Charlie: Hello, I’m Charlie Albone and welcome to Episode Four of Season Two of That’s How we Grow in partnership with Stihl garden power tools. The prices of our fresh fruits and vegetables has been skyrocketing lately. Lettuce, beans, peas and too many other items have seen price rises due to a variety of reasons.

But the best tasting and often most affordable is the produce we grow at home. Growing your own food is incredibly rewarding. The freshness and taste are always the best. I love growing my own food, being able to go out and pick what the family needs to go with dinner.

I hear some people find excuses for why they can’t grow their own produce, but with the right advice it can be incredibly simple and really easy to do. Joining me today is Lee Sullivan. She is a passionate urban veggie gardener. Lee created an Instagram account, the Urban Veggie Patch, which now has an incredible 144,000 followers. That’s a little bit more than I have! The community loves interacting with Lee and sharing their advice for growing food at home, from the best varieties to grow and how we can ensure a bumper crop.

It’s great to see people sharing gardening advice. Lee and I are going to be chatting about how she built such a large following with her gardening knowledge and how anyone can start growing their own food, especially when you have limited space, and there’ll be all sorts of tips to get the most out of your crop, including companion planting. Creating a veggie patch can happen at home, big or small. So let’s dig in with Lee and see what we can pick today!

My guest today is an avid gardener who has a passion for growing her own produce, as well as an array of beautiful blooms. She’s a mother, a blogger and an Instagram superstar, and she also has a degree in psychology.

In my eyes, she is a massive over achiever. Lee Sullivan, welcome to That’s How We Grow.

Lee: Thank you very much!

Charlie: How was the introduction? Was it okay?

Lee: Good. You’ve done your research, I see!

Charlie: Yes. Yes. So. Tell us what got you into gardening and growing your own produce?

Lee: Well, I was something I kind of wanted to do when I was kind of in my twenties. And it was just one of those things I put in the too hard basket for a long time. And then when I had my first child, I started to really think about where food comes from. And when he kind of started solids, it was something that became really important to me, like knowing what was on the food I was feeding him, knowing where it was grown, where it had come from, all those kind of things. And eventually I just basically decided the only way to truly know that was to grow your own.

And yeah, that was kind of the beginning of my journey. We had a really small space at that time, so I wasn’t sure how much we’d actually be able to do, but I don’t know, I was extremely passionate about it and so I thought, I’m just going to give it a go. And that’s what we did.

Charlie: So what did you start with?

Lee: I started out with some windowsill herbs originally, and then we decided to put a garden in. We had like maybe a 40 square metre concrete courtyard, so we put some raised beds along the fence line and it was summer. So we started with a couple of tomatoes, some cucumbers, some herbs, that kind of thing.

Charlie: The easy classics that most start with.

Lee: Exactly! Well, easy. I don’t think tomatoes are not easy, but yeah, the easy things, and yeah, honestly, like the addiction just took hold from there. And… I mean it was always about the health side of it, but at the same time, like the actual love of gardening just quickly kind of entered me and yeah, sent me on this crazy journey.

Charlie: What was it that got you addicted? Was it seeing the new growth? Was it creating the produce or was it the feeding your family?

Lee: I think it was all of the above, to be honest. And also, just like the connection that gardening gives you to nature. And I honestly think it’s something we were always meant to do. And obviously our lives have changed so much since, you know, back in the day where that was kind of a normal practice. But yeah, I think it was just being outdoors, connecting like with nature hands in the soil, like all that kind of thing was just it was almost like invigorating for me.

And I had a bit of post-natal depression with my first child that went right pretty undiagnosed. And I actually realised the more that I was growing food and gardening, the more, like it was kind of helping me mentally with my mental health. And that became honestly like for me, that became the main reason I started to do it eventually because it was just so good for my mental health and I didn’t realise it until a little bit down the track.

Lee: And I was like, wow, this is just completely changed my, you know, emotional mental state. Yeah.

Charlie: I think people have realised that after being locked up for so long with the recent pandemic or the ongoing pandemic and realising how important it is to get outside and get your hands in the soil, it’s so good for mental health.

Lee: Totally. It’s beneficial on so many levels. I don’t think there’s really a downside.

Charlie: No, I can agree with that. So you have an absolutely massive social media following. I think it’s 144,000 people on Instagram. How did you set out to try and get that many or how did that all start? And do you have any tips for someone who obviously doesn’t have to be following this yourself?

