By MELISSA WALSH
Victoria Breheny grew up surrounded by gardening. With a mother who was a landscape gardener, the naturopath and herbal medicine practitioner is now a mum of her own and recently released a book to bring home the message that gardens are more than just trees and flowers.
“Mum was a big influence and we always had some sort of vegetables on the go, habitually going out to get things from the garden,” says Victoria, author of The Incredible Edible Garden.
“The premise of the book is to grow your own garden and I had always wanted to write a book so decided last year to start with the younger generation. I had seen my children do some gardening and watched the joy they got from picking their own vegetables and herbs. To see them out there playing and go and pick a snow pea I thought was awesome,” says the mother of a seven and nine year old. “One of my family members is teacher and heard a child say eggs came from the supermarket. So I decided this would be a great tool to show children where and how things grow and how it affects the body. The more they learn, the more empowered they are.”
Victoria wrote the book as a whimsical and magical kind of story because of the feeling that nature creates.
“Kids can have amazing experiences in gardens, just being surrounded by nature and using their imagination. It’s a far cry from being glued to the iPad or phone. I wanted to make the book more alluring so they can see how they can have wonderful times in a garden.”
Victoria says it’s not essential to have a huge garden to grow vegetables and herbs and a great way to get your kids involved is to include them from the start.
“The best way to start is to head to a garden shop and get the kids to choose fun colourful pots and then what they like to eat to grow first. It might just be herbs initially or tomatoes but something they get enjoyment from. Then you can elaborate and expand later on. Get them to help plant them in the pots and put them and label them with handmade signs. Then make sure they are in their view so that when they get home from school they remember to go and check on them. This is a great way to keep the kids interested,” says Victoria, explaining that vegetables need about six hours of sunshine a day. “I give my children a basket and get them to go and pick basil and chives and that way they are taking ownership and responsibility, being part of the process.”
Victoria says you can even put herbs on window sills with plants like basil and coriander actually thriving better inside.
“These herbs need sunlight but are very susceptible to bugs and things so perfect on a well-lit window sill getting lots of regular watering. Alternatively, you can plant in pots on patios and decks. I even saw someone planting strawberries on a pellet they had stood up against a wall. That kind of thing is perfect for climbing plants,” says Victoria.
Coming into autumn, Victoria recommends it is a great time to prepare for winter.
“The soil is still warm from summer and so it is perfect for planting lettuce, herbs, broccoli, beetroot, even kale, and all the leafy greens, as well as snow peas, spinach, cabbage and cauliflower. It is all about eating naturally and eating seasonally is a big part of that,” she says.
Copies of The Incredible Edible Garden are available at www.activestillness.com.au