Charlie: Hello, I’m Charlie Albone and welcome to Episode Six of Season Two of That’s How We Grow in partnership with Stihl Garden Power Tools. The gardening community is amazing. Always happy to share their knowledge, seeds and cuttings. 

I love how I can ask someone the secret to their success with their plants and they’ll tell me everything they know. Sharing that gardening knowledge and then seeing friends growing a thriving garden provides an amazing feeling. It’s even better when they share their produce with you. Today we’re going to talk about veggie patches, bees, sustainable living and all things compost. 

Whether it’s getting your kids interested or friends started, it’s a great feeling to teach someone the basics of gardening. To help with this, I’m going to be joined by host of Better Homes in Gardens, Johanna Griggs. She is a magnificent gardener in her own right and she’s introduced gardening to many. She shows the joys and benefits it has to offer to all and most people don’t know, she’s also a keen beekeeper now! Johanna hates it when I’m late for filming, so that’s enough for me and I’m about to start our chat. 

So today’s guest is a person I’m really happy to introduce as a really good friend of mine. She’s an Australian TV icon, she was a former athlete. She’s a part-time farmer but an all-round good human being. She is the host of Australia’s most popular lifestyle program, Better Homes and Gardens. So I guess she’s sort of like my boss…Johanna Griggs, welcome!

Johanna: I wish I was your boss. Oh my God, I’d have so much fun with that, Charlie! I heard it’s so good to have a chat with you, and I’m fantastic, even though at the moment we’re in pretty hard wet conditions in Sydney, it’s nice to have this distraction. 

Charlie: It’s not exactly gardening weather, is it? 

Johanna: No, although I do get out in the weekend, we had four days of just non-stop gardening, so a bit like you, I was so in my element. 

Charlie: Yeah. And you love your garden, don’t you? 

Johanna: Yeah, I love my garden. I love cooking, I love entertaining. I, to be honest, I think out of all that, I mean, I have pets, I’ve got dogs, I’ve got bees, I’ve got cows. I love all animals. I mean, there  are a lot of synergies, but I think I probably drive you gardeners and the cooks on the show, the chefs on the show the most crazy because I just I love… learning new things and I love entertaining. I love feeding people, making sure they’re happy. 

And so pretty much, I think can give a million examples of things I’ve ripped off on the show, whether it’s design and architecture for a construction company, whether it’s meals, when I’m entertaining, whether it’s drinks, whether it’s table decorating ideas. I mean, I guess I actually do live by the adage “do what you say”. I’m like everyone else who’s watching the show. I’m watching, I’m learning and I’m taking those ideas away. 

Charlie: But you’re also teaching as well, because you’ve taught me a few things in the garden with your old banana fertiliser. And I didn’t know that one. I use that one now. It’s good!

Johanna: It’s fantastic! Yeah, put your old banana skins, which are not great to go straight in your compost, but you put them into a jar of water and you leave them for a couple of days and it just brings out all the potassium. And then you put that through. Yeah, I spend my life like – my bedside table – actually, your books on my bedside table at the moment!

Charlie: Thanks for the plug! 

Johanna:  It actually is. Along with two books on soil, and one book on artificial insemination for cattle, which I like to… I have a very active mind and I like to pick things and I sometimes will get, you know, can’t concentrate for too long with one thing. So I move to the next thing, but the whole time is to watch and learn and, and just continually, yeah, I guess adapt to what we need in our life. But yeah, there’s also random stuff like I’ve got Pinterest full of all our Christmas decorations. Every year we do a massive Christmas decoration table and we have a theme and so we’re finalising this year’s theme. 

And if I don’t get all this all in and order it, I’m not going to get all the stuff I need to decorate the table. So I, I actually use our show constantly for inspiration. 

Charlie: You’re like the perfect host for the show. 

Johanna: Hopefully! 

Charlie: Love it. Oh, what’s the Christmas theme going to be this year? What’s the front runner? 

Johanna: It sounds bizarre, but I think it’s actually going to be feathers, which I know sounds ridiculous, but we have every year we have them, so last year, which was actually a delay from the year before, was all like pastel pinks. And we’ve got leather seats at the moment, we extended our table to sort of seat 20 people in. And so we did pastel pinks with pink flowers and eucalyptus leaves that I collected off the farm and it was absolutely beautiful and classic. This year I found, ironically, just this one like wreath that was done with feathers. 

