All in a day’s work

The Heronswood kitchen garden produces an enormous 3,000kg of organic produce each year. How do we know? Because everything is meticulously weighed and measured.

Above: Kitchen Gardener Janine Stent

Growing seasonal produce for the Heronswood kitchen is much more involved than the growing regime of most gardens due to the strict criteria required for organic certification. All produce must be traceable from start to finish, from the lot number of the seed sown, through to the ingredients added to the soil. Fortunately, that’s all par for the course for our kitchen gardener Janine Stent, who has been managing this garden for the last two years.

Formerly a chef, Janine understands the needs of the kitchen and grows accordingly to provide around 80% of the produce required by Heronswood kitchen throughout the year. Working closely with restaurant manager, Lee Frost, and chef, Trish Roberts, menus are designed around the produce available, and suggestions made for seasonal variation the following year.

Last year the garden produced more than 3,000kg of produce from 70 different varieties; that’s the weight of a limousine! This year, the stats are set to soar with 46 varieties of tomatoes currently on trial alone, growing for taste tests, quality control purposes and ongoing trials and research, not to mention, the myriad dishes utilising this seasonal kitchen garden crop.

It’s no surprise that tomatoes are one of our highest grossing crops with 338kg harvested last year, but this is only warrants third placing after cucumbers at 382kg and, of course, zucchinis at almost 600kg. Other high harvest vegies included lettuce, carrot, beetroot and spring onions.

Edible flowers are also part of the tally with over 13kg of edible flowers harvested each year, and as Janine says “that’s a lot of petals!” Primarily used for decoration, edible flowers also form part of the companion planting principles associated with the garden and its crop rotation.

What about pumpkins? These were mainly grown at the Diggers trial garden, so did not form part of the Kitchen Garden tally.

While the garden has the added pressure of supplying a commercial kitchen with quality organic produce, as well as all the organic reporting required by Australian Certified Organics, the garden also faces many of the common problems encountered by all vegie gardeners, from changing growing conditions (neighbouring trees growing and casting larger shadows), a steep sloping site, pests, weeds, water and time.

The garden also produces some of the eggs required by the restaurant, although this is not the primary role of our hard-working chickens. They are part of our active composting cycle and gardening team.

One of the key lessons from the garden is to grow what you need for the kitchen. Space is a valuable resource in all gardens, regardless of size, so only grow what you will use or preserve, unless trialling something different for improved flavour, yield or to extend your season. How much produce do you harvest each year?

ORGANIC RECORD KEEPING ESSENTIALS

As part of the Kitchen Garden’s organic certification, Janine must report on the following:

♦ Bed rotation
♦ Soil improvements and additions as well as their application rates
♦ Any treatment of plants aside from watering (e.g. fertilisers and organic sprays)
♦ Rainfall
♦ Compost – temperature at turning and ratio of components
♦Traceability of all produce from seed to harvest (e.g. lot number, dates for sowing/transplanting/harvesting, weights, etc)

♦ Every purchase made for the garden with receipts

A note on pests: An organic pest spray was only used once during this growing period, and this was in the greenhouse, not the garden beds. No other sprays were required due to the biodiversity of the garden including the insect hotel, crop rotation techniques, companion planting and associated gardening activities.

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