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Sustainable Gardening

An interview with Horticultural Communications Manager at Yates, Angie Thomas

When it comes to preserving our food banks, and venturing into the world of sustainability, there is no one better than Angie Thomas, Horticultural Communications Manager at Yates.

At the beginning of the 2021, Year 9 participated in a workshop run by Angie, identifying the ways in which our future could present itself.

Editor, Josh McKenzie, sat down with Ms Thomas for an interview about the sustainability of our world and how we can help contribute to positively to our environment from the comfort of our own homes!

What encourages your passion for gardening? Why do you enjoy gardening?
I get an immense feeling of satisfaction from gardening. Starting with nurturing the tiniest seed or the smallest plant, I love watching them grow into a towering tree, or a tasty tomato! Even after more than 30 years of gardening, there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t learn something new. Horticulture is absolutely fascinating.  

And gardening is good for you! Studies have shown that not only do you benefit from physical exercise, but gardening can have a positive impact on your mood and wellbeing. Not to mention the additional health benefits from growing some of your own fresh food.

What are you most concerned about for our future in terms of sustainability/preserving?
As our cities and suburbs grow, they consume an increasing amount of valuable land that is currently used to grow food crops. Agricultural land will be pushed into more marginal areas, decreasing productivity and impacting native bushland, which should be preserved and protected. Degradation of soil quality, through salinity, erosion and contamination, will also have a significant detrimental impact on how we can feed ourselves into the future.

What are the benefits of growing our own food at home? Is it beneficial?
There are multiple wonderful benefits of growing some of your own food, whether you have room for a large vegetable patch and orchard, or just a few pots on a balcony. Growing your own food eliminates ‘food miles’ (transport) and packaging, enables you to pick your produce at its tastiest peak (many supermarket vegetables and fruit are harvested prematurely or stored for many months before sale), encourages you to eat a healthier diet (you’re more likely to eat fruit and vegetables if you have them in your own backyard), you can control how the plants are cared for, and gardens help increase biodiversity.  

Growing food in backyards helps to reclaim some of the farming areas lost to development. By using clever growing and space saving techniques, lots of food can be produced by the one household. One backyard may not seem to make much of a difference to our global food supplies but consider if hundreds of thousands of backyards produced some of their own food. We can all play a small part in food security, that together, can create a significant difference. And all be healthier and happier too. The positive powers of gardening!

What is one simple step someone can take to improve and preserve their gardens at home?
The first step is to start and give it a go! Growing just one 40 cm diameter pot filled with lettuce plants can provide your family with weeks of fresh salad leaves. Then imagine adding a planter box of strawberries or a small vegie patch with tomatoes or snow peas. Just try! We all make mistakes along the way but read simple gardening websites and books for growing hints and ideas. The key to growing healthy plants is keeping them well-watered and fed, and ensuring they get enough sunlight. If you get those right, you’re well on your way to growing some of the best food you’ve ever tasted.

How important is preserving and sustainability, from your own viewpoint?
If we all leave caring for the environment to other people, and don’t take responsibility for the way in which we each go about our daily lives, then keeping the planet healthy is going to be much harder. The phrase ‘There is no Planet B’, should be a reminder to us all to be much more mindful about our behaviour. Simple things like choosing products with less (or no) packaging, reusing and recycling, reducing the amount of water you use at home, switching lights and appliances off when you don’t need them, walking short distances instead of taking the car, and of course planting trees and starting a garden, are all easy and achievable.

To quote Greta Thunberg, “I have learned you are never too small to make a difference”.

We can all help the planet, one garden at a time.

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