The Gordon Gnohm

Play along at home, read Future Farmer in The Braidwood Bugle every Wednesday. 

Naysayers

There are three kinds of people in this world. The ones who know. There are those of us who constantly learn and grow. Then there are Naysayers. 

When I first started my highland gardening journey, I was a novice to be sure. Moving from the coast I had some horticulture education, I was young, fearless and ready to act. Powering ahead with varied success, growing and learning. Then I met the Naysayers, who earnestly informed me of all the things I couldn’t grow here.

Not one or two, Naysayers came out of the woodwork to compound the idea that it’s hard to grow veggies and fruit here, especially in winter. It started with Lemon trees at the turn of the Century and has progressed to everything including Celery and Lettuce.

No Lemons

I originally met a local lady who was adamant you couldn’t grow a Lemon in Braidwood. Working in Canberra gardens, I had seen many Lemon trees. It didn’t make sense. I took her at her word, not wanting to upset her further. 

It seems that way, way, way back, old Mrs Farmers wife was a very good gardener. She tried to grow a Lemon tree (variety unknown) and failed. So, if she couldn’t grow one, then no one could. And more importantly, I shouldn’t try.

This sentiment has been expressed to me so many times. These comments say more about the Naysayer and their mindset, than it does about my apparent idiocy. However, in recent times, I’ve started hearing it from people who should know better. 

Greenhouse Lettuce

A while back I was offering BST ‘wildgrown’ seedlings (no greenhouse) at the local farmers market and the guy running the show proclaimed with confidence, in front of a full house of stallholders, that you can’t grow a lettuce here without a greenhouse. A wonderful way to welcome a new stallholder. 

And, at the last Braidwood Markets, in Ryrie Park, another local plant seller scoffed at our seedlings, proclaiming that nothing will grow if it’s put in the garden now, but I’m still planting veggies even today. I have done for years, and I eat fresh tucker all year round. 

Am I Crazy?

Ive meditated on these interactions, and my first guess is they think I’m an idiot. From a more noble standpoint, they may think I’m wasting my time and misleading others. Perhaps they think I’ve just started gardening here last week? 

The most likely scenario is they find it hard to accept because it challenges their version of gardening reality. The greatest fear of the Naysayer is that I could be right. 

Education

Almost all learning about gardening in Australia, is based at sea level. Gardening Australia, the cornerstone of information in Australia, is filmed at sea level. Gardening magazines, CIT/TAFE and University programs mostly around sea level. The more educated you are the more likely you are to discount my techniques.

Planting guides for our region include Melbourne and Hobart. They may have four seasons, but at sea level they don’t experience dam freezing frosts like we do here. 

Why not?

I often ask why I can’t grow here in winter? The standard response ‘it’s too cold’. This is the number one fallacy about growing in the highlands. If folks do grow winter vegetables here, they start them in late summer. By the end of autumn all the produce is eaten, leaving the ‘hungry period’ before summer crops are ready. That’s 6 months of no tucker! 

I avoid this issue with succession planting deep into winter. Broadbeans prefer June/July as they don’t like heat. Snowpeas perform better over winter than they do in spring. Beets, Parsnips and Carrots will go in pretty much all year round and grow through winter. 

I succession plant Brassicas from March into June. I’m often told brassicas will not grow through winter, but mine do. There is another reason we don’t plant Brassicas after June based on sound science, or maths to be exact. The true reason we don’t plant Cauliflower, Broccoli, and Cabbage after June is because there isn’t enough time before it goes to seed. 

BST varieties are ready to harvest in 60-90 days, faster than most. When the earth starts to warm up in September, our Brassicas will have provided tucker before going to seed. 

Anything grown in winter, should be a variety that likes your local microclimate and is a specialist at winter. BST provide a winter Lettuce that loves the cold, we’ve been collecting the seed for years.

Thank You

To the Naysayers I thank you, collectively changing the trajectory of my gardening. In the beginning I was annoyed at the misinformation, but over time I have learned to listen to their misunderstood souls and utilise the anti knowledge to setup experiments. I’m now at a point, if someone tells me I can’t, I am pretty confident I can, and you can too. Because the Naysaying is rarely based in fact, they are repeating fears and myths.

Don’t fear the Naysayers

If I had believed the Naysayers, I would not have developed services in this niche. If we all listen to the Naysayers, we will surely starve. I have learnt to ignore convention and grow food regardless of what I’ve been told. Sure, I’ve lost some trees and seedlings along the way, but I’ve also managed to grow a full vegetable garden all year round. I’m eating my first Oranges, and I’ve worked out how to grow Avocadoes in our Unpredictable Highland Climate. 

Go on, tell me what else I can’t grow; I’ll gladly work it out. My Design business offers clients the ability to grow whatever their hearts desire. So far, I have installed every plant a client requested with success. Dragonfruit, Passionfruit, Avocado, Citrus, Hibiscus etc. Mango being the exception, the trees grow but don’t set flower/fruit because of the wet/dry cycle, not the cold. 

Our Unpredictable Highland Climate is the best place to grow almost anything. I have a list of 250+ fruit, berries, nuts and vegetables you can grow here. Remember Sepp Holzer, he grows in the Swiss Alps at 1200m, so we can grow here. Listen to the Naysayers at your peril. Folks have been growing food at altitude for longer than you can imagine. Give it a go, learn from the results, and eat your own tucker all year round.

Stay Awesome,

The Gordon Gnohm

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