Lee: I can coach. No, I didn’t set out to have a huge Instagram following. I, I decided to start my Instagram account on the day that I started my garden and I wanted to document it. I wanted to have kind of like a photo record of our progress, but I also wanted to meet other gardeners because I didn’t really have any gardeners in my life and I really needed some help. So I set out to just kind of make friends with people who knew what they were doing and try and get some of that knowledge, basically.

And there is a huge gardening community on Instagram, which I wasn’t aware of at the time, but I started to kind of make a fair few friends on there. And yeah, I’ve learned so much from them. Some of the most knowledgeable gardeners I’ve ever met are on Instagram and they are so generous in sharing their advice.

Charlie: So you’re self-taught and taught via people from Instagram, or have you studied as well?

Lee: No, I’m self-taught and yeah, it’s just, you know, advice from other gardeners, basically. And I mean, I do a lot of reading and that kind of thing.

Charlie: Instagram or all social media is an amazing way to learn. I mean, it’s really completely flipped learning about things like gardening on its head. You know, you can go to places like Stihl and get tips on how to use a chainsaw properly, seasonal tips. Yeah, you can go to Instagram like yourself to get amazing tips. It really is… It is incredible. You said you started with quite a small garden. What sort of space were you looking at?

Lee: My original garden was probably about seven metres by 60 centimetres, like it was long and thin and my overall backyard space was about 40 square metres, but the garden didn’t take up all of that. Now I think, when we’re on about a 650 square metre block now and the gardens probably around about 35 square metres of that.

Charlie: So not a huge space yet you’re, you’re producing, I mean through your Instagram, I’ve seen this, you’re producing quite a lot of produce aren’t you?

Lee: Yeah, definitely. We, we eat majority from our garden. Like I still have to buy things here and there, but for the most part our garden feeds us pretty well and we do usually also have some excess.

Charlie: Wow, that’s amazing, because most people start, like you said, with the originals, shall I call them – the cucumber, tomato, and a few herbs when you start them. What’s the next step for people that are looking to grow some more of their own produce?

Lee: Sure. Well, I think definitely starting off with herbs and that kind of thing is really good because you can continually pick from those. It will stimulate them to grow more and they’ll kind of feed you for a really long time. But then going into like, your, cucumbers, zucchini, especially around now, like Spring’s a really good time to start planting things like cucumbers, zucchini, even corn I think is a pretty easy one to grow. And then, I mean, you can always move I said, I think tomatoes are…Not that easy! They come with a lot of problems.

They’ve been my vegetable nemesis for, like, maybe, maybe the first few years of growing. It took me a while to get those right. So I think they like a little bit more challenging. Maybe cherry tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes might be easier! (laughs)

Charlie: What issues did you have with tomatoes?

Lee: Well, up here. Mm hmm. Fruit flies is quite a significant issue. And I was just finding, you know, I might get them to the stage where they would ripen, but when we would cut them open, they’d just be full of the fruit fly. But I then came across a tip to, like, bag your trusses. So I use really large organza jewellery bags around all my tomato trusses, and it keeps them pristine now. So that was a big one, I think.

Yeah. Pest control is something you really have to kind of learn on the journey.

Charlie: Yeah. You have to have your heart broken a few times before you can work out the best.

Lee: Yeah, you really do. There’s a lot of failures that come before the success.

Charlie: Yeah, absolutely. But it makes great compost, I like to say.

Lee: True. That’s true. Yeah.

Charlie: You do much companion planting to try and keep pests away. And can you kind of explain that to the listeners and how you use it?

Lee: So Cabbage Moth is quite a large issue here. I think Cabbage and White Butterfly and it loves brassicas. So in Winter it can be a bit of a pest, but it’s attracted to brassicas through the scent. So what you can actually do is plant different things around your brassicas to try and mask that scent. So I often plant a lot of dill around my brassicas just to kind of mask that odour. And so the Cabbage Moth just keep on flying and it seems to work pretty well.

Another one for Summer is I love doing tomatoes with basil and marigolds. That’s one of my favourite companion planting trios. So I do the tomatoes, they grow up, I do them on stakes and then plant basil or marigolds around the bottom and the marigolds and the basil work really well for pest control. And the basil also is said to improve the flavour of tomatoes. I don’t know if that’s actually true or not, but.