And I kept looking and I bought it, gosh, about eight months ago. And I’ve just kept looking at it and I’m thinking what I’ll actually do is a whole lot of feathers, greenery, and I always use lights quite cleverly along the table and candles. And it will be it will be almost like a… a Gatsby kind of luxurious table!

Charlie: Yeah, Nice. Yeah, very nice. And you’ve got two places. So you live in Sydney, but you have your dream property, I guess, outside of Sydney. How are the gardens different? 

Johanna: Completely different. So Sydney, our house is different. Our garden is different in a sense, that the house is incredibly low maintenance. It feels for us almost like we’re apartment living because we are forever going between the two places and this has to be as practical and as organised because it’s when we’re in Sydney, we’re just madly working. So everything has to have a place, so there’s a lot of storage in it, so you don’t see a lot of mess, you don’t see a lot of real life. It’s, it’s incredibly organized, it’s clean, it’s pristine, it’s the gardens are very low maintenance, it’s only a tiny block, it’s only 334 square metres, the block that we were able to go up. 

So we’ve got four levels, which meant that we don’t have gardens at ground level. We actually created gardens at the first level. We’ve got lots of gardens at the back, we’ve got vertical gardens. So for small spaces, fantastic to put greenery in where it’s not taking out any square meterage so you do that. Yeah. We designed with our construction company that whatever window you’re looking out at, you actually have to be looking at something. And, you know, I can say that’s definitely something that I’ve learnt from all the years of doing architecture with Pete Calhoun on the show. 

So this one is all low maintenance, that’s all 100% natives. It’s pretty much just having one tiny patch of lawn. That’s the only thing that we need to really mow. And the rest of it is a couple of hedges and it’s mainly native grasses and native plants.

And it’s, it’s the easiest garden in the world to look after. The farm is very different. It is 100 acres we have…I’m obsessed with beekeeping, birdwatching. And so it’s all about having gardens that are probably more the garden style that I like, which is a little bit messier and a bit more natural. And I put plants in by selection of what birds I’ll like and what birds that will attract. 

And so you’ll find lots of natives, but they’ll be small headed, you know, bougainvilleas, and yeah, anything that I can put in that I know my bees will go and be obsessed with, the birds will be obsessed with. That’s what it’s about because I spend all my waking time either in the veggie garden which again, is another different type of garden, but probably where I spend the most time at the farm. And if I’m not there, I just want to be looking at the birds and bees. 

Charlie: Yeah, well we’ll get to the veggies later on. But the bees. I know you’re a mad beekeeper, aren’t you? Where did that passion start from? 

Johanna: It actually started from the veggie patch, so I have always wanted to live off the grid, always had a dream of living off the grid. I’m very fortunate that I met and married a man that that shared the same passion. The veggies… So we wanted to, to see how many of our, how much of our own food we could produce. 

So that’s another book I’ve got, which is in butchery, I’m not quite there yet, but I would ultimately love to be able to have meat chickens, and be able to get once a year butcher a steer or something. I’m not, I don’t know, precious about that sort of stuff. I know where my food comes from and I respect it and I look after it and I, I understand the process, but at the moment we’re not quite at the meat level, but we are at the veggie level. We produce about 85% of our veggies and the natural progression with veggies was understanding pollination and how that worked. 

And I, I have new two very dear friends, Jim Wilson and Chris Bath, who used to come up every weekend and I ended up buying a place where we only have to go through one gate to each other. And so we’ve known each other for over 30 years in the industry. And those people that you click with and you just know we’re going to be mates forever and Bathy and I and Jimmy, we share a passion for bird watching. Jimmy, like Todd has inherited a passion for beekeeping and veggie growing and everything else that we do. But I basically booked Bathy and I into a beekeeping course and I remember because I was in Sydney, she was coming down from her property and she basically rang and abused me the whole way down the freeway because she was so dreadfully hung over and she couldn’t believe I booked us into this two week course. 

