Louise and husband Len live at Cosy Nook, St Albans, neighbouring the common. They are recent arrivals to the valley and wanted a place like Cosy Nook for quite a while. Since their arrival they have transformed the piece of land into a productive oasis, building a home, extensive food gardens, a food forest, orchard and productive and ornamental landscaping features.
Image top: Louise Gardening with her grandchildren
Louise came from a family of sugar cane farmers in South Africa. She lived on a homestead on a sugar cane farm. She thinks back fondly about the farm, of her Granddad’s garden and of her father farming the land. The gardening and farming was always about food. She remembers her grandfather bringing in the maize and roasting it over the fire to eat, and picking and eating mushrooms from under the family oak tree. Louise’s father was always plowing up the land to grow food and encouraged Louise and later her husband Len to grow something. She also fondly remembers her father always taking a basket of veggies for the host when he visited people – something that has stuck with her always. She continues this tradition.
Louise didn’t really get into gardening until later in life but with it all around her she absorbed it all. Later in life when moving to Sydney she has always had a garden and always planting something.
Today Len and Louise have perhaps created the beautiful scene of the past with their own farm and their influences on it.
Louise loves gardening and growing food. She says, the garden is her happy place. She is the happiest and most excited when she is in her garden. She says it’s a relationship you have with it. The plants, the animals and everything going on in it. Her passion is organic food gardens. Growing food without chemicals is very important to her for the health of her family and the environment. Since owning her farm, Louise has studied horticulture at TAFE and Permaculture at the Permaculture Sydney Institute, which has added to her knowledge and skills in food production. She gardens using companion planting and guilds mixing up plantings to confuse the pests and only using organic fertilizers. Her gardens are also protected in anti-aviaries, polytunnels and nets. Louise provides her amazing produce to the Valley Veg Baskets for her community of St Albans.
Louise loves cooking from the garden too and has since studied hospitality to add to her repertoire of skills. She grows, picks and cooks straight from the garden to the table – what could be better! Louise’s garden isn’t just about plants; she has also integrated chooks and geese into the system too. They help with the gardening, weeding, fertilizing and giving pest and grass control.
Louise loves to garden with the grandchildren and she is teaching them loads of things from the garden and having lots of fun so they too will have very fond memories of her all their life. The grandchildren now insist their parents grow food instead of flowers.
Louise advises gardeners to plant what you like to eat. To listen to plants as they talk to you about what they need (food, water, sunshine, etc) and if you meet their needs, she says, they will do the rest themselves and provide you with a bounty of healthy food.