Charlie: Yeah, yeah, I don’t know if that’s an old wives tale, but I like it. I like the romance.

Lee: Yes, it sounds good.

Charlie: Yeah, it does. It sounds nice! So you’re on quite a small space or your previous house was particularly small. What kind of tips do you have for people in a small space? I know using the walls and going vertically is one way. What other tips have you got?

Lee: Vertical growing was like my favourite thing back in my old garden. And I still do it now because I love it. But I think just growing in, obviously growing in pots is such a great way to grow and there’s so many things you can grow in pots. I love grow bags. I often grow my potatoes in a grow bag and it works really well. The other thing is like I think now there are so many different products available that are basically movable, raised beds that I’ve seen lots of people have on balconies and that kind of thing.

Charlie: You also grow a lot of flowers as well as produce. Did that come after the kind of your love of growing produce or?

Lee: I was all about growing the food at first that was just, that was everything. And then I actually saw a dahlia on Instagram and it changed my life.

Lee: I was like, wow. And I think just even the idea that I could grow something that looks like that, I just couldn’t even believe that I could maybe try that. And that was my foray into flowers. And yeah, it started a very addictive journey, I have to say.

Charlie: You remember what variety it was?

Lee: It was Cafe Au Lait.

Charlie: Yeah, of course it is. That’s the best looking one that there is.

Lee: Yeah, it’s the queen. I think it’s the queen.

Charlie: Absolutely.

Lee: Absolutely. But now I wouldn’t have… I don’t think I could have a vegetable garden without flowers. And I mean, obviously flowers are so important for pollinators as well. So you want to encourage pollinators into your vegetable garden. And the best way to do that is to plant flowers and things that the bees love. So I think they actually, vegetables and flowers really go hand-in-hand.

Charlie: Absolutely, they do, Yeah. So you grow a lot in raised beds. Talk a bit about what sort of soil preparation you do. Do you just use potting mix? You mentioned used grow bags and things.

Lee: I um, I so we have a really good soil supply here who does an organic vegetable mix. So I filled all of my raised beds with that. And then at the beginning of each season I prepare them, usually with compost. I really like aged sheep manure. That’s like my go-to manure.

Charlie: Everyone has their own preference for manure.

Lee: They do. They do! Manure preferences! I also do a bit of organic, slow-release fertiliser. But obviously building my soil is really important to me. That’s a major focus that I have. So like, kind of like we were saying before, sun is really important. I think soil is equally as important and it’s something that I’m constantly working on in my garden and I want my soil to be as nutrient rich and have the best kind of little microbiome going on under there that is possible.

Charlie: I like to think of soil as almost like having a healthy diet, like a varied, healthy diet, and then you can add something to that and that’s the fertiliser. But you can’t have a garden that’s growing just on fertiliser. It doesn’t work.

Lee: Exactly, like it’s so important to be ticking all the boxes for what you’re growing. And even I had a, you know, I think my revelation of soil was I heard someone say, your soil is alive. And I’d never really thought about that before. But I think when you kind of look at it from that perspective, it’s much easier to kind of see why it’s so important that you are constantly feeding your soil. Because if you feed your soil, your plants will thrive.

Lee: I think you don’t really need to feed your plants. You need to feed your soil.

Charlie: Yeah, that’s a really good way of putting it and looking at it. Yeah. For those of us that have got a really small space, what can people grow in pots?

Lee: Herbs. I mean, we’ve talked about herbs a lot, but herbs are great. Even like, root veggies will do alright in pots as long as you get the right size pot. I think the key to growing in pots is the pot needs to be the right size. So you’re not going to grow carrots in a short small pot. It needs to be like a good length and, you know, a good width. So I would say you can grow most things in pots. Just do the research beforehand as to what size pot you actually need.

But I think too, like cucumbers even… I’ve grown corn in kind of like a container before as well. So I think most things you can actually grow in a pot. But like I said, you just need to do the research beforehand so that you’ll actually be successful.

Charlie: So is there any difference to what so you use in those pots because you mentioned soil is so important, but and parts of quite a small body of soil. So how do you get the life into that pot to feed your food?

Lee: Yeah, I usually what I usually do in pots, which I don’t do that much pot growing anymore, but when I was back in my own place, I did. I would purchase the best possible organic potting mix. I think soil is something you don’t scrimp on. So don’t buy the cheap one like it. You buy the best one you can possibly get. So I’d buy a specific potting mix and then I would usually add some of my own compost into it. And that seemed to be a good thing.