And I met her, I made it with a big coffee and I was like, everything’s going to be okay! I think you’re going to love this course. And she was still just listing all the things she hated about me. And, and we went to this thing and we were both just not in the greatest frame of mind. And by the end of the first day, we, we’d filled out like, two notebooks of notes. And they tried to wrap up the day and now telling us that we were coming back next Saturday. And we were like, so what do you mean me coming back next Saturday? How about, what about tomorrow? What are you doing tomorrow? You just keep going! 

We didn’t want it to end. And the great thing about beekeeping, when you start it, there’s always so much more to learn and you just become obsessed and you have a real appreciation for what bees do, not only for what we’ve seen happens in our own respective gardens, but what they do on a grander scale. Like we have no food sources in the world without bees. And so you’re taught as kids to swat bees and to freak out of they need a can of whatever you got open. These days if I see a bee, everything stops in the world. And I just I love watching what type of bees, whether it’s a native or there’s an introduced bee, what it’s doing, what it’s attracted to, what, how much pollen it’s collecting, working out what type of bee they are. 

Charlie: I’ve seen I’ve seen you in action doing that. So Joh and I recently went on a trip to Vancouver in Alaska, and Joh was in heaven looking at all the different bees that were there. You were salivating, weren’t you? (Laughs)

Johanna: I feel like you in the gardens! 

Charlie: I think it was a bit like it was like, yeah.

Johanna: You just kept talking about the different plants mostly! But look at the bees! You’re like, look at this and I look at the squirrels. I mean, I think what gardening does, I think what beekeeping does, what a passion for animals does, is it gives you a healthy respect for the entire ecology and how everything has its place. And yeah, even it’s funny, even from, like I don’t freak out about the different seasons and different bugs that you get. And every year, depending on the conditions, there might be a different type of bug that becomes more prevalent in your garden, but you learn to respect what it’s doing. 

How to get rid of it, you know, and you don’t freak out. I think the way that you kind of (got talked to) as a kid, which is like everything has to be off. You can’t have any bugs near you. Whereas now I look at all bugs and I’m like, oh, actually, you’re pretty cool!

Charlie: Yeah, well, things have changed, haven’t they? Like you said, you don’t swat the bees away anymore and you don’t go straight for chemicals on insects. You look for different ways because bees are so important that perfect little pollinators with their fat little bodies and hairy little legs going in, collecting pollen and sending it to other plants. What have you been planting to promote your bees? 

Johanna: Oh, gosh. Everything. A million different natives, lavender. They love lavender. 

They love any bottle brushes, anything that flowers. I mean, they really they really love. Like, even at the moment, we haven’t been able to get into our paddocks for 12 months at the moment because of how wet it is. And we have firewood which normally my husband would have a conniption if he saw a patch of fireweed. Yeah, but the only upside is the bees love the fireweed. They love it. Absolutely. Any weed, anything that flowers. But yeah, what else do we put in? We pistachio trees one recently, which again require a male and female trees. 

So you actually get fruit off those trees. You need your base to do their job. Sorghum, there’s a million different things. I mean, pretty much anything and everything that flowers I look at, whether or not can be an edible flower, whether that can become part of our diet, whether or not it is something that is specifically just the bees or just to attract birds. And it just dictates our whole life at the moment! We’ve got a bowerbird that’s made a nest, pretty much at our back door, which really I’m not sure is the smartest bowerbird. 

Well, we just we’ve got dogs and a million people and friends that come over with pets. But this bowerbird has us feeling like we’re watching this David Attenborough documentary every day where, yeah, he wakes us up. He makes all these different noises. He puffs himself up. He’s got all these different little blue treasures everywhere. And we’ve got literally a front row seat from our bed in the morning to where I’m cooking food, I just watch a bowerbird all day going through his mating ritual. I mean, it’s awesome. 

Charlie: Funny how they love the colour blue, isn’t it? 

Johanna: I love it. And we’ve helped him by put out a million different little blue trinkets. I mean, first of all, I was horrified by how much blue plastic he found because we try not to have plastics on our property, but his nest! You look at it and you go, if that is a reflection on society, we’re in trouble. Yeah, but, you know, they they’re actually so cool.  And the different shades of blue that really capture them! It’s been like a little science experiment for us to see what he likes and what he doesn’t like. And he’s very calm with us. Like I think he knows we’re not going to hurt him, he’s obviously cautious. If there’s other dogs, our dog’s not smart enough to work out if he’s there. 

