A Bit About Me …
Hi, my name is Anne and I live on the Sunshine Coast, Australia with my beautiful family. I haven’t always gardened in small spaces… I grew up in suburban Sydney on a quarter acre block at a time when Woollies and Coles did not exist and major shopping centres had not been invented yet! Food came from the veggie garden in our backyard and trips to local farmers for fruit and goat’s milk. Pets were a flock of clucky chooks who provided eggs, chicks and plenty of manure as free fertiliser for the fruit trees. Mum’s pantry was full of home preserves from the garden surplus and the food budget was minimal because our family grew most of its own needs. Dad was big on composting all our garden and food waste so we had a very healthy garden.
Spending so much time outdoors as a child with fresh air, safe food and in tune with the sounds and tastes of nature, had a strong influence on me – I learned to taste and enjoy a wide variety of fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs because I was exposed to them at a young age. Whilst I took this for granted as a child, many years later I’ve realized not everyone has had this same opportunity. After leaving home, the lure of the first major shopping centre with a ‘one-stop shop’ message was a step in the direction of becoming a ‘convenience consumer.’ Not appreciating my heritage and getting distracted gradually with the busyness of life, the endless variety of food and time saving pre-packaged products on offer, and little time to think about the choices being made, meant that sooner or later there would be consequences. In 2004, with a young family of my own, I was diagnosed with cancer. Having taken perfect health for granted for a long time, it was a wake up call that changed my paradigm on everything. As I regained my health, it was a time to reflect on the choices I had been making about where our food came from, our home environment and products we were using. I started researching ways to make more informed decisions for our family and decided to get back to my sustainable organic heritage by growing safe healthy foodin our own backyard.
This led me to completing a Certificate in Sustainable Agriculture and a Certificate in Horticulture to understand more about biological farming methods and the impact of the soil on how we grow our food and human health. Having completed workshops and courses in Permaculture, Composting, Worm Farming, Pest & Disease Management, Bee Keeping, Seed Saving, Organic Gardening, Tropical Vegetables and a Diploma in Australian Interior Design have enabled me to become a lot more self-sufficient, save moneyand make better choices. I’m also trying to extend our harvest with storage and preservation techniques.
During this time I began to realise with the globalisation of our food systems and ‘convenience consumer’ mentality, just how disconnected many people have become to the source of their food. I started to ask questions: If I’m not growing this myself, then who is and what methods have they used? Has this produce been grown with chemicals? How far has it travelled? (food miles) How have the animals been treated? Is it contaminated with genetically modified organisms (GMO’s)? And so my research and journey began … I’ll be frank – I didn’t like a lot of what I found out and some of the food choices I had been making for years changed at that point. Supermarket so-called “fresh” produce has been transported and then stored for months … farmers paid a pittance for their efforts … vegetables pumped full of nitrates instead of nutrients + a whole lot more.
I now grow the majority of our family’s food needs and subsidise with seasonal local organic or biodynamic produce from farmers who can tell me the story behind our food. Thankfully this change in lifestyle and choices plus eating homegrown nutrient dense food has helped me regain my health and wellbeing. This is a strong motivator to share what I’ve learned on my journey with others. It’s nevertoo late to change or make more informed choices!
Having lived on several acreage properties as well as very small garden spaces, I have learned that ‘micro gardens’ can be just as productive, much easier to maintain and are less time-intensive if we approach them the right way. I have lived in units and apartments, a townhouse, on small and large suburban blocks, a flower & foliage farm and rented in places with limited space. Each of these situations presents their own challenges and opportunities and what I share with you at The Micro Gardener is what I’ve learned from my experiences, including tips and tricks, money saving ideas and I hope a little inspiration with some ‘how to’ projects and photos of what youcan achieve. Although I’ve had experience with growing beautiful flowers, natives, tropical plants and ornamental gardens, my passion is growing nutrient rich food and helping you do the same.
We now try to live a more sustainable lifestyle growing a diverse range of plants for culinary and medicinal uses. I’ve learned some productive techniques for growing nutrient-dense food using Permaculture principles and biological farming methods (not just growing without chemicals but a holistic approach to soil, biodiversity, biodynamics and the environment). I’ve grown healthy high yield crops on a farm and when you have lots of space, this is easily achievable. However, I’ve taken my experiences with organic farming and down-scaled the information here for people who are wanting great results in a micro or urban garden – essentially intensive cropping in containers with loads of creative ideas for maximising space!
Highly productive, beautiful and functional gardens are achievable in small spaces – and you can create your own backyard or balcony supermarketwith some simple techniques.
I now work part-time as a consultant helping people learn how to be more self-reliant and productive by establishing sustainable gardens at home and school. I’m education program coordinator with the Centre for Growing Sustainability, and member of Eudlo Seed Savers, Permaculture Noosa and Permaculture Eudlo groups and Biodynamics Agriculture Australia. I write, edit and publish an award winning monthly e-publication called Green Journey relating to growing and sourcing healthy local food, sustainability, farmers markets, a wide range of environmental and garden events and helping people learn to tread a little lighter on the planet. Other online and print publications I have contributed to include MyApricotHill, Clean Earth Living Magazine (Urban Organic Gardening’ Feature Writer) and Permaculture Noosa’s newsletter. Contact me if you’re interested in a feature article for a publication, website or blog.
I present workshops for community education through local community gardens, schools, garden clubs and libraries and am currently writing a book. Contact me if you would like a personalised garden or online consultation. Follow my journal, plantings and garden adventures on MyFolia – a great place to learn; pick up loads of tips and inspiration on Pinterest boards; and check out my photo albums on Flickr. I’m in the garden daily (every morning or late afternoons) – most likely with dirty fingernails, muddy gumboots, a basket and secateurs and often one of my dogs … it’s a place to get in touch with nature, learn, dig in the soil for hidden treasure and have loads of fun harvesting edibles, fragrant flowers and observing the wildlife.
The Micro Gardener is a community of like-minded urban gardeners who enjoy sharing ideas, tips and experiences. I invite you to share yours here too by leaving comments and questions. Grab a copy of my free eBook by joining my newsletter – packed with design ideas, recipes for making your own potting mix and free organic fertilisers, a list of easy plants to grow and much more. Take a look around and explore the categories packed with how-to information, projects and inspiring photos.
“Grow what you love. The love will keep it growing.” – Emilie Barnes
Happy gardening and thanks for stopping by, Anne