Like because obviously you need to make sure that there is moisture retention, but it’s not too crazy, like the moisture tension, not too crazy. So yeah, that was, that was what I did and had I had good success with that.

Charlie: You also mentioned carrots, and I’ve seen a picture of you holding up the world’s largest carrots. They look like they’re enormous. How big were those carrots in that picture? Like, they must have been about a metre long each!

Lee: They are, yeah. I think yeah, I think they were about 76 centimetres or around 76 to 80 centimetres humblebrag (laughs).

Lee: Yeah, that was me. I think that, that might have grown my Instagram following a bit too! Those carrots went a little bit viral, I think.

Charlie: So. Okay. So what variety were they and how did you get them looking so good?

Lee: Okay, so they are a variety from Japan called Manpukuji carrots. And so they are a giant variety. Like I didn’t grow just a normal carrot into this huge variety. They are meant to grow. They are meant to grow like, you know, quite long. But that particular season, I don’t exactly know what happened because I’ve never been able to reproduce how big they actually were that season. But something happened. I don’t know whether it was our humidity or what it was, but yeah, we just ended up with these giant carrots.

We actually had to kind of, almost perform an excavation to get them out because they’d grown through my raised beds and down into the soil below! And we couldn’t pull them out. So yeah, it was, yeah, it was an experience.

Charlie: Were they tasty or were they, or was it just because they were so big?

Lee: They actually weren’t too bad. I mean, they weren’t, they weren’t super sweet like, you know, small baby type carrot, but they were good. Like my kids ate them.

Charlie: The whole thing?

Lee: Actually, one of them probably would have if I’d let you. But yeah, I mean, one carrot will feed you for, like, a week.

Charlie: So how do you balance kids in the garden? Because you’re producing a lot of food and that needs quite a lot of attention. Yeah. How do you do that balance?

Lee: Well, my kids kind of do it with me a lot of the time. I try and get them involved as much as I can because I really want them to grow up kind of thinking, growing your food is what you do, you know? And I’m trying to teach them how, and they actually really love it. I mean, sometimes their help, in inverted commas, makes me want to cry. It’s not that helpful.

Charlie: Yes, I know the feeling.

Lee: Yeah. Yeah, you can relate. But yeah, like, often they’ll do it with me and they’ll, you know, come and we’ll harvest things for lunch or harvest things for dinner. And they also just love playing outside. So often if they’re playing outside, all kind of, you know, be in the garden and multitasking that side of it. But yeah, I’m really trying to cultivate just a culture in our lives where gardening is just something we do and it’s just part of us, basically.

Yeah, it’s like a day to day thing that has to happen, you know, like you have to have a shower and brush your teeth and brush your hair. Yeah. Do the garden as well. It’s just part of life.

Charlie: Yeah. You’ve mentioned you’re in quite a humid climate. Do you then try and keep your watering to the morning time? Do you get a lot of fungal issues?

Lee: Yeah. So I always water in the mornings. I still hand water. I don’t do drip irrigation or anything like that. Summer does get pretty crazy. So I do a lot of pruning. So with my tomatoes in particular, they can be really susceptible to fungal diseases and that kind of thing. So I always kind of prune all the leaves up to the first set of flowers just to kind of keep the airflow very free. And then I don’t usually let my tomatoes get super dense foliage wise.

And that kind of goes for most things like even light powdery mildew and that kind of thing can be really quite bad here. So I keep things very neat. And I also use a homemade spray. I make like a spray that’s got a little bit of milk, a bit of neem oil. What else is in it? Like bi-carb? And you spray it onto the leaves in the morning and that just kind of I find that’s a really good preventative thing. It’s not really a cure.
Like I kind of think as soon as powdery mildew takes over, it’s pretty hard to get rid of it. Like, it’s like there’s not that much that you can actually…Like, it’s. It’s hard to get rid of, but yeah, I usually do that maybe once a week just on my zucchinis and cucumbers and that kind of thing, because they seem to be pretty susceptible to it.

Charlie: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So all of that takes I guess, quite a lot of time. Do you have any tips for those that are time poor?