But yeah, they’re pretty good at hiding too.

Charlie:  With bees, I was actually reading a book on the best way to have a pollinating garden for bees and things like that. And they were saying it’s, it’s not just having one flower, it’s having an array. So you’ve got to have different heights, different colours, different shapes and try and stick to the, the older varieties because they’re a more open flower rather than a closed ruffled flower that the bees find hard to get into. 

Johanna: And I believe they’re more attracted to blue flowers. So anything that’s in the blue range bees also would say that before they see any other colours. Yeah, I mean they’re, they’re quite amazing. They can map almost to the centimetre of what you do. So I’ve got a part of the garden that’s Meadow Flowers. I’ve gotten lots of mostly natives. We have a lot of flowering gums but they’re on the cusp of the moment just starting to come out. They go absolutely nuts. Earlier in the season, they love wattle and wattle aren’t great for cattle and for everything else because they’ve got such a small root system, but you find a balance between everything, you just find, you find what works. 

There’s this native and it’s got little white flowers…They’re obsessed with that. What you do is you get apps on your phone. And I always remember this because I thought a country property would be the best place for bees. And they were like, No, no, no. If you could actually put one in your city that is better. And I was like, why? And they say for that exact reason, there’s more variety and there’s just thousands of people have got flowers and flowering trees and flowers and plants in their gardens. But for us it’s like, okay, well we’re putting in as many as we can, and putting in as many hacias, they love hacias and to try to find hacias that fit in our area with the temperature zones. 

And so if you’re constantly driving anywhere, or we’re doing a story somewhere and there’s a plant that’s covered in bees, I’ll literally pull out my camera. I go on an app, I find out what the plant is. I write down its name, and then I head off to either my nursery or to the local native nursery. And I find out what it is. 

Charlie: They need water as well, don’t they? Like birds do. That’s a really important part.

Johanna:  Yeah, they can’t have it too close to them though, otherwise they’re funny. They’ll almost go and drown themselves. They have such a short life, bees. Apart from the queen, you know, 20 to 41 days is their lifespan. So yeah, then they need to have a water source. But they’re pretty amazingly efficient at being able to find that. And they also obviously need pollen, they need nectar. They can work out the math of the absolutely perfect combination. So if you, if you were going to say, get your hive and take honey out of it before all your honey is capped, you will actually have problems with your honey. 

It will start to continue to ferment because they actually cap their honey when it’s 100%, perfect to store for the rest of its life like that. So they just, I think that’s the thing that bees the more that you learn about what they do and how they do it, the more amazing they are, the more obsessed you become. Yeah. 

Charlie: And it all started with your vegie patch. 

Johanna: Yeah! And now we produce about 85% of veggies, which is pretty cool. 

Charlie: Where did that desire come from? 

Johanna: I think as a kid growing up in a household where you do lots of chores, and so it was either the indoors or the outdoors and the indoor work bored me, it still does. So that’s why this house is so organized the farm house is chaos because we have 70 animals in it. But one day we will have like, you know, we have this commitment to each other – one day we’ll have a very organized farmhouse, which anyone who I know who lives in the country laughs at that. 

Charlie: Yeah, that’s ridiculous. 

Johanna: But we are a lot more relaxed up there as far as what we would put up with in terms of chaos. But it was a choice growing up of inside or outside. And I loved being outside and I still love being outside. I love, my eyes resting on green. I love what it does for my soul. I love, I love watching things grow. I love that whole sense that you have, of having a space that’s nothing and turning into something that’s quite beautiful and all the other benefits that you get from it. And I think that was instilled, even though most of the stuff that I was doing was the maintenance, the lawns, the hedging, and the weeding. 

But I’m one of those weed people. Some people love ironing, I hate ironing, but I love weeding. I find it really relaxing. 

Charlie: You also like painting as well. 

Johanna: Yeah, it’s just, it’s almost hypnotic? Like I do. I like house painting, which is even weirder and not even artistic painting.

