Greta Gillies visits the garden of Jacklyne Bereka and her family, from Heidelberg Heights.
Jacklyne lives with her husband Michael and their sons McNivan (12), Ishmael (3) and Jayson (16 months). Jacklyne is a primary school teacher and Michael is an accountant (currently undertaking his Master’s). The family moved to Australia from a coastal area in Papua New Guinea in August 2017. Since then, they have really immersed themselves in their local community, getting to know their neighbours and becoming involved in local community networking groups Rough Trade 3081 and Heidelberg Good Karma Network. Since the start of this this year, they have been growing a food garden. The main garden beds, currently growing tomatoes and pak choy, are in the front garden. As Jacklyne is being interviewed, a passerby shouts out “nice crop of tomatoes!”. She says that compliments like this are common.
When did this space become a food garden?
What’s your vision for this garden?
Gardening is a hobby and I like it. I also want to grow food for home use and to share and trade with friends and neighbours. This year I have been swapping food from my garden for cucumbers with my next door neighbour, Maria.
How does gardening weave into your life?
Back in Papua New Guinea, gardening is part of our everyday life. We are constantly working in our gardens. In rural areas, there is a heavily reliance on garden food. In urban areas, most people rely on markets and shops for their greens, though some people make use of their yards. Most of our food came from our garden back in Papua New Guinea, so coming here I wanted to continue gardening. It’s in my blood. I love it!
What prompted you to start food gardening?
Earlier this year, we had some old tomatoes in a container. Their seeds started sprouting so I planted them out and it went from there. Then I planted some potatoes: back in Papua New Guinea, potatoes would be grown in the highlands and not the coastal area where I am from so I thought I’d give them a go here. Seeing other people in the area growing food has also encouraged me to do it myself.
Did you have any interactions with gardens growing up?
Yes, I was exposed to seeing my parents gardening and learnt from them. My grandpa owned a coconut plantation and I always remember him saying “everyday you need to work hard. To eat, you must put something back into the soil every day”
How has gardening and your garden benefited you and your community?
For us, growing food enables us to save money for things we can’t grow ourselves. It also saves us time as we don’t need to go to the market as often. On a community level, having food to share with friends and neighbours is great. I’m an Adventist so we give our first fruit of a crop to the elders/deacons.
What’s your most exotic food plant?
My gardening style is probably more exotic than what I grow. I don’t use many tools and I use my bare hands to break up the soil and plant seedlings out.
What’s your favourite food plant and why?
Asian greens because they grow fast and look nice.
Do you have a gardening tip to share with readers?
Don’t worry so much about adding fertiliser, water is a more important component. The garden is a living thing and I greet it morning and night.
Zucchini and pumpkin new growth tips are edible. We peel and remove spikes and fry, boil or cream them.