A visit to Tuan Pham’s garden


Greta Gillies and Stevie Chy visit the garden of Tuan Pham, from Heidelberg West.

Tuan Pham has lived in his current home in Heidelberg West with his partner and 3 children for the past 3 years. He moved to Australia from Vietnam in the mid 80s and has lived most of the time in this area. He tends to his food garden most days. He is also a member of the local trading group Rough Trade 3081 and previously worked with the local exodus community.

Walking into his garden, the first thing you spot is his impressive hanging garden of gravity-defying winter melons. A nylon lattice covers a large metal frame which forms the support structure for his gourd crop which hang freely through the frame like enormous droplets of rain. This ‘winter melon house’ is big enough for someone to walk under and sit to escape the heat, plus it is a place to grow shade enjoying plants underneath. Tuan grows an impressive amount of food for his family in this space.

‘Winter melon house’ Gourds hanging down from the ‘Winter melon house’
When did this space become a food garden?

Our family home was new when we moved in. Since then I have converted almost the entire back grass garden into a food garden.

What’s your vision for this garden?

I want this garden to provide most of the fresh fruit and vegetables for my family’s needs. In summer, we live off this garden almost entirely. The garden is also a place for me to relax and unwind.

How does gardening weave into your life?

I am in the garden a lot. In between cooking and picking up our children from school, it is the place where you will find me.

What prompted you to start food gardening?

I started gardening and found that it was something I enjoyed doing. I wanted to grow our own fruit and vegetables so that the food that we eat is always fresh and free from chemicals. I also wanted it to be a place where our children could run around and eat from the garden.

Did you have any interactions with gardens growing up?

Yes, my parents grew vegetables

How has gardening and your garden benefited you and your community?

Apart from providing fresh food for our family, we have been able to share our produce with friends and family. Seeing my garden has encouraged those around me to grow their own fruit and vegetables too.

What’s your favourite part of your food garden?

The winter melon house and shelter area. Last year we grew a winter melon that was 20kg in weight!

What’s your most unusual food plant?

There are quite a few. Winter melon, bitter melon, peanuts, mung beans and soy beans plus a selection of Asian greens that I don’t know the English names for are all fairly unusual.

Bitter melon Peanuts, mung beans and soy beans An unnamed Asian green
What’s your favourite food plant and why?

Cucumbers are my favourite as they produce big fruit (we often get ones that weigh a 1kg)

Do you have a gardening tip to share with readers?

Make sure your soil quality is good. I use mushroom compost, cut green waste and leave decaying annual plants in situ to enrich the soil for the next growing season.

Drying shallots Spring onions line the garden beds A plastic shell as water garden

  3 Responses to “A visit to Tuan Pham’s garden”

  1. So exciting, makes me want to garden right now! Thanks for sharing.

  2. So lovely to know about this lovely space in our ‘hood’!

  3. Fascinating garden and story! Such a different array of produce to what we normally see. Love the winter melon garden.

 Leave a Reply