I think, I think there’s things where you feel like you make progress. I think in a garden you can feel like, you can spend a day in a garden or a couple of hours in a garden or even half an hour, and you can actually feel like you have had amazing progress. And I think that’s also appeals to me. I’m the sort of person I love a list, of ticking something off. I love looking at a space that has chaos and feeling like I have improved it or made a difference. 

Charlie: Yeah. What’s the most satisfying thing you grow in your veggie patch? 

Johanna: Oh, to be honest, all of that. I was listening to you actually on the weekend when I was out in my veggie patch and I was looking around. I was like, Wow, what am I growing at the moment? Then I started to realize all the things that we’re growing at the moment and, you know, some things that we hadn’t grown before that were doing quite well with and whether they’re different types of berries or, you know, we’ve got an avocado tree which started actually from a seed in my compost. Even, like I’m one of those weirdos. I love composting. 

Charlie: Not weird at all. You’re in the right place. This is a safe zone for compost! (laughs) 

Johanna: Charlie Albone telling me that composting is not weird. I know now that you and I should be some kind of help group. 

But in all honesty, like I read about composting for a year before for my 40th birthday, my husband built me three compost bins, which I was stoked about. Everyone was like, weird. But he knew that I didn’t have a veggie garden or any longevity of a veggie garden unless I could actually have those three compost is constantly going and constantly turning and adding to it. 

Charlie: This is the test. Okay, so when you’re at the supermarket buying the remaining 15% of your food, do you go, I’m going to buy that because that’s going to make good compost. Because I do. 

Johanna: I might be a little bit guilty of that! To be honest, I only buy what we need or if we have massive numbers to entertain if I needed to top up.

Yeah, I mean, we have no waste. I think that’s the thing. That’s the other part that, that if you, if you care about the environment, you care about the world. Once you start going down the gardening hole which is what I call it, which encompasses gardening compost bees, soil management, you know, native gardens, gardens with flowers, gardens for joy. You actually realize if you’re looking after your garden you have virtually no waste. So yeah, and even stories I do in the show, like we did a great one called The Great Wrap, which was a compostable plastic wrap alternative that they can break down in your backyard. Compost. Now it’s a little bit tricky to use in the kitchen, but that is in both our households. And I love it. 

Charlie: When I saw that story and I love that story, where do you get that stuff from?

Johanna:  Online. 

Charlie: I think it is, great that they’re going global, but they’re doing amazing things. All made from potato starch. Like, Yeah, like leftover potato starch. So, I mean, we’re so lucky we were exposed to so much and so many great things. And so you just take the very best ideas of what you’re exposed to and you incorporate them into your life.

Charlie: As well as your gardening stories, I do love the stories you tell me about your sons,  and how wild they are. Have you got them into gardening or are they not there yet? 

Johanna: How would I say…? One of them has discovered the mower at the farm. So that’s kind of promising. But they’re definitely not like me in the sense, I guess every house that we’ve lived in, because I’ve always done the maintenance of the gardens, they have just cruised through life. And it’s funny, it’s only now that they’re in their own quiet set of relationships, thank God after the years that we went through with them that they had, that this world is starting to open up to them. So now Jesse will often ring with us, actually Jessie and Nicola, because often, as Nicola is asking, she’s like, sounds great, but he’s pretty useless in the garden. 

And they’ll ask questions about, you know, what to put in or what to do with garden design. I don’t know why, you know, how can they improve the soil up in Cairns? Joe lives in the bottom of the house that we live in, in Sydney in an amazing apartment. He’s probably not there yet, but he’s the one that’s discovered the mower. So we figure, that’s our fault, we’ve probably…because we just always get on and we do things, that we’ve probably tried too hard to make sure they had everything, that we’ve made them a little bit useless on the farm. But we figured that’s coming. They’re coming into their own to sort that out. 

Charlie: A mower is a great place to start. 

Johanna: Yeah. 

Charlie: It really is. Do you do your own propagation and stuff like that? Would you buy seedlings and that?

Johanna: It’s a combination of that. It’s actually quite hard to get seedlings through COVID, and a lot of the places like, I love Worm Tickler’s in New South Wales. 