Lee: You make the time for the things that are important to you and I think kind of into integrating the garden just into your day to day life is the best way to kind of maintain and grow food. So don’t go, Oh, you know, I’m going to do this whole day just on the garden. It’s just good to do kind of bits and pieces just all through the week. So I’ll be like, I’ll get up, I’ll go out, have a coffee and I’ll water the garden. And this is one of the reasons why I actually hand water is I find hand watering actually doesn’t really take that long, but it also means that you have time to observe what’s going on in your garden, identify if there’s any issues happening and then fix them.

So I just make sure I have that morning time in my garden. Sometimes it takes 10 minutes, 15 minutes, and it kind of sets you up to just know what’s happening in your garden every single day. And it makes it way easier to manage, you know, like so if you’re time poor, I think just that little amount of time each day will help you kind of stay on top of things rather than leaving it for ages and then going, Oh, I’ll just spend this huge chunk of time, you know?

Charlie: Yeah, I guess 10 minutes every day is much better than, say, 70 minutes once a week.

Lee: Exactly. Yeah.

Charlie: The cost of food has gone through the roof at the moment, especially like lettuce costing like $12 and I suppose, iceburg lettuce or something like that. Can people actually… And you do say, I think I know the answer to this already, but yeah, how much do people need to grow to actually make a difference to their hip pocket?

Lee: Well, I think that growing anything will make a difference at the moment. I mean, like we’ve just spoken lots about herbs and herbs are ridiculously expensive right now.

Charlie: Yeah.

Lee: And so you could I mean, you could even go and buy a seedling for probably less than what it would cost to buy just a bunch of parsley. And that parsley will feed you for six months, you know. So I think even, even just growing a couple of herbs would save you money right now. So yeah, I mean, obviously, I definitely think it’s a money saver in that way. But I guess like saving money isn’t the reason that I do it, but it definitely, definitely does help you save, especially right now with, like you said, the price of things is just going through the roof.

And honestly, I’ve never been so glad to have lettuce in my garden.

Charlie: Yes, you feel like the lettuce mafia.

Lee: Yeah, I know. I’m going to sell on the black market.

I think there’s a business there, hang on!

Charlie: So yeah, you mentioned growing from seedlings. There’s some plants that just have to be grown from seed. Which ones to grow from seed and which ones do you grow from seedlings or do you grow everything from seed?

Lee: Actually, yeah, I do everything from seed. But there are some things that obviously you have to do from seed, in my opinion, and carrots is one of them.

Charlie: Yeah, absolutely.

Lee: I think. Yeah. So usually if it was me I would do all of my root veggies from seed. I just think you get way better results, but particularly carrots. I actually did an experiment once where I sowed seeds and then I bought a pan of seedlings and I planted them side by side and the carrots that were from my bought seedlings were an absolute mess. So yeah, that’s don’t waste your money on carrot seedlings.

Charlie: You’re not the first to say it but also yeah.

Lee: I think I feel like it’s a rite of passage for a gardener though. You kind of have to maybe learn that one the hard way.

Charlie: Yeah, for sure. For sure.

Lee: But yeah, I also, I like to sow my peas from seeds, like snow peas or potted peas, I usually wouldn’t buy seedlings of those. I like to do those from seeds. I think that you get way better results. Yeah. And also one in particular, coriander, I think that does not like to be transplanted and that’s one that you should definitely grow from seed.

Charlie: Yeah, I just was talking to Matt Moran, the chef, and he loves coriander, but I can’t stand the stuff. So, yeah, not interested in growing it.

Lee: Yes, I love it so much. You know it’s my favourite!

Charlie: So what do you what do you feed with? Do liquid feed, or do you just do your soil preparation and then let the plants take care of themselves after that?

Lee: When I first started out, I did liquid feed and then I just I decided to see, you know, what would happen if I didn’t.

Charlie: Mm hmm.

Lee: And I actually feel like my vegetables were better once I stopped doing that. And obviously, that’s my personal preference. Like, I think. Yeah. Like, some people have amazing results using liquid feed. But if I kind of see that something is maybe deficient, I would usually add like a layer of compost or something like that. And that usually, that’s kind of like the way that I liquid feed my soil. I guess I would add compost, but I don’t usually have to.

And usually my soil prep at the beginning of the season seems to be enough to see the veggies through.

Charlie: Right. And so how do you then plan your seasons? Because, you know, once you’ve gone through everything you’ve gotten, you need to replace it. Have you got and you grow everything from seed, do you have to plan obviously, weeks in advance to get your seeds to germinate so they can go on?

