardens are again a more accepted part of the urban landscape. Groovy inner-city cafes boast their own potagers and there are monthly neighbourhood vegetable 'swap-meets' where fresh unused or excess backyard produce is swapped for the different surplus of others. The busy city family doesn't even need to get its hands dirty to benefit from its own garden any more - you can pay companies to install and maintain your vegetable garden for you. On the other hand there are gardening makeovers based on reciprocal volunteerism like those instigated by the organisation Permablitz, where volunteers will come over and transform your garden into a productive space in a single weekend.

Digging up the front lawn for a productive garden might still constitute an anti-social act of radical gardening in some suburbs, and should by all means be encouraged! For those without land or an appropriate space of their own, a plot in a community garden or a land-sharing arrangement of some kind can be the answer. I love that a contemporary kitchen garden might be created on some unused urban land appropriated by a guerrilla gardener somewhere in a street near me; a 'vegieplante' who risks a council notice or two to make a low-tech and affordable edible garden out of recycled materials like pallets or car tyres. The country or rural kitchen garden is a different matter; regional gardens being marked by their access to open space and to large quantities of resources like manure and straw and, often, by their isolation. These days, however, country and city produce gardens can be equally challenged by lack of water.

Nineteenth- and twentieth-century produce-gardening discourse often equated busy hands and thrifty self-sufficiency with moral and physical health. Written at the end of the nineteenth century, Frank Finedon's language is representative of such value-laden ideas about the benefits of kitchen gardening for the mind, body and household/society: 'A well laid out and carefully kept kitchen garden is pleasant to the eye; the labour expended upon it is healthy and interesting, and a very profitable investment, commercially and otherwise.' Garden writers today are just as likely to wax lyrical about the joys of self-­sufficiency, 'getting one's hands in the dirt', experiencing the 'rhythms of natural processes' - and these are valid and worthy incentives. Contemporary texts as much as those of previous centuries invoke the Garden of Eden (that original pre-agrarian garden), Paradise, arcadia, the garden of earthly delights or nature's pantry, and use words such as cornucopia, profusion, abundance, bounty, plenty and harvest to supply a fertile imagery. They idealise kitchen gardens as spaces where humans are at their most natural, productive and contented.

For me, a kitchen garden is the ultimate locus amoenus (Latin for 'pleasant place', and a literary term that generally refers to an idealised area of safety or comfort). What other type of garden engages four senses - taste, smell, sight and touch ­simultaneously? I wonder whether my passion for productive gardens is because they replicate the archetypal 'clearing in the primordial forest' and epitomise domestication, safety and prospect. Perhaps my most Pavlovian response to a vegie patch in full production, to the stimuli of verdant vegetation and brightly coloured fruits, is a particular manifestation of 'biophilia' (the term used by biologist Edward O. Wilson to describe the instinctive human desire to connect with nature, particularly those landscapes featuring vegetation and water). Our brains are conceivably hardwired to favour the patterns of a garden divided up into regular shapes and the patterns of crops. Whether a garden is planted in straight lines of a miniature farm, or an intricate symmetrical vegetable parterre, an informal permaculture mandala or a meadow-like profusion - they all boast an edible tapestry of foliage of various shapes, sizes and colours; of flowers, seed heads and fruits that have universal appeal.

Writing back in 1897, Frank Finedon was quite right - kitchen gardens are a profitable investment, although Frank didn't consider them within a framework of their 'sustainability' - by which I mean management practices that conserve and sustain the resources of the soil, water, forests and habitat. Nor would he have considered backyard food production, as modem gardeners increasingly do, in the specific context of water and climate change - two defining issues of the early twenty-first century. I have found that produce gardeners tend to be especially conscious of the need to both reconsider our food system ­the price, quality, security, resilience and the environmental impact of the food we eat - and to take into account a warming, drying and increasingly unpredictable climate. Healthy foods, people, farming systems and the environment are intrinsically interconnected. Consuming food that is produced organically is beneficial both for our own health and that of our environment and growing your own food can be a wonderful way of minimising your own individual 'ecological debt'. Produce gardening contributes to more than just a sense of personal virtue; growing food really can lessen your helplessness and your dependence on the mainstream food system and teach you to provide for yourself without detriment to the environment. It's by no means 'rocket science', yet it takes care, skill and practice to achieve a succession of fruits, vegetables and herbs for the table.

In writing this book I wanted to visit productive gardens and tell the food-growing stories of the people who tend them. Visiting the eighteen gardens that are featured in this book and meeting the garden makers has been an immense pleasure. All the gardeners are practical, imaginative and passionate about growing beautiful and tasty food plants, often despite a shortage of water and difficult conditions. The gardens are various -large and small, historic and new, urban and rural, coastal and inland, formal and informal and in-between - and all are inspirational. It's been a privilege to talk with these gardeners, who have so generously shared not only their knowledge with me but cups of tea, meals, produce and favourite recipes. The connection between the garden and the kitchen, is, I hope, just one of the many things this book celebrates.

ISBN: 9781921382185
ISBN-10: 192138218X
Audience: General
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 232
Published: 28th February 2011
Country of Publication: AU
Dimensions (cm): 25.5 x 25.0  x 2.3
Weight (kg): 1.21
Edition Number: 1