Charlie: Yeah he’s great. 

Johanna: Oh Jordan’s amazing. But they got smashed by the floods twice, so his place is always a never fail. I used to get these seasonal, you know, boxes that you would do and then on top of that propagate seeds around it. So we propagate a lot of our own seeds, but we also still top up with things. And I think the thing I, I love the vegie patch for everything you continue to learn about veggie growing because I knew nothing when I started. So you learn about soil, you learn about, you know, composting, organic matter, and then you learn about what works and companion planting and then you learn about, you know, whether or not you want to have everything systematic in your garden. 

And I think Jacqui French was one of the first books that I read years ago. And she’s like, don’t do that. You just basically inviting bugs to go from plant to plant to plant to plant. So just get this idea out of your head that it has to be total conformity in your garden. And so these days, apart from, try to keep track of everything so that I’m not replanting in the same spots within about every two years, I basically will put things randomly next to each other and just see how they go. So, so much of it is just trial and error of seeing what takes and what doesn’t. 

Like I use wicking beds, which I know you’ve heard me rave on about a lot, but I do that because when I put my gardening in,  we were in massive drought and so I had to think of the most water efficient way that I could have a large vegetable garden. And that was the way. And the idea being that the roots would only go down to the water and they’d only draw up as much as they need. We’ve now had extraordinary rain for the last 12 months, but prior to that we had extraordinary drought that when you only had to top my beds up a couple of times, I knew I was onto the right system for where I lived and what I was facing. 

Charlie: Yeah, and for the amount of maintenance, you can give it as well. Yeah. You know, you can get up there every day to water. So wicking beds are excellent. I’ve got them too, I have them at my property. I love them. I think they’re great. 

Johanna: I love your little vegie garden and your olive trees, I still have olive tree envy. But I mean they even funnily enough now, like I’ve never spent so much time top weeding because the other part of that wicking bed was I liked it, I didn’t have to do much top weeding. Yeah, but we’ve had so much rain, there’s so much more weed mass across the top layer and actually outside of the beds.

I’m having to spend more time actually just, just keeping it neat because one of the deals I had with my husband, he’s a neat freight with stuff in the garden and he loves having everything you have at your place. So I had to try and convince him he could have a veggie garden that didn’t look like total chaos. And I think we’ve achieved it. I just keep all of the things that grow messily like here, watermelons and zucchinis and pumpkins and yeah, even potatoes. 

I’ve moved out into what I call the “Messy Zone”, which I’ve explained to him, you need to have one in each garden. But it’s just about compromise. It’s alright. I don’t have things hanging over the sides of beds and everything’s nice and neat in the part that he, he doesn’t garden. He appreciates what I do with the garden, so he just goes outside and says hm, garden! Looks neat, great! And walks back inside and doesn’t see up the other end. 

Charlie: Nice. You’re in the process of designing a new house for your farm. Are you going to have a garden around it or is it just going to be vegie patch and plants for the bees? 

Johanna: No, it will again, it will be that idea of everything you’re looking out on has to be, well, not even just beautiful, but for me I want it to be like we’ve got at the moment, which is established gardens, a lot of new planning for bees and birds. But, that’s I love sitting and having a cuppa in the morning and watching nature. And I think because our lives are so busy and so chaotic in every other part that, the whole reason.. The reason we got the farm was the kids being teenagers and getting them out of Sydney at a pretty tricky stage and watching kids become kids with space again. 

But the other part that we got it was, was we realized we had to have something just for us where we could really, really mentally switch off. It’s amazing. I don’t mind if we like, we just flogged ourselves for four days over a long weekend. I don’t care if we flog ourselves for 10 hours a day. It’s a different type of feeling. You come in feeling almost revitalized and refreshed because mentally your brain switched off. You’re not thinking about work. You just think about what you’re looking at. You get so much satisfaction out of what you’re looking at. 

Johanna: We share that space with so many people. We entertain a lot. So it’s a very important part for us in switching off from our everyday lives. 

Charlie: Yeah, I’ve never met a stressed out gardener in my life, to be honest. And you do a lot of work with mental health, don’t you? 

