Matt and Lentil Purbrick’s passion for sustainable farming saw them quit their jobs as a graphic designer and a speech pathologist to grow veggies and flowers on a farm just outside of Melbourne.
What started as a small garden and is now a thriving business that produces more than 500 varieties of fruit, vegetables and flowers using sustainable farming techniques.
Grown and Gathered uses a closed-loop farming system where the compost that fertilises the soil is the same produce that was grown there – everything returns full circle.
“What we do is really fun. Farming has this daggy reputation, but I think it should come back in to the fore because it’s one of the most rewarding things you can do."
Each week the veggies are harvested and bought to Melbourne to be sold directly to customers. You can purchase ready made seasonally veggie boxes or take part in the flower exchange - where you can trade in something other than money for a bouquet.
While Matt and Lentil are constantly farming, there’s only so much they can grow on their acreage. The next step is to educate people on how to grow and eat sustainably at home.
With this in mind, Grown and Gathered has partnered with illustrator Chris Edser and The Hungry Workshop to create a seasonal vegetable chart. The chart is an easy guide to when plants are in season, which parts you can eat and how they should be prepared.
Matt says customers always ask him what’s in season and the chart is a way to share some of that knowledge.
“It’s something we have always wished existed and we’re constantly getting asked about it. There’s all this talk about things being in season, but we realised no one knows what the hell that means,” he says.
Before you can learn the correct way to prepare your eggplant and sweet potatoes, Matt has some tips on how to plant and look after your own veggie garden in the lead up to a hot summer.
Everything starts with good seeds. Avoid hybrid seeds and instead use non-genetically modified ones called heirloom seeds. Some Australian supplies include Queensland’s Eden Seeds, Green Harvest and Tasmania’s Rangeview Seeds.
All veggies love full sun but in an urban setting it can be difficult for plants to get the sun they need to grow. The position of your veggie patch is important. The perfect place would be alongside a fence on the southern boundary of your property so the sun from the north side will reflect onto your veggies and bathe them in sunlight.
It’s food for your food, so providing the right soil for your veggies is essential. The key is to have good organic matter in the soil, as this is what the worms will feed on. Head down to your local nursery for some good quality compost and mix this in with well-composted cow, horse or sheep manure. Another trick is to bury fish carcasses throughout the veggie patch- this is serious food for your plants.
This is a big one for summer, as plants need little amounts of water throughout the day. A classic old Italian gardener’s trick is fill two litre soft drink bottles with water then poke holes in the lids and flip them upside down giving your plants a constant watering.
You can purchase Grown and Gathered’s seasonal vegetable chart here.