Lee: Yes. Yeah. So basically I’m usually thinking about my next season while we’re still in the current season.

Charlie: Yes.

Lee: And I usually start all of my seeds elsewhere and then I’ll transplant them into the garden when the garden has space. But I like to succession plant. So basically, I try and always have something to harvest available all the time. And that’s something I’m still learning really how to do. So I’ll kind of clear out one bed and plant that bed out, but then wait maybe a month till I do that with another bed. And it just kind of means we have rolling harvests rather than all this food all at once, and then nothing for a few months.

Charlie: And do you get sort of a glut of food as well? Do you get like excess stuff? And what do you do with the excess stuff?

Lee: The end of season glut definitely happens.

Charlie: Yep

Lee: We like to do like, especially with tomatoes, like kind of we make a lot of tomato paste and pasta sauces and that kind of thing. My dad is really into preserving so often if I have, you know, a glut of something, I’ll give it to him and he’ll, you know, do something with it, which is great.

Charlie: That’s always nice to get someone else to do the cooking.

Lee: Yeah, exactly. I’m not the best cook. I’m good at growing it, but like. Yeah, giving it to someone else to cook is great for me.

But yeah, I like to pickle. We pickle things too, a lot, especially in Winter. Like pickled radishes. I’ve got a heap of turnips right now that are going to get pickled. We make, like, stock paste and that kind of thing. So, I don’t know, I actually kind of just get creative and use them in lots of different ways. And if we have a huge amount of excess, we often will share with friends and family as well.

Charlie: Put them up on Instagram for sale all your excess glut!

Lee: Yeah. Oh, my lettuce!

Charlie: Do you have a favourite thing to grow?

Lee: Yes, I do. Potted peas in Winter are my absolute favourite. I think eating a pea from straight from the vine is so good. And I feel like, frozen peas are kind of the only way you can really get peas in the shops. But like, potted peas are just so delicious and so fresh and so sweet. I just love them so much. So I always grow huge amounts. They never seem to make it inside, though. The kids love them, too. So that’s the fun of it. Yeah, they just. They just go so quick.

It doesn’t matter how many I grow. And obviously I actually I really do love tomatoes, tomatoes. I just look forward to them so much in Summer now that I can actually grow them. I like there’s so much variety with tomatoes too, like. I mean, the varieties out there just seem to be endless and they’re all delicious. So I love trying new ones.

Charlie: Do you like, do you like the heirloom varieties and which ones? Which ones of those do you grow?

Lee: I grow a couple, so there’s a cherry tomato called Tommy Toe. That’s my favourite cherry tomatoes to grow. It’s kind of like a bigger cherry tomato and it’s really tasty. I love that one. There’s another one called Big Rainbow that is absolutely delicious and it grows really huge. So it’s like a slicing tomato. One slice kind of fits on a sandwich. It’s quite large. Wow. And another one I really love is Costoluto Fiorentino . It’s kind of like a ribbed tomato.

It’s like the most beautiful tomato you would ever see.

Charlie: When you’ve got the big ones like that. How do you support them? How do they not snap off the branches?

Lee: Actually, surprisingly, the plants are pretty good at holding them up. Like I’ve never really had an issue with that. Like so I stake my tomato plants and then I single stem them usually up the steak and tie them in with budding tape, which has like that little bit of flex in them. So, so there’s not really any snapping or anything like that. It just kind of flexes with the plant, which is really good. But yeah, I haven’t really had an issue of tomatoes actually falling off like the truss before.

Charlie: Snapping off.

Lee: Yeah, yeah. I think that the plant knows what it’s doing, I think. And it won’t grow bigger than, than it can handle.

Charlie: Yeah, sure. So you remove all the side shoots off, so you just have a single leader, you remove all the leaves down below and I’m assuming quite a lot of leaves in the canopy to get light on the, on the fruit.

Lee: I started off with one, then I went to two and now I’ll let three go. So I don’t know, maybe I’m being greedy doing that. Just one more.

Charlie: Talk to you in a year you’ll be up to six.

Lee: Yeah, Yeah. I’ll stop.

Charlie: You, also, like from what I can see on your Instagram is you like the weird and wonderful stuff as well.

Lee: That I do. Yes. I like growing really rare and unique stuff.