Johanna: Yes. I’ve been on the board of Beyond Blue for eight years, and I chaired the National Advisory Council for Be You, which is the government-led initiative from 0 to 18. So early learning centres and right through, from kindy through the year 12. So it goes from naught to 18 all across the country. And so it’s an amazing program. We’re getting amazing results. We’re in a huge percentage of schools and early learning services now, and it’s one of those things where when we launched that we’re like, you know, the weird thing is, we’re going to take 20 years before you really feel the effects of this? But I think it’s actually happening sooner.

And, you know, we’re seeing a generation of kids and we’ve always said, imagine if you had kids who treated their mental health the way they did their physical health, which is what I was taught through sport. We actually didn’t have one without the other. So it’s great to share that you have some of the best brains in the world. You have representatives from health and education, from every level of government across Australia. So it’s one of those things where I feel like it’s the work that I do with Beyond Blue is probably the most valuable work that I’ve ever done in my life. It’s not the most seen work. 

It’s not, you know, I only have one more year I think is, you know, my time on the board that nine years and three – three year terms is the end of what you do with that. And I think that’s smart because I’ve got to keep refreshing it and you’ve got to keep going and get new ideas and new people. And you’ve got to commit a lot of time to doing it. But it’s definitely some of the work that I’m most proud of that I do. 

Charlie: How do you think gardening plays into that?

Johanna: Huge part! There’s a million researchers that will back that up. I mean, you can look at whether it’s in relation to depression, whether it’s in relation to anxiety, whether it’s just in relation to people using it like I do, which is a positive break in in your mental health journey that you have with between your own ears, the benefits of people actually nurturing something and saying something grow that there’s people being just surrounded by nature, surrounded by grains, surrounded by what they’re looking at it. You know, there’s research. 

I can’t say how many things on that front, but there’s also research if you go into various ailments and disorders. So, you know, I know we did in the show a few years ago dementia garden where it’s extraordinary memory, touch, smell, all these things are jogged by people actually being in nature. You also get people talking to each other a lot easier when they were shoulder to shoulder, they’re not face to face. So it’s a great place to start a conversation, a difficult conversation to have with people if they’re busy and they’re doing things. 

So it doesn’t matter which way you look at gardening, it has a positive benefit no matter what. 

Charlie: Yeah, I agree with you. I think everyone should at least give it a go. As soon as you give it a go, you love it. 

Johanna: Yeah I reckon. And that thing of you’re so afraid to make mistakes. In gardening you make mistakes, it’s just accepted. Everyone comes out with their war stories like “yeah, I did that well, oh, you learn.” But the thing is, it’s okay, because you can, you can try something different and it can work. And then you become part of this extraordinary community, whether it be online or other gardeners, it’s like beekeeping and bird watching. I can’t go anywhere without someone talking to me about bees, birds or gardening. Yeah, but it’s amazing. 

And, you know, half the stories I do on the show are ones that I’ve suggested to them that we do along those lines. Or they might be people who are doing amazing things in their part of the world that’s making a difference. And all of a sudden you realize all these people are connected because they share passion. And to be perfectly honest, once you find other like-minded people who share a passion, then you’ve found your people. 

Charlie:  Absolutely. Well, Joh, the only person I think is a bigger fan of you than me is my mum. 

Johanna: I love your mum! 

Charlie: My mum is a massive fan of yours, as is everybody who’s listening to this podcast.

Johanna:  I don’t know about that, but thank you. I’ll take your mum and you, thank you! 

Charlie: Thank you so much for your time. I know you’re super busy, so sharing what you know has been really special. Thank you so much. 

Johanna: I feel very honoured to have been asked Charlie and it’s very nice having you ask the questions for a change. Often Charlie goes, gosh cos you really like to chat! 

Charlie: I do say that. I say in a nice, it comes from a loving place. 

Johanna: Oh thank you, it comes from that beautiful heart of yours. 

Charlie: You can’t go anywhere with Joh quickly. It’s what I worked out. You know, she talks to everyone, she finds out what they like and she likes it as well. So then she’s talking for hours and hours and I’m kind of standing there twiddling my thumbs to the side going, come on, Joh, we’re in a rush. 

