The Garden Diaries: Wander Through Michelle’s Hinterland Oasis

Step into the lush world of Australian gardens with ‘The Garden Diaries,’ our new showcase series that unveils the vibrant stories thriving within backyards.

From productive vegetable patches to bush sanctuaries, each story celebrates the unique journey of passionate gardeners and their flourishing green spaces.

Come along as we dig deep into the roots of their inspiration, uncovering the heartfelt stories, cherished memories and insightful tips that have blossomed from their gardens.

Tune in to ‘The Garden Diaries’ on Instagram, Facebook or our newsletter each month for enchanting stories to inspire your gardening journey.

First, join the founder of Sow ‘n Sow Michelle Brady as we wander around her hinterland oasis.

Wander Through Michelle’s Hinterland Oasis

Can you share the story of how your love for gardening began and what inspired you to start your own garden?

I grew up in a leafy suburb surrounded by beautiful gardens which Mum and Dad tended to, but gardening wasn’t an interest for me until I moved to London in 2006. It was there that I experienced the joy of the daffodils that cover the parks in late winter with the promise of warmer weather.

I started buying plants for our apartment’s courtyard and somewhere along the way I planted some basil seeds. It was watching the basil germinate and grow into beautiful fragrant leaves that had me intrigued, along with the joy I felt coming home to my beautiful flowering pot plants. We even had a small fig tree in the garden that produced a few delicious figs which I thought was fabulous.

We moved to Melbourne after that and there I had a slightly bigger courtyard in our Northcote townhouse. I wanted to cover it in greenery but Nick suggested edible plants, which got me experimenting more with all sorts of herbs and vegetables with which we had varying successes within the south-facing courtyard.

Tell us about your current garden?

We moved to Maleny in 2016 and purchased the property mainly for the land which has incredible established trees including avocados, pecans, lychees and mandarin.

I established a veggie patch as soon as I could and realised then how spoilt we are with our red volcanic soil and cooler temperatures here, being up on a range. It’s quite a dream for growing things!

We recently completed renovations which have allowed for some new landscaping so I now have a raised herb garden along our driveway and just a few steps from our kitchen, some garden beds made from the huge amounts of rock from excavation on our block, some raised veggie garden beds made from an old water tank cut into three and my favourite – a pretty native walkway and arbour in front of our house. We have also turned another old concrete water tank into a swimming pool which has been a lot of fun this summer.

What challenges did you face when establishing your garden, and how did you overcome them?

The main challenge for my current garden is finding the time to keep up with the epic growth, such as keeping fruit trees pruned and staying on top of endless weeding. We are on 5 acres here which includes a dam and a creek in a rainforest setting.

When we bought the property, most of the trees in the creek area were weeds such as camphor laurel and privet. We’ve been chipping away at re-vegetating this area with local native trees supported by the Land For Wildlife program, which provides us with hundreds of free native seedlings every year. As such, these areas are slowly returning to the rainforest they once would have been which is wonderful.

Are there specific plants or flowers in your garden that hold special meaning to you? Could you tell us about them?

We have a lemon and a lime tree which travelled up from Victoria with us. One we bought in Melbourne and the other we were given when we lived in Castlemaine. It’s nice to still have a piece of our original gardens with us. They are now planted in the ground and huge!

What are your favourite flowers to grow in your garden?

Cosmos & zinnia – there’s always some somewhere and they’re so pretty and easy to grow. But my favourites at the moment are the native grasses, shrubs and ground covers that I have in my front arbour area. We also have an Australian native ‘jasmine’ growing on the arbour which is Pandorea jasminoides, and Brahmi which is a lush ground cover growing between our pavers with lovely little white flowers. My girls play in it as it makes a wonderful fairy garden!

Tell us about the edible plants, fruits and vegetables you grow?

I have a wonderful supply of passionfruit, dragonfruit and avocados here. It’s such a wonder to pick incredible delicious produce straight from your garden!