Charlie: Where did that come from?

Lee: Actually. I think the thing that started me on that was Glass Jam Corn. I remember seeing a picture of Glass Jam Corn, and I kind of had a similar moment to the dahlia moment where I was like, wow, that’s… I think I thought it was Photoshopped at first. And then I remember realizing that, wow, wow, this is, you know, an heirloom that’s got this amazing history. So I tracked down some seeds for that and I grew that. And it was just, it was mind blowing. And that just kind of fit this curiosity in me to kind of seek out these varieties that, to be honest, I didn’t know existed and give them a go.

So yeah, I’ve kind of gone through a few interesting things and I definitely like have a love for, you know, seeking out rare seeds and giving them a try.

Charlie: Yes, it’s a real passion. It’s absolutely amazing. I mean, you’ve given us so much information to use. And I think those that are wanting to get into growing their own have just learned so much from this. And even those who do grow their own have taken something from. Thank you so much for your time. It’s been amazing.

Lee: Oh, thank you so much for having me.

Charlie: It’s now time to get on to our community questions. And the first question is from Eva in Sydney. She says, Hi, Charlie. I recently moved house and I’m a little concerned about the soil in the garden in one area. The plants seem to be struggling to grow. Some leaves are little yellow and on the other side of the backyard I’m keen to establish a large vegetable bed. Do you recommend soil testing? Is there any way to easily understand how to improve your stall before I start planting?

Well, yes. You can get your soil tested. You just put it in a bag, send it off to a lab and they’ll tell you exactly what you have.

But the best way to get to know your garden is to dig a few holes and see what you’ve got. If in doubt, add lots and lots of compost. It helps to bind sandy soil together, but it also helps to bring in worms which break down clay soil. Soil is everything. That is what we learnt today when chatting to Lee. So don’t be afraid to invest a little bit in your soil.

Next question. Hi Charlie, I live on the Sunshine Coast and have recently got into gardening coming from the UK. I’m loving how much and how fast things grow here. Thank you so much for your brilliant podcast. I’m loving all the tips and recommendations.

I have two questions and I’ll answer two because you are so nice to me! The first one, I’ve got some pavers going through the lawn and in some areas it’s shady, so the grass looks poor. What would you recommend to plant in between the pavers that love shade but also ties in well, with the green grass look. So there’s two things you could use here. There’s the green dye contra, which will easily grow in the shade and fill in those gaps. But it can take over the rest of your grass quite easily. Or you could try a little native called Protea, the star creeper. Now this gets a little flower on it, but it’s got that sort of green grass look and it will tie into those shady spots just perfectly.

The second question is I have two greyhounds and they play on the lawn every evening before bed. Is the best thing to water the area afterwards, or is there anything I can do to reduce the yellow patch as well? There’s lots of things you can put in there, dog water bowls and all that sort of stuff. But really the best thing you can do is just to water in the area and dilute as much of that weight as you possibly can.
Do you have a gardening question you’d like me to answer or send me an email? and I will get to them in two weeks time on our next episode. Lee was absolutely fantastic with her advice.

There was so much to take away from today’s episode. I think the first thing that is obviously apparent is soil is everything and don’t be afraid to just give it a go and experiment. If you like to look at something, why not try and grow it? I really loved the way that Lee was hand watering in the morning just to get to know her garden. Flowers and veggies grow perfectly together. And I’m really sorry, gents. You’re going to have to buy your wives and girlfriends some more jewellery so we can protect our tomatoes. Well, thanks for listening to. That’s how we grow in partnership with Stihl garden power tools.

Do you need the tools to take on any garden challenge? Go to the store website or head into your local dealer. Today there are over 600 local Stihl dealers across Australia and you can find your local dealer on the Stihl website. The next episode will have a couple of incredible farmers from Byron Bay. The Brook family run an amazing macadamia farm and produce the most delicious toasted and natural macadamia muesli. Martin, who started the farm, and his son Will, who now manages it, will chat to us about their connection to the environment and how looking after the land supports their harvest.

This episode will be around in two weeks. Don’t forget to check out Stihl’s blog with plenty of great gardening advice as well as all my key seasonal tips and tricks. Be sure to go to the blog- You can also find us on Instagram. Stihl_AU and I am obviously trying to build my following, so please follow me as well: Charlie_Albone. Thanks for listening, and until next time, goodbye!