Johanna: You’re possibly the only other person outside of my kids in my husband who truly, truly understands and appreciate that, Todd often goes “You going to the shops? How long are you going to be?” and I say “I’ll be about 5 minutes.” And he goes, I’ll see you in half an hour! 

Charlie: That’s exactly right. Well, Joh, once again, thank you so much. 

Johanna: Thank you. 

Charlie: It’s now time for some community questions, and I love being able to help out all of my listeners. So today’s first question is from Aaron in Sydney, and he says he’s been listening to the season and really enjoying it. Well, thank you, Aaron. His lawn, though, is growing like crazy after all this rain and when he’s cut it, it was a bit too damp. So it’s left will marks behind and they’re driving him crazy. What is the best way to remove them? And how do I have a smooth lawn again? 

Well, with all the rain that so much of Australia has been having, the issue is compaction. So what you need to do is get a garden fork and lift all those tyre marks, just lightly send the fork through the lawn just to lift it up. 

You could then top just with a sandy mix so it doesn’t collapse in on itself. And then when it comes to mowing the lawn, you need to do it more often, but take less off and those stripes should disappear. Okay. 

Onto the next question from Bruce in Melbourne. Hi, Charlie. I’ve got some beautiful fruit trees. So be it for the birds and possums love to get to them. Now I’ve previously used bird netting, but I understand the direction on this has changed, which is true because they can get tangled in it. So what’s the best way to protect young crops so I can enjoy my fruits? Well, there’s a couple of things you could do. 

One, you could build a more sturdy sort of anti-aviary where you build it out of timber and use a steel mesh to keep the birds out. But the way I like to do it really, is to protect each individual fruit. So you go round and you make a little net out of bird netting and you just wrap up the fruit. So if they’re oranges or pears, just an individual wrapping and then an elastic band around and that should keep those pests well away. Jodie’s asked, hello Charlie. I love watching you on TV. Several of my indoor plants have leaves that are going yellow. What can I do to stop this? Well, life as an indoor plant is quite harsh, and the yellow leaves is probably from a lack of sunlight. 

Too much water, or not enough water. So move it to a nice bright area and keep your watering regular so don’t fluctuate too much and your plants should be fine. Also, you might want to give it a dose of a nitrogen high fertilizer just to bring the green back. Finally, Sarah from the Gold Coast has emailed me. She says, Hi, Charlie. My garden is growing like crazy since the warm weather has hit us. Do you have any tips on how to prune and manage your garden? That means it won’t take all weekend or end up like an overgrown rainforest. Well, my tip here is to do a little bit more gardening. 

What you want to do is a little bit every day. I think 10 minutes every day is so much more effective than an hour on the weekends. You just get to keep on top of everything. Now, if you’ve got a larger garden, then, yes, you’re still going to have to be doing a bit more on the weekend. But try and give a crack every single day and it will stop it looking like an overgrown rainforest. Do you have a gardening question you’d like me to answer? Well, send an email to and I’ll try and answer them in two each time on our next episode. 

Johanna is obviously a curious person who loves to learn, and it was so great to chat to her about all her sustainable practices, everything from compost all the way through to keeping bees and how to keep them happy. 

I love the way she says “Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and give everything a try.” You know, knowledge is power, so if you don’t know about something, go on a course and learn some more. And finally, the best way to clear your mind and lift your spirits is to get out in the garden and get your hands in the dirt. 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 Stihl website or head to your local Stihl dealer today. There are over 600 local dealers across Australia and you can easily find your local Stihl dealer through the convenient locator on the Stihl website. You can find us on Instagram to Stihl_AU and follow me on Instagram as well, Charlie_albone. In our next episode, I’ll chat with gun designer Tristan Pearce, an award winning gun designer based in Perth. Tristan is making a name for himself with amazing gardens and spaces that often include a swimming pool. 

Charlie: We’ll chat about garden design, including a pool in your garden and what plants are great around a swimming pool. This episode will be around in two weeks. Don’t forget to check out Stihl’s gardening blog with plenty of great gardening advice, as well as my key seasonal tips and tricks. Be sure to go to I’m Charlie Albone, thanks for listening, until next time, goodbye.