We are lucky to always have cherry tomatoes somewhere in the garden as they just self-seed wherever they like. I am constantly trying to grow a good crop of cucumbers because my kids love snacking on them. Occasionally we can grow a massive amount of them but other times I struggle to get them to thrive so I find they’re a bit fussy. It seems the weather has to be just right – lots of rain but also warm and sunny.

We currently have a massive pumpkin patch which should keep us, our friends and neighbours supplied for a while. And I’ve got lots of delicious basil which I need to turn into a pesto soon.

I’ve always got parsley, oregano and some spring onions growing somewhere and there’s always something around to make a salad out of such as kale, rocket, lettuce or silverbeet. Many of these things self-seed, but I also throw our seed around whenever I think of it.

Nasturtiums burst from wherever there’s light here, which we welcome. Cape Gooseberries pop up here and there and make a delicious snack.

We have an abundance of lemons from numerous trees and have just started to enjoy finger limes from a tree we planted six years ago; they’re a wonder and so delicious. The kids eat them straight from the tree as a treat! Beautiful red tamarillos provide a quick, sweet snack and are great for our kid’s lunchboxes.

I have just produced my first successful crop of rockmelons! I have a bunch of red capsicum plants growing strong and some celery, which has been very handy.

Nick especially loves chillies, so he’s thrilled with the abundant harvest of Bishop’s crowns we have at the moment.

We were blessed with five established avocado trees, a big delicious mandarin, a row of mature pecan trees and a huge lychee grove. Unfortunately, we’ve not had much luck with the lychees; the trees are too big and the microclimate in Maleny may be too cool for them we think.

How do you incorporate sustainability practices into your gardening routine?

We’ve always maintained a compost heap using kitchen scraps and garden clippings which I believe is a really important part of having a successful veggie patch as the nutrients it provides are essential for sustaining plant growth. But using our food scraps in this way also reduces our waste output significantly and keeps our bins from smelling. I also prioritise natural methods in my gardening practices and never use sprays or weed killers, preferring to let nature do the work.

Have you experimented with different gardening styles or themes in your garden and if so, what was your experience?

I’m currently really into pretty Australian natives using plants that are endemic to our local area here. I love these as the natural landscape is stunning and I feel it’s easiest to stick to our locals. Not only does it avoid weed issues, but the local varieties thrive with ease and encourage our lovely native butterflies and wildlife which are always welcome in our garden.

How do you balance the desire for a beautiful garden with the practical aspects of maintenance?

I don’t keep on top of the maintenance well and I’ve decided not to get too stressed about keeping everything perfect; nothing is perfect! I tend to wait until I feel in the mood and when that comes, I chip away at whatever draws me in. I also like to do little bits when I can; for example I will pull some weeds when I’m walking past or when I’m out harvesting some goods for dinner.

Can you recommend some beginner-friendly plants or flowers for individuals just starting their gardening journey?

In my experience, the easiest and most joyful flowers are cosmos, zinnia and marigolds which is why you often see these in our Gifts of Seeds. Leafy greens are also really easy to grow especially things like rocket, kale and silverbeet. I do think that basil is a beautiful herb to grow as it is so rewarding and not overly needy. Perhaps beginners may discover the joy of gardening in the same way that I did – through the fragrant deliciousness of basil.

Photos by Maleny local Elliot Swanson who also takes many of the amazing Sow ‘n Sow product photos @Ground_To_Kitchen

Nominate Your Favourite Gardener

Do you have a beautiful garden or know someone who has an inspiring gardening story? Nominate yourself or them by emailing us at info@sownsow.com.

Gifts to Grow

Embedded and inspired by nature, Sow ’n Sow believe in purposeful gifting that doesn’t cost the planet.

From a small seed of an idea, Sow ’n Sow was dreamt up by founder Michelle Brady combining her love of gardening and flair for design in 2010.

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